Glenwood council hopefuls don’t favor strong immigration action
reminder: gordon votes won’t be counted
Glenwood Springs city election officials remind voters that the City Council mail-in ballots include the name of one candidate who has withdrawn from the race. Sarah Gordon initially filed the required paperwork as a Ward 5 candidate, but withdrew her candidacy in early March after the ballots had already been printed. Any votes for Gordon will not be counted or reported, according to a statement issued by the city.
Glenwood Springs police should not be involved with rounding up undocumented, noncriminal immigrants, and the city should do what it can to make sure immigrant residents feel welcome and protected, candidates for three Glenwood City Council seats tend to agree.
But that’s not to say the city should follow the lead of Basalt and other towns around the country, large and small, that have formally declared themselves a “safe harbor” or “sanctuary” from strong-handed immigration enforcement, most of the candidates also said.
Questions around whether local police should be involved with immigration enforcement if pressed by the Trump administration, and whether Glenwood should declare itself a sanctuary city, came up at the March 7 Issues and Answers candidates forum. The Post Independent recently asked the eight candidates vying for three seats on City Council to elaborate on the issue.
Voting in the April 4 mail ballot election is well underway, with ballots due in to the City Clerk’s Office by 7 p.m. on election day.
Vying for the open at-large seat are Charlie Willman, Shelley Kaup, Jonathan Gorst and Rick Davis.
“I believe that Glenwood already practices the same response as noted by the Basalt police chief in these circumstances,” Willman said in reference to comments regarding a resolution passed by the Basalt Board of Trustees on March 14 declaring the town a “safe harbor” when it comes to immigration policy.
“I think this is a good police policy and would expect that it will be continued,” Willman said, expanding on comments he made at the candidates forum when he offered support for the local immigrant community.
“Our service industry is supported by the Hispanic community, and we should recognize that they are an important part of our community and an important part of our future,” he said.
Kaup also said immigrants are a valuable part of the community, adding, “The city should take actions so that all members of our community feel safe, welcome and included.”
“Our local law enforcement should be careful to protect civil rights, treat people fairly, protect families and maintain a positive relationship with our immigrant communities,” Kaup said.
However, a formal designation declaring Glenwood’s position on the issue is something that would need a full discussion and a review of legal implications, she said.
Gorst doesn’t see a need for the city to make a formal statement, but said he agrees with the “essence” of Basalt’s declaration. He also said immigration enforcement is the job of the federal government, not local police.
“We cannot oppose federal agents who come to enforce these laws,” Gorst said. “We also do not bear any responsibility in enforcing these federal laws ourselves through our local law enforcement.
“The real issue centers around the real fear that our neighbors of foreign descent are encountering,” Gorst added. “From public places being vandalized to the absolutely unacceptable behavior of small factions of students and even co-workers … is appalling. I am an advocate of education before action.”
Davis says he’s saddened that, in 2017, communities find a need to proclaim basic “human rights, dignity and civil liberties.” But it may be necessary in order to clarify the expectations of local government and to support the police officers who serve the community, Davis added.
“We are a nation divided on this subject … [and] whose federal government has not risen to the call of enacting fair, reasonable, intelligent and compassionate resolution to theses challenges,” he said of racial and ethnic divides.
WARD 5 CANDIDATES
The three candidates running for the open Ward 5 City Council seat, Jonathan Godes, Amber Wissing and Don Gillespie, expressed similar views on the subject.
“If the federal government is looking for assistance for convicted criminals or individuals with felony warrants, then our [police] should be of assistance because that is a community safety and policing concern,” Godes said.
But “chasing down” otherwise law-abiding, undocumented immigrants is not the job of local police and a “poor allocation” of resources, he said.
“Whether you label Glenwood Springs a ‘safe harbor’ or not, we should send a strong message to our immigrant neighbors, friends and co-workers that they are an important part of our community,” Godes added.
Wissing and Gillespie also both said that immigration enforcement is the job of the federal government and not something local police should be involved with unless it becomes a public safety issue.
“I do believe that safety, a sense of belonging and tolerance are vital to an inclusive, thriving, close-knit community,” Wissing said. “City leadership should communicate its support of Glenwood’s diverse residents as we all seek to contribute to the town we love.”
Added Gillespie, “Our local police force has enough to do keeping us safe from the criminals and doesn’t need to worry about stopping noncriminal citizens to see if they are undocumented.”
That said, “We don’t need to declare our city as a ‘safe harbor’ for noncriminal, undocumented immigrants residents and their families,” Gillespie said. “Word will spread quickly in our small community that we are not actively enforcing the arrest of innocent human beings.”
Rick Voorhees, who is running unopposed for the open Ward 2 seat, agrees with Davis that a formal statement from the city expressing support for the immigrant community and “affirming basic human rights” may be necessary.
“This would extend not just to Hispanic immigrants, but would also include all human beings including other races and ethnicities, as well as the developmentally disabled and the elderly,” Voorhees said. “When the weakest links in society are targeted for government action based on membership in a demographic group, everyone’s freedoms are at risk and that should prompt the question, ‘Who’s next?’”
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Current Basalt officials say the town government has violated the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Right by increasing the property tax mill levy over the prior years 10 times since the mid-2000s. Two former mayors contend the mill levy could be adjusted in any given year as long as it didn’t exceed the mill levy in 1994. It’s a $2 million question.