Every year at Greenwood’s annual Independence Day celebration, visitors can buy food from vendors, purchase items from local businesses or learn about local civic or nonprofit groups.
More than 150 vendors will set up booths throughout Craig Park on Saturday, where more than 50,000 people are expected to attend Greenwood’s Freedom Festival. But this year, as you walk from a health care provider’s booth to a vendor selling greasy food, you’ll find a few Greenwood residents who are fed up with city government and looking for your support.
Dale Marmaduke and Claude Tate rarely miss Greenwood City Council meetings. Every two weeks, at those meetings, they try to grab city officials’ undivided attention and express their disdain with the city’s rules and ordinances.
Now, they’ll pass along their message to as many people as they can Saturday. But the message won’t be solely about ordinances and city rules that overstep boundaries, they said. Both will be encouraging residents to vote, or even run for office to change the way Greenwood government operates, they said.
“When my wife saw the announcement about Freedom Festival, she said Greenwood is taking away property rights — that’s not freedom,” Tate said. “I want people to understand the city council is taking away their property rights with these ordinances. So far, I haven’t seen the city council move forward in a direction with this that suggests they are reasonable.”
The issue: Tate and Marmaduke say Greenwood has rules in place that cross the line from enforcing logical city rules to telling residents how to manage their personal property.
The city has rules that state boats, campers and commercial vehicles such as semis and trailers of all types must be parked on a hard surface that covers the entire length and width of the vehicle.
For Tate, that means he can’t store the trailer he and his wife use to haul canoes on his own property in the backyard or side of his home because it would be sitting on grass.
At Marmaduke’s home, the city has taken an issue with a compost pile in his backyard, Marmaduke said. Code enforcement officers posted a notice on Marmaduke’s door, informing him that a compost pile in his backyard was against city rules and needed to be removed.
That action is an overreach of government, Marmaduke said.
At Tate’s home, code enforcement told him he couldn’t have his trailer parked on his property, Tate said. He called city hall with questions and learned he couldn’t store the trailer to the side of his home nor could he park it in his backyard because it would be sitting on grass, Tate said.
Both continue to attend city meetings to express their point of view: the city shouldn’t tell residents what they can or cannot do in their backyard, on their own property.
“I believe the city council is very arrogant and self-righteous on issues of individual rights,” Marmaduke said. “Unfortunately, we can’t vote them out for another three years, but I’m going to start campaigning people to vote, or even run for mayor. I want the city council and my mayor to know I’m campaigning for people to run for city government and vote, to choose who they have up there.”
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers is aware of the issues both continue to bring in front of city officials, Myers said.
“Everyone has their right to speak and voice their opinion. If they want a booth, they can have their booth. We don’t limit anybody,” Myers said. “I know what Mr. Marmaduke has to say — I don’t agree. But, let them have their booth.”
Booth rental cost residents such as Tate and Marmaduke $75 each, Marmaduke said.
Earlier this year, Tate and his wife protested by hanging a trailer from a tree in their front yard. Technically, they were following the rules, because the trailer wasn’t parked in the grass. It was dangling from a tree in the front yard of their home.
Both Tate and Marmaduke said their concerns are ignored, and renting a booth where they can attempt massive public outreach is one of the few options they have left to prove their point.
Tate has a petition against the ordinance that says he can’t park his trailer on his own property and it’s been signed by more than 300 Greenwood residents in an effort to show council members more people think like he does and are against the city’s rules, Tate said.
Tate will have people sign the petition on Saturday evening, hoping to gain strength in numbers the next time he speaks to the city council, Tate said.