Crowd supports Troy mayor at council meeting

TROY — On Tuesday, more than 100 people packed inside the Hobart Arena’s Bravo Room to attend Troy City Council’s meeting — the majority in support of Mayor Robin Oda and her stance on state-mandated mask-wearing.

On Jan. 6, a Troy resident advised council of the sign on the window, that stated: “You are welcome here regardless of the following: ability or inability to wear a facial covering; religious beliefs; political affiliation; socioeconomic status. Required to Enter: Kindness & Consideration for others while inside despite the above. Please remember, you have never walked a day in someone else’s shoes.”

The sign also included a state of Ohio logo at the bottom despite the fact that it was not created or approved by any state agency.

Oda later said it was she who posted the sign to see the reaction of city staff who were working on creating a similar sign of its own. Oda said she received the sign by email, allegedly created by local store owners, and several businesses have hung the signs in their respective store windows. Oda later said it was her intent “to have signs welcoming people to City Hall, regardless of their mask-wearing.” She also said city staff was working on its sign to state “Masks Requested” instead of “Masks Required.”

Those in attendance Tuesday night who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting traveled as far away as Cincinnati to support Oda. A Facebook Page titled “All in Ohio,” which touts its blog and website is “dedicated to features and news about Republicans in Ohio Legislature, Republican elected officials in Ohio” called for supporters to attend Tuesday’s meeting. Many shared their personal medical exemption stories from wearing a mask and many emphasized freedom of choice despite the pandemic’s state mandates and restrictions.

On the other side of the mask debate, locally, a Facebook Page titled “Recall Mayor Oda” had since changed its name to “Elevate Troy Leadership” with around 280 “followers” have chastised Oda’s local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ignoring the county health department’s advice and recommendations and Oda’s alternative mask sign on the city engineer’s office window at the end of the year.

With more than a dozen speakers in support of Oda, one local resident Aimee Shannon, said she was speaking out on behalf of the “Recall Robin Oda/Elevate Troy Leadership” group about their concerns with Troy’s leadership surrounding the state’s pandemic guidelines. Shannon said while the group’s goal isn’t seeking to recall Oda, it is to express their concerns and “have a conversation.”

Shannon said the city of Piqua held four events that still boosted morale, but also followed social distancing guidelines for all who attended. Shannon said the city of Troy pays its portion of the county health department’s general fund and “they are the experts on pandemics” and trained on how to deal with a public health crisis.

“When we flat out ignore (the health department), and ignore what they have to say, and tell them ‘we don’t care,’ not based on medical (advice), but based on what we want, that is endangering people and that is a concern,” Shannon said.

Shannon noted the city’s COVID-19 infection rate per capita is higher than urban Ohio cities and is third in the state in terms of zip code infection rates. Shannon said,” We need to step back and look at that.”

Troy resident Mary Meyer said she appreciated the city of Troy continuing its efforts to keep events such as the Christmas tree lighting event and opening the Troy Aquatic Pool and keeping as many activities open and available for the community. Meyer also thanked the city leaders and hoped they would continue to offer such activities in the future.

Troy Fire Department Chief Matt Simmons said he was addressing council as a resident of Troy and was in support of Oda and her efforts to keep the city as open as possible. Simmons removed his badge before addressing the council with his thoughts.

Simmons said he’s not a denialist in regards to the virus and said hope was important to the community to get through crises like the pandemic and others similar to it like the heroin epidemic. Simmons said other public health crises like drug overdoses, mental health issues and attempted and complete suicides continue to plague communities like Troy. Simmons said at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many of his questions surrounding the recovery rate and death toll were largely unanswered to help inform his staff and dispel the fear of the disease during a response. Simmons commended Oda’s tenacity for asking questions and seeking answers and continuing to move forward with keeping businesses open and holding events for the community and that she has his support.

On Wednesday, Oda said, “I very much appreciated the support that was shown and spoken in my favor last night, both from Troy residents, surrounding communities, and many across the state. I have also received multiple emails and messages in my support, which indicate the widespread frustration with the current state of affairs in Ohio. To be fair, there are also the naysayers. I’ve said it before, and it continues to be true — there is nothing I can say or do that will make everyone happy, but I will continue to do my job and will always advocate for this community. I will advocate for every business (locally and in the state of Ohio), regardless of size, to be open fully with no restrictions, allowing every individual to make choices about how, when and where to eat/shop, to make decisions about activities and recreation and events they wish to attend.”

The next city council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1 at the Bravo Room at Hobart Arena.