Athens City Council appears reluctant to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) – In a packed meeting, Athens City Council members discussed whether it is their place to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

If it were to pass, this would be the first time the council has approved such a resolution.

A legal opinion issued by the city’s assistant law director cautioned against passing the resolution, saying resolutions should be focused on local issues.

Council members seemed to agree. Passing a ceasefire resolution now, Councilmember Solveig Spjeldnes said, would “open a pandora’s box” as to where the city draws a line on conflicts that happen abroad.

Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Athens City Hall is seen in Athens, Ohio, on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Supporters of the resolution disagreed, saying the violence in Gaza is not as far away as the council thinks.

“Athens might be a small college town in southeastern Ohio and far removed, but this is indeed a rising issue within the scope of our local government,” said one supporter. “We need the support of our local government.”

One person opposed to the resolution said it is a waste of the council’s time and that it should focus on issues here at home.

“We are spending our time talking about something that has little to no meaning,” they said. “We need to spend our time correcting things in this town.”

In response, another supporter said that if the council needs a local angle for the resolution, tying it to redirecting funds to the area could be a step in the right direction.

“There are millions being sent over to bomb Palestine, but where is the money to help people feed their kids,” they said.

Another supporter said the mental toll the violence has had on the community and how U.S. tax dollars are aiding that fight is another reason this is a local issue.

Councilmembers Jessica Thomas and Micah McCarey said they would support this resolution if the citizens and the council could agree on a local tie.

But other council members disagreed, saying it’s not the council’s job, and it could cause more harm than good.

“Passing any such resolution would be divisive, inspire fear, and undermine inclusion and harmony in our community,” Spjeldnes said.

She said allowing resolutions like this takes time away from the council to address issues affecting people locally.

“Our job as a council is to pass legislation that improves lives in this town in a responsible way,” she said.

Councilmember Beth Clodfelter said although the meeting was packed with supporters of the resolution, this didn’t necessarily represent the views of all residents.

“I think it’s great to express your opinions publicly, but I also care about the people who are scared to come here,” she said. “I’ve had phone calls, people come up to me when I’m buying groceries — I’ve had people come up to me when I’m just walking on the street say please don’t do this, I’m really uncomfortable with this.”

Councilmember Alan Swank agreed that this is not the council’s job.

He said the council should refrain from passing resolutions urging state or federal officials on issues here or abroad. “Our job is to legislate,” he said.

Swank said that while he was not in favor of passing a resolution on the issue, he would be in favor of signing a letter that would go to state and federal officials, “not as a representative of Athens City Council, but as a proud resident of the city of Athens.”

The council is expected to vote on the resolution at their meeting on Monday.