By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester City Council put the brakes on approving a resolution on Feb. 16 committing to equity, inclusion and diversity following a change in language and requests by a community group to give residents and the health department more opportunities to provide input.
Council intended to vote the resolution on Feb. 16, but after discussions among themselves, comments from the Community Health Action Team and residents expressing concern with difficulty finding the proposed resolution on the city website, they decided to postpone voting for a few weeks.
“People said they want it done right,” said Councilman Mike Coolman. “Get the final print out there and let the public have time to review it. We need to give the public and health department time to review it.”
Councilman Pat Lynch, who attended the CHAT meeting, was told by CHAT members if council had to pull back to give the health department time to review the resolution, they were in favor of it.
Community outcry with a previous draft of the document in which the city, “Discourages racism and discrimination in all forms,” resulted in a return to language stating the city, “Condemns racism and discrimination in all forms.”
“I am disappointed in the watered-down version of the requested resolution declaring racism a public health crisis,” wrote Jenna Acklin in a Feb. 15 email to council. “Listening to all of the work sessions on these matters, it is clear to me more education is required before such a measure should be voted on. This should be written with the assistance of Franklin County Public Health as they are working to obtain actual statistical information specific to Canal Winchester.”
Andrea Iacoboni was upset at how council re-drafted the language around the city’s position on racism and discrimination. She said racism and discrimination should be condemned in all forms and that it is never enough to only discourage it.
“I don’t want to live in a city that does not feel strongly enough about it to condemn it,” Iacoboni wrote on Feb. 16. “You should not either. Do better. Fix it.”
On Feb. 12, Renee Bowling wrote, “I am a white citizen and professional who moved my family here a year ago specifically for the sense of community, schools, and mix of diversity. I am one of many community members who want Canal to be a model for Ohio as a small town with a strong sense of community that welcomes diversity and takes steps toward antiracism. Our neighbors of color and children are watching to see how we handle this moment to confront racism in America. To change the resolution language to discourage instead of the original stronger language to condemn speaks volumes of this community.”
Language in the Feb. 16 resolution returned to the “condemn” verbiage. Councilman Chuck Milliken, who worked on the draft of the resolution along with Councilman Pat Lynch and Councilwoman Jill Amos, said the reason for the original change was not to water down anything but a feeling that condemnation carried with it a negative connotation.
“We saw the error in that,”said Milliken. “As of today, the language is back to condemn.”
Also under discussion was a pledge to send one liaison to the CHAT meetings. In addition to potential conflicts with other obligations for a designated representative, concern was expressed with the possibility of setting a precedent that other organizations could also ask for a council liaison.
Council President Mike Walker suggested amending the language to say a city representative will attend CHAT meetings whenever possible instead of will attend and keep in mind the make up of the council will change over time. Lynch volunteered to serve as a council representative for CHAT for the remainder of the year.
“There are a lot of meetings that go on that we’d like to attend, but can’t attend all the time,” said Coolman.
Other CW news
Council approved a $685,690 base bid contract with Strawser Paving for the 2021 street program project and despite a lengthy discussion during a work session regarding the council’s Dr. John Bender Scholarship, decided to award scholarships this year in the same manner as it has done in the past.
A committee was formed with Coolman at the helm to look at redefining eligibility or scholarship alternatives such as providing funding for athletic scholarships through the city and school district’s Joint Recreation District.
“Dr. Bender was a huge hero to me and got my kid interested in sports,” said Amos, who suggested awarding an academic and athletic scholarships in his memory. “He was such an important part of my community. I think it covers a broader base. I don’t want his reputation to be lost.”