Athens City Council Officially Opposes Federal Government Shutdown

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Athens City Council addressed several different ordinances at Monday night’s meeting, but a resolution opposing the government shutdown garnered the most discussion.

Copies of the resolution, introduced by all members of council, will be sent to President Trump, all members of the Ohio Congressional Delegation, the National League of Cities and the Ohio Municipal League.

It’s a pathetic point of time that we are in with our federal government in my humble opinion,” council member Chris Fahl said. “They’re playing games with people’s livelihoods.” 

First Ward Representative Kent Butler called the shutdown appalling and thanked his fellow council members for having the courage to bring the resolution forward. Butler said he believed all politics were local and have an impact on everyone.

The Mayor Speaks Out

Mayor Steve Patterson spoke on the resolution, recalling a difficult moment last week when an Alexander Elementary School third grader asked him about his opinion on the shutdown and its effects on Athens citizens.

“What was difficult wasn’t so much answering because I answered from the heart as to how I felt and the impacts of it,” he said. “It was looking at the looks on the faces of the teachers and the principal who was also there looking to see, ‘mayor how are you gonna answer this question?” 

Patterson said he responded “pretty much in line with the way the resolution reads” and he applauds city council for moving it forward.

What Others are Doing

Councilman Pat McGee said he believes the council should be redirecting their efforts to senators and legislators who “do have the power to prevent this kind of thing in the future.”

He praised Ohio State Senator Steve Stivers for co-sponsoring a bill that McGee said would prevent future shutdowns.

McGee said that the efforts of the public will have the greatest effect.

“They’re not going to listen to our resolution as much they’re going to listen to the public when they make the phone calls and the emails and the letters and that’s what’s making the change,” McGee said. “I applaud the public for that.”

The council unanimously approved the resolution on its first reading.

Several ordinances were up for their second readings at the meeting, one of which authorized the purchase of softening salt for the water treatment plant.

Another ordinance would close East Union Street between Court and University Terrace on Saturday, April 6 for the International Street Fair if passed.

Athens City Accused of Bias

An Athens citizen accused the city of being biased against people of color and members of the LGBTQ community during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Bolo J, who uses they and those pronouns, said they put on a drag show at the Union in August that raised almost $1,500. They said when they tried to do an event at Casa Nueva back in December they were unable to because of “implicit bias” that they incurred along with three other people of color and two members of the LGBTQ community.

Currently, Bolo J said they are speaking with Arts/West about putting on a cabaret show but were met with “roadblocks” from both the city and the venue.

Bolo J said they want to include burlesque in their show, but Arts/West and Athens City won’t allow for the burlesque element Bolo J is asking for even though they said it’s been done before and believes it’s also because of bias.

City Council President Christine Knisely said that while they’re won’t engage in a conversation about the accusation because it was brought forward during the comment portion of the meeting, the concern was noted and she suggested speaking to city administration about the issue.

City Council will meet again February 18 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in City Hall.