Mason City Council votes no on Malcolm X Day of Observance

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Mason City Council meets for a regularly scheduled meeting, hearing Rita Vogel’s proposal for Malcolm X Day of Observance. 

Mason City Council voted no on a Malcolm X Day of Observance in the city at their Feb. 6 meeting. The vote was 5-2. 

City Council Chairperson Rita Vogel originally proposed the celebration, which would have been held yearly on the third Friday of May. 

“Malcolm X Observation is something my constituents have been asking me about since being elected, but it’s like no one wants to talk about the fact that he lived here or acknowledge it,” said Vogel. 

Vogel has been on the Mason City Council since 2016 and has spent those years advocating for minorities. 

Vogel explained that the proposal happened because the mayor is the only one who can make a proclamation, and after many tries, the mayor denied Vogel’s proposals. Her final option was to propose the celebration to the council. 

If it had passed, Malcolm X Day of Observation would have taken place on May 19 of  this year, which is Malcolm X’s birthday. 

Malcolm X moved to Michigan at four years old, lived in Lansing and later resided in Mason until age 16. 

While in Mason, Malcolm X lived with foster families and found success in school. Unfortunately, a teacher discouraged him from his dream of becoming a lawyer, says the Michiganology website in a biography on Malcolm X’s life. 

After dropping out of school and moving away from Mason, Malcolm X went on to become the famous civil rights activist he is known as today.

Leading into the city council vote, public comments were heard from Mason residents Seth Waxman, Brian Muschong, Myles Johnson and Shawn Sodman.

Mason resident Seth Waxman said to the council, “This city has a race problem. And if you don’t want to acknowledge it, feel free. Live in that ignorance, but you’re turning away the future. You’re turning away potential tax payers. You’re turning away potential business owners by refusing to understand that inclusion and diversity are part of city business.”

At the following meeting, many more Mason residents came to share their support of the proposal. Vogel said she was proud of the community members that showed up to speak to the council.

Mason City Manager, Deborah Stuart, responds to the proposal. 

Mason Mayor Russ Whipple, Mayor Pro Tem Leon Clark, and Councilmembers Jerry Schaffer, Scott Preadmore and Jon Drosha all voted no on the proposal. 

Mayor Pro Tem Leon Clark says he voted no because, “I have an issue with the difference between a resolution and a proclamation. A resolution carries the weight of law, a proclamation is just a recognition. If it was a proclamation I would probably have no issue with it whatsoever.”

“I have an issue with the way the resolution is written, it doesn’t really mention or have anything to do with Mason, which I think is our responsibility, every piece of legislation we sign should be connected to something in the city of Mason,” he said.

Councilmembers Rita Vogel and Elaine Ferris were the two yes votes. 

“Understand that the message you send to people outside of this community is that we are not welcoming, which is one of the three principles in our upcoming master plan. That unless you meet a certain look or personality or belief system, you’re not welcome in the city of Mason,” Waxman said to the council. 

Vogel said, “We keep saying we care about being a welcoming community however we are not doing any actionable items or policies to support that. Actions speak louder than words.” 

“A successful community is one that recognizes the need for changes,” she said.

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