City Council votes to oppose Senate Bill 5

Allison Smith

City Council voted on two motions to officially disagree with Senate Bill 5 at its meeting Wednesday night.

The motion to oppose the bill, put forward by Heidi Shaffer, ward 5 councilmember, did not pass after a vote of four to one with three abstentions. Tracy Wallach, ward 6 councilmember, made a motion to ask for a resolution that would be sent to Columbus to discourage the state legislators’ support of Senate Bill 5. The motion also did not pass after a vote of four to one with three abstentions.

Robin Turner said it is not against the law for those council members who may have a conflict of interest to vote on anything regarding Senate Bill 5, however, some still chose not to vote.

“You’re not benefiting,” Turner said. “This is just a statement of position by council, not a force of law that would put you at a conflict of interest.”

Wayne Wilson, ward 3 councilmember, said he abstained from voting because his wife is a union member and is concerned that residents of Kent would see his vote as just protecting his wife.

“It’s not because I’m against the union, and it’s not because I’m for them,” he said. “It’s just a matter of fact. It doesn’t look good, so I’m going to stay out of it.”

Erik Valenta, councilman at large, said he would like to know more about the bill before he decides to vote on it.

“There are two sides to every story, and I’d really like to do some more research before I cast a vote,” Valenta said.

Wallach, who is also a math lecturer at Kent State, said she views the bill as an attack on organized labor.

“If we eliminate collective bargaining,” she said, “what is that going to do to the quality of our educators then because people are not going to want to go into the profession even more.”

Schaffer said she thinks City Council should back up its public employees, such as fire fighters, policemen and teachers.

“Ten years ago, we were holding firefighters up as national heroes,” Schaffer said. “Now it seems like we’re pointing a finger of blame at our public employees and saying that they’re not worthy of our trust and also that they’re somehow to blame for our budget problems.”

Contact Allison Smith at [email protected].