On October 21, Athens City Council candidate Damon Krane put out a statement in regards to a decade-old Facebook post made by Mayor Steve Patterson. In the now-deleted post, Patterson takes a mocking and offensive tone mimicking the speech of rapper Kanye West.
While the post itself is old and likely of little impact to the mayor or the upcoming city council elections, the post follows a troubling trend of hypocrisy and controversy from the mayor and the Democratic Party in Athens.
Damon Krane, who has previously run for mayor and is vying for an at-large city council seat, says he has been aware of the post for some time, but felt now was the right time to share due to a shifted political climate on racial justice.
“When I became aware of the post, Patterson just didn’t have much of a racial policy record, and I think that’s very different now,” Krane said.
That racial policy record is where Patterson’s post becomes somewhat of an issue. In early August, under Patterson’s leadership, the city council passed an ordinance that uses more than $91,000 of the city’s general fund for racial equity training through the National League of Cities (NLC).
The city’s response to what Patterson called “the public health crisis racism is,” was a training program that comes at a cost of more than $360 per city employee.
“It’s a deceptive performative gesture,” Krane said. “There’s no way to direct that course towards solving any specific problems and there’s no way to measure its effectiveness which makes the course no more valuable than a PBS documentary on racism city employees could have watched for free.”
The Facebook post being up while massive amounts of city funding that could have been used in much better ways may be a simple coincidence. However, it seems reflective of the flaws in Patterson’s leadership. This is not his first run-in with blatant hypocrisy.
Despite all his claims of progress and desire to change Athens for the better through the Democratic Party, on October 13, audio of Patterson not only bashing his progressive rivals, but failing to defend his own party members at a GOP luncheon, leaked.
In the audio, Patterson ignored comments made about “far-liberal” city council members Micah McCarrey and Ben Ziff, said the GOP members were helpful in his mayoral race victory over Krane, criticized Independent city council candidate Iris Virjee and said he respects everything Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards is doing.
These remarks fall in line with Patterson’s hypocrisy and opportunism. Publicly, Edwards’ beliefs could not be more at odds with Patterson’s. A pro-life, pro-cop, pro-Trump Republican should not be receiving praise from the mayor based on his own public policy positions, but it’s hard to be surprised.
Mayor Patterson was not available for comment on his Facebook post, but he did speak at an Ohio University College Democrats meeting on Monday night. During the discussions, city council candidate Iris Virjee challenged the mayor on his comments at the GOP luncheon. Her concerns were followed by further questions about his recent actions.
“During that conversation, the way I was interpreting things that were being said weren’t about our current city council members, it was about the individuals running,” Patterson said in regards to the luncheon audio.
He went on to say candidates like Krane were not focused on bringing the city together. He argued that as Mayor his actions have taken that approach rather than further dividing the left and right in the community.
Throughout the course of the questioning, the mayor failed to own up to his own comments and instead leaned on Krane as a clutch for the blame. The mayor attempted to repaint his comments and failure to speak up as merely criticisms of Krane’s “divisiveness” in his own words. However, it’s apparent this was not the case. Eventually, the questioning got to the topic of Patterson’s 2009 Facebook post.
“It was not in malice, but I would say it was not appropriate ... especially that it was still there which I did not realize,” Patterson said. “But I would also (acknowledge) my track record when it comes to educating myself, educating my staff on this journey of racial equity and all of the systems that play into racism in the United States.”
Mayor Patterson and Democratic Party Chair John Hasley could not be reached for comment, but Councilman Micah McCarey, who Patterson refused to defend, is standing by the mayor.
“This is yet another example of us having a lot of work to do as individuals and a community,” McCarey said. “All of us make mistakes regarding inclusion and inclusive language … we have to lean into these moments as learning moments.”
Patterson and McCarey are right in saying that the Facebook post is a mistake. It is a bad decision made more than a decade ago, however, every other controversy surrounding the mayor is far beyond a simple mistake
For a mayor and a party who have been defensive and relatively quiet about the issues circling around them, criticism should be expected. Currently, it’s hard to tell what the future holds for Patterson. However, one thing is apparent, Patterson is doing more to promote the independent candidates he reviles so much than he is to promote himself or his party.
Noah Wright is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Noah? Tweet him @NoahCampaign.