Rockland council OKs diversity resolve
Rockland — The city council chamber erupted with applause Monday night, March 13 after the Rockland City Council voted to approve a resolve to support diversity in the community.
The council voted 3-1 to approve the resolve. Mayor Will Clayon voted against the measure without comment at the meeting.
Sixty-five people attended the Monday night meeting with more than 20 people speaking. All but three of the speakers supported the resolve.
Jeanne Dooley, executive director of Out Maine, said there are people in the community who are subject to threats. Her organization supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths.
"People who say Rockland is fine, who say Knox County is fine, who say rural Maine is fine are under a grotesque illusion," Dooley said.
She said there have been swastikas drawn on chalkboards and white boards and in restrooms in the schools.
The resolve is non-binding and has touched a nerve in the community.
Councilor Ed Glaser said he was pleased to see so many people turn out for the council meetings, particularly younger people who have not previously attended municipal meetings. He said he hopes these young citizens would continue to be involved in civic matters.
Glaser said he submitted the resolve because he thought it would pass easily.
Councilor Valli Geiger enthusiastically voiced support for the resolve and commented on the opposition.
"This tells people whose hearts are hardened that we don't stand with them," she said.
Steve Young of Cushing, who is pastor of the Penobscot Bay Family Church in Thomaston, sharply criticized the resolve. He said its support for homosexuals was an affront to Christians. He also repeatedly referred to immigrants as "crimimmigrants."
Sandra Schramm said Rockland was a welcoming community already and she has never felt unsafe walking the streets.
Other speakers pointed out, however, that many white, heterosexual people are not aware of what others are experiencing in the community. And while the resolve is non-binding it sends a message to people about being accepted in Rockland.
Mayor Clayton said after the meeting that his opposition stems from the reference to immigration status. He also said he wanted a fuller explanation of what the resolve meant.
The full resolve states: "We as a community are resolved to welcome and celebrate difference, diversity, and individuality among residents, workers and visitors in all ways, including, but not limited to, ability, race, creed, national and cultural origin, immigration status, color, age, religious beliefs, class, neurodiversity, sexuality, gender identification, and gender expression.
"We stand in solidarity with all who are marginalized or threatened, and will work to make our community a safer place where each person’s dignity is honored. We believe that everyone has a right to clean air, clean water, shelter, safety, food and pleasure.
"We oppose any policy on the part of any government or business which scapegoats people, spreads inequality, and intentionally takes rights away from the most vulnerable among us.
"As a community, we intend to continue taking proactive action on the issues we face including, but not limited to, reducing poverty, homelessness, climate change, the criminalization of addiction, sexual assault, racism and domestic violence. We will continue the work we are doing to improve health care access, fair wages, affordable housing, addiction treatment, training for police and first responders in diversity and harm reduction, while maintaining a productive harbor and healthy working waterfront, creating safer school environments, increasing accessibility for people with disabilities and to gender-inclusive bathrooms, and bettering quality of life for all. We want this city to always be a safe place for those needing shelter and will endeavor to provide secure shelter to any who need it.
"Rockland will also continue doing its part to protect the environment and mitigate climate change through local action aimed at reducing waste and pollution, planning for rising seas, promoting energy efficiency and sustainable generation, and being good stewards of our natural resources.
"This is a community-wide effort. We urge those in need of support to reach out to the city and local groups. We encourage places of worship, homes, schools, businesses, organizations and individuals to post signs and take part in actions which demonstrate our dedication to being a welcoming place of refuge and safety. We will stand up against any crime of hate or bullying in our community and seek to address the underlying causes of scapegoating. As we look to the future, we know that in order to continue growing in a healthy direction, we need to support those who live here, those who move here, and those who visit.
"Rockland, Maine, intends to stand as a beacon of diversity and democracy, furthering the project of 'liberty and justice for all.'”