Petition challenging Safe City vote certified

  • The Greenfield City Council approves the safe city ordinance July 17 during a meeting at the John Zon Community Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/12/2019 10:52:04 PM

GREENFIELD — With 357 signatures, the second safe city petition has been certified.

The first citizen’s petition filed by Douglas Cloutier sought to rescind the safe city ordinance the City Council passed in a 10 to 3 vote July 17. It was submitted five days later to the city clerk, but failed to meet the requirements of the city charter.

So, Cloutier submitted a second petition on Aug. 5. According to City Clerk Kathy Scott, the second petition was reviewed by the city’s attorney, Gordon Quinn.

Quinn was tasked with determining whether “the measure as proposed may lawfully be proposed by the initiative process; whether, in its present form it may be lawfully adopted by the Town Council ... and whether the town clerk may issue blank forms,” according to the city charter.

“Based on information you recently provided to me, the combined number of ‘certified’ signatures on these documents (357) enables this citizens referendum petition to meet the voter number requirement set forth in Section 7-8(a) of the City Charter,” Quinn wrote in an email. “Therefore, the City Council can now proceed to consider and address this petition as provided under Section 7-8(a) of the City Charter.”

According to section 7-8(a), the City Council will reconsider its vote at its next regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 21, and if it is not rescinded, the question will go on the ballot at the next regular election or at a special election.

The second petition includes additional language for a potential ballot question.

“We understand that if the measure as listed herein is not rescinded, that the City Council shall provide for the submission of the question for a determination by the voters either at a special election, which it may call at its convenience, or at the next regular city election,” the petition states. “In that event, we request the following referendum question be submitted to the voters for a determination: Shall the following measure protested against, which was proposed by voters in a referendum petition, take effect?

“Shall the following vote of the Greenfield City Council on July 17, 2019 be rescinded: Order No. FY 20-016 which passed an ordinance establishing the City of Greenfield as a Safe City. A ‘yes’ vote rescinds the City Council adoption of the ordinance as voted on July 17, 2019. A ‘no’ vote leaves the City Council adoption of the ordinance in effect as voted on July 17, 2019.”

In addition, a motion for reconsideration of the safe city ordinance vote is also on the agenda of the Aug. 21 City Council meeting.

Precinct 1 City Councilor Verne Sund, who voted in favor of the safe city ordinance during the July 17 meeting, submitted a motion for reconsideration two days later, stating, “Even though I care for everyone, there will be a possible loss of federal funds for veterans.”

Sund said he isn’t against the safe city ordinance and plans on presenting an amendment when it comes before the council.

“I found out there was a federal law approved on July 12 and there’s a possibility of some things in the safe city ordinance, if they aren’t redone, could cause vets to lose funding,” Sund explained. “There are a lot of veterans in Greenfield. I want everyone to have rights. As much as I want undocumented immigrants to be protected, I want veterans to be protected.”

The case that Sund learned about, City of Los Angeles v. William Barr in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of the Department of Justice as within its right to withhold grant funding to sanctuary cities and states.

Even if the City Council were to approve a motion to reconsider, no amendments could be made. The council would either approve or disapprove the ordinance, as it is proposed, Scott said.

The ordinance affirms that “Greenfield is a welcoming city, which embraces everyone including but not limited to the immigrant, the refugee, the asylum seeker and anyone of good faith and good will who wishes to be a member of our community.”

While it is not the sanctuary city ordinance City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud proposed in 2017 — which was defeated in a City Council vote of four in favor and six opposed — the safe city ordinance is similar. The safe city ordinance prohibits city officials from asking about a person’s immigration status, targeting someone or discriminating against an institution providing refuge to immigrants and their families and taking law enforcement action against someone on the basis of perceived immigration status.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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