Village Council— A stronger sanctuary stance
- Published: December 20, 2018
Council strengthened its public statement as a “Welcoming Community” with the passing of a new resolution at its regular meeting on Dec. 3.
In new language, the measure prohibits discrimination based on federal immigration status and states the Village supports efforts to “welcome and offer sanctuary to immigrants and others who are being targeted on the basis of religion, nationality, culture, gender identify, race or citizenship status.”
The resolution, which updates one from 2017, does not go so far as to say that the Village is a “Sanctuary City,” however.
That’s because there was concern that such a statement may draw unwanted attention to those seeking safety here, according to Pat Dewees, who recently suggested a revised measure.
Dewees, who argued for a new resolution due to an uptick of immigration enforcement activity in the region, also thanked Council for its efforts.
“I think there is a perception that there is some risk to standing up to what is happening when it comes to the abuses of immigrants. I appreciate that Council has responded with seriousness and consideration,” Dewees said.
She added that she sees that Council’s work is not done with this resolution.
“I feel it’s an ongoing commitment of Council to make sure our community is a safe community and a welcoming community,” she said.
Council President Brian Housh said he was encouraged by the measure.
“I believe this is an important stand to take,” he said.
The Yellow Springs Police Department is already following the practices outlined in the resolution, Housh added.
“I recently heard a story that made me very happy about the way our officers treat these situations,” he said.
Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen proposed the initial measure in 2017, soon after Trump stated his “zero-tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigrants. At the advice of the Village solicitor, Council stopped short of declaring Yellow Springs a sanctuary city, and instead passed a resolution affirming itself as a welcoming community to all.
Sanctuary cities are municipalities that have adopted policies to limit their cooperation with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. These policies include a city instructing its police not to question people about their immigration status and refusing to hold undocumented people for ICE to pick up.
According to Police Chief Brian Carlson, local police are continuing a policy of not detaining anyone based solely on immigration issues.
In other Council business—
• Sanford sworn in
At the meeting on Dec. 3, Kineta Sanford was officially sworn in and took her seat on Council. Sanford was selected last month in a unanimous Council vote to replace Judith Hempfling, who resigned with a year left in her term.
• Justice commission moves ahead
The role of the police in a Justice System Commission was again a topic of discussion as Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance creating the new commission.
Council members who spoke said they favored having police officers, the Chief, as well as the Mayor and Village Manager, serve as ex-officio, or non-voting members of the commission.
Kevin Stokes said he sees the purpose of the commission as elected officials and staff members together “co-creating” public safety.
“We are talking about bringing all the parties to the table, all the stakeholders to the table, to create something that is mutually beneficial,” Stokes said.
To Lisa Kreeger, the participation of police is critical, but Council should also consider the need for commission members to occasionally meet without them.
“To say that those ex-officio members must always be present is to negate those perspectives of community members who may be afraid or have a lack of trust,” Kreeger said.
From the floor, former Justice System Task Force chair Pat Dewees said the ex-officio members’ roles need to be clarified because, as her research shows, they can sometimes overpower a commission, while at other times they don’t show up for meetings. Corey White suggested Officer Dave Meister be selected as the ex-officio officer, since he “seems to be able to connect and relate to the community.” And Shawn Tulecke-Paulson strongly opposed the presence of police on the commission, as he thinks it may deter victims of police misconduct from speaking freely about their experiences.
• Deficit budget passes first reading
Council members unanimously passed the first reading of the Village budget for next year. The budget includes about a half million dollars in deficit spending for 2019. The Village’s estimated expenses are $3.9 million, while $3.4 million of revenue is projected.
The deficit is linked to a projected increase in capital projects to improve the Village’s infrastructure, as well as the more conservative budgeting style of new Finance Director Colleen Harris.
“It’s a good budget. It’s a conservative budget. It has a lot of room for repairs. And we need it for January 1st,” Harris said.
Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns addressed those capital investments at the meeting.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done, and we are in a positive track to get it done,” Burns said.
From the floor, villager Pat Brown thanked Council for committing $60,000 to Home, Inc. over two years for the local nonprofit’s Glen Cottages affordable housing development.
A request by Patti Bates and Burns for $18,000 to be earmarked for an engineering study of turning Beatty Hughes Park into a parking lot was turned down by Council members, who asked for more discussion.
Although Bates contended that the park is underused, MacQueen, for one, would like to see more discussion of parking needs.
“I’d rather not spend money on an engineering study before we decide whether we need it,” MacQueen said.
• Ice storm cost $40,000
An ice storm that hit Yellow Springs on November 14–15 cost the Village $40,000 in three hours, according to Burns.
“The ice storm knocked out [power to] 300 homes,” Burns said.
“That was just a small ice storm,” he added, unlike the “major ice storm” that struck six years ago.
In a follow-up email, Burns said the money was spent on staff overtime, equipment, materials (wires, connections, poles, fuses, etc.) and the use of a tree service to help remove trees from power lines. The Village is also covering the cost to pick up branches left curbside from local households, Burns added.
• Citizen concerns
During the citizen concerns portion of the meeting, Marnie Neumann detailed the health problems that she believes are due to the smart meters installed on local homes in 2016 to measure electricity use. Ken Odiorne suggested that Council President Housh ask for “nays” during Council votes. And Tulecke-Paulson told Council he felt victimized during an interaction at the previous Council meeting and asked Council to pass a resolution drafted by a citizen group, the YS Police Accountability Coalition.
• Lock lobby at night?
Council looked at a proposal to lock the John Bryan Community Center at night. Bates suggested the measure to address the frequent problems of people entering late at night to sleep in the center. Those people can be difficult for staff to account for and sometimes leave messes in the lobby and bathrooms, she explained.
“We’ve had to decontaminate the lobby on several occasions, and we’ve had to have the bathrooms sanitized, for lack of a better word,” Bates said.
While the police dispatcher and others on duty attempt to help the individuals find a place to sleep, “they refuse to leave, stay in the lobby, and demand food and drink from our staff,” Bates said.
The problem has been growing worse in recent months, and on one recent night three people were sleeping inside the center, Bates added.
A memo presented to Council proposes that the community center be locked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. It also details the investment in a system in which a visitor would have to be buzzed into the center from the vestibule, which will remain open from the outside.
People will be allowed inside to use the restrooms, and attempts to help those who are homeless will continue, Bates affirmed.
Council was generally supportive, but no action was taken.
• Public comment policy clarified
Housh clarified Council’s procedures, including its three-minute citizen comment period, which he said Council will be “very strict” about keeping.
Housh added that while Council considers public comment important, it is not guaranteed by law.
“There is no charter mention of the three minutes and a lot of councils don’t allow citizen comments at all,” he said.
Council’s next meeting will be on Monday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.