City moves ahead with ‘Sanctuary’ status

Waterfront parking changes postponed

COUNCIL members Megan Saunders, left, Mark Zanmiller, and Kate McBride are sworn in Monday by Judge Will Carey at the start of the city council meeting.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
COUNCIL members Megan Saunders, left, Mark Zanmiller, and Kate McBride are sworn in Monday by Judge Will Carey at the start of the city council meeting.

Long discussions of sanctuary city and waterfront parking at city council led to a planned resolution on the former and a delay in the latter.

The council instructed staff to bring a draft resolution declaring Hood River an “inclusive city,” with reference to the sanctuary concept, to its Jan. 23 meeting.

In other action, waterfront merchants implored the city to hold off on its joint plan with Port of Hood River to require paid parking throughout the waterfront, and council agreed to take a longer look at it.

Ken Whiteman and Kristi Chapman of the Waterfront Business Association presented a petition with nearly 700 signatures, including 400 local residents, stating “implementing parking meters on the waterfront would not be good for the community or the businesses” and asking the city assess 2017 summer demands “to see if there is a real need.” The petition was gathered between Jan. 4-8.

Mayor Paul Blackburn will call together an ad hoc committee comprised of council, Port of Hood River, Hood River Waterfront Park, and the Waterfront District Business Association at a date to be announced. The city will postpone its plans to install parking meters as early as May 1, which Blackburn said was “an artificial date.”

City Manager Steve Wheeler read a statement from Port Executive Director Michael McElwee supporting the move to paid parking.

The meeting was the first one for newly-elected Council Member Megan Saunders, who took the oath of office with returning members Kate McBride and Mark Zanmiller, and Mayor Blackburn.

In other action, the council agreed to reduce by half, to about $2,800 per year, the permit cost charged to Hood River Saturday Market, which rents the Fifth and Columbia parking lot 28 Saturdays per year for five hours each time. Market manager Hannah Ladwig said the organization needs the rental money for promotion and outreach to those experiencing food insecurity.

The inclusionary city resolution de-emphasized the “sanctuary” term, under the version written by Blackburn and council member Kate McBride. The council heard nine speakers Monday, all but two voicing support for the resolution.

Scott Skelton said the declaration could jeopardize needed federal funds for utility upgrades including the replacement of aging lead water pipes.

“The loss of $7 million in federal funds wouldn’t benefit the Hispanic community one little bit,” he said.

Council Member Susan Johnson said the city should assist with “grassroots” efforts to help illegal immigrants get documentation, rather than passing a resolution.

The council agreed to insert language proposed by Rev. John Boonstra, including the statement that “we will join other sanctuary cities” and that “sanctuary policy can provide commitment to immigrant safety by linking themselves to the common language of sanctuary.”

Boonstra acknowledged that the city is not in a position to physically provide sanctuary to people, but that “the term is a very important and meaningful symbol.

“The word is a symbol of safety for vulnerable immigrants,” he said, “and recognizes the sanctuary movement as an effort by people and organizations to provide protection and safe haven.” Boonstra said the term sanctuary “honors the value of immigrants in our society.”

Blackburn said that he followed the recommendation of the immigrant rights organization CAUSA in redrafting the proposed resolution to declare Hood River a “city of inclusivity” without the use of the word sanctuary.

“It’s not that we don’t value our neighbors who are threatened by federal immigration enforcement, but sanctuary in the minds of some implies that we would bar the gate and prevent the immigration authorities from coming if they were to come, and I don’t think we’re in a position to do that,” Blackburn said. “What we are looking at, and this is already in place in state law, is our police would not be sort of collaborators and agents of federal immigration. They are not in the business of enforcing immigration laws.”

Nan Noteboom, a Hood River Valley High School English teacher, urged the city to retain the word sanctuary, and said HRVHS students are planning to speak at the next Hood River County School Board on the sanctuary issue.

“They want to hear the word ‘sanctuary,’” Noteboom said.

In its rescheduled meeting on Thursday, students will speak to the board, which has among its action items a proposed resolution titled “Protection for Undocumented Students at School.”

The board’s meeting has been postponed one day, until 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 12, due to the snowstorm. The location has also been changed to the District Office, at 10th and Eugene.

The board is also scheduled to adopt a memorandum of understanding with the School-Based Health Center and approval of a grant for expanding pre-school access.

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