Councilors react to incident

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At Wednesday night’s Rome Common Council meeting, city officials reacted to an incident of racism reported to police last weekend.

Police said a Nazi swastika, racial slurs and more were written on the side of a U-Haul truck rented by a black woman and parked outside her residence on First Street early Saturday morning.

Common councilors noted that the incident is still under investigation by the Rome Police Department, and in reaction, offered the following comments:

John Sparace, councilor for the First Ward said that the First Street area has always been close to his heart as he grew up there. He said that violence is not normal and that Rome is a “small, cohesive, diverse community that sticks together.”

John Mortise, of the Second Ward — where First Street is located — read a prepared statement he previously released that noted, “Rome is a very diverse city and that is what makes it beautiful. Racism has no place in our community and we all need to speak with a unified voice against it.” 

Third Ward Councilor Kimberly Rogers said, “racism has no place in this city” and extended her apologies to the victim.

“Racism is unacceptable and destroys a community,” said Ramona Smith, councilor for the Fourth Ward.

Echoing the statements of the rest of the council, Fifth Ward Councilor Frank Anderson added that the city intends to, “solve issues by having dialogue.”

Riccardo Dursi, the Sixth Ward councilor, added, “this hit home. It happened a few years back in my ward. There is no place in Rome for this sort of action.”

“It’s a very troubling issue,” said Seventh Ward Councilor A. Robert Tracy, “An attack on an individual is an attack on all of us.”

Councilors said that within the next week, meetings will be held between the city, Rome Police Department and Rome’s chapter of the NAACP to find ways to create dialogue about community issues.

Referring to the racist actions under investigation, Common Council President Stephanie Viscelli said, “Rome is better than this. … Racism and intolerance within the city of Rome will not be tolerated.” She encouraged residents to reach out to councilors with any thoughts or concerns.

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In other city business, the Common Council approved a resolution to place “no parking signs” on the 300 block of Church Street between East Court Street and Stanwix Street. This is intended to ease any obstructions for emergency vehicles and snow plows. 

A measure that would have issued bonds totaling $105,385 to finance the cost of the purchase of machinery and apparatus for construction and maintenance work, was tabled. According to city officials, the purchase would be to replace one bucket truck that has shown signs of wear to the frame. The vehicle is typically used for tree trimming, traffic signal light repair and other tasks. The city owns one other bucket truck that also is frequently used.

Wednesday night, common councilors questioned whether they could get by with having only one bucket truck and borrowing a second truck from another community if one was needed in a pinch.

“Money is going to be extremely tight this year,” explained Rogers in reference to coronavirus-related budget impacts.

The issue of the bucket truck purchase will be revisited at a future Rome Common Council meeting.

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