Safe city ordinance up for consideration again

Staff Writer
Published: 7/8/2019 10:43:57 PM

GREENFIELD – A safe city ordinance is being proposed once again by City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud.

While it is not the same ordinance proposed in 2017 by Renaud, which was defeated in a City Council vote of four in favor and six opposed at an Aug. 16, 2017 meeting, it is similar.

A public hearing to discuss a safe city ordinance as well as changes to the citizen referendum procedures will be held Wednesday, July 10, 6:30 p.m. in the Greenfield High School Cafeteria.

The safe city ordinance that will be in front of the Appointments and Ordinances Committee is to “affirm 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,” according to the ordinance.

If passed, the ordinance would prohibit city officials from asking about a person’s immigration status, targeting someone or discriminating against an institution providing refuge to immigrants and their families, take law enforcement action against someone on the basis of perceived immigration status and other methods of “maintaining a safe city.”

“Nothing in this ordinance shall prohibit or restrain any city official sending to, or receiving from, any local, state or federal agency, information regarding citizenship or immigration status, consistent with 8 U.S.C. section 1373,” according to the ordinance.

If passed by the Appointments and Ordinances Committee, the ordinance would go to the City Council for a vote at its July 17 meeting.

Renaud said she submitted the ordinance because she feels it is as important to pass today as it was two years ago.

“A vocal majority came out in support of the ordinance two years ago,” Renaud said. “It didn’t pass when many people wanted it to be. The treatment of immigrants has only gotten worse in those two years.”

Renaud added that the ordinance has been legally vetted by the state Attorney General, the city solicitors of Easthampton and Springfield, and will be voted on at the Easthampton City Council on Wednesday evening.

City Councilors Otis Wheeler, Sheila Gilmour and Norman Hirschfeld support the ordinance. Gilmour and Wheeler both said they ran on support of the safe city ordinance two years ago.

“We are a nation founded by immigrants, and someone emigrating from Guatemala has as much right to be here as I do, especially at a time when our schools and our economy are threatened by population decline,” wrote Wheeler in an email. “Borders are an artificial construct promoting tribalism, war, and needless human suffering, and the detention centers operated by the current administration create a moral imperative.”

Gilmour, who is running for mayor, said she recalls when speaking to residents in her precinct that many people were in support of the safe city ordinance and she echoed Renaud’s sentiment.

“Two years ago a vast majority of citizens wanted (the ordinance) to pass,” Gilmour said. “One of the problems was that the council has not always represented the people of Greenfield, and the people started to pay attention. Now things are changing. There are babies being detained and it’s not happening at the Canadian border, it’s happening at the Mexican border.”

She added that while many residents wish they were able to directly support human rights and prevent human rights violations, passing the safe city ordinance is the least they can do.

Hirschfeld said while he “hasn’t gone over the ordinance completely,” he’s generally in agreement with the safe city ordinance.

“Other cities have implemented this type of ordinance and I am strongly in favor of having it passed here in Greenfield,” Hirschfeld said.

Councilor Vern Sund said he doesn’t know how he would vote.

“I think Greenfield is safe anyway,” Sund said. “People who come into town are welcome to come in as long as they obey laws. In my eyes, eventually people should become citizens of the United States, but I feel that as long as they uphold laws, they are more than welcome.”

Councilor Brickett Allis’s opinion is similar to Sund’s.

“Generally, I see Greenfield as very open to all different types of people with different types of lifestyles,” Allis said. “To my knowledge, I don’t know about any people who have been targeted. We want to affirm we are okay with anyone’s immigrant status, but this feels like a solution in search of a problem.”

Allis, who is running for mayor, added he prefers not to state how he will vote before a meeting because new information may be presented that will inform his vote.

Councilor Tim Dolan was unable to comment because he is away until July 16. Councilors Mark Benson, Wanda Pyfrom, Douglas Mayo, Isaac Mass, Penny Ricketts and Ashli Stemple were unable to be reached.

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