Kingston Council Members To Consider "Inclusive City" Resolution

Dec 20, 2016

Kingston’s mayor is proposing a resolution that stops short of a sanctuary city designation. But it does affirm Kingston as a welcoming and inclusive city. His resolution comes before a Common Council committee Tuesday night, after a number of faith groups, community organizations and individuals expressed concern about civil and human rights under the incoming Trump administration.

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble has proposed a memorializing resolution affirming the city as a welcoming and inclusive one. The Democrat says the resolution is modeled after two Vermont communities — Burlington and Montpelier. The resolution comes before the Laws and Rules Committee of the Kingston Common Council tonight and there is a public comment period as well. A large turnout is expected. Democrat Lynn Eckert chairs the Laws and Rules Committee and speaks to why the resolution does not call for designating Kingston a sanctuary city.

“I think we wanted more time to consider what the effects of the designation might be. And I think it’s a compromise position to some extent. We’re not sure what the new President-elect will do to those who have designated themselves as a sanctuary city. Will federal money be pulled from the city?” says Eckert. “And I think this is a compromise position in the sense that we’re doing everything a sanctuary city would do but we’re simply not calling ourselves that.”

She supports the mayor’s resolution and says it is possible a sanctuary city declaration could be considered down the road. Father Frank Alagna says the resolution is not strong or clear enough. He says it’s imperative to protect vulnerable populations in the event that forces move against them unfairly or immorally. Alagna spearheaded a letter signed by 21 local clergy leaders to Noble in November, a petition to make Kingston a sanctuary city. He says the letter was prompted by fear that the Trump administration might revoke executive orders concerning immigration reform or trounce on immigrant rights. He says designating Kingston as a sanctuary city would be just putting on the books what already exists.

“That’s not something new in Kingston,” Alagna says. “That is to reflect how we say we operate, we say we have operated, we operate now and we want to operate in the future, Well, just say it. Why make it fuzzy? Why leave room for interpretation that violate who we are, at least if we want to declare ourselves to be a sanctuary city, and also violate, seem to violate the due process of law.”

Alagna, Vicar of Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church in Kingston, says there are two problematic clauses in the resolution. One, in his reading, is whether it is within police purview to question people about their immigration status. Another, he feels, leaves open the possibility of police stopping someone suspected of being a criminal and being able to turn over that person to federal immigration authorities.

Eckert says she has received letters condemning the resolution or potential sanctuary city designation.

“Some of the comments have been out-and-out racist,” Eckert says. “And, again, I just think it’s a very difficult time because people are really suffering economically. And the question is are we going to turn in on ourselves or are we going to work together and really go after the policymakers who are making these decisions that economically threaten us all.”

Eckert believes the resolution does offer the following.

“It’s not purely symbolic but, at the same time, there’s not this one-to-one effect, we’ve passed it and now the police are going to do x, y and z. It is really to say in the context of the decisions that they have to make about policing in the future that in that context operating in the background are these values that we’re expressing.”

Eckert says it will be up to the committee whether to recommend the resolution to the full council for a vote. Even without a recommendation, the resolution could still head to the Democratic-controlled council, and the council would not take this up until its next meeting, in January.