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These 2 charter amendments will be on Cincinnati's November ballot — and this one won't

City Hall as seen from Plum St. in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
Jason Whitman
City Hall as seen from Plum St. in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Cincinnati City Council voted Thursday to send two charter amendments to the November ballot: one to raise the income tax for affordable housing, and one dealing with several issues related to charter amendments and candidates for city office.

In committee on Wednesday, council members halted a third proposed amendment that would have repealed the charter's ban on traffic cameras.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections will meet Friday morning to certify issues to the official ballot and assign issue numbers.

Affordable housing

Council took a "ministerial" vote to send a citizen-led amendment to the ballot, one that would raise the city's income tax with revenue dedicated to affordable housing.

The vote is simply procedural. According to the City Solicitor, council has an obligation to certify citizen-submitted ballot measures as long as the minimum signature requirement is met. Council's final vote on Wednesday is also procedural.

RELATED: Housing advocates say they have enough signatures to put charter amendment on Nov. ballot

The plan actually requires two public votes: one in November to establish the parameters of a new affordable housing fund, and to obligate City Council to put another charter amendment on the November 2024 ballot to actually raise the income tax by 0.3%.

Even if the issue passes this year, it would not go into effect unless voters approve the tax increase next year as well.

Read the full ordinance and ballot language below (story continues after):

Traffic cameras

Council Member Jeff Cramerding wanted to ask voters to repeal the charter's ban on traffic cameras. Voters initially approved that ban in 2008.

Cramerding pitched his idea in Wednesday's Public Safety and Governance Committee. He says a lot of work would need to go into an actual traffic camera system.

"The first step would be to give the voters the opportunity to vote," he told the committee Wednesday. "If they decided to remove the ban from the charter, we as a council would talk about if and how we would want to implement it."

A majority of committee members said it would be premature to put this measure on the ballot this year.

RELATED: Cincinnati voters banned traffic cameras 15 years ago. One council member wants it repealed

"Before we change something in the charter, we need to look at why it's there, said Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. "One of the reasons was equity, and so we need to find out how we would make this equitable before we make a change to allow it to happen."

Council Member Mark Jeffreys said he will likely support repealing the ban eventually, just not right now.

"I am concerned if we put this on the ballot prematurely, and it goes down in defeat, we won't be coming back for 10 years," Jeffreys said. "So I think we have to do it right. I would rather move this to the spring election."

The committee voted 4-0 to oppose the measure. Cramerding is not on the Public Safety and Governance Committee and could not vote. He said he doesn't see this as a setback and looks forward to continuing the conversation next year.

Read the full ordinance below (story continues after):

'Clean-up' charter amendment

Council Member Liz Keating introduced a charter amendment establishing new rules for citizens who want to put their own amendment on the city ballot.

Keating's measure covers several topics, however.

"This is a cleanup ordinance," Keating said Wednesday. "These are updating a lot of outstanding items in our charter [and] ambiguous language since state law has changed and our charter hasn't been updated. It also works to create more transparency and more efficiency for our law department regarding citizen-led ballot initiatives."

If passed, a copy of any initiative, referendum, or charter amendment petition must be filed with the Clerk of Council before any signatures can be collected. Keating says this mirrors Ohio law for statewide ballot measures.

"It does not make it harder to collect signatures, it doesn't raise the number of signatures you have to collect, it simply just requires you to file it publicly so the public can be aware of what is being circulated," Keating said.

RELATED: Keating suggests rules for proposed charter amendments she says will increase transparency

The amendment would also limit citizen-led ballot measures to one proposal, "which shall not address multiple or unrelated subject matters or questions of law."

And the amendment would also add a "cure period" for ballot measures and candidates for mayor and council. If petitions are submitted without the required number of valid signatures, the candidate or ballot measure petitioner could collect more to add to the total, as long as they're submitted by the deadline. Currently, you have to start over from scratch.

Unrelated to charter amendments, the measure would give council permission to vote electronically instead of only by voice vote.

"This does not mean that we would automatically start electronic voting, this just means it would be clarified in our charter to allow it," Keating said. "[We would have] another discussion on the system, how that would work, and if we want to spend money on that."

Other "cleanup" items include:

  • Clarifying throughout the charter that council terms are two years
  • Clarifying that candidate petition circulators must sign a statement rather than provide a notarized affidavit on candidate petitions
  • Extending the deadline for filing candidate petitions in the case of a special election to fill the unexpired term of the mayor (from 50 days prior to any primary election, extended to 60 days)

See the full ordinance and ballot language below:

Updated: September 7, 2023 at 2:34 PM EDT
This post was originally published on September 6 and has been updated.
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.