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Adjust rental rules

A dispute between the city of Steubenville and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission appears to be a case of two strikes, you’re out. Rather than argue with the umpire — the CRC in this situation — municipal officials should accept the call and move on.

Last fall, former Steubenville resident Crystal Zimmerman won a CRC ruling against the city, regarding so-called “neighborhood conservation districts.” City officials had adopted the system in an effort to reduce problems with rental properties, ranging from noise to failure to comply with property maintenance rules. A link between crime and rental properties also was pointed out.

Zimmerman said she was evicted from a rental property because the landlord failed to comply with a requirement concerning registration of the building for rental purposes. The CRC agreed with a contention that the regulations have a disparate effect on minorities and families with children.City officials asked the commission to reconsider.

Then, last week, the CRC ruled against the city again, on a similar complaint filed by Royal Mayo. This time, the commission went to some lengths to establish its case regarding the rental property rules having a disparate effect on minorities and families with children.

In both cases, the city has the option of asking the commission to reconsider or accepting conciliation between it and the complainants. Or, requests for the CRC to reconsider can be pursued.

It appears unlikely the state panel will reverse itself, especially given the fact it has ruled twice against Steubenville.

We have no doubt that in establishing the neighborhood conservation district system, city officials’ motives were good, not moved by any desire to discriminate against anyone. Still, the CRC says the rules affect a large segment of the population — minorities and people with families — unfairly.

It may be that city officials can appeal the commission’s decision to court. That could prove to be costly — with no assurance of success.

City officials should give in, then, and scrap the rental rules — but not forget them. Perhaps in consultation with the CRC, a new set can be written and implemented.

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