Milton city council members offended by word 'united' to welcome newcomers
The Milton City Council was divided at its Tuesday night council meeting over putting the word "united" on an official city art cube, with some citizens and council members saying the word is "offensive" and not representative of the city.
The discussion Tuesday night was the culmination of a months-long debate that began in July when activists requested permission to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on a city street. The council ultimately denied the request and instead suggested an art cube be placed in downtown Milton that would have a theme of unity and inclusion.
After several weeks of debating which art to put on the cube, the council came to a decision in November to put a "welcome to Milton, a united community" sign on the cube. However, half the council present Tuesday night took issue with the word "united," with Councilwoman Shannon Rice saying she had spoken to some citizens who were disturbed by the word.
“I asked for public comment on social media, and a lot of people are disturbed by it, and some people understand that and some won’t,” she said. “But rather than offending a portion of the public, why do we need to say anything? ‘Welcome’ is enough, I mean welcome means you’re welcome to come here.”
Black Lives Matter mural:Milton residents voice opposition to potential 'Black Lives Matter' mural on city street
Howard Steele, a Milton resident, spoke to the council and said he was “vehemently opposed to the term ‘united community’ being used to describe the city of Milton.” Steele said the word, by definition, was loaded with political connotations and not appropriate to describe the diverse political viewpoints in the city of Milton.
“I think definitions are important. … In this case, especially since we’re talking about a political body, the city of Milton and the council, I think the more appropriate definition (of the word ‘united’) is being joined together politically,” Steele said. “So I oppose the use of the word ‘united’ when it is used to describe the city of Milton.”
Kim Macarthy, another Milton resident, said the word has become loaded with different meanings in the past year, and it’s “not the same word that it was” a year ago.
“My concern is I don’t like the word right now and I do not trust the word right now because I see how it’s being used. There are a lot of other people like me who view it the same way,” she said. “So I don’t want to see it on a ‘welcome to Milton’ sign, if we can’t find a slogan or something to say that is totally neutral and non-offensive.”
Councilman Casey Powell defended the use of the word on an official city sign, saying the definition of "united" is “dependent upon the reader.”
“I do believe that, in this context, we’re talking about being united together as a community,” he said. “Art does mean something different to different people.”
When it came time for a vote, Rice, along with new council members Roxanne Meiss and Matthew Jarrett, voted against putting the word on the sign. Powell, along with council members George Jordan and Jeff Snow, voted in favor.
Council members David Richardson and Sharon Holley attended the meeting virtually and could not vote, but expressed support for the word.
Mayor Heather Lindsay had to cast the tie breaking vote, and voted in favor of putting "united" on the cube.
“My perspective as your mayor is to stand united with anyone who believes in equal access to justice, that every human being has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, that we should all agree to respect our opinions, whether popular or unpopular,” she said. “Our slogan is, ‘Milton, where good living flows,’ and good living flows when we are united by core beliefs that promote mutual respect, justice and peace.”
The cube design and installation will cost the city $1,600 and will be installed early next year.
Annie Blanks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8632.