2017-06-23 / Community

Cape adopts resolution

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — In a 5-2 vote at its Monday, June 12 meting, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council adopted a resolution welcoming all people to the community, pivoting back to language submitted by the Cape Diversity Coalition.

That group rose of in the wake of an incident at a Cape/ Wells football game in town last year, involving racial slurs by middle school students of the two towns. The coalition asked the council to adopt a resolution of support for people of all ethnic backgrounds.

At a June 6 workshop, the council appeared to prefer an alternate resolution presented by Councilor Penny Jordan, with some members citing concern over “unintended consequences” of the original draft.

However, at the June 12 meeting, it was Jordan who moved to adopt a revised draft submitted by the coalition.

“I haven’t changed my mind because I have always supported a resolution,” she said. “My whole premise is about inclusion, and if you can create a resolution that achieves the objectives of inclusion, then I can go there,” she said.

Speakers from the Cape Diversity Coalition asked for support from the council in part because the resolution does single out specific groups of people.

“Our coalition brought this to your group, just as many other communities across our state and nation have brought this to their towns, because of a recognition in our current times, things are happening to marginalize populations that we need to name and address,” said Hemlock Hill Road resident Maureen Clancy. “Without naming things, without bringing this forward, then we’re ignoring the things that may exist in our community.”

The school board adopted a similar welcoming resolution, also drafted by the Cape Diversity Coalition, at its May 9 meeting.

Ocean House Road resident Mohammed Nasir Shir reported to the council, as he had to the school board, that his children had been subject to verbal abuse on a school bus.

“I’m interested in this resolution to prove to my kids that there is hope, that there is democracy, and democracy does work in this town,” he said. “We want to take the negative energy and turn it around to a positive energy.”

Councilors Kathy Ray and Jessica Sullivan voted against adopting the resolution. Both said they supported the ideas contained in the resolution, but questioned whether the language submitted by the coalition could, by citing some groups, be interpreted as excluding others. Both also suggested it may be inappropriate for the town to make what can be perceived as a political statement.

However, Council Chairman Jamie Garvin said he believed the council had a duty to act.

“I do think that one of our most fundamental functions is that of providing and modeling leadership for the community,” he said

“It’s acceptable in the fact that all we’re doing is saying, ‘Let’s be nice,’” Councilor Caitlin Jordan said. “We’re not doing anything more.”

The full text of the resolution is as follows:

“RESOLUTION WELCOMING ALL PEOPLE INTO OUR COMMUNITY

“WHEREAS, the United States of America is a country that has always prided itself on being welcoming of immigrants persecuted in other lands seeking religious and civil liberty;

“WHEREAS, native and foreign-born residents of many faiths and cultures have richly contributed to the quality of life in Cape Elizabeth;

“WHEREAS, Cape Elizabeth prides itself on being a community fostering neither fear nor division, but instead respect and tolerance of difference;

“WHEREAS, we, the elected officials of Cape Elizabeth, have an important leadership role in representing our Town’s collective values against discrimination, violence, and hate;

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED, that the Town of Cape

“1. Welcomes residents of all cultures, celebrates the benefits of a pluralistic society, and respects the right of every person or group to live and practice their self-determined identity, culture, and faith without fear;

“2. Condemns actions of hate, violence, or discrimination directed against any citizen or group, including but not limited to immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and any persons unjustly or unfairly treated due to their religion, ethnicity, race, class, nationality, country of origin, age, ability, sexuality, or gender;

“3. Affirms that anyone targeted on the basis of such differences should be able to turn to the Town’s officials and fellow citizens without fear of discrimination;

“4. Encourages forums and other opportunities where civil and respectful dialogue may take place to promote better understanding and mutual appreciation among our residents.”

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