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Cincinnati council to make Juneteenth an official holiday for city workers

juneteenth flag
Bill Rinehart
The Juneteenth flag flying at Cincinnati City Hall in 2020.

Cincinnati council is expected to make Juneteenth an official holiday for city workers starting this year. The ordinance goes up for a council vote next week and clearly has enough support to pass.

Juneteenth marks June 19, the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people heard the news they were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Council Members Victoria Parks and Greg Landsman pushed to make the change in time for recognizing Juneteenth this year.

“There's so much significance attached to the true Emancipation Day and I just really appreciate the fact that we're going to celebrate it,” Parks said.

City officials estimate it will cost $56,000 in personnel costs for the additional paid time off. Police officers and fire fighters have the option to bank holiday time and “sell” it back to the city for wages. If all sworn employees did that, it would cost up to $578,000.

Parks says Cincinnati’s 11 holidays, including Juneteenth, will have the same number as Hamilton County and the state of Ohio, and less than Columbus, Cleveland, and Dayton (12 holidays), Toledo (13), and Akron (14).

“This is a real healing, reconciliation, coming together for all groups in Cincinnati,” said Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. “It's a matter of not just honoring our culture as black people in Cincinnati, but all of us together working together, and it's a real sign of unity.”

Juneteenth has been a national holiday since last year. The holiday has been celebrated in Cincinnati with a festival for more than four decades.

“For far too long as a city, for too long as a nation, we didn't do what was necessary to appreciate and celebrate Juneteenth,” said Council Member Scotty Johnson. “So my hat goes off to my colleagues in the city administration for making this happen.”

Since Juneteenth is on a Sunday this year, city workers will get Monday the 20th off work.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.