|In case you missed it, the following articles (see below) appeared in the Leelanau Enterprise on August 13th. Several County Commissioners refused to accept a simple anti-racism resolution. The resolution was to be a statement in response to the offensive, unacceptable racist statements made by former Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle, who was ultimately forced to resign. |
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August 13, 2020, Leelanau Enterprise‘ANTI-RACISM’ RESOLUTION CAUSING FURY
By [email protected] | on August 12, 2020By Eric Carlson
The Leelanau County Board of Commissioners this week struggled to craft language it will use in a proposed “anti-racism” resolution it may adopt next week, with some commissioners suggesting the resolution should include an acknowledgement of a high incidence of abortion among African-Americans.
The proposed resolution was drafted in reaction to the political and worldwide media firestorm that resulted after the Leelanau Enterprise reported racist comments made at a public meeting last week by an elected member of the county Road Commission. Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle submitted his letter of resignation Monday.
At the county board’s regular monthly executive meeting Tuesday morning, two commissioners suggested that a draft anti-racism resolution they were presented should include an acknowledgement that racism is evident in what they said is a high percentage of African Americans who abort their unborn babies.
The incidence of abortion amounts to “genocide in this country for Black Americans – perhaps the truest form of racism,” according to District No. 7 commissioner Melinda Lautner.
Lautner noted that in the past year the county board would not even consider adopting an anti-abortion resolution to condemn the “killing of babies” even though abortion “kills 1,000 black babies every day in America.”
District No. 3 Commissioner and County Board Chairman Will Bunek agreed, citing statistics he’d found showing the high incidence of abortion among African-Americans.
In addition, protestors calling police “pigs” and other names should be cited in the resolution as an example of racism, Bunek said.
District No. 2 Commissioner Debra Rushton said she thought the resolution should include a definition of racism because the word means different things to different people.
“As we have seen out there across our nation, we see one sort of racism condemned, but yet the racism against our police forces, our deputies…we have seen different types of racism that seems to be accepted in some communities,” Rushton said.
Rushton added that she would also like the term “social justice” removed from the draft resolution.
“When the phrase is used, it presumes the program is grounded in particular ideological perspectives,” Rushton said.
Rushton added that she would like to see the word “racial” removed from the term “racial equity” in the resolution because, she said, it “targets a specific group” and is itself a racial slur.
It should be “equity for all,” Rushton said.
All of the commissioners made it clear in one way or another that they are strongly “against racism.”
Rushton asked to know who drafted the anti-racism resolution that was presented to the county board for consideration at its executive meeting Tuesday morning.
County administrator Chet Janik said he and his executive assistant, Laurel Evans, put the draft together by “cutting and pasting” similar resolutions they found online that had been adopted by other municipalities.
Janik asked that commissioners provide him specific suggestions in writing by later this week so he can continue working on the draft.
Janik said he would try to incorporate more of the county board’s thoughts into a draft resolution he will present to the board for consideration of adoption at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night, Aug. 18.
* * * * * * * * *Commissioners fail to put ‘racism’ behind usBy [email protected] | on August 12, 2020
Rarely does this newspaper break a story that ends up resulting in national and even international news coverage literally overnight.
But that’s what happened immediately after we reported on Page One last week that an elected member of the Leelanau County Road Commission made racist comments in a public setting.
When the road commissioner in question offered his letter of resignation this week, we were hopeful this story, although explosive, would be a flash in the pan. After this week’s Leelanau County Board of Commissioners executive meeting, however, we’re not so sure.
The county board faced a fairly simple task this week — prepare a resolution for adoption at next week’s meeting expressing the county government’s disapproval of racism and outlining what it’s doing to prevent more of it.
Instead, certain members of the county board took the opportunity to hold forth on how many African-American women receive abortions — the “truest form of racism,” according to Commissioner Melinda Lautner.
County Board Chairman Will Bunek added that calling police officers bad names should also be held up as an example of racism.
And Commissioner Debra Rushton didn’t want to see the term “racial equity” in the resolution because that itself is a “racial slur,” she said. It should be “equity for all.”
It’s true that all seven members of the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners will tell you unequivocally that they’re “against racism.” It’s not clear, however, whether all seven of them fully grasp the concept.
It’s highly unfortunate that so many people around the world in the past week, especially on social media, have painted all Leelanau County residents with the same brush.
We were hoping the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners would give everyone strong evidence this week that racist Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle was an outlier. Alas, they did not.
The amount of attention last week’s Eckerle story received was remarkable. We were especially struck by how many people were unaware that he was a toxic presence on the Road Commission before last week. We’d been reporting and even editorializing on his disruptive influence for more than a year.
We were also struck by the fact that so many people, even locals, didn’t understand how their county government works, including the removal of an elected official. Of course, covering local governments at the village, township and county levels is this newspaper’s specialty.
We would like to suggest that certain social problems involving government at all levels might be solved quite effectively if more people subscribed to newspapers and read them regularly before voting.
The county board squandered the opportunity to make a swift, unified statement condemning racism in the county. The board instead opened the door for further scrutiny, criticism and questions about how deep racism’s roots are in Leelanau County.
All eyes will be on the County Commission as they attempt to adopt an anti-racism resolution at their August 18 public meeting.
The resolution, however, will only be the start of the process of identifying and eliminating racism in Leelanau County.