A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington Commission meets in nearly-empty City Hall; City passes ‘Conversion Therapy’ ordinance

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic created a different scene at the Covington Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, as evidenced by the digital screen that streamed the meeting online. 

City commissioners met in a near-empty City Hall for their regularly-scheduled legislative meeting, as the Mayor instructed only a handful of city workers to appear (others were told to watch on video from another floor).

An image of the TBNK transmission of the March 17,  Covington Board of Commissioners meeting. This is how many residents will watch Commission meetings until the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic is over (file photo).

*Full disclosure: This reporter watched the live stream online from home, but it was still clear there were just a few officials in the City Hall chambers.

Mayor Joseph U. Meyer then addressed the audiences at home, explaining how the unprecedented events of the past weeks, which include a state of emergency declaration, have changed how the City is handling its business.

“At this stage of the game, the public is no longer allowed to attend the meeting — they will be present through the representatives and the media,” he said. “All of our meetings will continue to be televised and made available on the respective Fioptics and Spectrum channels, as well as in streaming format on the city commission website so that the public can observe our proceedings without putting themselves in any difficult situations.”

Meyer said the city will follow its normal routines of posting informational items, notes and meeting agendas on the website. 

For the public legislative meetings, Meyer said the commission will continue to allow public comment, “it just won’t be in person.” Those interested must email their comments to the city clerk by noon Tuesday. 

He wrapped up by saying this may be the last meeting where the group is together, explaining that city technology could enable them to conduct the meetings remotely. “We have to make sure we have the capacity to do it,” Meyer said. 

With that, the meeting moved forward.

City approves ‘Conversion Therapy’ ordinance

Commissioners heard a second reading and unanimously approved a Conversion Therapy ordinance.

In February, Commissioner Shannon Smith referenced an Internet story where Louisville pastor Rev. Jason Crosby advocated for Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, a grassroots organization encouraging the making of Conversion Therapy — or the unscientific belief that someone can be transformed from homosexual to heterosexual — illegal in cities throughout the state. 

At the time, 19 states and dozens of cities across the U.S. — including Cincinnati — had banned the idea of Conversion Therapy, and Smith proposed that Covington be the next.

“Conversion therapists use a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities,” the Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky website reads. 

Adam Roland, of the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky, praised the decision, calling it “very important” and “a tremendous step.”

Commissioner Shannon Smith said she was “proud to have the opportunity to introduce this ban,” and Commissioner Denny Bowman said that after researching the issues, he equated the practices to “mental torture” and “some forms of child abuse.”

Bowman went on to say he would like the Commission to send a letter to Commonwealth Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who frequently talked of combatting child abuse during his campaign. Bowman said he hoped Cameron would then endorse the ban to legislators. 

Also Tuesday:

Commissioners approved economic development agreements to bring nine projects, with more than 500 jobs, and $23.4 million of investment, to the city.

Leading the way is a nearly $5 million development agreement with Covington Republic LLC, for 535 Madison Ave. The Republic Building Project is the full renovation of a 27,000-square-foot office building into a “multi­tenant office building with modern finishes,” city documents read. 

Other development agreements include Gentis Solutions, LLC, currently located in Williamsport, Penn. Gentis will be adding 275 additional jobs over the next 10 years at an average salary of $54,080. They intend to sign a lease agreement for 8,000-square-feet initially and will be able to expand as they add staff. The total investment for Gentis Solutions, LLC is anticipated to be $2,735,000.

Step CG is a technology engineering firm in Covington. With 25 local employees, they plan to add 52 jobs with an average salary of $67,000. It now has a lease agreement for a 6,957-square-foot office space at 50 E. RiverCenter Blvd. The total investment for Step CG, LLC is anticipated to be $4.45 million.

Façade incentives that were also approved, included:

ZH Holdings, LLC – 908-910 Madison Ave.

ZH Holdings, LLC – 906 Madison Ave.

Madison Ave. Ventures – 512 Madison Ave.

Mugsy Development – 331 Pike St.

721 Pike LLC – 721 Pike St.


Commissioners agreed to participate in the Army Corps of Engineers Northern Kentucky Riverfront Restoration Project, which will review covered shorelines stretching across the communities of Covington, Bellevue, Dayton, Ludlow and Newport.

Commissioners tabled the renewing of their annual swimming pool contract, saying they are not sure when residents will be able to gather and swim.

Commissioners approved the hiring of police officer Joshua Durairaj, which brings the number of officers in the city to 114.

Commissioners moved to adjourn the meeting, and did, by a vote of 3-2.

Commissioners will not meet next Tuesday, as it is the fifth Tuesday of the month.

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., April 7, 2020, at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

*Editor’s note: The Northern Kentucky Tribune will continue to cover Board of Commissioners’ meetings remotely during the state of emergency. The Tribune expects to have access to the mayor, the commissioners and senior staff, if there is a need for clarification or a response to issues raised during the meeting.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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