Morning News and Stuff

Study finds gender, racial disparities in city contracting; Mount Auburn clinic will stay open pending appeal; Ziegler Park plan presented in OTR

click to enlarge Sen. Mitch McConnell
Sen. Mitch McConnell

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

A study covering the last five years of city of Cincinnati contracting found that the city hasn’t hired nearly as many minority and women-owned businesses as it should for taxpayer-funded jobs. The 338-page study on racial disparities, called the Croson Study, was conducted by outside researchers with public policy research firm Mason Tillman Associates. Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black said in a memo yesterday that the study reveals a “demonstrated pattern of disparity” in city contracting. He says ordinances are being drafted by the city administration to address those disparities. The study suggests both race and gender neutral fixes as well as those that rely on race and gender preferences. The latter are legally dicey: The city could face lawsuits over race and gender preferences in hiring, even if it has evidence that its current methods for ensuring equity in its contracting practices aren’t working.

• Cincinnati’s last remaining women’s health clinic that provides abortions will stay open as it appeals a decision by the Ohio Department of Health denying it a license. The Elizabeth Campbell Medical Center in Mount Auburn lost its license under a new state law slipped into this year’s budget that gives the ODH just 60 days after an application is received to renew a clinic’s license. In the past, it has taken the ODH more than a year to do so for the Cincinnati clinic. Planned Parenthood, which runs the facility, is suing the state over the law, which it says presents an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The Mount Auburn clinic would have to close Thursday if not for the appeal. If it shuts down, Cincinnati will become the largest metropolitan area in the country without direct access to an abortion provider. Another clinic in Dayton faces a similar situation, and if it also closed down, only seven clinics would remain in the state, and none would remain in Southwestern Ohio. A rally supporting Planned Parenthood is planned for 11 a.m. today at the Mount Auburn location.

• Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank has agreed to pay more than $18 million to settle claims it engaged in discriminatory lending practices against minorities seeking auto loans. A federal investigation into Fifth Third’s lending practices through car dealerships found that the bank’s guidelines to dealers left a wide latitude of pricing discretion for loans. That discretion led directly to more expensive loans for qualified black and Hispanic buyers than were given to qualified white buyers, according to the feds. Minority car buyers paid an average of $200 more than white buyers due to those discrepancies, according to the investigation. The question is whether those dealers were more or less uniformly charging minorities slightly more than white buyers, or if some dealerships charged minorities a lot more and others played by the straight and narrow. Fifth Third points out that it didn’t make these loans itself, but merely purchased them from the dealers. The bank maintains it treats its customers equally. The bank will pay another $3.5 million in an unrelated settlement over deceptive credit card sales practices some telemarketers with the bank engaged in, according to federal investigators.

• Last night, representatives with 3CDC, the city and planning firm Human Nature held a presentation and listening session unveiling their plans for a revamped Ziegler Park. Their $30 million proposal includes revamped basketball courts, a new pool in the northern section of the park and a quiet, tree-lined green space above a new parking garage across the street. Ziegler sits along Sycamore Street across from the former School for Creative and Performing Arts on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton. An Indianapolis developer, Core Redevelopment, is currently renovating the SCPA building into luxury apartments. This change, along with others in the rapidly developing neighborhoods, has spurred increased concerns about gentrification in the area. Some who are wary of the park say the proposed renovation could play into a dynamic where long-term, often minority residents in the neighborhood are made to feel unwelcome or even priced out. 3CDC officials say they’ve taken steps to make sure neighborhood wishes for the park are honored. Last night’s meeting was the final of four input sessions the developer has undertaken.

• It’s not often you get two different Zieglers in the news, but today is one of those days. The Cincinnati Visitor’s Bureau has hired a new national sales manager who will focus on marketing to the LGBT community. David Ziegler will head up the group’s pitch to LGBT groups, which CVB has already made strides on. The visitor’s bureau has been working with area hotels to get them certified as LGBT-friendly and has worked to bring LGBT conventions and meetings to the city.

• Finally, after House Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt exit last week (which you can read more about in this week’s news feature out tomorrow), you might be concerned for his squinty-eyed Republican friend in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell represents Kentucky and also holds the most powerful role in the prestigious legislative body, ushering through waves of conservative legislation.

But that’s where it’s tough for McConnell: Republicans in the Senate have a very slim majority that isn’t adequate to pass things beyond a Democratic filibuster or presidential veto. McConnell has taken a beating over this in the past from tea party radicals like Sen. Ted Cruz in much the same way Boehner did in the House, leading many staunch conservatives to call for his head next. But it’s unlikely the 74-year-old McConnell will be toppled the way Boehner was anytime soon, this Associated Press story argues, due to the nature of the Senate and McConnell’s strong support from his more moderate GOP colleagues.

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