On the night of Monday, Feb. 19, residents of Montevallo gathered at UMOM for a second time to discuss the proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance, or NDO, for the city. Monday’s forum was the second of its kind hosted by the city council. Other forums in the past months have been hosted by groups not directly affiliated with the city of Montevallo.
The forum’s intent was to discuss the specific language of the ordinance, not to air opinions or start a debate on the subject at large. Before the night’s discussions began, moderators laid out the specifics of the meeting, including things in the ordinance that residents liked, any possible suggestions and “must haves” or “must nots” that attendees might have.
The ordinance at hand would be an addition to the Montevallo Municipal Code, Chapter 16, Article 4, enacting legal protections against discrimination within the City of Montevallo. In particular, employers would be susceptible to filings related to the ordinance. This aspect of the document has caused worry among local business owners, generating much of the counter argument present in previous forums.
The many students and Montevallo residents present at the forum were divided into groups of around 20 and moved into separate rooms in UMOM. Once settled, the rooms were divided into smaller groups in order to more effectively and personally discuss the ordinance.
Discussion among the groups remained, for the most part, calm and focused on the particulars of the ordinance. Those of differing opinion came together to better understand the legislation and adjust it to best suit its populous.
The night’s focus ranged from broad implications of the legal language in the ordinance to highly specific points of the document’s wording. Concerns raised included the specific definitions of the groups protected, such as the ordinance’s mention of disabilities and the term’s contextual meaning. Other such concerns focused on the use of the recently removed phrase “real or perceived” in reference to the status of those protected. Notes taken during the discussion are going to be processed by the city council and taken into consideration for the final draft of the ordinance.
H.G McGoy, a long time Montevallo resident spoke in support of the forum. “I think everybody will work together, I really do,” said McGoy, “It’s not going to be a big deal.” McGoy’s sentiment was echoed by many leaving the event. While some still remain in opposition to the ordinance at its roots, many believe to have found a compromise on the issue.
The NDO has changed considerably in the two years since its proposal to the City council by the Montevallo Acceptance Project, but many involved believe that the initial sentiment has been preserved throughout its iterations.
Dr. Hollie Cost, the Mayor of Montevallo, led the talks as a whole and was similarly instrumental in the organization of the first NDO forum. Cost and the City Council do not intend to host any further forums on the topic. Cost stands by the implementation of the ordinance saying, “I feel like truly having an ordinance that protects people is important and I want everybody to have the same rights and privileges that I do.”