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Oxford City Council passes anti-hate speech resolution

City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning hate speech on Tuesday, May 5. The resolution, presented in part by councilor Chantel Raghu, was in response to racism council has seen in the Oxford community during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s basically discussing discrimination and xenophobia and racism that has been really brought even more so to the surface and magnified because of the pandemic,” Raghu said, “not only with Asian Americans or [Asian Americans and Pacific Islander] people but also [the] African American community.”

Raghu referenced the disproportionate mortality rate of African Americans when compared to white people. 

“People of color are taking a hard hit,” Raghu said. “This is something that we can do something about.”

Raghu said there is a lot Oxford can do at a local level. She advocated for the city to communicate new information about the coronavirus in more languages in order to reach as many community members as possible. 

“I think we should just pass it. It’s something I think we all believe in,” Vice Mayor Bill Snavely said before the vote. 

Later in the meeting, council passed a resolution to seek funds from the Surface Transportation Block Grant program to design and construct a new portion of the Oxford Area Trail System (OATS) from Peffer Park to Talawanda Middle School. 

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene presented the project, saying the total construction would cost about $4.8 million, and the city would be requesting around $3.3 million.

She recommended a 32 percent match from Oxford’s property tax levy funds, or about $1.5 million, to cover the rest of the amount needed for construction. 

If awarded the grant, Greene said the funds would be released in 2024, and Oxford would begin construction in 2024 or 2025. 

Toward the end of the meeting, City Manager Doug Elliott reviewed what the city is doing to protect citizens during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The police division was very busy this weekend,” Elliott said. “We did arrest one individual for violation of the health department order.”

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Elliott said when addressing large gatherings, the city will often issue one citation in order to control the situation. 

Over the weekend, Elliott said the city had 27 littering complaints, 19 noise complaints and six complaints about violations of the health order on large gatherings. The city issued 11 citations for littering, four for noise and one arrest for violating the health order. 

“Our goal is to obtain compliance before the need to make any arrests,” Elliott said. “Most individuals, most students, comply with this.”

Elliott said most city employees are back to working in person, with only a few individuals continuing to work from home. Public city buildings remain closed. 

Chief of the Oxford Police Department (OPD) John Jones said if the public believes there’s a violation of large gatherings, call OPD’s non-emergency line. If the supposed violation involves businesses, he said to call the health department. 

The next City Council meeting will be held on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19.