A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Support for Crown Act moves forward, Covington to hear first reading to change ordinance

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

The City of Covington has once again placed itself at the forefront of human rights efforts.

After leading the way on LGBTQ issues as early as 2003, sponsoring inclusivity training for city staff in 2018, and banning conversion therapy for minors earlier this year (just to name a few instances), city staff will hear the first reading of an amendment to their Human Rights Ordinance next week, a change that will support the Crown Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

Commissioners discussed the idea Tuesday at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting, which again was held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Last week, Commissioner Michelle Williams reported that she would present an amendment to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to include the Crown Act, which was created in 2019 to ensure protection against discrimination based on  “race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.”

It is Williams’ hope that no one will ever be discriminated based on their natural hair again.

“I am ready to move forward on this,” Williams said. “I am happy.” She went on to thank the members of the city legal department, along with City Manager David Johnston, for working over the past week to prepare the ordinances for such a change.

Johnston noted it was 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.

“Covington is going to be the next city to adopt this, and we’re going to be happy to do this,” she said. “All residents should be treated equally and fairly, and Covington is definitely a city that is moving forward in always ensuring that all residents are treated equally. We will, under no circumstances discriminate — we’re happy to do this for everyone.”

Williams noted that Commissioner Tim Downing brought this to her attention, and she also thanked Teri Meyer of the Human Rights Commission and Michael Bartlett, the city solicitor, for their assistance.

Two streetscape projects updated

Commissioners heard updates on two city streetscape plans from representatives of WSP. Both projects are said to be about 60 percent finished with the design phase.

Johnston said the city felt it was a good idea to inform Commissioners of their progress before moving forward.

The projects are:

• Seventh Street, from Washington Street to Greenup Street. Here, representatives say plans include underground utilities, new lighting, sidewalks, trees, and reconfiguring the parking area from 38 to 49 spaces. Mayor Joseph U. Meyer wondered if the designers had thought of installing bicycle lanes, adding “we should have some safety” for them. Commissioner Downing also wondered if the business owners and residents had been consulted. WSP plans to host a public meeting, probably in early November, but wanted the Commission’s input first.

• Madison Avenue, from Eleventh Street to Eighth Street. Here, representatives say plans include underground utilities, street lights, the resurfacing of the road and the restructuring of sidewalks, all within the scope of the city’s design standards.

Johnston noted that WSP is moving toward the completion of a long-overdue project and they are “fulfilling the spirit of what we asked them to do.”

Center for Great Neighborhoods Role to be Expanded

Commissioners heard a proposed administrative agreement between the Center for Great Neighborhoods and the Neighborhood Grant Program Administration.

Ken Smith, the city’s neighborhood services director, said 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, as most neighborhood groups are not incorporated, and said the staff was recommending a more “formalized” role for CGN. 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.

“I love this idea,” Commissioner Shannon Smith said.

“This is going to open up a lot more possibilities,” Commissioner Downing added.

Commissioners agreed to place the proposal on the consent agenda for next week.

Economic Development Incentive

Commissioners heard a proposal to distribute 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 say. Then the owner can apply for more outdoor seating, Economic Development Director Tom West told commissioners.

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 approved the elimination of the three parking spaces and Commissioners decided the request would appear on the consent agenda for next week’s legislative meeting.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Oct. 13. 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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