Resolution could be next for Roeland Park; business owner worries about potential boycott

The Roeland Park City Council listened to more than 40 speakers Monday night.
The Roeland Park City Council listened to more than 40 speakers Monday night.

The defeat of Roeland Park’s anti-discrimination ordinance means that the next step for the city council is likely taking up consideration of a proposed resolution that creates a committee, but has no enforcement or investigative powers. In the meantime, at least one Roeland Park business is concerned about a potential boycott of Roeland Park businesses as a result of the Monday vote that narrowly defeated the anti-discrimination ordinance on a 4-3 vote.

Missing from the Monday vote was Councilor Becky Fast, who was in a car accident on the way to the meeting. Fast said she was trying hard to make it to the meeting after the accident. In an email, Fast said the next step in the process is taking up the resolution. She did not say how she would have voted on the ordinance. Mayor Joel Marquardt said Monday that he would have cast the fifth vote needed for passage if four councilors had voted to pass it. Five votes were needed from the council and mayor to pass it. Councilor Megan England, one of the ordinance’s original sponsors, said Fast should have the opportunity to cast her vote.

Roeland Park businessman John Geither said Tuesday that he has seen some rumblings about a boycott of Roeland Park businesses on social media because of the rejection of the anti-discrimination ordinance. Even if no boycott occurs, Geither said, “we missed an opportunity to invite in creative people who can make it a better community.”

Geither, who is gay, owns the Subway franchise in Roeland Park as well as other Subway franchises in the area. He has been a supporter of the ordinance and was one of the more than 40 people who spoke from the floor at Monday’s meeting. A majority of those speaking supported the ordinance.

Ironically, Geither said, the Roeland Park business community had no problem with the ordinance and either supported it or did not voice opposition. “None of us want to discriminate,” he said. The businesses, he pointed out, are the ones most regulated by the ordinance.

England also pointed to the support of business and said the council outcome “doesn’t add up.”

“This proposed change was to the business chapter of our code book. City business owners came before us to relay that the vast majority of businesses supported our efforts and most of the small businesses who would be affected added their name on a petition of support. Two area chambers of commerce wrote letters to urge the council to pass the ordinance because the positive impact it would have on economic development. Twenty-eight leaders from the local faith community including Roeland Park issued a public statement of support for the ordinance. The list goes on and yet the council rejected the ordinance and for that I have no explanation.”