Gun control efforts ramp up locally, statewide; NKU dean who resigned after sexual harassment complaints retains job as professor; more news

In Parkland's aftermath, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld yesterday proposed a ban on bump stocks, a move President Donald Trump has also suggested. Meanwhile, Democrat state lawmakers are calling for a statewide ban on assault weapons.

Feb 21, 2018 at 11:55 am

click to enlarge Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld
Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld

Good morning Cincy. Let’s talk news real quick, shall we?

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld yesterday introduced a motion that would ban so-called “bump stocks,” which are modifications that allow firearms to fire rounds more quickly, in the city of Cincinnati. In a statement, Sittenfeld compared the legislation to similar laws passed in Columbia, S.C. and Denver.

Ohio law prohibits municipal governments from making laws that contradict many state statutes, limiting the city's ability to enact gun control legislation.

“Our extreme State Legislature has preempted our ability to implement most gun safety reforms, but when it comes to what we can do, we're determined to push forward in every single way we can to reverse the bloodshed in our country and in our communities,” Sittenfeld said.

Roughly half an hour after Sittenfeld announced his motion, President Donald Trump announced he would pursue a federal ban on bump stocks. Sittenfeld says that his motion is still relevant, however, because Congress could delay or bypass Trump’s directive.

• Yesterday was another intense public meeting around FC Cincinnati’s proposal for a potential stadium in the West End. FCC has suggested swapping land with Cincinnati Public Schools, which owns Taft High School’s Stargel Stadium. Should it get a Major League Soccer franchise and choose the West End over Oakley or Newport, the soccer team would build its stadium on the site of Stargel and move the CPS facility across the street to vacant lots currently slated for CitiRama, a homebuilding exposition that would construct $250,000-$400,000 houses on that property. But many residents who have come to meetings have been vocally opposed to the idea of a stadium in the West End, citing concerns about displacement, noise and traffic. FCC General Manager Jeff Berding says the team has been surveying the neighborhood, and despite multiple meetings in which community members have expressed negative feelings about the stadium plan, claims that more residents support the stadium “once they are educated” about the fact that it won’t uproot Taft High School or homes there. FCC is privately financing the $200 million structure, and would also pay the estimated $10 million it would cost to build a replacement for Stargel. The CPS board is slated to hold a community discussion on the land swap proposal  tonight at Taft High School.

• The dean at Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law received multiple complaints against him about sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment and quietly resigned from his $260,000-a-year leadership gig at the law school in December. But he's still a professor there making more than $220,000 a year. Complaints by an employee of the law school and two work study students claim Jeffrey Standen made inappropriate comments and engaged in behaviors that demeaned female coworkers. Standen says he resigned for unrelated personal reasons and that some of the complaints in the women’s written testimony are untrue, but hasn’t stipulated which ones. NKU found in December that Standen “violated Northern Kentucky University's Values and Ethical Responsibilities Policy" due to “perception created by Dean that he does not respect employees and treats them with belittling and demeaning actions or statements, especially women." However, the university says it did not find enough evidence to discipline Standen for sexual misconduct. The dean was allowed to resign for personal reasons and take a seven-month leave of absence while being paid his full salary. He’ll return this fall as a professor at a 15 percent pay cut.

• Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who left the GOP gubernatorial primary to run against U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, has the highest absentee rate of the state’s congressional delegation, a report by Congressional Quarterly says. During the last congressional session, Renacci voted 87 percent of the time — below the average of 96.5 percent. Next-lowest among Ohio lawmakers was then-Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, who voted 88 percent of the time. Tiberi left office in January. Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan had the third-worst attendance record at 91 percent. Renacci’s Senate opponent, Brown, has a 99 percent voting record, as does fellow U.S. Senator for Ohio Rob Portman, a Republican. Take a look at the full report linked above, which also includes some interesting stats about how often lawmakers voted with President Donald Trump’s agenda.

• Two Democrat Ohio Senators want a statewide ban on assault weapons in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 people. Sens. Michael Skindell and Charleta Tavares introduced legislation yesterday that would make it a fifth-degree felony to own or buy assault weapons. The legislation defines that as any automatic or semi-automatic weapon with a magazine that can hold 10 or more bullets.

“The recent, sorrowful events in Florida and Nevada and so many more places teach us why it is important to ban weapons that are meant for waging war,” Skindell wrote in a statement.

The two introduced similar legislation in 2013, but it made little headway in Ohio’s conservative State House. But recent comments by Ohio Gov. John Kasich suggesting he is more amenable to what he calls “commonsense gun laws” have the lawmakers giving the ban another shot. Interestingly, two Democrat candidates for governor — Rich Cordray and State Sen. Joe Schiavoni — say they don't support such bans.

In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, new polling by Quinnipiac University suggests more than two-thirds of Americans support a ban on the sale of assault weapons (question 57 in the polling results here.)

• Kentucky Republicans’ plan to shore up the state’s ailing pension fund is in, and it’s a lot different than Gov. Matt Bevin’s first draft. Kentucky’s public pension system faces $43 billion in unfunded liabilities in the coming years, a debt that lawmakers say could bankrupt the state. Initially, Bevin’s plan to address that liability was to move public employees and teachers from traditional pensions to 401(k) plans, charge state employees an extra 3 percent of their salaries for retirement health benefits and to freeze 1.5 percent annual cost of living increases for five years. The new plan would use a hybrid model retirement account that is part pension, part 401(k) and pay reduced cost of living increases of .75 percent over the next 12 years. Employees won’t have to pay the 3 percent extra for health benefits under the new plan. Advocates for public employees have balked at the new plan, saying it breaks promises made by the state.