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Village Council— Closing in on police mission

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At its Sept. 8 meeting, Village Council moved forward on two key items related to local policing: ACE Task Force participation and the crafting of a policing vision statement.

As a step toward deciding whether to renew the village’s participation in the ACE Task Force, Council members agreed to hold a discussion of the issue at a special session on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. Council determined that the discussion will feature two “pro” perspectives, from Chief David Hale and ACE head Bruce May, and two “con” perspectives, from lawyer Ellis Jacobs and one other person to be identified.

Council member Marianne MacQueen proposed including a fifth perspective, that of a drug counselor or social worker with insight into drug issues in the region, but other Council members felt a tighter focus on ACE Task Force participation was needed.

The Village currently pays $10,500 for participation in ACE, a multijurisdictional policing unit charged with tackling large-scale illegal activity. One officer from the Yellow Springs Police Department is assigned full time to ACE. Payment to renew participation is due around the first of the year, Chief Hale said, noting that funds come from seized asset money, but withdrawal from ACE can happen before then.

“If we choose to pull a body from ACE, we can [do so] at any time,” he said.
Council members also came closer to finalizing a vision statement for local policing, crafted with extensive community input. Council President Karen Wintrow highlighted the need for a single “visionary” sentence to preface the statement. Council members also discussed replacing a reference to the local Black Lives Matter group with language that more specifically acknowledges the need to address tensions that exist between African Americans and local police.

Council plans to bring a revised version of the statement to vote on Oct. 5.
Also on the subject of local policing, Talis X addressed Council during citizens’ comments about a recent incident of what he characterized as “aggressive” treatment by a YSPD officer. The incident had been previously described by Yolanda Simpson in comments to Council and a letter to the YS News. Talis X stated that police harassment was a “pain I’ve lived with since I was 13 or 14 years old.”

In other Village Council business:
• Melissa Vanzant was sworn in as assistant Village manager. Vanzant previously served as finance director for the Village.

• Representative Rick Perales provided a brief legislative update, which highlighted budgetary issues and monies available to local governments.
The Local Government Safety Capital Grant Program is a fund of $20 million awarded to local governments for vehicles, equipment or other systems relevant to public safety. Two million is earmarked for implementing recommendations from the Ohio Task Force on Community–Police Relations. Police training is included in the fund, Perales stated. Wintrow advised Chief Hale and Assistant Village Manager Vanzant to look into opportunities for training-related grants from the fund.

Regarding the biennial Capital Budget, Rep. Perales stated that a portion of the 2016 budget may be allocated to projects of local and regional interest around a particular theme (e.g., arts/entertainment, infrastructure). The 2016 theme and other requirements have not yet been announced.

• On the subject of local government, Council brought to Rep. Perales’ attention concerns regarding three local candidates disqualified from running for Village Council based on petition errors and discrepancies. Rep. Perales said he would inform himself further about the issue, including looking into a new policy that bars the Board of Elections from offering candidates help when submitting petitions.

• In a 4–1 vote, Council agreed to disseminate the Village’s revised public art policy to local artists. Council member Gerald Simms dissented. “It’s the same document in substance,” said Council member Brian Housh, liaison to the Public Art Commission. “We’ve streamlined it and made it more user-friendly for artists.” A vote on formally accepting the policy is planned for an upcoming meeting.

• Council unanimously approved the Planning Commission’s recommendations to vacate two sections of Village streets — East North College and East Herman — that run through the Antioch College campus and no longer function as streets.

• Council unanimously approved the Greene County mitigation plan for natural disasters. Approval makes the Village eligible to apply for funding to both Greene County and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the event of a natural disaster.

• In honor of the inauguration of Dr. Algeania Warren Freeman as Wilberforce University’s 20th president, Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring Sept. 25 as Wilberforce Day in the Village.

• Regarding the upcoming Village Manager evaluation process, Council clarified that citizen comments can come in any form, but only those comments made verbally to individual Council members may be considered confidential. Citizen input provided on the comment form or by email are part of the public record and therefore not confidential.

• Prompted by a citizen report of a drone over Yellow Springs High School brought forward by MacQueen, Council briefly discussed the legality of drone technology and what enforcement powers, if any, local police possess. Village solicitor Chris Conard noted that drones are an “evolving area of the law” that some communities are poised to regulate. Village Manager Patti Bates stated that the citizen report most likely related to a radio-controlled device, not a drone. The Village has not taken a position on the use of drones.


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