Tuesday, July 8, 2003

Inside City Hall


Queen City already has lots of dumb ordinances

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When Cincinnati City Council adopted the panhandling registration ordinance in May, Councilman John Cranley said it would go down "as one of the dumbest ideas ever to come out of City Council."

That's quite a bold statement. A lot of dumb ideas have come out of council. Some have even become law.

Following are some archaic, forgotten and rarely enforced ordinances in the Cincinnati Municipal Code:

• "No person shall give a public exhibition or illustration of the effects of hypnotism or mesmerism upon any human subject." Penalty: Up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine. (Section 911-11.)

• Bicycle riders 15 or younger must use a bell or horn while passing pedestrians on the sidewalk. (Section 506-5.)

• It is illegal to make a bar bet. Penalty: A fine of up to $100. (Section 906-9.)

• It is illegal to buy or sell polar bears, sea otters or alligators in the city. Penalty: Up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine for a first offense. (Section 701-41.)

• "Piercing of ears for cosmetic purposes shall be done only under the supervision of a physician licensed to practice medicine in the state of Ohio." (Board of Health Regulation No. 0007-3.)

And here's one violated every day at City Hall: "No idlers, loungers or disorderly persons shall be permitted to stand or remain in or about the City Hall; nor shall any riotous or disorderly conduct or loud talking, or use of threatening, profane or indecent language, by officials, employees or visitors be permitted." (Section 704-3.)

The penalty for that one? A mere $10 fine.

• • •

Who's on first? Some votes at Cincinnati City Council fall along party lines. Some fall along racial lines. A couple have even fallen along age lines.

And one vote last month fell largely along alphabetical lines.

Newly appointed Councilwoman Laketa Cole proposed shaking up the way council has taken votes for decades - by calling the roll alphabetically.

That system puts Cole first in the roll call, leaving her at a disadvantage in deciding how to vote, she said, while those at the end of the alphabet get to see how others are voting.

Council voted 6-3 for Cole's proposal, which would rotate the voting each week beginning when council holds its mid-recess meeting Aug. 6.

The new rule would most benefit Minette Cooper, who frequently changes her vote after the roll call, by giving her a chance to catch up.

Witness this exchange last month during a roll call vote:

Clerk Brenda Williams: "Cooper ... Mrs. Cooper?"

Cooper: "Wait. What are we voting on?"

Mayor Charlie Luken: "We're voting on your ordinance, Mrs. Cooper."

Cooper. "Oh. Yes."

• • •

Ja Rule: Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, who has openly flaunted many existing rules and protested others, voted against the rule change.

But not because she's second-to-last in the roll call.

"At this point, I'm not supporting any new rule changes. I think we have enough rules, and I hope we can move forward with things that affect the whole city," she said.

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E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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