ELY – A standing-room-only crowd filled the Ely City Council chambers Tuesday night, flirting with the 98-person capacity warning, for Round Two of the Dan Forsman Facebook post fallout.
Many Ely-area residents who attended the meeting appeared to be in support of the City Council member who has endured a firestorm of criticism for a Facebook post he shared on a private Hillary Clinton supporter page called Pantsuit Nation that featured a photograph of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous suicide doctor, with the words, “Do you suffer from Trump Acceptance Rejection Disorder (TARD) Ask your doctor if suicide is right for you.”
Most of those who packed the chambers seemed to be curious onlookers who wanted to witness how the issue played out. The support of what was said was manifested in the level of applause exhibited.
Everyone in the room heard what the community has called for: an apology from Forsman.
“Suicide is no laughing matter,” Forsman said. “(What I did), has personally affected my family and friends, and I had no intention to belittle or discredit that important issue. It is an important fact that we live with every day. I sincerely apologize for the reference to suicide in the meme that was shared. What I did was in a personal setting and in no way a statement or a position of the city of Ely.”
Those words brought loud and sustained applause from the audience.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ely Mayor Chuck Novak commented on the fallout from the Forsman Facebook post. He mentioned the dozens of emails and telephone calls he received over the issue. “I had some folks who were understanding, and I had some folks who were absolutely not understanding. I had some folks who called for my resignation over this,” Novak said. “That ain’t gonna happen, folks.” (thunderous applause)
He addressed the call for the City Council to remove Forsman from office. “We have no authority for that in state statute or city charter,” Novak said. “You people who vote have that choice.” (more applause)
Novak went on to say that Forsman’s actions were done on personal time outside of his position on the council. “This was not council action, This was not council business. The unfortunate part is that an individual in private life may also have a public life, and they get linked together. This is something that we learn, some the hard way,” he said. “There is a fine line between public and private (life).”
The agenda included two requests from the public to appear before the council to make comments. Ely business owner Peta Barrett requested to have a discussion on tolerance. She was joined at the podium by Ely resident Carol Orban.
The spoke on behalf of EMPOWER, a local grassroots organization for women. “Our hope is that our message tonight positively resonates with the Ely City Council members and the adults in our community. We wish to improve interpersonal communication in this city. Our organization strives to work with the guiding principles of respect, responsibility, fairness and integrity. We believe that our conduct and everyone else’s is best when it ensures that all who live here or visit our community feel safe and respected. We encourage all adults in our community to adopt a similar code of conduct.” (no applause)
Barrett echoed comments she made at the last council meeting about her love for the Ely community and her business that focuses on empowering women. “My business brings commerce to this town,” Barrett said. “My clients spend plenty of money at merchants all around town. People from around the country return to Ely year after year. We all want that to continue for years to come.”
She talked about the choice tourists have on where they visit and spend their money. “Dan Forsman’s unfortunate Facebook post thrust Ely into the hot seat. What feels like a very threatening message could be damaging to Ely’s reputation and our tourist industry.” (no applause)
Ely resident Gerald Tyler also requested to appear to comment on the issue. “I hope that Dan will not resign. What he can offer the City Council I think will help the city grow,” he said.
Tyler said he embraced Barrett’s comments. “This community is on the verge of flying out of control,” he said. He referenced the recent graffiti vandalism incidents (see separate story) to make his case about the mining debate in the community. “I have friends who do not believe in mining. We are friends who are only opposed. We are not hateful toward each other. We are not here to cause hurt or harm to anyone. Let’s try to have a civil discussion about mining without engaging in any more of what he have experienced.” (applause)
City Council members then unanimously approved a “Resolution of the Ely City Council Commitment to the Citizens of Ely.” It stated, “The City of Ely reaffirms its commitment to: act with honesty and integrity; promote an inclusive environment for all citizens; and to promote respect for others and encourage tolerance for the diverse points of view held by all our citizens.”
Following the council’s business meeting, several residents made remarks during the open forum portion of the agenda. Many were in support of Forsman and thanked him for his apology and mostly duplicated the sentiment expressed by Dan’s own mother.
Mike Forsman, Dan’s father, read a message from his wife. “She didn’t want to come tonight,” he said. “She watched the tape of the last (council) study session where, in her opinion, a group of women came up and bullied our son and she felt very bad and said she didn’t want to see Dan bullied again.”
He said he texted his wife and said things have changed. “The civility in this room has been, in my opinion, overwhelming, on both sides of the issue,” he said.
“She wrote, ‘Dan posted a meme, a political cartoon. It was not meant to be hateful or hurtful. I am sorry that so many of you have missed the message of the meme and interpreted it in so many ways that Dan could not have foreseen. This election was stressful for all of the country. I think most of us didn’t trust either candidate. The meme was also a message for us not to be so depressed or discouraged by the result that we would express a will to die or move to another country or protest in the street. We need to accept the results of the election. We need to put our lives into perspective and focus on what is most important to all of us, to enjoy our lives as much as we can.’” (applause)