Nondiscrimination issues discussed by Greenville City Council

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 1:03 pm on Wednesday, September 18, 2013

GREENVILLE — Nondiscrimination issues highlighted Tuesday evening’s Greenville City Council meeting, with members voting on one matter and entertaining public comments on another.

Council members voted unanimously to adopt an updated Title VI nondiscrimination plan in connection with the city’s transit operations. According to City Manager George Bosanic, the updated plan is a requirement of the state of Michigan.

“We have had a nondiscrimination plan in place, but it needed updating,” Bosanic said. “Some of it is based on a recent census that showed a number of people who speak English less than very well. We had to do a survey of our employees and ask about their encounters with (these) citizens in their various departments.”

The state is enforcing the new requirements due to pressure from the federal government, which in part funds the state program.

In developing the plan, Bosanic met with Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) representatives in the hope that other communities similar to Greenville had already developed similar plans that could be used as a template. Unfortunately, no other communities were any further along the planning process than Greenville.

During the pubic comment portion of the meeting, Michael Austin, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Greenville, presented the council with a petition he has been circulating urging council members to vote against a gender orientation ordinance discussed at previous meeting.

According to Austin, he has collected 463 signatures from city residents opposed to any sort of nondiscrimination ordinance based on gender orientation, sexual preference or gender identity. Austin claims to have also collected an additional 424 signatures from noncity residents living within Greenville’s school district.

Sam Jones, one of the proponents of the antidiscrimination ordinance, also addressed the council.

“Pastor Austin has been handing around a piece of paper that has been misinforming people, including elderly citizens,” Jones said. “He has been tricking them.

“The gender identity argument that has been brought to you guys (the council) is absurd. It is an argument that has been used as a scare tactic for the past 40 years. You have citizens here in Greenville that are transgender … the only reason they don’t come forward is they’re worried stuff might happen to them because they’re transgender.”

The council took no action on the issue during Tuesday’s meeting.

In other matters, Bosanic addressed council members regarding the problem the city is currently experiencing with the emerald ash borer, which has been decimating ash trees in the city throughout the summer. The city is currently removing ash trees throughout the city and will be mulching the branches and offering the logs to city residents interested in using the wood locally for firewood.

The council went into closed session to discuss pending litigation in connection with the United Solar Ovonic bankruptcy and to discuss a letter regarding attorney-client privilege.

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