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Crown Act ordinance gets Covington Commission’s first reading; city seeks Homeland Security grant

By Ryan Clark
Special to NKyTribune

In two weeks, Covington Commissioner Michelle Williams said she will be coming to the city’s legislative meeting in her natural curly hair.

“Don’t be shocked,” she said, laughing.

It would be appropriate, as that is when the city will hear a second reading and vote on their new amendment to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance, one that supports the Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

Commissioners discussed the idea last week, then heard a first reading of the amendment at their regularly scheduled legislative meeting Tuesday night, which again was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Two weeks ago, Williams reported that she would present the amendment after Commissioner Tim Downing brought the issue to her attention. The Crown Act, which has steadily gained popularity across the nation, was created in 2019 to ensure protection against discrimination based on  “race-based hairstyles,” and “hair texture,” including “styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.”

It is Williams’ hope — and it seems to be shared by that of her fellow Commissioners — that no one will ever be discriminated based on their natural hair again.

The city’s legal department, along with City Manager David Johnston, worked over the past two weeks to prepare the ordinances for the change, and Johnston noted last week it was just another example of Covington leading the way in the area of human rights.

According to the Crown Act’s website, “black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair” and black women are 80 percent more likely than white women to agree with this statement: “I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.”

Williams reported last week that seven states are combatting hair discrimination by supporting the act, as well as one city in Hamilton County.

“This is the first reading of an ordinance and we do not vote on it,” Mayor Joe Meyer told the public. “We will vote on it in approximately two weeks. So in the meantime we invite the public to take a look at this ordinance for observations and feedback and share that with members of the commission.”

The second reading is expected to be at the next legislative meeting on Oct. 27.

Homeland Security Grant Application

Also Tuesday, Commissioners approved an application to accept $185,072 in funds from the Department of Homeland Security for three projects:

• The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Boat and Operations Training for the Fire Department; a total cost of $23,500 with a $5,875 soft match including boat fuel, facility rentals and food and water expenses;

• An AreaRAE Pro Rapid Deployment Detector Kit for the Fire Department; a total cost of $60,936.36 with a match of $15,234.09; and

• A Port Monitoring Video System for the Police Department; a total cost of $162,327 with a match of $40,582.

CGN Role Expanded

Commissioners also approved an agreement between the Center for Great Neighborhoods and the Neighborhood Grant Program Administration.

Ken Smith, the city’s neighborhood services director, said last week that over the last two years, the Center for Great Neighborhoods has served as the “fiscal agent for almost all of the neighborhood grants that have been awarded.”

He noted this was extremely helpful and introduced a more “formalized” role for CGN. He said that without any increase in cost, CGN has agreed to continue to serve as fiscal agent while also helping to publicize and promote the program, and work with groups to vet their ideas and complete their applications.

City officials hope the expanded relationship will encourage more neighborhoods to participate in the program.

Economic Development Incentive

Commissioners also approved an economic incentive for RP Prop Oz, LLC, for the property at 115 Park Pl., which is being renovated into a mixed-use building with apartments and a restaurant on the first floor.

“To provide additional seating area, the developer has requested the city eliminate three on-street parking spaces so they can expand the public sidewalks on Court Street (between Park Place and Fourth Street) to match the streetscape outside Molly Malone’s,” city documents reported. Then the owner can apply for more outdoor seating, Economic Development Director Tom West told commissioners last week.

The Covington Economic Development Authority voted in September to provide up to $45,886 in TIF District funds for the developer to construct the expanded sidewalks, which should take about six months to complete.

The Parking Authority has approved the elimination of the three parking spaces.

Next meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a caucus meeting held at 6 p.m., Oct. 20, 2020. The meeting can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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