Petition Regarding Possible Festival Ban Presented to Owen County Board of Commissioners

Board members, left to right, Steve Williamson, vice-president; Jeffrey K. Brothers, president; and Gary Burton listen as Spencer community member Scott Winders presents a petition with 1046 signatures to the Owen County Board of Commissioners, Tuesday, September 3, 2019 in Spencer, Ind. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/The Bloomingtonian)

By Jeremy Hogan

Spencer, Indiana – Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Spencer community member Scott Winders presented a petition with 1046 signatures for a petition in favor of proposals to form an advisory committee and table for 90 days an ordinance that may ban festivals on the Owen County Courthouse Square, during a meeting of the Owen County Board of Commissioners, Tuesday, September 3, 2019.

The members of the board of commissioners, Jeffrey K. Brothers, president; Steve Williamson, vice-president, and Gary Burton voted to take the requests under advisement.

“Well, that’s the awesomeness of being a politician and taking something under advisement. You don’t have to say when you’re going to do it. And that’s the frustrating thing. But you know what, we’ll probably have another group at the next meeting and the next meeting and even if we’re not on the agenda, we’re going to make it very difficult for them to work until they start hearing us,” said Winders after the meeting.

Winders said he’s spent thousands of hours working to revitalize Spencer’s downtown.

Over the summer Owen County group, “Morals of America,” created a Facebook page criticizing the Spencer Pride festival, before the board of commissioners decided to rewrite the ordinance allowing the festival, and citing security, cost, damage to the grass on the square to justify changing the ordinance. Business owners are concerned that a ban on festivals on the square will turn back years of efforts to revitalize downtown Spencer, so a group of business owners helped gather the petition signatures.

“Our county commissioners, got a few people to send them some complaint letters and petition against Spencer Pride Festival. And, so they decided that it would be prime time to redo their ordinances, and it was less known that they would like to just ban all festivals so that they could get rid of that one. And, so once we got wind of that we had a large turnout for their last meeting, which was two weeks ago. And they backpedaled, which is good, and we were able to get 1000 signatures that said, ‘We would like them to redo the ordinances with festival leaders so that we could better support festivals and activities downtown,’” said Jacob Balash of Spencer Pride.

Spencer Pride’s website states, “Spencer Pride, Inc. is focused on educating the public about rural lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer (LGBTQ+) people & issues in order to make Indiana a safer & more welcoming place for ALL people.” Spencer Pride has organized the festival for the past 13 years, and held the past 12 festivals on the courthouse square.

Brothers said to Winders during the meeting, “So at the last meeting we went through and we provided what was it eight or nine ordinances for speed limit? And who sets the speed limit? The Sheriff he will provide the legal part of you know, enforcing that. So yes, we do set policy. So what we’ve done is want to see it started off, we started codifying ordinances, okay, which required by law. And so this year, we started this process. And under these processes, these are rules that we set in place for the county, Okay? Now, these ordinances and resolutions have not been followed. So that’s the reason why they were brought up. Okay. So that’s what we’re working on. We’re not going to introduce any new ordinances we’re just looking at cleaning this one up to make it work.”

The board then voted to take the petition under advisement.

Video from the meeting, and comments from Winders, and Balash are posted on below.

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