Brookings resident and 97415 Indivisible member Candice Michel lambasted the city council Monday night because no one would second a motion made by Councilor Dennis Triglia Sept. 26 to pass a resolution declaring the city a “welcoming and inclusive” community.
The resolution reads in part that Brookings recognizes people and the worth of all races, color, gender identity and age — and “immigration or refugee status” — among identifiers. Also, the document “encourages all residents to unite and work together to promote kindness and understanding … rejecting hatred, bigotry and divisiveness as it strives to protect the freedoms held dear … by the U.S. Constitution.”
Further on in the resolution, however, it reads that pursuant to Oregon law, city services shall be provided regardless of immigration status and is prohibited from using city funds to enforce federal immigration laws.
All the councilors at the September meeting said they felt the city already is welcoming and inclusive, and that some of the proposed wording could lead people to assume Brookings is a “sanctuary city” willing to violate federal law and provide refuge for people in the United States illegally.
They also said such a resolution doesn’t seek to attain anything and is equivalent to one presented by Second Amendment supporters who in the past year asked the city to adopt an ordinance stating that they uphold the Constitution. The council rejected that, saying they already took an oath to do so when they were sworn into office.
Michel, reading a letter by her friend Berma Matteson who could not attend the meeting, said she was surprised the council doesn’t believe there are “problems in Brookings in terms of accepting people.”
Matteson’s letter went on to describe five incidents in which she was involved that made her fear for her safety, including two times when the office windows of the Democratic headquarters on Chetco Avenue were broken, one time by gunshot.
Another incident involved a woman parked next to her at Fred Meyer who had her windows broken out; nothing was stolen, and the only “affront seems to have been an Obama/Biden sticker” on her car, Matteson wrote.
The LGBT community, which used to hold a monthly get-together at a local restaurant, no longer can, after the posting of a meeting announcement on social media resulted in threats to them and the owner of the eatery.
Matteson, who is white, said she went to get her mail and the man across the street was yelling, “I hate n-----,” she said, and, a group that meets at a local fast-food restaurant each morning “regularly proclaims their racism in the most ugly kind of language.
“In a few short years I have had some shocking evidence that Brookings needs to work on the concept of being a welcoming and respectful community,” Matteson wrote. “Brookings isn’t the only small town I have lived in. (But) Brookings is the only community I have lived in which such behavior seems to be acceptable.”
Triglia asked the council if anyone was willing to reconsider his proposal, but City Attorney Martha Rice said a resolution that has failed once cannot be proposed a second time.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Jake Pieper said it was “incredibly ironic” that people who don’t know him can presume that because he is white he has not known prejudice himself.
“I think that the idea that there is a general fear in the community is just nuts,” he said. “It’s offensive to me to assume that about me. It’s racist to say that certain races and genders have never experienced anything like that.”
“Really? Really? Michel said, approaching Pieper after the meeting. “You think you understand discrimination because you’re white and male? I look at this whole council and I see white men. Do you not think you have an elevated position in this society because you’re white men?”
When Councilor Brent Hodges responded, “Absolutely not,” she replied, “This town is worse than I thought.”