LIMA — Lima City Council spoke out in support of Mayor David Berger’s call to action to end systemic racism throughout the region during council’s Monday night meeting.
Released last Wednesday, June 3, Berger’s three-page statement provided a number of policy solutions recommended to help tamp down on systemic racism. Among them were a number of tasks directly under the purview of council.
As for what those exact actions may be, however, is still under consideration. Councilors motioned that the mayor’s statement be discussed in more detail in a future council meeting of the whole, and Council President John Nixon communicated a long road ahead.
“It is going to be a mountain, and we’re going to have to chip at it, rock by rock,” Nixon said.
Either way, each councilor spoke on their willingness to go down that path.
Councilor Tony Wilkerson said when he watched the death of George Floyd on a widely-circulated online video, the cries for help made by Floyd brought tears to his eyes. Wilkerson said Floyd brought to mind his own son, who has recently moved back to the region and has since been stopped by officers on 14 different occasions.
“My concern is if it’s a 15 or 16th time, he might lose his patience and say something to upset an officer,” Wilkerson said. “God forbid they roughhouse him. God forbid we’re all wearing black suits.”
Councilor Carla Thompson said she will be pushing forward talks to revive the city’s Human Relations Commission in the economic and community development committee, which she chairs. Berger called for a retooling of the commission in order to “assist in reducing inter-group tensions, and ensure quality of treatment and opportunity to all who live, work, play and gather in the City of Lima and the surrounding townships, cities, and villages throughout Allen County.”
“We’re in a unique position. We know what the wounds are of our community,” Thompson said. “Our young people proved that they want answers, and they want to discuss those wounds. They want real healing, and they deserve that. It’s our job to make sure that they get that.”
Councilor Jamie Dixon also voiced his support of the city’s Human Relations Commission while thanking councilors for their empathy, and he encouraged others in the community to practice the same kindness when considering how they respond to racism.
Relatedly, Dixon also made a motion to prepare an ordinance that would declare racism a public health crisis.
Councilor Derry Glenn said some of the comments from other councilors brought back some painful memories of violence done to him and his family. When he was 9, Glenn said his aunt had been shot by police, and he grew up with hate in his heart because of it.
“We’re not going to backtrack. It’s time to work on it. We’re going to solve the problem,” Glenn said.
Councilor Peggy Ehora said she has faith that the movement to end systemic racism is being pushed forward, and she denounced divisive rhetoric that puts systemic racism in the category of “that’s not my problem”.
“I don’t want anyone to have any false precepts,” Nixon said “(Solutions) have to be founded in honest discussion. It’s going to have be rid of gotcha moments. It’s going to be have to be rid of getting around soundbites to show that someone looks bad. If we want to come to some resolution of what we can do, we’re going to have to have honest, open and non-judgemental conversations.”