By Tom Travis
Five hours into a six-and-a-half-hour Flint City Council Committee meeting Jan. 22, Councilperson Eric Mays (1st Ward) made a statement to the community. It came following a week of upheaval over a Nazi salute he made in a public council meeting directed towards Council President Monica Galloway (7th Ward).
It also came four and a half hours after Councilperson Maurice Davis (2nd Ward) publicly declared offensive statements by an elected official are “very concerning,” adding that anybody in a similar situation should be “man enough” to apologize–the two statements in effect providing bookmarks, hours apart, to the lengthy meeting.
“If anybody was offended by my statement as it related to dictatorship and the signs of saluting Hitler, then that was not the intent and I regret it if folks were offended,” Mays stated.
“I’ll go on to say that this council needs to be fair about how they vote and treat folks,” he continued, “and I’ve watched the previous meetings in the previous administrations I’ve served under emergency managers and I’ve been arrested and in my opinion wrongfully numerous times.
“I’ve been voted on in appeals and points of order numerous times. And I continue to try and be fair in dealing with but I really sincerely regret that if people felt bad about something that was done that was not my intent.”
Mays said he had been contacted by a woman from the “Jewish League” — later identified as Carolyn Normandin of the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan and a former senior vice-president of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit.
He said he had researched the matter and “taken it under advisement.”
“I’ll apologize for myself,” he said, “I don’t need no one to speak for me. I’m smart enough to look, listen and know what the intent was and believe me I don’t think nobody who really is being fair can say what I’ve heard said and I’ll leave it at that.
“So Carolyn [Normandin] and all those who called and those who made statements I put on the record how I feel about what some people say they felt.”
Before Mays made his statement, 26 minutes into the Legislative Committee meeting, Davis (2nd Ward) had responded to a citizen during public speaking about the Nazi salute.
Davis said, “Any time something offends people by an elected official in a public capacity it’s very concerning when you’re not big enough to apologize. If I sit up here, I’m not perfect, if somebody even take a conversation the wrong way I should be man enough to say I didn’t intend it that way and you took it the wrong way and I apologize and I didn’t intend it that way.
“It’s very disheartening when you’re an elected official when the public demands an apology all the way up to national news and we don’t do it. To be elected you’re elected to serve people not yourself,” Davis concluded.
After hearing Mays’ statement read to him Jan. 24, Steven Low, director of the Flint Jewish Federation, said, “It’s better than nothing. It’s a start. I’m not certain that it reflects that he understands the seriousness of what he did.
“This was not a Jewish issue,” Low added. “The Holocaust is about people, Africans, LGBTQ, union members –not just Jews were killed. When you make such an outrageous comparison it’s an offense. But it’s a start.”
EVM reached out to Normandin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan, but so far she has not responded.
Other business happened as well
In addition to followup from the “Nazi salute” matter, all four committees of the city council convened that day.
First the Government Operations Committee chaired by Maurice Davis (2nd Ward), then the Legislative and Grant Committee both chaired by Santino Guerra (3rd Ward) and finally the Finance Committee chaired by Mays (1st Ward).
Council president Galloway stated the order of the committees meeting on Wednesday was due to a conversation she had with the city administrator and other city staff.
Pot ordinance hearings schedule set–beginning Tuesday Jan. 28 at Planning Commission
An ordinance for recreational marijuana sales and distribution was discussed at length between council and Suzanne Wilcox, director of planning and development.
The proposed current timeline for the ordinance will be a planning commission recommendation and public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Flint City council will discuss the ordinance again Wednesday, Feb. 5; the first reading of the ordinance will be Monday, Feb. 10 and the second reading of the ordinance with a public hearing will be Monday, Feb. 24, according to an email from Marjory Raymer, director of communication for the City of Flint.
Raymer explained the ordinance, as an amendment to the zoning code, is required to be heard for a recommendation by the planning commission prior to the council hearing it and passing it, “with any amendments the Council so desires.”
She said, “The City’s intention at this point is that the ordinance will go into immediate effect.”
EVM Staff Writer Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.