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06/13/2017

Town Council adopts resolution welcoming all people

The Town Council voted 5-2 on June 13, 2017 to adopt a resolution welcoming all people to our community.

The resolution is a revised version of a statement submitted by the Cape Diversity Coalition on June 6, the day after a workshop when councilors reviewed the initial proposal presented by the group in April.

At that workshop, councilors hoped to reach consensus on a statement that did not hold "unintended consequences." In preparation for the workshop, Councilor Penny Jordan drafted a version deleting references to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, but at the meeting June 13 she moved to adopt the coalition's latest draft that retains those references.

"I haven't changed my mind because I have always supported a resolution," Jordan said. "My whole premise is about inclusion, and if you can create a resolution that achieves the objectives of inclusion ... then I can go there," she said.

Speakers from the Cape Diversity Coalition urged councilors to adopt their version because it did name specific groups of people. "Our coalition brought this to your group, just as many other communities across our state and nation have brought this to their towns, because of a recognition in our current times, things are happening to marginalize populations that we need to name and address," said Maureen Clancy of Hemlock Hill Road. "Without naming things, without bringing this forward, then we're ignoring the things that may exist in our community," she said.

The School Board on May 9 voted to support a similar resolution [news article], also proposed by the Cape Diversity Coalition, after hearing testimony from members, and from students who had experienced abuse first-hand because of religion, physical appearance and culture. At the council's meeting June 12, Ocean House Road resident Mohammed Nasir Shir reported verbal abuse of his own children on a school bus, and reminded councilors of an incident at a High School football game this fall which gave rise to the Cape Diversity Coalition. "I'm interested in this resolution to prove to my kids that there is hope, that there is democracy, and democracy does work in this town," he said. "We want to take the negative energy and turn it around to a positive energy."

Voting against the resolution were councilors Kathy Ray and Jessica Sullivan - Sullivan saying she was undecided right up until the council vote. Both said they supported the idea behind the resolution, but that the Cape Diversity Coalition's version could potentially exclude other groups of people, and that the council had no place in something they perceived as a political statement.

Council Chair Jamie Garvin, who supported the resolution, said he believed the Town Council has a duty to act on it. "I do think that one of our most fundamental functions is that of providing and modeling leadership for the community," he said, referring to an article in the town charter outlining duties and responsibilities of the Town Council. He said he had some concern about the adopted version's reference to specific groups, but that he would support any of the three versions that were under consideration.

Caitlin Jordan, another councilor, said she initially favored Penny Jordan's draft, but came to terms with the Cape Diversity Coalition version. "It's acceptable in the fact that all we're doing is saying, 'let's be nice'," Caitlin Jordan said. "We're not doing anything more."

Both the town attorney and police chief reviewed the draft that was ultimately adopted and had no issues, said Town Manager Matthew Sturgis.

Here is the text of the adopted resolution [download]:

Respectfully submitted on 6/6/2017 to the Town Council by Cape Diversity Coalition

RESOLUTION WELCOMING ALL PEOPLE INTO OUR COMMUNITY

WHEREAS, the United States of America is a country that has always prided itself on being welcoming of immigrants persecuted in other lands seeking religious and civil liberty;

WHEREAS, native and foreign-born residents of many faiths and cultures have richly contributed to the quality of life in Cape Elizabeth;

WHEREAS, Cape Elizabeth prides itself on being a community fostering neither fear nor division, but instead respect and tolerance of difference;

WHEREAS, we, the elected officials of Cape Elizabeth, have an important leadership role in representing our Town's collective values against discrimination, violence, and hate;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED, that the Town of Cape Elizabeth:

1. Welcomes residents of all cultures, celebrates the benefits of a pluralistic society, and respects the right of every person or group to live and practice their self-determined identity, culture, and faith without fear;

2. Condemns actions of hate, violence, or discrimination directed against any citizen or group, including but not limited to immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and any persons unjustly or unfairly treated due to their religion, ethnicity, race, class, nationality, country of origin, age, ability, sexuality, or gender;

3. Affirms that anyone targeted on the basis of such differences should be able to turn to the Town's officials and fellow citizens without fear of discrimination;

4. Encourages forums and other opportunities where civil and respectful dialogue may take place to promote better understanding and mutual appreciation among our residents.