McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

September 8, 2012

City at crossroads again on cross silhouette issue

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — An issue regarding the removal of silhouetted metal figures, which include scenes depicting crosses, from several street signs in the city is on the agenda again for this week’s meeting of the McAlester City Council.

The meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall.

The matter had originally been brought up during the Aug. 28 council meeting, but had been tabled without the councilors making a decision on the matter.

Because the matter was tabled, as opposed to being withdrawn or pulled, it was automatically scheduled to come up again during the next regular city council meeting — which is Tuesday night.

James Prince, of the Gaines Creek Association of Free Will Baptist, says he and other members of his group plan to attend the Tuesday night meeting.

“We want the council people to know by our presence that the urgency of our opposition remains the same — it hasn’t declined,” Prince said, referring to the group’s opposition to removing the signs with the crosses in the first place.

“We hope by our presence they feel an obligation to act in accordance with the will of the people,” Prince said.

He and others want the scenes with the crosses placed back on the city street signs.

The matter revolves around City Manager Pete Stasiak’s order to remove the silhouetted figures and scenes with crosses in them.

They had been among a large group of the metal silhouettes given to the city by McAlester businessman Bob Wallace, depicting various historical or traditional scenes.

At first, all of the silhouettes had been installed atop street signs. Then, Stasiak ordered the scenes with the crosses removed after he said he received a complaint about them.

That resulted in a groundswell of action by citizens to have the scenes with the crosses replaced.

In the meantime, some of the removed silhouettes have been given to area churches. Three of the scenes have been mounted on signs at St. John’s Evangelist Catholic Church in McAlester.

The matter had first been brought to the council by the Gaines Creek Association of Free Will Baptist and other groups, churches and individuals, during the Aug. 28 city council meeting.

Prince had been among approximately 45 individuals jammed into the Council Chambers at City Hall that night, with others standing in the lobby and more on the sidewalk outside.

He said Friday he believes the city councilors listened thoughtfully to the presentation he and others made during the Aug. 28 meeting.

Even though the matter is on the agenda again for Tuesday night, there’s no certainty a decision will be made or whether the matter will even be discussed. It could just as easily be tabled again.

Ward 6 Councilor Weldon Smith had first suggested the need for the city to obtain more information during the Aug. 28 city council meeting.

On Friday, he said he was still waiting to get that information.

Smith said he had been in contact with the American Center for Law and Justice in hopes of obtaining more information on the city’s rights in the matter.

While there have been some preliminary communications, Smith said he asked McAlester attorney Joe Irvin to contact the ACLJ on the city’s behalf.

“We’ve got it in the hands of Joe to get further information,” Smith said.

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