CINCINNATI — The City of Cincinnati has a new way to publicize steps the city has taken to make Cincinnati more inclusive and welcoming – and give citizens a streamlined way to report discrimination.
The new equity page on the city’s website has been in the works since the summer, when Tara Keesling, the chief of staff for Councilmember Tamaya Dennard, suggested the city should make people aware of its progress, Dennard said.
“We met with the convention and visitors bureau to figure out how we can tout Cincinnati, just to show that doing good and doing well are not mutually exclusive,” Dennard said. “People want to move to places where they see equity is happening."
Just as important, the new page gives people an easier way to report complaints of discrimination, said Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach.
In the past, it has been difficult to figure out how to report discrimination to the city, he said. That hasn’t been a big problem because most people report discrimination directly to state or federal authorities.
But now that the city has an ordinance banning discrimination based on natural hair -- which isn’t protected statewide or federally -- a clear way to report problems is needed, Seelbach said.
“It’s any restaurant, it’s any store, it’s any employer, it’s any housing authority,” Seelbach said. “Anyone who is discriminated against based on their natural hair has a recourse.”
In the past, people had to report discrimination to the city manager, a process that Seelbach said was never clearly explained.
“Now there will be an easy way to report,” he said. “If this opens a flood gate, then let it flow. Let’s hear the cases, hear them fairly and equally and stamp out discrimination wherever we can.”
City council staff members worked with the city manager’s office to craft the new page.
City Manager Patrick Duhaney said it won’t change the process by which discrimination reports are handled, but it makes that process clearer and more accessible.
Complaints can be filed with the city through email or written letter. Those complaints go to the city manager or someone he designates for a preliminary review and hearing. Complaints deemed valid get sent to the prosecutor’s office for civil or criminal enforcement.
“It’s our job as the city of Cincinnati to do everything in our power to make sure doors remain open to all Cincinnatians,” Duhaney said in a written statement to WCPO. “Through these additions to our website and to our processes we’re making major steps to enforce City Council’s nondiscrimination legislative priorities which seek to make Cincinnati a more inclusive and equitable city.”
That’s especially important to young people as they decide where to live and work, Dennard said.
“By far millennials – of all races and all genders – want to live in a place where they feel like equity is a priority,” she said. “So the more we can talk about that and get people to know that it feels good, but it’s also good for our bottom line.”
The page also shows how much Cincinnati has changed over the past two decades, Seelbach said.
“When I moved here 21 years ago, Cincinnati was known as this socially conservative city, that those who are different were not valued as much,” he said. “I think it’s another step in the direction that we have been taking, that we are not the same city that you remember from 21 years ago. We have come leaps and bounds in terms of valuing people for their differences.”
Seelbach said the city already is seeing benefits.
“Our population is growing for the first time in 65 years, and I think a part of that is people see that their government takes diversity and inclusion seriously,” he said.
Part of that, he said, is taking complaints of discrimination seriously, too.
That’s why the city also has created a poster to educate people about the ordinance that bans discrimination based on natural hair, which it will be distributing to dozens of salons in the coming weeks.
“All people, no matter who you are, who you love or what your hair looks like, you are an important part of our city,” Seelbach said.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.