Oxford City Council brings back pledge, fights for Amtrak


Photo taken from the meeting’s live stream

Oxford City Council reinstated the Pledge of Allegiance on its agenda and at the request of a member of the public, stood and recited it at its May 3 meeting. Council Member Jason Bracken (plaid shirt at right) voted against the resolution and remained seated.

Oxford City Council approved resolutions at its May 3 meeting – one in favor of restoring the Pledge of Allegiance to its agenda and one asking the Ohio governor to support bringing passenger trains through the city.

The pledge had been absent from the previous three council meetings after it was discovered the council had inadvertently left out any mention of it in its official rules of operation, when adopting them back in January. A resolution had been put on the May 3 agenda at the request of Mayor William Snavely to amend the rules so that the pledge would once again be a regular part of council meetings.

Before that resolution came up however, two members of the public took the podium to speak in support of the pledge. 

“I was going to talk about this, but I see you already have it scheduled elsewhere on the agenda,” said Jeff Robinson, a member of the Oxford Police Department who was speaking as a private citizen and resident. “So, I will just take my allotted five minutes and ask you all to join me in saying the Pledge of Allegiance.”

With that, most people in the room stood and recited the Pledge. 

Oxford resident Carissa Schnell then came to the podium and tearfully described her support for the pledge, as the wife of a veteran. She said her husband and other veterans served to protect the rights of Americans to say the pledge and have the freedom not to say the pledge.

When the resolution reinstating the pledge to council meetings finally was read, it was approved in a 5-1 vote with Councilor Jason Bracken voting no, and Councilor Chantel Raghu absent. 

Bracken, who did not stand and join in the pledge when it was recited, said he thought it was a matter of personal choice. “I’m generally not for tradition for the sake of tradition…we take our oaths to the constitution rather than to objects (the flag),” he said. 

Councilors Amber Franklin and Alex French both took the discussion over this resolution as an opportunity to bring up another recent issue with council’s rules the requirement that members of the audience who address the body are supposed to state their name and address. At a meeting earlier this year, a man arguing against the city mask ordinance refused to give his address when asked to do so, but council let him speak anyway. 

That rule has been laxly enforced since then but both Franklin and French said that council should insist on it.

“If we’re taking the time to get our house in order, we should get it all the way in order,” Franklin said.

Franklin said she had conducted an informal survey of local residents about the pledge and found most said they were more concerned with issues such as infrastructure. 

Trains, specifically the proposal for Amtrak to route its Cincinnati to Chicago service through Oxford, was the topic of another council resolution adopted at the meeting. 

Council voted unanimously to send letters to Governor Mike DeWine, and state officials and Ohio federal officials that Oxford is in support of the Amtrak Connects Us plan.

Amtrak Connects Us is a “15-year strategy for expansion of passenger rail service that will connect dozens of communities to Amtrak service, increasing ridership, environmental sustainability, and economic investment.” 

For several years, Oxford and Miami University have been working to develop a passenger station next to the existing rail line near Chestnut Street.

Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene spoke in support of this resolution noting the various benefits that a passenger railway could have in Oxford, especially a track that could connect Oxford to Cleveland, Columbus and Chicago. 

“It’s not just about a Cincinnati to Chicago train that would come through a couple of times a week . . . It also would go through Hamilton, so people from Oxford would be able to connect there to trains going north to Columbus and Cleveland,” she said.

The resolution urges the Governor and other officials to actively support the plan. In addition,  Congress decreased the minimum Amtrak route length that qualifies for federal funding from 750 miles to 250 miles and expresses hope in all levels of government for the opportunity of improved infrastructure in Oxford.