Ohio University’s Student Senate and Athens City Council advocated for the continued safety of international members of the community, but shied away from becoming a sanctuary campus or city during their Friday meeting.
President of City Council Christine Knisely laid out the difficulties Athens would have if the city did become a sanctuary, but introduced the idea of becoming a “welcoming city,” such as Dayton. This designation is simply a change in philosophy and not a true formal designation.
“Because (Athens) is little, and we are in a situation where we live in a state that would not have our back, it would be very difficult,” she said. “(Welcoming city) is more of an informal designation.”
Currently, nine cities in Ohio are official or unofficial sanctuary cities. Several bodies on campus have supported Ohio University (as opposed to the city of Athens) taking on this title, including Student Senate and the Multicultural Activists Coalition. Graduate Student Senate and Faculty Senate have remained more temperate on the issue, asking for more support for international students but not for the university to declare sanctuary status.
Currently Athens has an operating budget of around $15 million. Knisely noted City Auditor Kathy Hecht estimated a loss of $2.2 million in federal funding if Athens did take on a sanctuary status.
Second-Ward Representative Jeffrey Risner weighed in on the matter with a slightly different perspective.
“The stick that the state has over us is money to give to our students. If you take Caesar’s coin, you do what Caesar says. But if Caesar doesn’t give you coin, screw Caesar.”
Funding isn’t the only concern. Knisely discussed the consequences of an Ohio bill that if approved would not only make sanctuary cities illegal, but also hold city officials criminally liable for crimes undocumented immigrants commit. Introduced by Ohio Treasurer John Mandel, the bill allows up to a 4th degree felony charge to elected officials.
“If anything happens the elected officials can be held personally liable,” she said. “It’s very different (than current practice). Normally unless an elected official does something bad, like embezzle money, we’re not held personally liable.”
The meeting moved on to discuss fest safety, led by Student Senate Off-Campus Senator Joe Frate. He is currently working to collaborate with tenants and landlords on bringing port-a-potties to fest streets.
“The No. 1 fest arrest is public urination,” Frate said. “This is a way to protect the houses, it’s a way to keep people out of houses.”
Frate recommended two to three port-a-potties per street, with the hope of making onsite facilities a permanent accommodation. There was some discussion as to whether these installations would pose safety risks, specifically from tipping. Representative Pat McGee, I-At Large, countered these concerns with examples of the port-a-potties effective implementation.
“I think there are some options for placement (of port-a-potties). I know City Council has adopted a negative attitude in the past, but this is an opportunity to solve this. I would remind you that Halloween hasn’t been an issue.”
City Council has provided outhouses for the Halloween Block Party, which is a sanctioned event. The anticipated fests are not sanctioned.
The meeting ended with promises for more collaborative measures and communication, especially in the face of the upcoming Student Senate elections.