North Adams Approves 'Safe & Inclusive' Resolution
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution declaring North Adams a safe and inclusive community.
The vote was greeted with applause by a crowded City Council chamber.
The resolution put forward by Councilors President Benjamin Lamb and Nancy Bullett in December went through a few modifications before Tuesday's final vote.
It generated a great deal of discussion at its first appearance at council, which found it referred to the Community Development Committee. The committee took no action on the resolution, instead of allowing the discussion to inform further amendments.
Lamb read the trimmed-down draft that has changed dramatically, he said, "to be more of a positive statement and less of a factual noting of the challenges that we're facing."
The resolution states the "city of North Adams does not and shall not tolerate hate crimes and expressions of hate" and "recognizes pursuant to the 1st Amendment of the United State Constitution, whereby Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948, Article 3, everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person, and Article 5, no one shall be subjected to degrading treatment."
The only objection came from Councilor Robert M. Moulton Jr., who felt that specifying anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia as redundant because of the reference to freedom of religion in the second graph. Others in the list the city was committed to protecting residents and visitors from included racist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-immigrant, misogynistic acts.
"You can do that, why not have Christian? I mean they're probably the most persecuted religious group in the country," he said. I would like to see in paragraph five, taking out Islamaphobic and anti-Semitic because I think it's incorporated in 'any exercise of any religion' in the second paragraph."
"It's an interesting point," responded Merrigan, however, she thought the reason for being explicit in this circumstance was because of the history and lack of power in the United States of the groups listed. "I can certainly understand people can make an argument for Christians being persecuted. I think the reason I would want to see these in here is these are groups ... that have less conventional, social and political systemic power. I think in our culture, people who identify as Christians tend to have a lot of historical and political and conventional and social power. ...
"It's harder to discriminate against people with a little more power."
Several councilors said they could support the resolution with or without the two words being included. Councilor Joshua Moran tended to agree with Moulton on their removal more because he felt the document needed to be broader and less contemporary.
"We want to make this relevant for a very long period of time," he said, adding it could still be posted in a school 50 years down the road. "I think maybe that's exactly what we're dealing with now. ... it seems like it's covered elsewhere. But I'm in favor of the whole document as it is, but I tend to lean toward Councilor Moulton's recommendation."
Councilor Ronald Boucher said he was fine with the document as is, feeling the term "protects" used the fifth graph was different than the statement of freedom of religion.
"I think identifying folks is important," said Bullett, noting those designations were as pertinent 20 or 30 years ago as they are today. If it could be done in a broader way, she said she could support it, otherwise, she was fine with it as written.
In trying to find a solution that continued to address faith groups without being specific, Merrigan offered a clause to replace the two words with "those targeting others on the basis of religious belief and practice."
The amendment with that phrase was approved 7-2, with Merrigan and Councilor Eric Buddington in opposition. The final draft, however, passed unanimously.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, who had not spoken on the council's deliberations, said he supported "every word in this resolution."
Resident Peter May, who had challenged the council late last year to take a stand on civil rights in the wave of the presidential election, said every level of government had to "take bold stands in the years ahead."
Toward the end of the meeting, Moulton expressed his frustration that the council had not been apprised that the solar array company that inked a deal with Berkshire Anodizing had pulled out. The city had hoped it would continue the project after it took possession of the plant and provide some revenue.
Moulton thought the city should have had the option to renegotiate the deal. Councilor Lisa Blackmer pointed out that the council did not approve the deal but the authorization to borrow. Moulton said there were still questions he wanted to bring up.
In other business during the lengthy meeting, the council:
• Approved unanimously the submission of a statement of interest for Greylock Elementary School to the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
• Was provided preliminary information regarding plans to connect to the Williamstown bike path from Galvin Road to the airport.
• Approved the appointment of Larry Taft to the Planning Board to replace Jay Walsh, who moved out of the city.
• Heard a report from Traffic Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann King about motorists parking on sidewalks, brought to the commission by Councilor Keith Bona. King wrote she had spoken with Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, who said the parking ban will continue to be enforced.
• Approved for the mayor to issue requests for proposals for five city-owned properties.
• Had citizen Robert Cardimino removed for being disruptive again after he accused the mayor of being a racist.
• Passed to a second reading and publication an ordinance to extend the no parking zone on River Street from Houghton Street 70 feet farther eastward to Chase Avenue.
• Approved an application by Tiffany Winters of North Adams to drive a taxi for RJ Taxi.
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