Arcata City Council affirms progressive values, will consider ‘Sanctuary City’ status

Tthe 2017 Arcata City Council at the dais: (Left to right) Outgoing Mayor Paul Pitino, Councilmember Michael Winkler, Mayor Susan Ornelas, Vice Mayor Sofia Pereira, and Councilmember Mark Wheetley. Photo courtesy City of Arcata

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – The Arcata City Council last week adopted a resolution reaffirming the city’s commitment to “values of community, inclusivity, environmental protection and respect.”

The resolution springs from the November election of Donald J. Trump, whose campaign rhetoric runs counter to some basic moral assumptions under which Arcata forms policy.

“There is a lot of angst about the changeover in the federal administration,” noted City Councilmember Mark Wheetley. The resolution gives notice that Arcata will stick to its values, come what may from the Trump Administration.

Former City Councilmember and local progressive leader Dave Meserve offered a number of revisions to the draft resolution. He said immigrants, being most vulnerable, require stronger protection and more forceful language. He asked that Arcata consider becoming a “sanctuary city” to stand with others so self-designated.

McKinleyville resident Linda Evans said it’s important to show support for the citizens most vulnerable to possible attacks on their rights and dignity.

Frequent meeting-goer Kent Sawatsky cautioned that sanctuary cityhood could result in defunding by the federal government.

Councilmember Paul Pitino supported the sanctuary city mention, but had questions about wording regarding the criminal activity of immigrants. Staff then discussed criteria for police detention of individuals for crimes apart from their immigration status.

After further discussion about the immigration aspect of the document, Wheetley suggested that a breakout session might be held to delve into those matters. He said the resolution didn’t need to include excessive detail on immigration matters, but to set basic principles of equal access to law enforcement and municipal services.

“This resolution is much broader than the immigration component,” he said, mentioning climate change, homelessness “on a whole multitude of other issues that I think reflect what is at the core values of Arcata. That’s what we don’t want to lose in this.”

Pitino sought language that would not “inordinately protect” visiting cannabis trimmers or “trimmigrants.”

Councilmember Michael Winkler said the core problem is “scapegoating” of immigrants by the feds. He opposes using local police being in lockstep with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and said that the sanctuary city designation attempts to pre-empt federal law.

Mayor Susan Ornelas said the statement of values is a “good exercise,” and that the election outcome didn’t change the values of Arcatans. Adding too much detail about specific groups runs the risk of leaving someone out, she said.

Meserve, along with other speakers, objected to the deletion of the sanctuary city language. He mentioned a host of cities that have endorsed the concept, and need support.

Wheetley suggested a two-part approach, adopting the resolution without the sanctuary language, but pledging to consider that designation in the future. Winkler agreed, but Pitino said not including the sanctuary commitment was unnecessary and watered down the document.

Ornelas said there had not been adequate discussion of the topic. Wheetley noted that Humboldt State students are not in town, and would be vital to an inclusive discussion of the matter. Councilmember Sofia Pereira said the sanctuary city issue is a powerful one, and important to many. Ornelas and Winkler also expressed concern for freedom of the press.

The council then adopted Wheetley’s two-part resolution.

Note: the revised resolution will be appended to this story when it becomes available. – Ed.


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