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Village Council

At the Monday, Feb. 5 Village Council passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Present at Monday's meeting were, from left, Council members Trish Gustafson, Brian Housh, Carmen Brown, Vice President Gavin DeVore Leonard, President Kevin Stokes and Interim Village Manager Johnnie Burns. (Video still)

Village Council adopts ceasefire resolution on Israel-Hamas war

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On Monday, Feb. 5, at the group’s most recent regular meeting, Village Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

With the resolution’s passage, Yellow Springs joins a growing number of municipalities throughout the U.S. that have made symbolic declarations regarding the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 27,000 people since Israel began a retaliatory assault following an Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Yellow Springs follows in the footsteps of large cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco and Chicago that similarly put nonbinding resolutions on their books in recent months.

Of its provisos, Monday’s resolution states that, “Whereas, while we celebrate the release of some Palestinian and Israeli hostages and political prisoners, we recognize that there are still approximately one-hundred-thirty-eight Israeli hostages held in Gaza and over seven thousand Palestinian men, children, and women being held captive without being charged with any crime in Israel; and,

“Whereas, Gaza remains in a dire humanitarian crisis that is getting insurmountably worse each passing day, with the last five remaining hospitals now only partially functional at best, as fuel and medical supplies near depletion, and with over one and a half million Palestinians facing displacement, homelessness, and starvation; and,

“Whereas, according to the United States Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Yellow Springs residents’ federal tax dollars have, since November 2023, contributed $68,965 to Israel’s weapons, and use of these weapons against Palestinian civilians is entirely unacceptable and a violation of our humanitarian principles and international law; and,

Village Council resolved on the village’s behalf to urge Ohio lawmakers to support the U.S. House Resolution 786, which calls for an immediate de-escalation and permanent ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.

Additionally, Section 2 of the resolution affirms that Village Council seeks “an end to United States funding of wars and military activity across the globe so we can focus our shared resources on addressing issues experienced by the people of the United States who hail from all over the world and who call this country home.”

While there was unanimous support for the resolution’s passage at Monday’s meeting, discussion among Village Council members became somewhat contentious leading up to the vote — particularly over the language of the second section.

“It seems broad to me,” Council President Kevin Stokes said. “Right now, we have [military] forces in the region that protect commercial trade and our assets. Is this meant to say we pull all those resources back?”

Agreeing with Stokes, and noting that Section 2 may undo prior Council resolutions — such as Resolution 2022–16, which condemned Russian military aggression and declared support for Ukraine — Council member Brian Housh moved to amend that section to read: “Council for the Village of Yellow Springs calls for all Palestinian and Israeli hostages to be returned to their families and for the end of terrorist and military activity across the globe so we can focus our shared resources to improve quality of life for the people of all backgrounds and beliefs.”

Housh said, “This [amendment] indicates that we’re opposed to terrorism and military activity, but it doesn’t make the statement that we’re asking the U.S. to take away all [military] funding.”

As the primary architect of the resolution, Council member Carmen Brown took some umbrage with the motion to modify the legislation as it was originally written.

“To me, it feels like — with all due respect — bringing up cargo and commerce when we’re having a conversation about people’s lives seems a little tone deaf,” Brown said.

She added with frustration: “You guys realize this is symbolic, right? Are we really going to pick this apart?”

When it came time to vote on the resolution’s modification, Brown and Trish Gustafson voted “no” and Stokes and Housh, “yes.” Gavin DeVore-Leonard abstained, stating, “I don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side about this; I appreciate the work that’s been done.”

With the vote split, the proposed resolution maintained its original language in Section 2. Upon a second vote for the passage of the resolution in its entirety, Council members voted 5-0 to adopt it. Applause from the audience followed.

To read the resolution in full, go to bit.ly/4bvghG0.

Village manager search update

At the outset of Monday’s meeting, Council members convened for an executive session not open to the public “for the purpose of discussion of the employment of a public employee.”

When the group later began their regular session, Stokes said that Council’s executive session was centered around an impending village manager search.

Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns has filled the role as interim village manager in place of former manager Josué Salmerón, who resigned last August. A longtime Xenia resident, Burns has worked for the Village since 2014, when he was hired as the electric superintendent; he became public works director in 2018.

“We are stepping through a process that will make a final determination about whether we will do a [permanent village manager] search externally, a search internally or whether we will assign Johnnie as permanent manager,” Stokes said. “All those are possibilities.”

Stokes said that Council will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 14, which will begin with another executive session wherein Council members will interview Burns for the role. Following that, Stokes said an announcement will be made regarding the results of the interview at the next regular Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20 — a day later than normal, owing to the President’s Day holiday. 

The only comment made during the citizens’ concerns segment of Monday’s meeting came from village resident and former News writer Jessica Thomas, who expressed support for Burns’ appointment to the permanent manager position.

“When I think about leadership, I think about three things: integrity, longevity and know-how,” Thomas said. “Johnnie Burns has all three of these things and has shown dedication to this community and our values. To suggest otherwise is just flat-out wrong.”

Thomas continued: “I’ve heard so many people praise the uptick in communication about projects, projects being done, his availability and response time. I’ve also heard that Village employees are excited to come to work again — from, quite frankly, people who were considering quitting, but have changed their minds.”

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One Response to “Village Council adopts ceasefire resolution on Israel-Hamas war”

  1. Congratulations! says:

    Village Manager Johnnie Burns!

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