Leelanau Leadership Equates Abortion with Racism, Struggle to Define and Pass Anti-Racism Resolution

Leelanau County leaders struggled to define racism during a nearly five-hour meeting Tuesday, just days after former road commissioner Tom Eckerle said the N-word and blamed the coronavirus crisis on Black Detroiters.

The board condemned former road commissioner Tom Eckerle’s comments but could not agree on what does, and does not, constitute racism in order to write an anti-racism resolution.

“The word ‘racism’ means different things to different people,” said commissioner Debra Rushton during the meeting. “We see one sort of racism condemned, but yet the racism against our police forces….seems to be accepted.”

Chairman William Bunek equated name calling of law enforcement to racism.

“I have in there about law enforcement, and how they’re called ‘pigs’ or whatever. I mean, that’s another example of racism,” said Bunek.

At least two commissioners, Will Bunek and Melinda Lautner, drew comparisons between abortion and racism; and want their resolution to reflect and acknowledge “high” abortion rates specifically in the Black community.

“Abortion…28 to 36% are Black. If we added that [to the resolution] as an example that shows racism…we could put that in there,” said Bunek.

9&10 News has not independently confirmed these statistics and it is unclear where they were drawing their references from.

Lautner echoed these abortion-related comments during the meeting.

“Today, we speak about racism and someone said we have genocide: Black abortions…it’s maybe the truest form of racism going on and it offends me,” said Lautner.

9&10 called Bunek, Rushton and Lautner on Wednesday to understand the comments. Only Lautner was reachable and responded.

“In the context of the racist comments that have been made in Leelanau County, what does abortion have to do with passing an anti-racism measure?” asked 9&10.

Lautner said, “That was thrown out there by another commissioner as an irony, perhaps, because ironically we wouldn’t pass a resolution that’s in support of life and here we are passing a resolution that is anti-racism when we are….aborting so many African American children.”

9&10: “Why couldn’t the board condemn racism without bringing in a totally separate issue?”

Lautner said “Because I do believe we’ll pass another resolution in support of life, and when we do that, we are in support of life, we are in support of all those lives.”

She continued by saying she does not believe racism in a problem in Leelanau County and doubled down on her belief that Black babies need to be saved from abortion, and the issue is related to anti-racism talks.

Commissioner Rushton also added during the meeting she wants the word ‘racial’ removed from a line about equality.

“Why do we have to segregate people into groups? [Racial] in itself is a racial slur, so I would like to see that eliminated,” she said.

Thursday, the Northern Michigan E3, formerly known as the Anti-Racism Task Force, is expected to hold a press conference to respond to these comments.

Leelanau County employees and residents say they’re upset by all of the swirling comments.

“I don’t know how mentioning abortion or views on that one way or another or how many people get aborted every year helps anything either. People have religious beliefs and are entitled to their opinion,” said resident Dave Buchanan.

“We’re all human beings. There’s no color. There’s no….all of that. We are all together. We’re all here to try to make it through this pandemic,” said employee Ashley Macksey.

Commissioners have yet to pass an anti-racism resolution but they hope to introduce new language at their meeting next week.

To watch Tuesday night’s board meeting in its entirety, click here.