LIMA — Lima City Council approved a resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis by a 6-1 vote during its Monday night meeting.
The three-page resolution lays out number of negative repercussions of system racism — such as lower access to healthy food and healthcare and traumatic experiences — that lead to worse health outcomes and lower life expectancy for minority populations.
With that in mind, the resolution asks that racism, as a public health crisis, be deserving of action “from all levels of government and civil society.” The document also establishes council’s commitment to “frank and open discussions of race.”
Multiple metropolitan cities in Ohio, such as Columbus and Cleveland, have made similar moves.
While most councilors largely spoke in favor of the resolution, Council President John Nixon said he couldn’t rightly support the resolution due to some language he couldn’t agree with. For example, Nixon said the resolution’s language calling out “limited access to clean water” for minority groups could be seen as an untrue indictment against the City of Lima’s water services.
He also said language regarding health outcomes could also be seen as indictments against major medical providers in the region. Thirdly, the resolution mentions “clear data to illustrate” racism’s negative impacts in Lima, which Nixon said “has not been provided.”
“I question the significance of a non-binding resolution that gives no plan of action except to talk about it,” Nixon said. “I can’t support it tonight because it doesn’t provide a clear way moving forward.”
In related news, many councilors used their time for miscellaneous comments to remark on current efforts being made to combat the issues of systemic racism.
Councilor Carla Thompson, who is leading the charge on re-establishing Lima’s Human Relations Commission, called out county officials — mainly Allen County commissioners and Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia — for their apparent lack of response after council reached out to those offices to gauge their interest in participating in the commission.
“Those calls were never returned, instead we were shut down in the media,” Thompson said.
Thompson is referring to a published report last week in The Lima News where Allen County Commissioner Greg Sneary denied the county’s participation because it is not within the commissioners’ legal responsibilities to operate on the city’s commission.
“Talk to us. We’re not going to agree on all the solutions, I get that, but at least have that dialogue. I’ll start with me, personally, and maybe we can move it out, but let’s do that,” she said.
“We just ask to have a dialogue. It’s all about bringing everyone to the table that needs to be at the table. In Allen County and City of Lima, that’s a big table,” Councilor Peggy Ehora said.
“These problems can be solved, but we all need to come together,” Councilor Jon Neeper said. “In today’s day and age, it’s absolutely asinine that we have to have this discussion.”
Other councilors had somewhat more combative tones. Councilor Derry Glenn, who is currently working to register 10,000 voters to spread out political power in the county and city, said if commissioners opt out of conversations, there may be political repercussions down the line.
“They’re our commissioners and our sheriff. I don’t want them to forget that,” Glenn said. “They think they can’t be touched, but they can be touched.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.