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City says private campaign can’t go on public location

Denise Behm

The Wayland City Council Monday night denied a request by the Wayland Chamber of Commerce to use city property to promote its “Just Say Thanks” and “We Support the Thin Blue Line” campaigns.

Chamber Director Denise Behm asked to the council to have the proposal placed on the agenda, but it was voted down 5-2, with only Mayor Tim Bala and Councilman Norm Taylor voting in the affirmative.

The chamber has been sponsoring the campaign to support law enforcement now for six years and has used the month of May every year to place signs in residents’ yards.

At the close of ther meeting, Taylor said, “I want to express my disappointment that we didn’t have a civil discussion on supporting our local law enforcement officers.”

Behm, who was in the audience, told council members that more than 300 homeowners have placed signs in their yards since the campaign began and the chamber has attempted to honor police and first responders with meals and recognition.

She said plans were in place to provide meals to Michigan State Police, Gun Lake Tribal Police, Allegan County Sheriff’s deputies and City of Wayland officers meals in the wake of Covid prohibiting large gatherings.

She said, “We want to support our officers who serve and protect our community twenty-four/seven.”

Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Antel said the issue is not support for law enforcement, the issue is using public property for a private cause, regardless of how worthy. She added that the city’s attorney advised against letting the chamber use the mini-park downtown for the blue light displays.

“If we open up city property to private causes, then we’d have to allow it for everyone,” she said.

Blanket support for law enforcement has become a hot button political issue all over the country over the last year, and even though Wayland doesn’t have such a problem, it doesn’t need to take a stand on a problem that doesn’t exist here, it was noted.

So the chamber is encouraged to continue its campaign, but not on public property.

In other business at Monday night’s meeting, the council:

  • Had the first reading of an ordinance amendment rezoning request, from industrial to single-family residential for a proposed apartment project along Commerce Street west at Sycamore.
  • Had the first reading of a request to rezone Family Dental Clinic, 404 W. Superior, back from residential/office to multi-family residential.
  • Granted preliminary plat approval to a proposed housing development at 1065 133rd St., with traffic outlet at Willow Run near the middle school.
  • Gave its blessing to the Police Department to apply for a grant to fund purchase of laptops at $5,000 out of a total $11,000.

3 Comments

  • How is honoring police professionals a private affair? We pay them out of our tax dollars to provide protection for the citizens. Why is it viewed by anyone on the Council as inappropriate to support on city property? Maybe there are those among us that dishonor our police forces?
    It sure sounds like it. Maybe new blood is needed on the Council. Will patriots come forward to support the city and police officials by running for city council? We sure aren’t served by those not supporting police. Maybe call Ms. Antel and the city lawyer if you have a problem instead of calling 911. Time to get a backbone.

  • Law enforcement does work for the public! They risk their lives every time they go to work! They are there to protect us! They don’t know when they go to work what they will be up against! They save lives, go to horrific accidents and deal with out of control people in an angry rage against another person! They protect and rescue us the public when we need them! They deserve our thanks for doing an often thankless job.

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