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Vote delayed on controversial ordinance

October 26, 2016 News Extra

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Debate in Butler over a proposed non-discrimination ordinance will look much different from now on, after Mayor Tom Donaldson on Tuesday vowed to clamp down on rules governing the city’s public comment period at meetings, and the council member expected to propose the measure at Thursday’s voting session confirmed she was pulling it from the table.

Council member Kathy Kline said Tuesday that she would pull the ordinance from Thursday’s meeting agenda to give proponents and opponents of the measure more time to work through their disagreements in private meetings.

“Let’s see what common ground — what language is there,” Kline said. “I just feel we haven’t done the due diligence.”

The two sides of public debate over the issue — represented Tuesday by Josh Crawford and Sabrina Schnur of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), which supports the measure, and Bill Halle of Grace Youth and Family Foundation, who along with some religious and business leaders opposes it — agreed to continue private meetings where they discuses their differences over the ordinance.

Both sides apparently met once late last month, according to Kline, after she and council member Mike Walters proposed holding the private meetings. Some minor consensus between the sides was found, said Halle and Schnur, but scheduling issues derailed the effort and no more meetings have been held.

Walter, in discussion over whether the measure should be pulled from Thursday’s agenda, said he was in favor if both sides could commit to scheduled meetings on the issue. Walter said he felt a smaller group discussing the issue might be more productive because larger meetings have proven “too easy to get out of control.”

Donaldson, who said Tuesday he would begin clamping down on public comment on the proposed ordnance by non-residents and nontaxpayers, called pulling the ordinance from council’s voting schedule wrongheaded. Regardless of any consensus reached by the groups, Donaldson said, council members ultimately have the final say on whether to authorize or reject the measure.

He pledged to continue his opposition to the proposal, which in its current form would enshrine so-called “public accomodation,” employment and other protections for LGBT citizens and form a Human Relations Commission to investigate complaints of discrimination.

“I stated my position three months ago and it hasn’t changed and it’s not going to change,” Donaldson said. “Let’s vote on this and see where this table’s at, We’re the ones who pass or fail ordinances.”

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