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Athens City Council meets Jan. 22, 2024, at the Athens Municipal Court on Washington Street.

Athens City Council passed resolution for ceasefire in Gaza

Citizens rallied outside of City Hall Monday night to promote the passing of a resolution calling for a ceasefire for the Gaza-Israeli conflict.

The council began the meeting by passing a vote to amend the agenda to discuss a resolution calling for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel. The motion passed and the resolution was accepted with a vote of 4-2, with Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, and Solveig Spjeldnes, D-1st Ward, voting against it.

The council heard from Athens residents at the beginning of the meeting. So many people came to the meeting to speak to the council that some had to wait downstairs due to the overwhelming turnout. 

Councilmember Micah McCarey, D-At Large, filled Sam Crowl’s position of City Council president and facilitated in the absence of Councilmember Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward; Crowl filled in as acting mayor while Steve Patterson was in Ukraine. 

Councilmember Micahel Wood, 3rd Ward, said as a newly-elected councilman, he did not think the resolution of calling for a ceasefire would be one of his first official acts. Wood said when he ran for council, he thought he would be handling situations like parking and solar panels, but he is proud to have taken action in the resolution for a ceasefire. 

“I'm moved and honored to have this be my first action … It would be hard for me to turn my back on this request,” Wood said. “It's really my pleasure and honor to bring this on behalf of the citizens here tonight. I ask my fellow councilmembers to join me in voting for this resolution.” 

Spjeldnes gave her comments on the resolution for a ceasefire. She believes if Athens were to pass the resolution, it would do more harm than good to the situation. While Spjeldnes agrees that something needs to be done at the national and international level, she said it may harm the local area and worries about the effects. 

Swank agreed with Spjeldnes. He said he has heard what Athens residents are saying about the issue and plans to continue to listen to the community’s needs. 

“For those who live in the city limits of Athens, you are our customers, and you are worth listening to,” Swank said. “What is happening in the Middle East is beyond imagination, condemnable and just flat-out wrong.”

Swank said the conflict in the Middle East is a battle of sides. He said the council received an opinion from Law Director Lisa Eliason, and it was something that was not about the legislative duties and responsibilities of the council. 

However, he said he was uncomfortable picking and choosing which opinions the council receives from Eliason, and he thought it was a dangerous path to go down. 

“As Councilmember Spjeldnes said, I’m afraid this will do more harm than good,” Swank said. “I’m afraid it’s going to set a precedent, not so much acting on resolutions, but dealing with issues that might be handled better in a different environment.” 

Barbra Lyons, an Athens resident, spoke first in front of the council as a representative of the Jewish Voice for Peace.

“I write as a member of the Athens Jewish community to urge the Athens City Council to join over 50 U.S. cities in support of a ceasefire resolution to end Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian people,” Lyons said. “It is not antisemitic to call for an end to war … we must do all we can to stop this war that is funded by our tax money.” 

Athens residents spent the next 45 minutes speaking to the council about their thoughts and suggestions concerning the ordinance. 

Similar to last week, some tears were shed at the podium when Athens residents voiced their opinions. 

After hearing all comments from the public, McCarey summarized points of clarification before voting on the resolution. The opinion offered by Eliason discouraged but did not disallow the council from adopting a resolution for a ceasefire. 

McCarey said that next week’s committee of a whole meeting will offer guidance for addressing the global crisis and will hopefully create opportunities for the council to consider Athens residents’ concerns without having to always create resolutions.

Other topics discussed in the meeting were the passing of the ordinance approving the then-and-now certificates for payment and declaring an emergency. The council also passed an ordinance to authorize an inter-fund transfer and also passed an ordinance to reallocate revenues from the city income tax and declare an emergency. 


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