Advocacy update March 22, 2022

Advocacy update March 22, 2022

Advocacy update March 22, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection

Cincinnati launches update of Green Plan; Opportunity for churches

March 17 press conference announcing the start of the Cincinnati Green Plan update. Mayor Aftab Pureval is speaking. To his right, in hot pink, is Councilmember Meeka Owens, Chair of the newly-formed Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee.

The City of Cincinnati is inviting broad community input to develop its newest Green Plan, pledging to work even harder to overcome the disproportionate impact of climate change and pollution on the most vulnerable Cincinnatians. This includes neighborhoods enduring excessive heat and hazardous air pollution, high utility costs beyond their control (especially if they are renting), and crushing losses when stormwater floods their homes. Cincinnati’s Mayor Aftab Pureval, Council’s new Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee chair Meeka Owens, and Michael Forrester, Director of the City’s Office of Environment and Sustainability, announced the newest stage of the plan, first adopted in 2008, in a press conference March 17. You can see it here.

Cincinnati’s rapid progress on sustainability and resilience has won nationwide accolades. The new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law offers a generational opportunity to invest in transportation and infrastructure updates that strengthen resilience and equity. The update will include opportunities for impacted neighborhoods to discuss their assets and challenges and help shape policy. Churches have a fantastic opportunity to help with the community organizing and hosting of these community discernments.  We’ll keep you posted on how you can help!  To join the process, fill out the Community Climate Change survey here.

Redistricting struggle continues

In a 4-3 decision March 16, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the third set of state district maps unconstitutional because it violates the protections passed by Ohio voters against partisan gerrymandering.

The Court’s ruling documented how the drafting of this plan, like those preceding it, was controlled by the staff of two Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission (Senate President Matt Huffman and House Speaker Bob Cupp), and was completed largely behind doors, excluding other Commission members and the public. The decision cited evidence of the disproportionate advantage the maps give to the Republican Party, and drew a direct link between the process and the result, concluding that Huffman’s and Cupp’s “nearly exclusive control over the first two rounds of map drawing was strong evidence of partisan intent.” Then the ruling spelled out a remedy:  get the whole Commission to work together, conduct mapmaking in public, and hire an independent mapmaker.  The Court ordered the Redistricting Commission to produce new maps by March 28, less than a week from now.

The Court has not yet released a ruling on the second set of Congressional maps which have been challenged on the same grounds.  The fact the maps are still not set makes the current May 3 Ohio primary date impossible for local and Congressional races, but the Legislature has so far refused to change the date. Fair map advocates encourage Ohioans to write their Ohio Representative and Senator to ask the primary to be moved to the end of June in hopes the impasse can be resolved by then.  You can find their contact information from the “Who Represents Me” link on the Ohio Legislature home page.  The other alternative – which would cost taxpayers millions – would be a split primary, with statewide and Senate races on May 3 and local races later.

The looming May 3 primary had been presented by Republicans as a justification for using one of the maps previously ruled unconstitutional.
That includes a federal lawsuit brought by a group of Republican voters, currently on hold while the process is being overseen by the Ohio Supreme Court. The Ohio Redistricting Commission resumed meeting immediately after the Supreme Court decision, in public this time, and began hammering out a process including hiring two independent mapmakers – one Republican, one Democratic (see Ohio Capital Journal article above).  You can sign up here for a Zoom link for Fair Districts watch parties for each of the hearings of the Ohio Redistricting Commission this week. You’ll get an update by email each time a new hearing is scheduled.

Meanwhile, a number of Ohio House Republicans started discussions last week about impeaching Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the Republican who has been part of all four decisions finding three sets of state district maps and one Congressional map unconstitutional.

Help pass bail reform for Ohio!

Save the date for April 28 Virtual Conference, 7 p.m.  

Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team member Debby Stokes-Wayne of St. Philip’s, Columbus, invites you to join the Links statewide briefing April 28 on bail reform bills before the Ohio Legislature. SB 182 and HB 315, which have bipartisan sponsorship, would relieve the crushing impact of cash bail on low-income families by giving judges the discretion to decide who must pay bail, and by setting bail according to ability to pay. These companion bills are endorsed by a huge list of organizations across the political spectrum, including many faith-based groups and non-profits. You can read more about the way these reform bills address both public safety and social justice in this proponent testimony by Claire Chevrier of the ACLU Ohio.

Introduced last spring, SB 182 has had only two hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the most recent in June, 2021. The companion bill in the House, HB 315, was introduced in the House Criminal Justice Committee last May, but has not had a single hearing since then. This is a great time to inform yourself and your congregations about these bills and to contact the chairs of the respective committees with your views.

We will pass along the link to the virtual conference when it becomes available.

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team. Connect with her at arielmillerwriter@gmail.com