ELKHART — An Elkhart city councilman’s comments about race and sharing community facilities between city districts continues to receive attention two weeks after they were made.
At a May 6 meeting, City Council decided in two 8-1 votes to reopen the Tolson Center by moving the Parks & Recreation Department’s administration to the center.
Richard Shively, R-1, voted against the plan, arguing that a long-term plan had not been presented.
He also expressed concern that the center would only really be open to some segments of the city’s population, no matter where they reside.
“We’ve heard the comments about how, ‘We don’t want white people.’ That white people can’t understand black children,” Shively said on May 6.
That appeared to get the attention of the audience and some elected officials.
At the council meeting this week, Brent Curry, D-5, took up the topic, saying he had been asked to do so by people living in Shively’s district.
“They were very offended by your comments at the last meeting, about Tolson and what one district has versus another district, and they wanted me to make sure I let you know they were offended by your comments,” Curry said Monday. “So now you know.”
At the May 6 meeting, Shively had complained that too much attention is given to the Tolson Center and south Elkhart. He asked why some efforts that are now set to take place at Tolson won’t also happen at High Dive Pavilion and other city facilities around town.
“We have poor people, we have disadvantaged people as well. Why is it that the south side gets so much attention? Why is so much focus there? What about us?” Shively said.
Mayor Tim Neese also spoke at this week’s meeting, thanking City Council for approving the plan for the Tolson Center.
He specifically pointed to Brian Dickerson, R-at large, and David Henke, R-3, for speaking “very eloquently” about the future of the Tolson Center.
“Councilmember Curry spoke about the diversity of the city, specifically your district,” Neese said, speaking to Curry. “And your words reflected much wisdom.”
The mayor then switched his attention to Shively.
“Sir Shively, you apparently didn’t get the memo that there are some things you just don’t say, because they’re counterproductive. You seem to possess an inner anger that, I think, if it were modified and redirected, there could be a great deal of positive influence and constructive accomplishments,” Neese said.
He specifically addressed Shively’s concern about the south side of the city getting too much attention.
“You were correct May 6, in the meeting, when you said that your district does not have a facility like the Tolson Center. But your district does have the Boys & Girls Club, the Lerner Theatre, most of the RiverWalk, the River District, the Aquatics Center and also the Flaherty & Collins apartments. These are all, in my opinion, very impressive features of this city,” Neese said.
Henke encouraged Curry to direct Shively’s constituents to call Shively and speak with their city councilman when they have concerns.
“I would hope that all of us, which have the opportunity to either be misrepresented or otherwise, would have that same opportunity. Lord knows there was plenty of name-calling on both sides through the two years of discussion,” Henke said.
He pointed out that he has been called things he didn’t like, but that he doesn’t want to spend time talking about that.
“We’re trying to get past this, we’re trying to move on, we’re trying not to offend and keep a wound open, so I would hope that people will do the responsible thing and call Dr. Shively personally, meet with him personally,” Henke said.
Shively after the meeting said he did not want to comment on the exchange.
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