Robert Socha intro­duced a new res­o­lution regarding gov­ernment over­reach at Mon­day’s city council meeting. | Collegian

Ten­sions ran high at Monday’s Hillsdale City Council meeting after Coun­cilman Robert Socha intro­duced a new res­o­lution regarding gov­ernment overreach. 

The res­o­lution, orig­i­nally pub­lished on Socha’s Facebook page on Feb. 25, addresses gov­ernment over­reach during the COVID-19 pan­demic as well as the recently pro­posed House Res­o­lution 127, which could increase firearm reg­is­tration and limit the amount of legally allowed ammunition. 

A con­densed version of the res­o­lution was soon added to the meeting agenda. 

The res­o­lution opposes “the passage and enforcement of any trailer bill, or any bill, or any exec­utive order, or any depart­mental order, or any other order, mandate, or law which infringes on the general rights of life, liberty, and property, ordained by God and enu­merated in the United States Con­sti­tution and the Con­sti­tution of the State of Michigan.” 

The res­o­lution, if passed, seeks to ensure that if the Michigan leg­is­lature, gov­ernor, U.S. Con­gress, or pres­ident infringed on the rights guar­anteed by the U.S. Con­sti­tution and the Con­sti­tution of Michigan, then the city of Hillsdale would pro­hibit its employees from “funding and enforcing the uncon­sti­tu­tional actions, and will encourage general resis­tance to state and federal enforcement of the same.” 

More than 30 people came to support the res­o­lution at the Monday meeting and during the time for general public comment, the gathered sup­porters were vocal.

“I’m speaking in support of Coun­cilman Socha’s res­o­lution pro­tecting our Con­sti­tu­tional rights,” Hillsdale res­ident Penny Swan said. 

“Y’all took an oath to uphold the state of Michigan Con­sti­tution and the Con­sti­tution of the United States,” Swan said. “COVID-19 has been a litmus test as to the agenda of the political party of our gov­ernor and the political party of our pres­ident of the United States, and how they want to skirt our con­sti­tu­tional rights via this virus. I’m all for limited gov­ernment, but at times, our gov­ernment needs to step up and protect our con­sti­tu­tional rights.” 

Other res­i­dents agreed.

“I think this res­o­lution is a thing that we as a public, and you as a council, which is also voted in by the public, need to rec­ognize, because when it comes to the Con­sti­tution, it’s the most important con­tract we’ve ever seen,” Rev­erend Dennis Wain­scott said.

Karla Adams took the podium to comment, “A smile, a breath of fresh air, the sim­plest of things that make all the dif­ference on the worst days and the best days. How can a country so edu­cated mis­rep­resent the cit­izens it serves?” 

She con­tinued, “To see House Res­o­lution 127 in the process, our money being spent while we’re locked down wearing masks, unable to even com­mu­nicate with our family out of fear that we’re going to kill each other, and watch our rights be stripped, is an abomination.”

Tim Martin addressed the council as well.

“I’d like to thank Mr. Rob here for standing up against what the norm seems to be today,” he said. “I hope you guys can realize and under­stand what we’ve all said about swearing to uphold the Con­sti­tution. All of you are sitting there because of us and not because of you. I want you to remember that. None of you are doctors and none of you are here to protect us from this little virus. You’re here to do exactly what we hired you to do and that’s not it.”

Jon Beckwith also addressed the council.

“I’ve been taking a course on the Con­sti­tution now for a year at Hillsdale and I’m amazed what I didn’t know. And I think it’d be good for everybody in Hillsdale who has any public service…to start taking courses on the Con­sti­tution so you know what you’re doing. Most people don’t and they get them­selves in trouble,” Beckwith said. 

Mayor Adam Stockford addressed the ani­mosity that arose during public comment.

“Do you look at this council like we’re enemies of yours?” Stockford said, empha­sizing that the council seeks to uphold the Constitution. 

“I think we’ve been pretty strong on upholding con­sti­tu­tional rights here. We’ve been holding public meetings. We didn’t require you to wear a mask to come in here.”

Socha also com­mented on his resolution. 

“I did not put this on the agenda to be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote yet; I wanted it on the dis­cussion table,” he said. “I didn’t want my fellow coun­cilmen and women to feel like this was some­thing imposed on them. I wanted it to be able to be thought through thoroughly.”

He con­tinued, “I did propose it with the intention of it being dressed as a res­o­lution just so that we here in Hillsdale can let our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the state and federal level know that enough is enough and that they’ve crossed too many lines and that we’re not going to be the ones to abrogate our respon­si­bility to self-rule.” 

Other council members also com­mented on the resolution. 

“This gives us a chance to con­sider what kind of res­o­lu­tions we want to have. In my opinion, the kind of res­o­lu­tions we should do, we should be very dis­ci­plined about the kind of res­o­lu­tions that we do. They should be very few,” said Will Mor­rissey, coun­cilman and former pro­fessor of pol­itics at Hillsdale College. “If we do a lot of them, that cheapens each one that comes out.”

Coun­cilman Greg Stuchell also expressed reser­va­tions about the resolution. 

“I think you’ll look long and hard to find someone in this county that isn’t for our Con­sti­tution. This is a very red area, and we all love it,” Stuchell said. The question, like Dr. Mor­rissey said, is focused versus broad, because the other respon­si­bility we have, we’re building the city back, and to build that back, we’re taking grant money to do some of that work. Now, these people don’t play fair. We all know that. So how do we make the point and still protect our com­munity, protect our rights, protect public housing?” 

Socha addressed this concern.

“I want the money. I know we gotta play the game on a level. I mean I want to see our streets rebuilt,” he said. “It offends me, the idea that we might com­promise on prin­ciples because we might lose a few dollars.”

Coun­cilman Bill Zeiser offered a middle-ground approach. 

“Had Coun­cilman Socha’s res­o­lution gone to a vote, I would’ve voted for it, because you can’t vote against the Con­sti­tution, at least not in this town, but that said I think on sub­stance a lot of what Coun­cilman Mor­rissey said is correct, and I think we need to under­stand the dif­ference between a matter of prin­ciple and a matter of process. I think that we need to all think about how pro­found our founding doc­u­ments are.” 

Fol­lowing the night’s dis­cussion, the council voted 7 – 1 to send the res­o­lution to the oper­a­tions and gov­er­nance com­mittee for further dis­cussion and editing. 

“I do think that we’re all on the same page, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a place where people care so much about the Con­sti­tution,” Zeiser said. “But you know, even people like Hamilton and Jef­ferson had argu­ments about policy. This is not an argument about whether the Con­sti­tution is good, it’s an argument about policy. So if Jef­ferson and Hamilton argued about that, you know, cer­tainly there’s room for that here without being adversarial.”