Petition submitted to overturn council’s safe city vote

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

Staff Writer
Published: 7/23/2019 10:14:58 PM

GREENFIELD — A citizen’s petition seeking to rescind the safe city ordinance vote has been filed with the city clerk — filed on the same day as Precinct 1 City Councilor Verne Sund submitted a motion for reconsideration that puts the ordinance back in front of the council at its regular meeting Aug. 21.

“We, the undersigned 10 voters ... pursuant to Section 7-7(a) and Section 7-8 (b) of the Town of Greenfield Home Rule Charter, hereby protest, and seek the immediate rescission of the (ordinance), approved finally by the Town Council on July 17, 2019,” reads the petition.

The petition, filed by Douglas Cloutier, was submitted Friday, and, on Monday, began the process outlined in 7-7(a) in the city charter.

City Clerk Kathy Scott delivered a copy of the petition to the city attorney, who has 15 days to answer three questions and report back to City Council.

The attorney must determine if “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.

Scott said the city is waiting to hear from the attorney.

Cloutier could not be reached for comment.

Motion for reconsideration

Meanwhile, Sund, who voted in favor of the safe city ordinance during the July 17 meeting, submitted a motion for reconsideration on Friday, 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 next month.

“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.

He said he learned about the case from a friend, though he “couldn’t say” if the friend was a city councilor or not.

City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud, who proposed the safe city ordinance, said she is optimistic about the ordinance passing and affirmed Sund’s right to reconsider.

“It’s why we have the reconsideration process,” Renaud said. “I know it was a hard vote for him. The reconsideration is part of the process, and it’ll come before the council at its August meeting.”

Renaud could not be reached for comment on Tuesday concerning the citizen’s petition.

At-Large City Councilor Isaac Mass, who voted against the safe city ordinance, said he’s familiar with the City of Los Angeles v. William Barr case, but did not forward it to Sund. He said the case does raise questions for him.

“It raises the question whether the Trump administration will use this decision to expand, cut or prioritize assistance based on this status,” Mass said.

He said the most likely grants that could be impacted would be those through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mass added the ordinance, with amendments he proposed in the City Council meeting, could “prohibit regulatory actions because there is a box to check off asking ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’ on forms for veterans, voter registration forms or license to carry applications.”

“I don’t think the ordinance will be reconsidered, but if it were, I would offer my amendments again to prevent substantial issues other than the fundamental policy issues,” Mass said.

Wednesday approval

The ordinance was approved in a 10-to-3 vote a week ago at the July City Council meeting.

Councilors Douglas Mayo, Timothy Dolan, Mark Berson, Ashli Stempel, Sheila Gilmour, Penny Ricketts, Norman Hirschfeld, Otis Wheeler, Sund and Renaud voted in favor, and councilors Brickett Allis, Wanda Pyfrom and Mass voted against the ordinance.

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 same ordinance Renaud originally proposed in 2017, which was defeated in a City Council vote of four in favor and six opposed, it is similar. The 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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