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Fairness has a unique definition to all who profess to embrace its precepts. Some of us take fairness for granted – thinking every situation is or at least should be fair to every individual – and others simply fight for expanding its meaning from a posture of both perceived and endured injustice and social awakening.
Some aver that the basic language in our Constitution, Declaration of Independence and existing antidiscrimination laws are sufficient and strong for all situations. Others state examples of what they see as unequivocal evidence that those foundational documents are insufficient and porous.
We see these debates and positions argued frequently, and twice last week they appeared on stages in Shelby County, when proponents of the so-called Fairness Ordinance sought to have new antidiscrimination language adopted into public code.
Twice those efforts fell on largely mute audiences if not necessarily on deaf ears, and we wonder why almost no one at least is willing to speak on this issue or, in fact, not take firm action in determining its appropriateness.
First it was in Pleasureville, where proponents had been teased by an odd situation in which that city’s governing commission – which serves some residents of Shelby County – in October had passed a first reading of a Fairness Ordinance. That such a parliamentary procedure of encouragement can take place without any true public action – no motion or second, only introduction – is really unfair on any measure, but in this case, it was oddly misleading to those who shared hope for the ordinance’s landmark passage.
At the commission’s meeting on Nov. 4, Commissioner Shawn Mertz restated his motion to adopt a Fairness Ordinance. And that was it. There was no second, and Mayor Rodney Young did not even permit public discussion. The idea of adopting new language on fair practices despite race, creed, color, national origin or the always-tenuous sexual orientation died a silent and likely permanent death.
Three nights later the Shelbyville City Council for the third time in less than a year was approached by members of the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s chapter in Shelby County, led this time by respected retired minister Howard Griffith, who asked the council to consider this measure with open minds and hearts.
There were a few additional public comments before the idea again was put to bed with little discussion. In the first two reviews, Mayor Tom Hardesty, a Democrat known as a staunch leader and a man of unquestioned character, simply said that the council would take the matter under review.
Following that first such presentation – but during a separate meeting – council member Mike Zoeller, another Democrat, in comments about the adoption of the federal antidiscrimination language in a de facto step to secure a federal grant, asked his fellow council members if perhaps there shouldn’t be more specific protections adopted by the city. But Mr. Zoeller did not speak a few weeks later when proponents appeared again, and Mr. Hardesty reiterated the council’s position – or non-position.
Nothing more, in fact, was said about a Fairness Ordinance until Thursday’s third request, after which council member Bob Andriot, a Republican, said in a brief and thoughtful comment that he was not in favor of such an ordinance, although he respected those who would be affected by it.
That’s fair, and we respect that Mr. Andriot like Mr. Zoeller before him, went on record with his position. But what about the other four members of the council, two Republicans and two Democrats? Why haven’t they so much as asked a question, much less established a position? Why can’t this matter come to a public vote?
Why are our elected leaders in both Shelbyville and Pleasureville generally not placing their names next to a simple “yes” or “no” on this matter?
Could this be because 2014 is an election year, and a vote either way could be a precious loss of support in these 2-year election cycles?
We hope that’s not the case. We like to think our leaders in Shelby County care more about the quality of life in the county and the services to people who live here. We have too many elected representatives in Washington who simply vote to keep a lucrative and influential job and not to address the needs of those who put them there to do so.
To hear a question and not answer is by definition unfair, but we expect that these questions will continue to emerge, and, if those asking don’t hear answers, we would suspect that the questions will linger longer than those who are not answering.
We can understand if either legislative body – or Shelby County or Simpsonville, for that matter – were to review and reject the need for a Fairness Ordinance.
But we can’t abide the timidity and disrespect shown by silence.
Some of your residents are asking you to act. They deserve a final answer.