The Smyrna city council supported, by a 5-2 vote, a veto by Mayor Max Bacon of a previously approved Hispanic heritage event which would have been held in the city Friday, Oct. 11.
Bacon’s stated reason was simply that the event conflicted with another event, the Smyrna parks department’s fall Casper carnival and movie. The official veto statement read that Bacon thought the event “may not have been in the best interest of the city.”
He elaborated following Monday night’s council meeting.
“I don’t have any issue with them having that event, what I had an issue with was having it at the same time as the Casper Halloween event,” Bacon said. “I thought it wasn’t planned very well and there was a lack of information, so I said, ‘look here’s the skinny. You can do it, I just prefer that it not be on the same day.’”
Because the Casper and heritage events were both listed under the same agenda item, both were vetoed. The Casper event made its way back onto the agenda for Monday’s meeting, but the second event was not listed.
Ward 3 council member Maryline Blackburn attempted to re-introduce the Hispanic heritage item back onto the agenda. Her motion was seconded by Ward 5’s Susan Wilkinson, but all five of the remaining council members voted no.
Blackburn said she felt there was more to the decision than scheduling.
“We have a community of 56,000 people. Forty-eight percent are African American, 13 percent are Hispanic, 3 percent are Asian,” she said. “When are we going to get the picture that it is time for us to embrace our diversity?”
Blackburn also said previous attempts to plan a black heritage month event and a gay pride festival in Smyrna were also unsuccessful. She noted that the Hispanic heritage event was actually approved before the veto, so planning was well underway.
“It had already been approved, and now you’re throwing a monkey wrench in it,” she said. “You say that we’re a diverse community. Show it.”
During public comment, longtime Smyrna resident Pat Burns made similar comments.
“Casper is as outdated as spats, spittoons, President Eisenhower and some of the apparent values of our elected leaders,” she said. “It appears you approve only status quo events like football, Saint Patrick’s Day, Christmas and Jonquils but not what your Unity Task Force has suggested, be it black history, pride or Hispanic recognitions.”
Bacon said that he’s never had a veto overridden, and that until that night he’d never had a veto even come back up for a vote.
“I think I made the right decision to veto it and I appreciate the five [council members] who supported me,” he said, then noted how long was left in his mayoral run. “We need to move forward, and I want my next 111 days to be good days.”
Haisten Willis is a freelance writer who lives in Smyrna with his wife, daughter and dog. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from California State University, Fresno, serves on the board of SPJ Georgia and even rides a bike when time allows.