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Orange council passes anti-racism resolution; proposed amendment dropped

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 7/9/2020 By Ed Wittenberg, cleveland.com

ORANGE, Ohio – Village Council passed an anti-racism resolution Wednesday (July 8), but it did not include an amendment proposed by Councilman Jud Kline a week earlier that would have mandated council to convene a community forum on the topic.

Kline said in an interview Thursday (July 9) that upon further consideration, he decided to withdraw his request for the amendment. But this action was not explained during the council meeting held via video conferencing on Zoom.

The resolution was introduced July 1 in response to a motion made by Councilwoman Staci Adelman Vincent at council’s previous meeting June 10. At that time, Vincent directed village Law Director Steve Byron to draft a resolution “condemning the racism we have seen,” and it was then written by Byron with input from Vincent and other council members.

During council’s discussion July 1 of the resolution “denouncing all forms of racism and stating the village’s commitment of being welcoming to all people irrespective of race,” Kline said he wanted to add an amendment to Section 2 of the measure.

Section 2 states that the mayor and council will dedicate themselves “to engage in honest, open and constructive dialogue” and incorporate these communications into their daily work. It also seeks to “engage residents with opportunities to share their experiences so that we may work to address any issues of race and/or inequities.”

Kline said he thought council should take that engagement with residents a step further. He then proposed this amendment to Section 2: “The mayor and council will convene a community forum at a date, time and place to be determined in order to enlist community input and direction for actions this legislative body ought to consider in advancing the aspirations set forth in this resolution.”

“We have created a resolution that talks about our aspirations for the community and who we are,” he said July 1. “But there’s no action in here.”

At that point, Mayor Kathy U. Mulcahy said she wasn’t sure she wanted the village to be committed to holding a community forum. She expressed concerns about her qualifications to lead such a forum.

Council President Brandon Duber said he thought it would be helpful for the entire council to see the proposed amendment in writing before voting on the resolution.

Several council members agreed, so council voted to table the resolution.

But when the resolution came up again at Wednesday’s (July 8) meeting, it was identical to the one introduced to council July 1.

On Thursday (July 9), Kline said he had a discussion with Byron after the July 1 meeting about how council might implement what he had proposed.

“Upon further review, while I’m still very supportive of doing what I suggested, I realized that bringing together such a community forum right now – with the COVID-19 circumstances being what they are – would be very difficult to accomplish,” Kline said.

“What I then suggested – in communication with the law director, the mayor and other council members – is we need to reach out to the community more directly by publishing the resolution in our newsletter, so the village knows we are part of making a difference in the community.”

After council voted to pass the resolution Wednesday (July 8), Kline said, “It’s important that we circulate it among the residents, to let them know that we’re acting and thinking about these kinds of issues.”

“Perhaps the best way to do it is through the newsletter or email to our residents, and at the same time ask them for recommendations and comments that we might want to consider in the future as we move from intention to action,” he continued.

“Perhaps there’s a letter that could be written along with the posting of this resolution in the newsletter that would encourage residents to engage.”

Kline added he has been in touch recently with state Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, who represents the village in Ohio House District 12, about possibly organizing such a communitywide forum.

“I felt that might be better because it might bring in a larger audience and a broader perspective,” he said, noting Brent seemed receptive to the idea. “I hope we can do that sometime in the near future, but it may be further down the line (due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic).”

Before council voted on the resolution Wednesday (July 8), Vincent said she still supports it “as a step in the right direction.”

“I know one resolution may not be enough to change the culture of an entire nation, but I stand by this resolution as a good basis from which to start and move forward, and to also remind our residents of what we believe in and stand behind,” she said.

“I look forward to working with any residents, our council members and Orange Village administrators in assessing the next best steps for continuing to open dialogue and engage in any further conversation.”

Vincent previously had said that events of recent months – such as the racial injustices that led to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor – are forcing the nation to take a hard look at racism and the inherent biases people have.

Face masks mandated

Mulcahy reminded residents that effective Wednesday (July 8), a new Ohio Department of Health order announced by Gov. Mike DeWine mandates face coverings in public in Ohio counties that have been designated as at a Level 3 Alert, including Cuyahoga County. Level 3 or “red-alert” counties are those that have recorded a very high exposure and spread of the coronavirus.

For more information about this order, visit the home page of the village’s website, orangevillage.com.

Mulcahy also issued a reminder that the village still has some 3-ply non-surgical face masks available at no cost to residents. Two face masks per household, while supplies last, may be picked up by residents who have not already done so at the village’s police department between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.

“Remember to continue to practice social distancing, frequent and good hand washing and wear your face mask,” she said. “We are the only ones who can help stop the spread of this virus, so let’s beat it here in Cuyahoga County.”

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