Troy City Council declines to pursue ‘sanctuary city’

By Sam Wildow

swildow@aimmediamidwest.com

TROY — The Troy City Council, during a special meeting and work session on Monday, discussed requests local residents have made to the council to pursue an ordinance to outlaw abortion in the city and establish the city as a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” like the city of Lebanon.

William Lutz, president of the council, said two council members had asked him to add the item of discussion to the agenda prior to the meeting on Monday. A number of council members spoke in opposition to pursuing any type of legislation to establish Troy as a “sanctuary city for the unborn,” turning down requests from Troy resident Christopher Harshbarger and from David Enneking, president of the Miami County Right to Life, who have advocated for legislation to outlaw abortion in the city of Troy.

The council did not have any official ordinance it was considering for adoption. The council members’ statements in opposition to pursuing legislation centered on the legality of that type of ordinance.

Lutz noted the council has heard from a couple of residents regarding this issue at approximately the last five council meetings.

On Monday, local resident Kathleen Luring spoke about how city officials and council members have previously spoken about how establishing Troy as a sanctuary city could cause the city to face litigation.

Another resident, Kane Feltner of Troy, also spoke about outcomes women in other countries have faced due to abortion bans.

“I just wanted to share some stories of other countries that have banned abortion completely from their country,” he said. “There’s a woman in one country, she was a young girl, who was diagnosed with severe cancer, and she also happened to be pregnant. But because abortion was illegal, they could not continue the chemotherapy, because it would have caused the abortion of the baby. So a 16-year-old girl died of cancer because it was illegal to abort the baby to continue those cancer treatments.”

“Another case, a woman had experienced a lot of issues, and she felt sick, and she went to the doctor and came to find out that she had lost a baby,” Feltner said. He said the woman did not know she had been pregnant and could not prove she had a natural miscarriage, “and so the country jailed her and charged her for a crime, in their opinion, that she had tried to abort the baby herself.”

“All I’m saying is, we are setting ourselves up as a city for litigation when we’re making a decision that should be made between you and a doctor,” Feltner said, noting he was not advocating for abortion.

“I don’t know if that would be a unified use of taxpayers’ money,” Todd Severt, councilman-at-large, said about the requested sanctuary city ordinance. Severt said he took the advice of City Law Director Grant Kerber “very seriously.” Kerber previously advised the council that the city could be open to outside litigation if it pursues legislation to outlaw abortion.

“I do think, at some point in time, there has to be a resolution to this, and I appreciate you adding it back to the agenda,” Severt said. “I will go on record to say that, although my personal beliefs are not in conjunction with what I’m about to say, I don’t believe that as a ward of the taxpayers’ money that it makes sense for us to move forward on pursuing the sanctuary city.”

“We have heard from our law director,” Lynne Snee, councilwoman-at-large, said. “There is no ordinance currently that we are considering, I just want to make that point, but I would agree with Mr. Severt that, as a person who is here in a city council member capacity, safeguarding the citizens of Troy’s financial resources, I would also say I could not support any legislation regarding a sanctuary city at this time.”

“There’s no definition of ‘sanctuary city’ under the Ohio Revised Code,” Jeffrey Schilling, sixth ward council member, said. “I challenge anyone to discover a legal definition that has been established by the state of Ohio. The ‘sanctuary city’ is a make believe, fairy tale, emerald city that has no legal basis and is only real in the minds of those who know they have no legal argument based on fact or current law.”

“There is no wizard behind a curtain to pull a lever and magically transport us to a place in time when the issue of abortion can be resolved by Troy City Council,” Schilling continued. “We have taken an oath to uphold and defend the constitution of the state of Ohio and, by definition, follow the Ohio Revised Code.” He said Ohio’s constitution does not give Troy the ability to establish itself as a sanctuary city.

“There’s a time for a secular and there’s a time for the evangelical, and our hats in this moment are the secular, so I am not in favor also in moving forward,” Bobby W. Phillips, fourth ward council member, said. Phillips added the council did not have any intention “to follow through or instigate any type of ordinance or resolution by this body.”

Also during a special meeting on Monday, the council voted to accept the OneOhio Opioid Settlement agreement. The council authorized Patrick Titterington, the director of Public Service and Safety, to execute settlement agreement documents related to the opioid litigation settlement with opioid distributors AmeriSourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health. In 2020, the council authorized legislation for the city “to participate in litigation by the State and local governments seeking to hold Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Participants accountable for damages related to those participants that are or have engaged in the manufacture, marketing, promotion, distribution or dispensing of an opioid analgesic,” according to a memorandum from Titterington.

Those opioid distributors will pay up to $829 million over the course of 18 years to the state of Ohio and its political subdivisions to resolve the litigation. According to Titterington, the “settlements, if agreed and adopted, will provide substantial funds to states and subdivisions for abatement of the opioid epidemic across the country and will impose transformative changes in the way the settling defendants conduct their business.”

On Monday, Titterington said the money the city will receive will be restricted to certain programs, such as opioid recovery and enforcement.