Tuesday, October 4

Claiming Residents “Don’t Want It,” Maple Heights Council Votes Final Time to Reject Pride Month

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As they have done twice before in the past month, the Maple Heights City Council rejected a resolution declaring June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

At their meeting Monday evening, the City Council voted first to suspend their rules and pass the resolution on emergency, meaning the resolution would immediately take effect. Passing motions on emergency is a common practice for the Council, something they did 12 times at their June 2 meeting alone.

The emergency motion needed 5 votes to pass and was defeated with 4 yes votes (Anderson, Jones, Madden, and Trojanski), 1 no vote (Agee), and 2 abstentions (Ostenson and Shenett).

After that motion failed, the City Council voted on the Pride Month resolution outright to take effect in 30 days—after Pride Month will have ended—as procedure dictates in this 3rd reading of a resolution.

Declaring June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month needed 4 votes to pass, and was defeated with 3 yes votes (Anderson, Jones, and Trojanski), 2 no votes (Agee and Madden) and 2 abstentions (Ostenson and Shenett).

Prior to these votes, most members of City Council spoke during the meeting as to the way they would be voting.

Richard Trojanski—the councilmember who originally brought forward the resolution—highlighted that the Council’s previous votes against  did not reflect well on Maple Heights, and that voting the resolution down a final time would have negative effects on the Maple Heights economy.

“In the 1970s, Maple Heights had 37,000 people,” said Trojanski. “Today we are hovering just above 22,000 people. If we want to be relevant, be a vehicle for economic development, and bring population back to this region, we have to be inclusive, welcoming, and make sure everyone has a seat at the table.”

In her support of the resolution, Councilmember Dana Anderson spoke to the shared history of LGBTQ+ and Black Americans.

“This is about equality and treating people fairly,” said Anderson. “It’s about what happened in the late 60s with [the LGBTQ+ community]being attacked and beaten, just as our ancestors were as Black Americans.”

As she did at their June 2 meeting, Councilmember Toni Jones pointed out the Council’s many precedents in approving “feel-good legislation.”

“I’m not going to again use [the May vote to approve]Prostate Cancer Month as an example, but we recognize so many holidays,” said Jones. “It’s lung month, it’s purple dress month. [Pride Month] is no different than anything else we have passed.”

Mayor Annette Blackwell attempted to remind the City Council of their oath of office to represent all of Maple Heights, not solely the residents with whom they agree.

“Part of the oath of office reads ‘I faithfully, honestly and impartially’ and it ends with ‘so help me God,'” said Blackwell. “We took that oath of office. Those are the words. I want to know what part of the oath of office that you are tossing aside today.”

In their opposition to declaring June as Pride Month, Councilmembers Edwina Agee and Tanglyn Madden claimed that residents had told them not to pass the resolution. As she did at the June 2 meeting, Agee cited a “survey” she distributed to her Ward 7 residents which she said informed her vote. This led to a testy exchange when Anderson questioned the survey, asking Agee for her methodology and statistical results.

“I don’t have to answer that,” said Agee. “Get the public record. Get the public record.”

Records obtained by The Buckeye Flame via a public records request to Maple Heights Law Director Frank Consolo yielded 11 surveys that Agee received (viewable here and below). In her communication to Consolo, Agee claimed that she received 95 responses via “text, phone call, and visits,” but only provided the 11 surveys in response to the public records request.

Councilmember Stafford Shenett, Sr. said that, “It’s tough because our constituents feel certain ways.”

Councilmember Richard Ostenson did not offer any comments to explain how he would be voting.

Following the meeting, The Buckeye Flame made a request for comment to Ostenson and Shennett to inquire as to the rationale for their abstention votes and to Agee regarding her opposition. This is the fifth request for comment that has been made to Agee, and the second to Onstenson and Shennett. This article will be updated with any comment from the councilmembers. 🔥

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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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