Olathe & Southwest Joco

Crowds filled chamber to debate non-discrimination ordinance at Olathe council meeting

At Tuesday night’s Olathe City Council meeting, Olathe resident Coni Leoni speaks about how the non-discrimination ordinance conflicts with her religious beliefs.
At Tuesday night’s Olathe City Council meeting, Olathe resident Coni Leoni speaks about how the non-discrimination ordinance conflicts with her religious beliefs. Special to The Olathe News

The ongoing debate as to whether or not the city of Olathe will adopt a non-discrimination ordinance once again drew large numbers of concerned citizens to the city council meeting Tuesday night. With nearly every chair filled, about 80 people chose to stand along the perimeter of the council chamber.

Because the ordinance was not on the agenda, the city council allotted each of 28 people who signed up to make public comments about it just one minute to speak.

Numerous people continued to talk after their time expired, leading Mayor Michael Copeland to remind them that their time was up — sometimes more than once.

Though Copeland reminded the assembled group to be respectful of each other’s comments, there were a few outbursts.

Olathe resident Ashley Hooley said she’d experienced discrimination over her sexual orientation twice over the summer. When she spoke about not wanting to explain to her children that they didn’t have a place to live because of discrimination, a woman called out from the crowd, “How’d you get babies?”

Several residents who were against the ordinance claimed it would infringe on their religious freedom.

Just over half the people speaking were in favor of the ordinance, and the Rev. Brandon Frick, pastor at Village Presbyterian Church, called out the divide during his turn at the podium.

“We are at a place where this is not becoming constructive. … Vote on the NDO or at the minimum, give your citizens an answer as to why you won’t,” Frick said. “We’ve gotten to a place where this has simply become a pedestal for people to utter outrageous things.”

Although city officials had said the council would have copies of an estimated 200 letters and emails from the July public comment period by early September, the mayor said council members only received them late last week and had not finished reviewing them yet.

In other business, the council is considering a no-bid contract with Pyramid Contractors for the planned project to extend Mahaffie Circle underneath I-35 to Old 56 Highway to relieve congestion from traffic related to Garmin. Pyramid is currently working on the I-35 bridge project near 151st Street.

According to Beth Wright, deputy director of public works, using the contractor already on site would allow the Mahaffie Circle work to go on concurrently with the bridge work, speeding up the project and saving the city $200,000.

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