Nearly every seat was filled in Oxford’s Court House during city council’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
“There’s all kinds of an audience,” Mayor William Snavely said as he walked in.
Resolution for reproductive freedom sparks controversy
The resolution was drafted by Councilors Amber Franklin and Alex French. French was absent from the meeting due to a family loss, but Franklin shared her reasoning for drafting the resolution.
“We have had three months to witness the havoc, chaos and harm being inflicted on the lives of people who are pregnant as a result of bans and severe restrictions on access to abortion care across this nation,” Franklin said. “A resolution is symbolic. It is not an ordinance or a law and cannot change the current state of affairs regarding access to abortion care in Ohio. However, resolutions can be statements of resistance, which also become historical documents.”
Snavely then asked the public for comments just after 8 p.m. Comments continued for nearly an hour and a half.
Deena Green, president of Miami University’s Students for Life, was the first speaker, asking on behalf of the organization for the council not to pass the resolution.
“This resolution does not change law, yet it projects to the rest of our state, nation and those who will one day read about this in history that we advocate for the death of the helpless, preborn children who do not get a say on whether they live or die,” Green said. “All of this in the name of it being reproductive freedom.”
Kathy Brinkman, the communications director of the League of Women Voters of Oxford, quoted a letter in the Washington Post, which the organization partially funded, to demonstrate support for the resolution.
“‘Women have lost the fundamental reproductive rights afforded to generations before us,’” Brinkman said. “‘This step backward perpetuates societal inequalities and falls disproportionately on people of color and low-income communities.’ Tonight we applaud Council Members Franklin and French for heeding the call for lawmakers on all levels to act in order to restore and protect our rights.”
A total of 26 audience members voiced opinions on the resolution, with 15 people against the resolution and 11 people for it, some on behalf of organizations and others speaking for themselves.
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Councilors Chantel Raghu, Snavely and Glenn Ellerbe all shared that they did not necessarily agree with abortion but believed the resolution should be passed to avoid limiting options for citizens.
“I’m a man of faith and a man of science, and I ultimately espouse people’s choices over forcing someone to behave in a certain way,” Ellerbe said. “I’m not going to be a person that says I need to force someone to make a choice about themselves because that is an autonomy situation as well as an equality situation.”
The council voted at 9:51 p.m. The resolution was unanimously passed.
Public participation brings celebration
Snavely issued a proclamation of National Hispanic Latino American Heritage Month which goes from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Snavely presented the proclamation to Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, the associate director of the Center for American and World Cultures at Miami.
“I just want to say gracias,” Velarde said. “Thank you to everyone for this recognition of the Hispanic Latino American Heritage month. It’s an honor for us having this opportunity to celebrate every year in a community like Oxford that’s welcoming us.”
Velarde then invited audience members to join her at the UniDiversity festival, starting at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 at Oxford Uptown Parks.
Concerned citizen speaks about homelessness
During public participation, Anne Fuerher, facilitator of Oxford Citizens for Peace & Justice (OCPJ), spoke about homelessness in Oxford, saying that at any time, nearly 100 people face homelessness in Oxford.
Fuerher then brought up concerns over the sustainability of a cold shelter provided by the Family Resource Center (FRC) for homeless people in Oxford. The cold shelter is the only shelter option in Oxford.
“Two years ago, members and friends … of OCPJ raised $14,000 to enable the cold shelter to operate an additional month and to provide housing assistance to other FRC clients,” Fuerher said. “This is not a sustainable source of financial support, but it does reflect concern among members of the community for the well-being of those who are un-housed.”
Councilors Raghu and Jason Bracken expressed support during closing comments for focusing on ways to help homeless people in Oxford.
“I also support sustained efforts towards housing and addressing homelessness and basic needs,” Bracken said. “It’s my chief priority since I’ve been elected on council, and I’d like to keep pushing for that.”
Amtrak platform ranked highly
During final remarks, Councilor David Prytherch mentioned progress on a proposal for an Amtrak station to be put in Oxford.
“Our Amtrak platform grant application is ranked so highly that it’s almost inevitable that it will get approved, which is $2 million in grant dollars,” Prytherch said. “What that means is in ’26 or ’27, a train is going to stop at a platform, and you will be able to ride it from Oxford.”
Prytherch said the plan has been in the works for a while but should result in more money for the city.
“As we contemplate some of these other big things we do, we have to do that upfront investment to see the long term return, but the way we've been pulling down grant dollars from major infrastructure projects, the model we’re working on is really working,” Prytherch said.
Oxford City Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the Oxford Court House. The meeting can also be viewed on the City of Oxford’s website.