Press-Republican

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April 8, 2014

City Council may vote on alternative for vigil location

PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City Common Council may officially offer the Bishop’s Apostles for Life a compromise for its Good Friday prayer vigil in front of Planned Parenthood of the North Country Northern New York.

Some councilors are suggesting the group use three parking spaces across Brinkerhoff Street from the clinic instead of immediately in front of it.

Speaking for the Roman Catholic group, Dr. John Middleton said its members now plan to stand on the grassy median between the sidewalk and the street in front of Planned Parenthood, which is public property, instead of using the three parking spaces they had originally requested.

‘FREE-SPEECH ISSUE’

The possible compromise on the part of the council follows a 4-2 vote at the March 13 council session that denied Apostles for Life’s annual request to gather in the three parking spaces in front of Planned Parenthood from 10 to 11 a.m. April 18.

The latest discussion, at the April 3 Common Council meeting, ensued after Mayor James Calnon and City Corporation Counsel John Clute emailed the councilors, asking them to reconsider their decision.

Contacted by the Press-Republican, Calnon said that some of the rationales the dissenting councilors provided on the day of the vote were not as “firmly supported” as he would have liked them to be.

“What I was trying to present to them (in the email) was a case for total objectivity and in the course of that said, ‘Here’s some things that would really make your blood boil, and would you be objective then?’” Calnon said. 

“This is nothing but a free-speech issue.”

On March 13, Councilor Rachelle Armstrong (D-Ward 1) and Becky Kasper (D-Ward 5) had suggested the vigil would disrupt business and take up valuable parking spaces in the downtown area.

Armstrong, Kasper, Josh Kretser (D-Ward 6) and Michael Kelly (D-Ward 2) voted against allowing the Apostles prayer event.

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