City council members spar over photo response


Mayor Henk Berbee is advocating for Marysville City Council to “keep an open mind and study the subject.”
The “subject” is a photo of 25 senior members of the Marysville High School football team standing on a train engine, many of which are holding flags – two American flags, one Ohio flag, two school district flags and four others showing versions of the flags with blue, red or green stripes.
The picture is meant as a promotional photo for the district’s football booster club.
It has garnered both praise from those who say it is a show of support for first responders and the military and criticism from those who argue the flags are exclusionary and say political statements like this should not be part of a school sanctioned photo.
At Monday night’s city council meeting, council member Aaron J. Carpenter said he was “disappointed” that it took nearly two hours before the photo was mentioned.
Last week Carpenter took to social media urging residents to write to Berbee, who had expressed a reluctance to get involved in the matter as it was not a city issue.
At the meeting, Carpenter said he feels like it is his responsibility to offer support for the students. He asked the mayor to “draft a proclamation or resolution to support these kids for doing what they thought was right.”
He said the mayor’s reluctance to get involved shows he “lacks an awareness of the cultural impact of politics.”
“I think he needs to recognize this is the hot topic of our city,” Carpenter said, adding that council doesn’t, “have a clue about what is happening in the city culturally.”
Carpenter read from a letter sent to the mayor. The writer, who Carpenter would not identify but Berbee said was Zach Yoder, called the mayor “shameful.”
He said the students were “standing for what it is right and good in the face of anarchy and political violence.”
“Marysville is a great city and can remain so. We need leaders with principles and the courage to live and lead by those principles,” Yoder wrote. “If you continue trying to emulate our spineless governor by masking your positions in favor of avoiding conflict you may find yourself out of a job.”
He told the mayor to “step up and lead.”
Carpenter said the city is already involved as a portion of the school district is in the city.
“For us to just sit this one out is irresponsible,” Carpenter said, adding the council “ought to stop being politically correct all the time.”
“When are we going to stop being spineless?” Carpenter asked. “When are we going to be strong and take a stand on things that really matter?”
Berbee thanked Carpenter for his comments.
The mayor said he received several letters, “some of them in favor, some of them not in favor.”
Berbee reiterated the district superintendent’s acknowledgement that a flag “can mean one thing to you and something different to the person beside you.”
He said none of the groups with a stake in the matter — the players involved, the school district, the Quarterback Club, etc. — “have given us a clear direction which way to go.”
He said it is important to talk to them and see how they would like the city to respond.
He said any member of council is able to introduce the legislation.
“We don’t need someone going off to the left and going to social media to stir up as much as possible because that is not how this council works,” Berbee said.
He did warn anyone who wanted to introduce legislation that the matter needed to be transparent and in open session, not in a round robin style where the sponsor calls council members individually to gauge support.
Berbee said his delay does not mean he is for a proclamation or against a proclamation, but rather that council needs more information.
He that by not issuing a proclamation or resolution immediately, council members would have time to research and talk to members to see how it might impact people less vocal.
That way, he said, council could, “take it up in a professional manner rather than do this through an extended session of Facebook.”
Council member Donald Boerger offered a different perspective on law enforcement support. He said he contacted the Union County Commissioners recently.
“I saw the courthouse lit blue and I wasn’t 100% excited about it,” Boerger said.
He explained that Lady Justice is supposed to be blind and is not meant to support one side or another, but represent all people.
“The law of the land is not supposed to discriminate against anyone,” Boerger said.
He added, however, that idea “has never been the case,” noting that if it were, women would not have needed to fight so hard to vote or homosexual people so hard to marry.

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