ELWOOD, Ind. — The final person who spoke at the monthly city council meeting Monday night urged the citizens and officials to quash the heated political anger that has started to consume city.
After hearing divisive speeches critical of almost every city official, it was about the only thing everyone could agree on. The comments drew a loud round of applause.
Finn Capshaw, the man who made the speech, said he had just recently moved to the city and saw too many good things about the community for its residents to be reduced to political antipathy. He called the hatred a “cancer.”
In just the past year, the City of Elwood has made headlines several times. Numerous accusations have been levied on the leadership skills of Mayor Ron Arnold, and, in October, four of the seven city council members signed a letter requesting that Arnold resign. Earlier this year, former Parks Department superintendent Dan Nance was removed and arrested on reports he misappropriated public funds. Nance’s trial began Tuesday.
On Monday, citizens approached the microphone at city hall and hurled criticism toward both Arnold and the council. One person accused Arnold of lying about campaign promises. Another called the four city council members who signed the letter “cowards,” and accused a few of running political Facebook groups.
Political acrimony has been at the center of nearly every story. And city officials admit the situation has become heated.
“People have opinions. And that’s their right,” said council member Pat Rice a Democrat. “Some people go to extremes. It’s freedom of speech, but I hate that sometimes it gets mean natured. But we’ll get through all this.”
Arnold, a Republican, said he thought Capshaw’s comments were a good way to end an otherwise combative meeting.
“I was appreciative of the comments from our people. The good thing I take from this is that people care. What I think we need to do is focus that energy on things that make us stronger. My hope is that we can continue to build on the positive things that have been happening here: Good business relations, more jobs, strong police initiatives, a thriving park system,” Arnold said. “We can pick each other apart all we want. I’m going to continue to believe in the positives.”
Council member R. Eric Reese, a Democrat who drafted the letter asking Arnold to resign, said he stands by the contents of the request, and that he’s spoken to far too many people in the past year to ignore. He said the contentious atmosphere at the meeting wasn’t surprising.
“I have had meetings with a lot of people. One-on-one. People call me, Facebook me, e-mail me. I can count hundreds of folks who have come to me with concerns. I made a promise I would listen to them,” Reese said.
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