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Opening Volley

Being the Editor-in-Chief of a city magazine makes me by default a hobbyist city planner. Now, as I pass by every boarded-up house, construction site, or thinly papered storefront window, I start scanning fake blueprints in my head, consulting the imaginary projects in my head. What about an arcade deli? Are we zoned for that? [...]
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Being the Editor-in-Chief of a city magazine makes me by default a hobbyist city planner.

Now, as I pass by every boarded-up house, construction site, or thinly papered storefront window, I start scanning fake blueprints in my head, consulting the imaginary projects in my head. What about an arcade deli? Are we zoned for that? I ask my imaginary right-hand man. What about a bike trail that leads only to bars? What about a bike trail that IS a bar?

Okay, so maybe rather than city planning, my mind turns most often to some sort of a wacky putt-putt course full of watering holes, but nonetheless: regenerative energy in Columbus is strong right now, and the possibilities seem endless.

People believe in the city again. People are investing in the urban core, and not just the ones that can afford or desire high-rise luxury. There is a belief in urban gardening, in improved subsidized housing…in the way living in the city feels and sounds. Belief in that charmingly claustrophobic way a city folds itself over-top of its landmarks and residents, creating an enveloping, diverse culture that blurs the lines between backyard and business.

The city is once again a place where the parking lots and patios have every bit as much to do with the neighborhood vibe as a church or a schoolyard does. We’re gardening here, we’re biking here, and we’re raising kids and livestock here.

During my interviews for this issue, I met homeowners who used to dodge bullets that now leave their back door unlocked. Neighbors who pluck mint from the garden next door without having to ask permission. Long time residents who were part of civic action to bolster their block, sitting on the patio of a new local bar, satisfied in neighborhood development the way a city official or a realtor would be.

It struck me that, in order to get to this point, we’ve needed everyday people – not just officials and businessmen – investing faith as much as cash. For every new bar or gastropub or condo development, there was a young couple in search of urban culture, who didn’t want to sacrifice their safety to find it. It was their belief, and their faith, in some cases over the course of decades, that led the great influx around Downtown we’re experiencing today.

Italian Village, Merion Village, Olde Towne East, and in the earlier stages, Franklinton, people are claiming their area of the city without having to sprawl out further than they desire.

And this isn’t a crap-on-the-suburbs piece meant to display how much hipper it is in the urban core. They’re catching on outside 270, too. Take a trip to Uptown Westerville, where the birthplace of the Temperance Movement is embracing a new brewpub, or Downtown Powell, where a Tuesday night in Southern Delaware County can feel like a sleepy little New England town.

Regardless of the zip code, it’s a trend you should be rooting for.

This isn’t just about real estate, or where should you put down roots in Columbus, although it could be used as a reasonable primer. Any authentic neighborhood is the sum of its parts, and this issue is about preserving and promoting the entities that give them life. It’s about preserving Columbus, or in some cases, like photographer Kojo Kamau, about preserving the legacy of those that do.

I urge you, after reading this, to make a similar investment in your neighborhood, wherever it may be. Meet your neighbors, ride your bike somewhere, start a community garden, or a Little Library…

And if you’re interested in opening up a Pedicab Deli, or Gastro Condo, I am available for consultation.

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Govt & Politics

Op-Ed: We won battle with Heartbeat Bill block, war continues

Caitlin Horwatt

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Ohio’s controversial “Heartbeat Bill” has been ​blocked by a federal court​, just days before it was slated to go into enforcement on July 11. The ruling is a temporary win for pro-reproductive rights activists and Planned Parenthood, ensuring that abortion clinics in the state of Ohio can stay open. But, the war over a woman’s right to her bodily autonomy is only ramping up.

The law would have banned abortions in the state of Ohio after six weeks, the earliest time in a pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat may be detected and well before many women know they are pregnant. There were to be no exceptions for rape or incest, although there would be exceptions when the life of the mother was in danger. The law would have classified violations as fifth-degree felonies, carrying up to one year in jail time and up to $2,500 in fines as a sentence.

The ​halt was ordered ​by Judge Michael Barrett of the Southern District of Ohio U.S. District Court. Barrett pointed out that the bill placed an “undue burden” on a woman seeking to terminate a pre-viability pregnancy. The law was on its face unconstitutional, a blatant attempt to overturn the federal government’s long standing decision to give women the right to the decisions regarding their bodies. Conservatives have tried to limit bodily autonomy well before women had the right to abortions; however, they fail to attack problems like infant poverty and child hunger with the same veracity.

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The bill was part of a larger strategy that’s occurred nationwide at the hands of Republican lawmakers. The right to an abortion will stand nationally as long as Supreme Court rulings, including ​Roe v. Wade,​ remain in effect. By hammering out heartbeat bills nationwide, conservatives increase their chances of getting a ruling appealed up to the Supreme Court and from there the conservative-leaning court overturning ​Roe​.

