UPDATE: MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP IS ON THE BRINK OF BECOMING A “COOL CITY”

Trustee Angela Wilson reads the Human Relations Ordinance into the record

Trustee Angela Wilson reads the Human Relations Ordinance into the record

Place making is a very popular term – it refers to the philosophy and practice of capitalizing on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, ultimately creating spaces that promote peoples’ health, happiness, and well being. During the October 1 meeting, Clerk Brett Dreyfus spoke extensively about making Meridian Township a cool place to live.

The truth is, Meridian Township, is a great place to be, period. The neighborhoods are beautiful and friendly. The schools are award winning. The Farmers’ Market is world class and the only critique we’ve heard of the festivals is that they’re a little loud — likely because of the incredible music and boisterous laughter of the attendees. Meridian is well on its way to becoming a cool city.

During the Tuesday, October 15 meeting, the public comments were supportive and those in attendance urged the Board to continue progress on the non-discrimination ordinance. Joel Meredith spoke passionately in favor of the Board’s continued support of a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance, “I am here tonight to urge you to pass the ordinance. I’ve heard this described as “feel good legislation” and one can infer that it is therefore less important…for those of us in the LGBT community, every step forward or backward is important.”

Trustee Angela Wilson, long time champion of the Human Relations Ordinance, introduced the proposed ordinance for publication. The motion was immediately supported by Trustee John Veenstra, who has also been an outspoken supporter of the ordinance.

The Board then discussed a few minor changes to be made to the published ordinance including the correction of a few grammatical errors and clarifications on language. Treasurer Brixie moved to amend the ordinance to clarify that the ordinance does not mandate employers to provide benefits to employees’ partners. Brixie’s amendment also changes “family responsibilities” language to “familial status” — which is the same terminology used in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Trustee Wilson supported the changes to the language that were in Brixie’s amendment. “[These words] clarify and don’t change the spirit or intent of the ordinance. We’ve had overwhelming support from our community. I am so proud to say that I am supporting this ordinance.”

Trustee Wilson also proposed an amendment to the penalties section of the ordinance. This amendment increased the infraction schedule to start at $150 for the first offense, $250, and then $500. Veenstra supports. “It’s been said that this ordinance wouldn’t have any teeth because of the fine structure because the state structure starts at $10000….The fine does have some teeth to it. This gives it a little more bite,” Wilson said. The amendment carried with 4 votes (Wilson, Styka, Veenstra, Dreyfus).

Trustee Milton Scales, who supports the ordinance in principle but not in practice, remained unmoved by arguments to include employment nondiscrimination.  “Where you’re saying the ordinance adds teeth, those are false teeth,” he said.

Trustee Scales said that he could not vote for the ordinance but that he did support nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people. He again stated that the state should address this issue by amending the ELCRA. Scales also promoted the idea that groups like Unity Michigan should pursue a ballot initiative and put the issue of nondiscrimination protections up to the state for a vote. He then reiterated his belief that a local nondiscrimination ordinance is nothing more than “feel good legislation.”

Trustee Ron Styka responded, saying, “A resolution…that’s feel good. We need to take action and lead. With the changes that were recommended, I support this [ordinance] and I think we should go forward tonight.”

Supervisor LeGoff called for a vote. The ordinance introduction was supported 6-1, with Trustee Scales voting against. The Board will revisit the ordinance for adoption and immediate effect on Tuesday, October 29 at 6 p.m.

Thank you, Meridian Township Board Members for moving forward on equality and fairness – Clerk Brett Dreyfus, Supervisor Elizabeth LeGoff, Treasurer Julie Brixie, Trustees Ron Styka and John Veenstra.

An extra thank you to Trustee Angela Wilson for introducing this measure, guiding discussion, and championing nondiscrimination at every turn.

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