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Maple Heights Council Again Votes Against Making June LGBTQ+ Pride Month

[The Buckeye Flame]
a Maple Heights city welcome sign

By Ken Schneck, Editor, The Buckeye Flame

As it has done  twice in the past month, the Maple Heights City Council this week again rejected a resolution declaring June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

At a Monday evening meeting, the  city council voted first to suspend its own 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 members did 12 times at the June 2 meeting alone.

Monday night’s emergency motion needed five votes to pass and was defeated with four yes votes – from council members Dana Anderson, Toni Jones, Tanglyn Madden, and Richard Trojanski –  one no vote by Edwina Agee, and abstentions from Christian Ostenson and Stafford L Shenett.

After that motion failed, the city council voted on the Pride Month resolution outright to take effect in 30 days — after Pride Month has ended — as procedure dictates for the third reading of a resolution.

Declaring June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month needed four votes to pass, and was defeated again, 3-2 with two abstentions.

Voting yes were Anderson, Jones, and Trojanski. The no votes were from Agee and Madden and Ostenson and Shenett abstained again.

An initial vote to suspend the rules and take an emergency vote on making June Pride Month in Maple Heights failed May 19 on a 3-1 vote because of three abstentions – Madden, Ostenson, and Shenett. Another attempt on June 3 failed with a 3-1 vote, from which Shenett again abstained; Ostenson did not attend that meeting.

Trojanski — the council member who originally brought forward the resolution — noted Monday that the council’s previous votes against officially declaring June as Pride Month did not reflect well on Maple Heights, and said 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,” Trojanski said. “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, Anderson spoke to the shared history of LGBTQ+ and Black Americans.

“This is about equality and treating people fairly,” Anderson said. “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 the June 2 meeting, 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,” Jones said. “It’s lung month, it’s purple dress month. [Pride Month] is no different than anything else we have passed.”

Maple Heights Mayor Annette Blackwell attempted to remind the council members 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,'” Blackwell said. “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, council members Agee and Madden claimed residents had told them not to pass the resolution. Agee cited a “survey” she distributed to her Ward 7 residents, first mentioned at the June 2 meeting, which she said informed her vote.

That 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,” Agee said. “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 Agee received. In her communication with Consolo, Agee claimed she received 95 responses via “text, phone call, and visits,” but only provided 11 surveys in response to the public records request.

Council member Shenett said, ahead of the vote, “It’s tough because our constituents feel certain ways.”

Ostenson did not offer any comments to explain his vote.

Following the meeting,  The Buckeye Flame requested comments from Ostenson and Shennett as to the rationale for their abstention votes, and to Agee regarding her opposition. No response has been sent at this time. It is the fifth request for comment that has been made to Agee and the second to Onstenson and Shennett.

This story is presented in partnership with The Buckeye Flame, Ohio's only statewide LGBTQ+ news site.