Tuesday, November 29

Maple Heights City Council — AGAIN — Rejects Pride Month Designation

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For the second time in two weeks, the City Council of Maple Heights voted down a resolution to declare the month of June 2021 as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

The motion on Wednesday night was an emergency declaration, meaning the resolution would immediately take effect, pending approval from Mayor Annette Blackwell. The motion needed 5 votes to pass and was defeated by City Council with 3 yes votes (Anderson, Jones, and Trojanski), 2 no votes (Agee and Madden), and 1 abstention (Shenett). Councilperson Ostenson was not present at the meeting.

Before the resolution was discussed, Council President Ron Jackson opened up the virtual meeting to public comment, with interested parties allowed to take the floor for a 3-minute maximum. Many of the comments from the public addressed this resolution and the Council’s failure to pass the recognition at their May 19th meeting.

Justin Gould, President of the Board of Directors for the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland and a City Councilperson in University Heights, went piece by piece through the resolution explaining the importance of each section including affirming the dignity of individuals in Maple Heights, denouncing prejudice and discrimination, and recognizing the role that the LGBTQ+ community has played in fighting police harassment and discriminatory laws.

“I ask Council which portion of this resolution do you disagree with,” said Gould.

Gio Santiago, Northeast Ohio Organizer for Equality Ohio, highlighted that the state of Ohio does not have any statewide protections for the LGBTQ+ community and stressed that it is incumbent upon local municipalities to enact change.

“Knowing you have the ability to create change but have failed to do so is disheartening,” said Santiago.

He also pointed out the disconnect between Maple Heights and recognizing LGBTQ+ equality by referencing a Facebook post from the City of Maple Heights using the background of the trans pride flag to announce a delay in trash pick-up.

Social media post from City of Maple Heights, Ohio

Tiffany Hairston, a resident of Maple Heights and a teacher in the district, expressed her disappointment in the resolution’s previous defeat and questioned Councilwoman Edwina Agee regarding a survey Agee had announced at the May 19 meeting that she would distributing to residents of District 7. Agee quickly responded to Hairston.

Councilwoman Edwina Agee

“For my survey, you do not live in District 7, therefore you do not know what Councilwoman Agee does or how many surveys Councilwoman Agee has put out,” said Agee, speaking in the third person.

Several Maple Heights residents spoke during the public portion to highlight that violent crime in Maple Heights is a more pressing issue than recognizing Pride Month, referring to LGBTQ+ identity as a “choice”, and stating that no one has ever had any problems in Maple Heights due to being “that way.”

Following the period of public comment, the Council began their regular agenda. They repeatedly suspended their own rules to waive the procedure of first and second readings of various resolutions, the same action that was being sought with the Pride Month resolution.

When they arrived at Pride Month resolution portion of the agenda, Councilperson Jones explained that addressing violent crime and recognizing Pride Month were not mutually exclusive and that the latter was in keeping with the Council’s usual practice of approving resolutions.

“This is no different than what we do, usually on a monthly basis, such as recognizing Prostate Cancer Month,” said Jones, referring to a resolution passed in early May.

Councilwoman Agee attempted three times to ask Councilperson Trojanski—the original sponsor of the Pride Month resolution—about earlier language that had been deleted in the resolution to fly a rainbow flag at City Hall, pressing him to clarify which city officials he had spoken to regarding the matter.

“I’m not going to entertain this question,” Trojanski repeated three times as Councilwoman Agee continued to pose the question.

Councilpersons Jones and Anderson both referred to the survey Agee had previously announced, asking for any results that could be shared. Councilwoman Agee refused to provide any details.

“Doing my survey, I can do whatever I want to do in District 7,” said Agee. “If you guys are so interested, do a public records request, and get it that way. But Councilwoman Jones and Anderson, be real careful what you say to Councilwoman Agee.”

Records obtained by The Buckeye Flame via a public records request to Maple Heights Law Director Frank Consolo yielded the following cut-and-paste of a survey that Councilwoman Agee told Consolo that she e-mailed to the residents of District 7. We have not received the original e-mail, the number of responses Agee received, or the nature of those responses. We have let Mr. Consolo know that what Councilwoman Agee provided does not comply with a public request for records.

Survey from Councilwoman Agee

The resolution was then defeated with Agee, Madden, and Shenett providing no explanation as to why they did not vote in favor of recognizing Pride Month. By the end of the meeting, the Maple Heights City Council passed 12 resolutions and pieces of legislation, unanimously suspending their rules for each article. The Pride Month resolution was the only resolution that was voted down during the meeting.

Following the vote, The Buckeye Flame made a request for comment to Agee, Madden, and Shennett to inquire as to the rationale for their vote and what criteria they use to suspend the rules. This is the fourth request for comment that has been made to Agee, and the first to Madden and Shennett. This article will be updated if we receive any further information on the above.

With the immediate passage of the resolution being defeated, it would next appear on the Council’s July 7 meeting, seven days after Pride Month has ended. Councilmembers could call a special meeting during which the resolution could be heard again, but none have publicly stated an intention to do so.

Following the meeting, local LGBTQ+ leaders expressed disappointment in the Maple Heights City Council decision.

“Our resilient community is not unused to disappointments like tonight’s vote in Maple Heights, but we have always responded with perseverance and Pride,” said Gould. “The Center is ready to bring that energy to the streets this Saturday at our Pride in the CLE Pride Ride. We will continue to fight alongside LGBTQ+ organizations like Equality Ohio and leaders who have our best interests at heart like Councilperson Trojanski.”🔥

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About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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