OK, so where do we go from here? Just about everyone with a heart, a brain and a mouth has had their say about the Black Lives Matter rally in Riverside Park two weeks ago and how downtown Chagrin Falls merchants prepared for it.
Should Chagrin Falls go back to before that peaceful rally played out? Before the boards over windows was seen by some as assertively unwelcoming? Before a columnist from the regional daily characterized Chagrin Falls and its white, privileged and fearful people?
Have we moved past it? Should we file it under “the past” and forget it happened?
The village has an opportunity to not return to business as usual and be part of – if not the solution – the recognition there is a problem and Chagrin Falls, for one brief moment, became its unwilling and unwitting poster child for white privilege in its most aggressive form.
Is anyone concerned or embarrassed by this?
We are not suggesting Chagrin Falls can settle the state of race equity in America but not to try on a local level, now that it has the spotlight, is an opportunity lost.
But why are we letting the conversation go? Why have we stopped talking about it? Because we are relieved it is all over and done with? As it turns out, Chagrin Falls is not completely clueless or uncaring.
GETTING IT RIGHT: Two weeks ago in Riverside Park was a smiling and welcoming village Police Chief Amber Dacek seen introducing herself to BLM protesters and in doing so she and the officers under command modeled what community policing and Chagrin Falls is about. It was all positive on both sides, she said later.
“I felt it was important for me to be out there as the chief to let them see that as the leader of this department and be a positive representation of the policing profession. I do believe that it is my job to protect people and to uphold their first amendment rights” and being female had nothing to do with it but remembering her oath of office did.
“The officers of this department are expected to treat people with respect, dignity and humanity at all times regardless of the reason for the interaction,” the chief said. “This is an on-going expectation, not just during times of unrest.“
GETTING IT RIGHT: This is the generally staid and studious Chagrin Falls Historical Society. Its president John Bourisseau , last week, told Chagrin Valley Times reporter Julie Hullett that the organization’s East Washington Street museum will begin to integrate its exhibits with related local African American history including the life and times of neighboring Chagrin Falls Community Park, a mostly black enclave in Bainbridge Township.
Historical society Director Ruth Zeager said in a press release, “We have not always sought out ways to diversify our collection and this changes now [with addition of] black history and voices.”
GETTING IT RIGHT: Those behind the scenes folks who have been somewhat successful dissuading village government from going through with plans to add (a) restrictive and dissuasive rules for the use of Chagrin Falls village parks for public speaking and assemblages and (b) the addition of an adult curfew which can be used as seen fit by the mayor and council.
Both came to council as “miscellaneous” items at the end of a special council meeting on June 3 following the June 1 Black Live Matter rally in Riverside Park.
The law director claimed ownership of the ideas based on what he has seen pass muster in other communities.
Council and the mayor were less giddy about the heavy handed approach but agreed to go into executive session to hear more.
The reason for executive session? The law director said it was “attorney-client privilege.”
Now, I am not a state open meetings law scholar but I have never heard that as one of the permitted reasons to close a discussion to the press and public. And I am pretty sure there is no reason that allows a closed-door session because “this is really going to make us look bad.”
The good news is when council met again on June 8, the new use of parks law – with its stench of dead Constitutional rights – was not on the agenda and the pending curfew law was last seen circling the drain.
Stay tuned or check it out live at the next virtual council meeting at 7 p.m. on June 22 via Zoom. Find your link to the meeting at chagrin-falls.org.