By Randy Mitchell
ADA — The African American Committee of Ada (AACA) attended Monday’s Ada City Council meeting and discussed streets in Hammond Heights and a racial slur said during a meeting of the now defunct Ada Beautification Committee in March.
Many African Americans in attendance expressed cautious optimism after the agenda items were discussed.
“I got good vibes,” Charles Miller, head of the AACA, said after the meeting. “I believe this council will be one we can work with. And if there’s something about it we can’t, we need to see about making some changes. I believe it was a win-win situation. We let our presence be known, and our concerns be known and this is the place to let them be known, because these are the people who can make the difference and make the changes that we’re trying to get.”
Many councilmembers said they do not condone the derogatory remarks issued during the March meeting.
“When the chairman made the derogatory and racist statements at that time, my action was of shock and disbelief,” Councilman Darrell Nemecek said. “I could not believe that was being said. And I apologize for not speaking up sooner. I do not condone those statements that were made. It was improper and it was wrong. I feel like our community is a strong community, and a thriving community because of our diversity.”
Miller wondered why no one came forward sooner.
“If these were your true feelings, why did you not stand up for what you believed to be right, and for the people that you’re supposed to be representing?” Miller said. “Where were your convictions when they needed to be heard? We’re not looking for apologies, we’re looking for true repentance.”
Miller expressed concern council only moved on the situation when what happened surfaced.
“Sometimes when we apologize, it’s not because of the action we take, but because we got caught,” Miller said.
He said it will take time for council to earn back the trust of minorities in the community.
“The greatest thing that has been lost in this whole thing is trust,” Miller said. “That’s been the most damaging thing that has taken place. We did not come here to be part of the problem, we came here to be part of the solution.”
Miller said the African-American community must take a proactive approach to city government.
“We are going to have to stand up and take part in our city government,” he said. “We are going to have to be visible, because I truly believe if we were visible in that committee, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Miller said residents of all races need to come together.
“Do not let what few people do tear this town apart,” Miller said. “Let’s use this as an opportunity to come together and be unified. All we’re asking to be done is be treated like regular taxpayers and equal citizens.”
Many Hammond Heights residents expressed concern about streets in the neighborhood in north Ada. Many said they were under the impression all streets in the neighborhood were to be rebuilt with concrete and would have curbs and sidewalks and promises by council were unfulfilled.
City Manager David Hathcoat said in residential areas, main thoroughfares will still be concrete.
“In some cases, we may do some of the main thoroughfares, if they’re bad enough and if we can’t get to them in a timely manner, then we can rebuild them with asphalt and extend the life of them,” Hathcoat said.
A council meeting will take place July 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Philemon Missionary Baptist Church in Hammond Heights to further discuss the issue.