The Westfield City Council on Monday night rejected a proposed ordinance that would have established an advisory council on disabilities.
The council voted 5-2 against the ordinance sponsored by Councilman Scott Willis. Only Willis and Councilman Jake Gilbert voted in favor of the measure.
Other council members expressed support for the sentiment behind the proposal, but they said they felt it was not the role of the government. They suggested involving organizations such as the Westfield Chamber of Commerce as a path forward.
“This is really important stuff—very important to me on many levels personally and for the community,” council member Cindy Spoljaric said. “I just don’t know that this is the best way to do it.”
Willis noted that cities such as Carmel and Fishers already codified similar ordinances.
“We’re behind in Westfield when it comes to this kind of a program,” Willis said.
He said in a presentation that the purpose of the disability advisory council was to represent the needs and interests of people with disabilities in Westfield. It would have also provided a platform for people in the disability community to express the challenges and issues they face.
The advisory council would have partnered with the city to establish strategies to address the needs of people with disabilities in the community, Willis said.
It would have consisted of the city’s ADA coordinator, two community members selected by Mayor Andy Cook, two community members chosen by the city council, one city council member, the Westfield Washington Schools director of student services and a member of the city’s human resources department.
“The best way to summarize this council is just to say that it gives a voice to those with disabilities in Westfield,” Willis told IBJ before Monday’s meeting. “In terms of things like infrastructure projects, workforce development, transportation, support groups, and it can really address a variety of things.”
Joanne Tedesco, a mother of a 12-year-old daughter with special needs, told IBJ that she and other advocates were disappointed in the vote. However, she said they appreciated the city council considering the measure and they plan to keep working on the issue.
“I think that’s a positive, even though it was a negative outcome. We have to look at it as a positive and have to keep moving forward,” Tedesco said.
Mayor Cook read a proclamation early in Monday’s meeting honoring Disability Awareness Month.