A lily-white Ohio suburb is doing everything it can, including risking millions in federal highway funding, to keep mostly minority bus-riders from a nearby city from entering their community.
The showdown began in 2010 when the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority proposed adding three new bus stops in Beavercreek, a largely white suburb 15 minutes east of Dayton. These new stops would give Dayton bus-riders access to Beavercreek’s major shopping mall and nearby businesses, as well as a medical clinic and Wright State University.
Facing the prospect of buses coming in from Dayton, the Beavercreek City Council began enacting as many hurdles as they could to stop the new bus stops. Among the dozen roadblocks included mandating that bus shelters included heated and air conditioning as well as high-tech surveillance cameras, features that would be hugely expensive and are not common at other stops. Unsurprisingly, these demands couldn’t be met and the council rejected the expansion. “We turned downed an application because they didn’t meet our (design) criteria,” Beavercreek City Councilman Scott Hadley explained to Eye On Ohio.
Many in the area argue that their opposition boils down to a simple reason: race. According to the 2010 census, 9 in 10 Beavercreek residents are white, but 73 percent of those who ride the Dayton RTA buses are minorities. “I can’t see anything else but it being a racial thing,” Sam Gresham, state chair of Common Cause Ohio, a public interest advocacy group, told ThinkProgress. “They don’t want African Americans going on a consistent basis to Beavercreek.”
A civil rights group in the area, Leaders for Equality in Action in Dayton (LEAD), soon filed a discrimination lawsuit against Beavercreek under the Federal Highway Act. In June, the Federal Highway Administration ruled that Beavercreek’s actions were indeed discriminatory and ordered them to work with the Dayton Regional Transit Authority to get the bus stops approved without delay.
Beavercreek, though, isn’t particularly keen to do that. The city council voted most recently on Friday to put off consideration of the matter until later this month. They are weighing whether to appeal the federal ruling, or perhaps whether to just defy it altogether. Appealing the ruling could cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, according to a Washington D.C. lawyer the council hired. However, non-compliance with the ruling could cost Beavercreek tens of millions of dollars in federal highway funds.
The city council has until September 11, 2013 to begin complying with the Federal Highway Administration order. They will meet again on August 12 to decide how to proceed.
Gresham, for one, is flabbergasted that the council would even consider risking millions of dollars in federal highway funds. “Their worldview and logic are two entirely separate things,” he said.