Meeting dissolves into battle over proclamation


Marysville councilman continues fight over football photo
What started as a resolution to support a variety of issues ended in name calling and finger pointing at Monday’s Marysville Council Meeting.
The topic actually started on a unified note.
Council unanimously voted to issue a proclamation of support for the way Marysville school officials have handled a football team photo and the response to that picture.
The photo shows the 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 was 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.
The district issued a statement noting that while it is impossible to determine intent of a photograph, “It is also important to recognize multiple perspectives…a symbol or flag can mean one thing to one person and something entirely different to another.”
City Council member J.R. Rausch said he has spoken with school officials.
“Their preference would be for us to issue some sort of endorsement of how they are handling this,” Rausch said.
He said it is difficult to know the role of a city council in a situation like this that was not part of the original situation.
Council member Aaron Carpenter said he felt the school’s response was “appropriate.” He said that while he disagrees with those who oppose the flags, he would defend their right to do it.
Rausch said most of the team members, “just kind of want this to be done.”
“They want to play football and put this behind them,” Rausch said.
That proclamation, however, was not the end of the issue.
Moments later, Carpenter introduced a resolution to “affirm city council’s support of the Monarch football seniors, law enforcement, first responders, the United States military and the first amendment to the United States Constitution. The resolution also denounced violence against a local reporter and noted that council “joins together in realizing that being for something does not automatically translate into being against something else.”
Council could not even agree on whether to read the resolution. Mayor Henk Berbee, who leads the meetings, said only the title of the resolution would be read. As the sponsor, Carpenter had the first opportunity to comment. As he began to read the entire resolution, council member Mark Reams and city law director Tim Aslaner stepped in and said a full vote of council would be needed to override Berbee’s decision to have only the title read. While Carpenter moved the motion, he was the only one to vote for it.
Carpenter said he felt strongly that council needed to support the football team, law enforcement, first responders, and the first amendment.
He questioned why the city would vote to oppose the killing of George Floyd and reaffirm the city’s commitment to a “peaceful community free of violence, racism, and all other forms of discrimination” but it is “like pulling teeth to get anybody to support law enforcement and the military.”
He said that by not taking a position, “it could be considered taking a side.”
Carpenter said he worked really hard on the legislation and it is “nearly impossible to go against anything that is in the resolution.”
Council member Deb Groat, who moved the motion to support the board’s response, said she would not support Carpenter’s resolution. She said that while she supports much of the language in his resolution, she agrees with the majority of constituents who contacted her who felt that, “whatever their personal political leanings, city council should concentrate on issues affecting the governing of the city and not involve itself in national hot button topics for political reasons.”
Rausch said he personally supports the legislation but council does not “formally need to write a resolution every time there is a firestorm on Facebook.”
He said he did wonder why the city would pass a resolution pledging to be a peaceful community, but, “it seemed like the thing to do at the time, it was hot.”
Reams said he supports a lot of things, mentioning shopping local and helping neighbors, but he doesn’t need a resolution. He added that the people he has spoken with do not want the city to get involved.
He said he wanted to consider the best way to support the team and the schools.
Carpenter said council was “spineless.” He said the voters will remember council’s indecision.
“They are going to be shocked and they are going to be angry and they are never going to vote for any of you,” Carpenter warned.
Reams motioned not to approve or reject the resolution, but to table it indefinitely. Before the vote, council member Alan Seymour said he wanted to applaud Carpenter for his “passion and work” on the resolution.
The motion to table passed six to one, with Carpenter voting “absolutely not.”
Berbee said he hoped council could, “put all of this behind us now.”
Other council members were not ready yet.
Councilman Donald Boerger said people on both sides of the issue are hurting and need to be respected.
He said that even in in the most difficult times, “America has always come out of every dark day with unity and I believe that’s what we do, bring people together in unity.”
Carpenter said that if council could not come together to support the military and to denounce violence against a local reporter, “it makes you wonder where we really can find middle ground.”
He took his comment time to read the entire resolution, a move Reams called “very childish.” Seymour said he was taking back his compliment.
Berbee concluded the meeting saying Carpenter had reopened “Pandora’s box.”
“Let’s put bickering behind us,” Berbee said. “It does not serve any purpose.”

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