Abortions are not only justified in the case of rape or incest, which has been a clickbait-inducing theme around this controversy. Abortion is a part of reproductive healthcare, a procedure nearly one in four women​ have before the age of 45. If lawmakers are so concerned about decreasing abortion rates, presumably because of a concern for the lives of the fetuses, they should fund comprehensize sex education ​and support for impoverished children already in this country.

The right to an abortion goes further than an outright ban. Strict regulations are a backdoor way to limit abortions, claiming to regulate the abortion providers for safety purposes. The state of Missouri​ famously has just one embattled abortion clinic ​still open and providing procedures, with the fight to keep the clinic licensed and running regularly boiling down to the wire in the past several months.

It is easy to move on from this debate when a new shocking headline runs about the state of politics or the crisis at the border. Wins like this, though important, cannot be accepted as permanent. As long as conservative lawmakers are proposing bills and regulations that limit abortion care, there is a battle to be fought, because we won’t go back.

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Govt & Politics

OP-ED: Heartbeat Bill will likely affect 11yo Ohio rape victim

Caitlin Horwatt

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The passage of Ohio’s recent “heartbeat bill,” signed by Governor DeWine, marks a massive and distressing win in the conservative quest to outright ban abortion. All parties supporting the bill—from DeWine to legislators and lobbyists—are well aware that the action will be blocked by courts as they uphold Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to abortion until 24 weeks gestation. We should be frightened as we explore whether their big picture goal is to get Roe v. Wade overturned by the decidedly conservative Court.

By banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected, the law prohibits abortion as early as eight weeks, well before many women know they are pregnant. Add in the already mandatory twenty-four hour waiting period between first appointment and procedure, and the likelihood of legal abortion for even a pregnancy detected early seems slim. The law is an blatant attempt to ban women’s right to choose.

The Guttmacher Institute found that ​1 in 4 women​ has had an abortion before age 45. The Pew Research Center found that ​58% of Americans support legal abortion ​in all or most cases, with polarizing views against abortion coming mostly from Republican and religious Americans. These statistics fail to depict, though, how traumatic the impact can be for women forced to carry a child to term when she does not have the means or support to do so. The law is meant to protect the fetus at a term that is far earlier than the 22 to 24 weeks at which it is viable, all at the cost of the mother.

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The bill notably does not give exceptions for cases of rape and incest, only allowing exceptions for medical necessity to save the mother’s life. This means an ​11 year-old rape victim from Massillon​ will likely have to carry her rapist’s baby to term.

Heartbeat bills do not ban abortion; they ban legal abortion. I think of a sign I saw during the 2017 Women’s March: a metal coat hanger with the words “WE WON’T GO BACK” scrawled below. The passage of this recent law achingly raises questions of whether or not we will go back.

Women who now find themselves pregnant could have their lives forever changed. Even if they choose to surrender the baby after birth, the cost of a pregnancy is astronomical and healthcare is far from a certainty in this country. If the pregnancy was caused by rape, the potential for trauma only escalates. Women will have few places to turn, with the most vulnerable unable to seek safe healthcare and the potential high for maternal deaths as part of botched abortions.

The ACLU and other organizations are already moving to challenge the ban in court. I can’t shake the looming feeling that these challenges will only play into the hands of those anti-abortion supporters, and that we may be entering the most important fight of our generation in this fight for a woman’s right to choose.

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Govt & Politics

OP-ED: ‘Red flag’ is far cry from where Ohio gun law should be

Joanne Strasser

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Last weekend, a man entered a synagogue in Poway, California armed with a rifle. The Washington Post reports that prior to him entering the place of worship, the accused shooter wrote a 7-page letter about his hatred for Jewish people. He believed killing them would “glorify God.” Below is an op-ed from one Columbus mother who believes Ohio should be taking a stronger stance against guns following of the Poway tragedy.

Even in light of this past weekend’s synagogue shooting, DeWine is still unwilling to change Ohio’s gun laws. He is, however, advocating for Ohio to pass a red flag law, which would allow law enforcement to seize guns from individuals deemed a societal risk.

This isn’t the first time the red flag law was floated in the Ohio Legislature.  In the wake of last year’s Parkland High School shooting in Florida, former Gov. Kasich backed the proposed law, which ultimately failed to gain support.

Opposition to the legislation stems from Republican lawmakers’ belief that it infringes on the constitution rights to bear arms and proper due process of law. However, 14 other states have already implemented the red flag law.

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Moms Demand Action, a national gun control organization, notes that 42% of attackers exhibit warning signs before shootings occur. And although this legislation would only be a small step in the right direction, it could help save lives.

But ultimately, statistics don’t matter to politicians, who are dependent on dollars from the gun lobby.  And until our elected officials decide that Ohioans‘ safety comes first, any measure, regardless of how small and sensible, will fail. 

Ohio Republicans need to take a long hard look at their agenda and ask themselves if it truly serves our needs. Which is more important: our children feeling safe at school or campaign contributions? 

The red flag law is a common-sense measure, and while it’s a far cry from where Ohio gun restriction needs to be, it’s certainly a start.

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