A couple of prominent Bloomington Democrats have been stirred by “this little dust-up” — Susan Sandberg’s words — and are now speaking publicly about the Facebook post by a local union rep decrying Mayor Hamilton’s decision to rename the Good Friday and Columbus Day holidays.
Hamilton’s decision has made national and even global news — newspapers and television stations from coast to coast have covered it as well as the BBC’s American operation. Here’s The Pencil’s first coverage of it.
Both are paid days off for this town’s municipal employees, many of whom are represented by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2487. Hamilton issued a memo last week advising city workers to refer to the holidays as Spring Day and Fall Day. He did not — nor is he empowered to — take the paid days away from city employees. Local 2487 president Rick Albright took to a private Facebook page to accuse the mayor of caving in to pressure from unnamed city employees who “don’t believe in Christianity” and are “non-union Muslim[s].” Albright also expressed fear that the paid days would be taken away leading to the obvious question: Why wouldn’t he know this would be an impossibility?
Further delving into Albright’s personal Facebook page reveals his preference to quote and cite from various extreme conservative, nationalist, and “alt-right” websites.
Here’s a typical post on Albright’s page, a “humorous” reference to the Mike Pence/”Hamilton” incident this past weekend:
In addition to Albright’s incendiary comments, a number of people identifying themselves as fellow AFSCME local members, endorsed his comments on Muslims. One commenter wrote, “Whiny liberals!”
The whole incident “points to the heart of all the concerns we need to stand up to,” says former city council member and mayoral candidate Darryl Neher. A senior lecturer at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Neher says Levi Combs, the AFSCME member who took a screenshot of Albright’s post on the local’s private Facebook page, is paying the price for publicizing the embarrassing screed. “Levi’s taken a lot of blowback,” Neher says.
Combs showed the screenshot to his father, Dan Combs, Perry Township trustee and a retired Monroe County Community Schools Corporation teacher. The elder Combs, whose Facebook handle is Carp Combs, posted the screenshot on his personal page. A flurry of angry reactions ensued.
Seceral observers have expressed concern for Levi Combs’s comfort and safety. They mention potential subtle harassment by his union co-workers and even worry about more blatant attempts to intimidate him.
Acc’d’g to Neher, Levi Combs knew what he was getting into. “Levi’s opinionated,” Neher says. “Levi stands up for what is right.”
Long-time council member Susan Sandberg says, “Levi’s in jeopardy here.”
Sandberg & Neher
Sandberg first heard about Hamilton’s memo only after it was released. “I didn’t know this was going to happen until it happened,” she says. “I learned about it along with everybody else.”
Nevertheless, she likes the idea of renaming the two holidays. “In making these days more neutral,” she explains, “we’re opening the door to be more inclusive.” Bloomington municipal employees include Muslims, Jews, atheists, and many other non-Christians. They shouldn’t have to be forced to celebrate a day whose raison d’etre arises from that religion. Now that Good Friday has become a more secular, traditional day off it’s time to expunge its exclusive roots.
Albright wrote that the name change is “just another reason why I voted for Trump.”
This morning’s Herald Times carried an editorial opposing Hamilton’s decision. “It was not necessary and just stands to divide rather than unite when it comes to Good Friday,” the editorial read.
Sandberg says, “This is not about division. Who’s the divider?”
She continues: “Nobody’s taking anything away from these union guys. You’ve got your Good Friday. Nobody’s taking your religious freedom away from you. This is not divisive; this is inclusive.”
[Big Mike Note: Requests for comments have been sent out to both Dan Combs and Rick Albright. As soon as I hear back from either, I’ll let you know.]