In a 3-2 split, the White Salmon City Council voted down a motion to adopt Mayor David Poucher’s proposed declaration of diversity and inclusiveness.
The decision came after about an hour and a half of public testimony and council discussion, and Coun-cilor Tao Berman’s motion to adopt the resolution put forward by the mayor.
In the final issue, Councilors Donna Heimke, Jason Sabourin, and Allan Wolf voted against Ber-man’s motion. Kimberly Hoppus seconded the motion and voted for it. Only Wolf did not comment on the issue during discussion.
Sabourin suggested the resolution is a political statement and that it’s not the council’s role to make political statements. Instead, he focused on the personal responsibility people have to one another and their community.
“I believe it is each and everyone individually, our responsibility to make White Salmon a loving and welcoming community,” Sabourin said.
Berman, who spoke first, thank-ed the community members who turned out for the hearing for their involvement. He stated his strong belief that the resolution was not a political statement, and that it was properly before the council for consideration.
“The opposition I’ve heard to the resolution, it seems that the paint point is, there are already rules that outline this, and I can appreciate that,” Berman said, “but sometimes we need to reiterate what those rules are, because if we don’t do that, people tend to forget them.”
Heimke said the community in general already practices what the resolution states. “Our problem is, we don’t see it in action.”
She concluded, “A piece of paper isn’t going to make it happen. What’s going to make it happen is a resolution in each one of us to make White Salmon a place where everyone is welcome.”
Below is the proposed Poucher resolution:
RESOLUTION NO. 2017-01-451
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY OF WHITE SALMON MAKING A DECLARATION OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVENESS
WHEREAS, the City of White Salmon recognizes that dignity and equal rights of all people are the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace; and that human rights belong to everyone equally;
WHEREAS, the City of White Salmon recognizes that the diversity of our community brings cultural expressions that enhance our city’s vibrancy;
WHEREAS, the City of White Salmon has long demonstrated our commitment to human rights and will continue to do so;
WHEREAS, the City of White Salmon commits to treating everyone with respect and without judgment or bias;
WHEREAS, the City of White Salmon condemns violence and crimes and expresses solidarity with all citizens of our city and will use all means necessary to prosecute offenders;
WHEREAS, all members of our community deserve to live healthy, happy, rewarding lives, free of fear;
THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF WHITE SALMON, WASHINGTON DO[ES] RESOLVE AS FOLLOWS:
The City of White Salmon stands with all members of our community. The City of White Salmon rejects bigotry, hate and fear. The City of White Salmon promotes respect for all persons.
The Poucher resolution had to compete last Wednesday with a declaration of unity among diverse peoples put forward by Herb Hardin, who lives in the city’s unincorporated urban growth area. Copies of this document were placed by Hardin at the sign-in table. The city did not distribute copies of the Poucher resolution at the hearing.
White Salmon resident Margaret Neuman offered testimony on March 15 for the Poucher resolution, though she said she preferred the wording in the declaration she presented on Feb. 1 on behalf of the Columbia Gorge Women’s Network. She wrote to The Enterprise on Monday that Hardin’s competing “unity” proposal skewed the process.
”Readers should have an understanding of what this resolution was (and was not), especially since a hard copy of a different resolution (from Herb, which was not on the agenda) was distributed at the sign-in table,” Neuman wrote in an e-mail. “We believe this situation created a lot of confusion for the meeting attendees.”
More than 30 people signed up to give input, for and against the idea of making a declaration affirming what is already the city’s policy in the matters of non-discrimination, diversity, and inclusiveness. An unofficial head count showed 18 people favored adoption of a declaration and eight opposed that action. One commenter expressed support for a resolution declaring White Salmon is a sanctuary city that welcomes immigrants.
Some commenters said it is important for city officials to make a welcoming statement toward the community’s minority groups and to those individuals who can’t fully enjoy or use local services because of their undocumented immigration status.
Opponents said a declaration is unnecessary, since it would not be legally binding. These commenters said the nation’s founding documents, the state constitution, and bodies of law provided legal protections against the types of policing activities feared by proponents.
Police Chief Tracy Wyckoff told the assembly that the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department does not and never will engage in racial profiling or other discriminatory practices.
“We do not, never have, and have no intention to look at people for immigration status,” Wyckoff said. “We need you to trust us that we’re not violating anyone’s lives or civil rights.”
Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer echoed Wyckoff’s comments when called on. He said the Sheriff’s Office does cooperate with federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but acts only on arrest warrants. He said if KCSO discovers during an investigation a criminal is an illegal immigrant, “ICE is going to get a call.”