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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is Troy a true community?

Today I asked a mom from Germany, whose husband works here and has kids in my daughters' elementary school, what she thought about Proposal 1 being defeated.
She said, "It doesn't surprise me. This is not really a community."
That's a very sad observation.
I moved to Troy five years ago because of its sterling reputation for great schools and a thriving business community. But I did wonder about the community back then.
I had heard a story from 2004, before I lived here, about the messy handling of the National Day of Prayer.
Many communities across America, especially those as diverse as ours, hold interfaith celebrations of NDP. In 2002 George Bush said, ""The Congress... has called on our citizens to reaffirm the role of prayer in our society and to honor the religious diversity our freedom permits by recognizing annually a 'National Day of Prayer.''" 
But celebrating diversity didn't seem to work in Troy. We have a Christian-only event and an interfaith event, sponsored by the Troy Interfaith Group.
Before 2005 Troy held a Judeo-Christian event, but then Mayor Schilling invited an American-born Hindu woman to give a Hindu prayer at the 2004 observance, and then all h*** broke loose.

You can read coverage of the event here and below:

During 2005, NDP organizers for the 2005 event in Troy, MI, ran into difficulty. The Troy National Day of Prayer Christian Task Force, an Evangelical Christian group, asked the city for permission to hold an event at the Troy city hall. It was to feature only conservative Christian speakers and prayers. But some non-Evangelicals protested; they felt that many faiths should be represented at the event. TheTroy City Council reached a compromise. They gave permission for the interfaith group -- including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus -- to meet from 11 AM until noon at city hall. The exclusively Evangelical Christian group was given the noon until 1 PM time slot at the same location. Richard A. Peacock of Troy First United Methodist Church, who represented the interfaith group, said: "We'll make sure we work it out. And we're inviting everyone to join us." Lori Wagner of the National Day of Prayer Task Force indicated that persons of all faiths were welcome at her service; however the meeting would be Evangelical Christian in content. She said: "We organize our speakers who are in alignment with our faith."
To avoid future conflict, on APR-04, Troy's City Council selected three sites for public gatherings, and authorized the city's recreation department to issue permits on a first-come first-served basis. Rabbi Arnie Sleutelberg of Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy was one of the leaders in the interfaith service. He said: "I just hope the people who clamored for this know that groups like the pro-choice, homosexuals, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members -- anybody who wants to -- can secure a site now." Mayor Louise Schilling is disappointed in the way the controversy has divided the community. She said: "That day should be about bringing the different religious groups together in unity, not in tearing them apart." 3
Associated Press commented that "It was a day of separation for different religious groups in the Detroit suburb of Troy. [On MAY-08] ...about 250 people participated in a Christians-only prayer session in front of Troy City Hall. A similar number of Christians and members of other faiths attended the Troy Interfaith Group service at Northminster Presbyterian Church. Mayor Louise Schilling attended the interfaith event, which also included Buddhists, Jews and Muslims. The prayer day services followed months of controversy over the Christian group's plan to exclude non-Christians." 6
The National Day of Prayer continued to divide the City of Troy, weeks after the event. Shortly after the Day, the Troy Committee to Protect Free Speech was formed with Wendee Rex as president. The purpose of the committee appears to be to organize a recall of Troy Mayor Louise Schilling and Mayor Pro Tem Robin Beltramini because of the way in which they opposed the Evangelical Christian-only Day of Prayer event in favor of one that included persons of many religions. Rex identified herself as a Christian but declined to identify her church or say how many people are on the committee. She said: "It is because of their open hostility to Troy citizens exercising their Constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of assembly and equal access on city property in front of City Hall." 7

The way the whole library millage election went down, one still has to wonder. 
Is Troy truly a community of individuals dedicated to living, working and learning together while looking out for the whole community's best interests? 
Or are we a group of selfish individuals looking out only for our own pocketbooks and for ourselves?


  1. Sharon, you hit the nail on the head. So many people these days seem to be acting like it's every man for himself and to heck with everyone else. Historically during times of crisis (like the current state of our economy), people looked out... for one another and worked together for the betterment of the community. What the TCU people have done is just the opposite. These people have sacrificed truth and integrity to further their own agendas.

    I can understand citizens demanding fiscal responsibility and efficiency from their government, but you can't eliminate every tax and still live in a desirable and functioning community. It is impossible. It is a fact that Troy Public Library is a well-used asset in Troy. Just because a group of people don't use it doesn't mean it is not valuable or worth keeping. It's like saying "I don't drive on Wattles, so I don't want my tax dollars to go toward its maintenance." That is just plain crazy. People have to realize that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We cannot keep dismantling the assets of this city and still have a community.

  2. I think this is a worthy reflection ... and I really do believe that the vast majority of our residents are truly community minded. We are so much better than this negativity; the millage and National Day of Prayers stories are not representative of who we are as a people. I have faith in our community rising above all this and showing our true stripes going forward!

  3. I agree we have to rise above this. We need to unite as a community and focus on leaders with integrity and ethics. The TCU group is intent on controlling the city and dictating their way of life. We, as a community, are above this. We need to make sure that the residents of Troy become educated with the facts of what has and will continue to take place in this city as a result of the TCU tactics. There will be four open spots for city leaders next fall. One of these will be for Mayor of our fine city. We cannot allow this group of narrow minded individuals to continue and succeed with their covert operations to deter the decisions of Troy voters.

    All of us need to start educating our friends, families and business associates on their tactics and motives and guide the voters to the truth.