For the record

By Will Clayton | Mar 31, 2017

I have been asked a few different times over the last two weeks if I would consider writing an opinion letter so that the citizens of Rockland would have a better understanding of why I voted against the Diversity Resolve. Up until now I had chosen not to because the matter had already been voted on by council. The continued discussion on social media, comment threads and last week’s opinion piece by Mr. Brower have persuaded me to make my reasoning fully known.

When an item comes before council, we are oftentimes faced with a subject or content matter that is in need of further clarification. In order to have a better understanding of what is being proposed, each councilor has to take the time to research the subject thoroughly. This process includes examining history, reviewing documents and meeting with individuals and groups on both sides of the matter so that we may have a clear understanding before choosing which way to vote.

When the Diversity Resolve came before us, I had many questions regarding the language, implied definitions, and the true intent of the language chosen. I met with many individuals, including those proposing the wording of the Resolve, in order to get a clearer picture and to hear directly from them. The meetings that took place also provided them with a chance to hear my own reservations and provide feedback. I met with the founders of the Woodstove Alliance and had an incredible discussion with them. I commend them for their mission to promote valuable discussion within our local area, discussion that is oftentimes lacking in today’s society, especially between those who disagree with one another.

Out of that meeting came what I believed to be a willingness to work together on the language of the Resolve so that it encompassed the feelings and beliefs of a more inclusive group of people, thereby gaining more support than it initially held. To me, compromise is what we as a council should look towards whenever possible, since we represent an entire city, not simply core groups of people. So, in that respect I worked on a revision, and after some compromise there was support from community members who had initially been fully against the Resolve, as well as two of my fellow councilors and the founders of the Alliance. The revised version was still much greater in depth and included more language than the two other Resolves being considered in Camden and Appleton.

Unfortunately, while meeting with another group in support of the Resolve, which included the individual behind the bulk of the original Resolve’s language, I found there was an unwillingness to work together on a revised version that I felt would have brought a more encompassing support to the Resolve’s mission. I made my reservations clear and was willing to work on a new resolve. I offered a revision that was initially accepted and also asked for answers to my questions.

When the community discussion took place at City Hall, it was great to have a large number of people involved who were able to speak freely and respectfully. It was unfortunate that those I had previously met with and who had initially accepted the revised Resolve did not stand and speak to it at that meeting while they were in attendance. I realized then that the original Resolve was going to be supported more than a collaborative revised one would be. Even though I could not support it, I was fine, knowing that a majority rules in a democracy, as it should, and I was not in the majority.

What has been lost in the discussion is that there are many people who were and still are concerned about the wording and intent of the Resolve. A reluctance to work on an expanded or better-defined version only widened the gap between supporters and those against it. A few times during the discussions, supporters mentioned that the Resolve was only a statement piece and didn’t direct the community or city staff to any intended purpose. I disagree. Everything a council works on and votes on should have an intended purpose, and to say a Resolve like this does not rings hollow. With the absence of answers or willingness to provide clarity, the ambiguity was too great for me to vote in favor.

Below I list my apprehensions, which I sent to my fellow councilors and other proponents of the Resolve before the council voted. Some further explanation and willingness to work on some wording alternatives would have been all that was needed to gain my support. That willingness was not there. Considering that the Resolve is about diversity, it has been disheartening to see the anger of some towards those with an opinion or view that is different than their own.

I always appreciate and welcome anyone wishing to speak about council matters. People nowadays are often quick to believe what they read or hear and make judgments based on social media gossip. In most cases, what is perceived has no foundation in truth. Whether it is about this Resolve or any past or future topics before the City Council, I urge any resident to reach out to the council, or myself, so you can gather accurate information. A greater understanding of everyone’s point of view just may help to enlighten us all.

Celebrate -- This terminology may seem small, but we must understand that a Resolve is a bold statement by a council on behalf of its residents. We must be careful not to dictate what a person can, cannot, should or should not feel about another person.

Immigration status -- It was never clarified to define if a person with undocumented status or here illegally would be eligible for city services or the city would, as the Resolve states, “provide secure shelter.”

Scapegoats -- The term is extremely vague and never fully explained as to its purpose within the Resolve. The stated terminology of “opposition to any policy by government or business” is completely undemocratic and should have been vetted more.

Criminalization of addiction -- There is consensual agreement among all parties involved in the discussion that addicts should have access to places of recovery. The public safety officials and private entities are doing this extremely well already and should be recognized. I asked that additional language be added to the Resolve that anyone wishing to sell and promote drug use within our city is not welcome and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.

Gender-inclusive bathrooms -- The questions on this section were not based on the merit, but the application. What specifically was the Resolve looking to see done regarding public areas such as City Hall or Tillson Avenue restrooms? What about local businesses?

Post signs and take part in actions -- As a council and city, we are not to tell any one particular person, private business, place of worship or school to post signs, whether in support or against any entity. This section was overreaching boundaries.

Will Clayton is mayor of Rockland.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Amy Files | Apr 04, 2017 12:43

Steve Caroll - I am concerned to see your comment here -- are you inferring that folks who come out and participate in public meetings are "bullies"? People were excited and determined to pass a resolve whose essence was about embracing differences and being a welcoming community... I think it is a bit dangerous and misleading to then characterize those well-meaning folks as "bullies." I also find it a bit alarming that you would quote a Courier poll -- of which anyone from any town can vote in and people can vote multiple times -- which is extremely unscientific -- as any kind of factual evidence for public support (or lack of) for the issue. I haven't lived here for very long, but I've never seen a turnout as large as I did for the resolve -- we should be commending people for getting newly involved in the public process -- not spreading the false notion that those who show up to a public meeting don't count because they are the "vocal minority" and then point to casual social media polls as the real opinion that counts.



Posted by: Amy Files | Apr 04, 2017 12:35

Will -- I appreciate your hesitation for the vote and understand some of your questions/concerns. I also appreciated some of the recommendations that you brought to the table in your alternative resolve language. What I was disappointed in was that you did not clearly list these hesitations out when we were all sitting at the table and in a place to discuss them at that first public workshop. I remember asking you, at that meeting, pretty point blank what your concerns were and if you could please elaborate on them so that we could all have the opportunity to discuss them together -- and you avoided fully answering the question. You didn't list out the list that you've just published here online. That behavior came across as a cop-out to me, that you said it wasn't worth discussing your concerns because clearly (you felt) the majority wanted the original language and weren't open to your opinions. It's hard to be open to opinions if you aren't willing to express them. And the dialogue that was occurring was extremely civil, especially considering some of the hateful language expressed, and I don't see that there was any excuse not to have participated fully.

I would have welcomed some change to the language, as would have others -- but it takes true grit to sit at a table with others who may disagree with you and publicly have that dialogue. In addition to my asking you to please list out your concerns at that first public workshop, towards the very end of the discussion Becca Glaser very specifically asked each councilor to go around and list what concerns and questions they still had -- and you were the only one who didn't answer that question.

 

I am writing this as commentary and response to your statement published here -- not an attack. It was frustrating for us all to be sitting together at the table and feel like you were holding your cards close to your chest because you didn't feel compelled to explain yourself in that meeting. Particularly because I feel you could have expressed an important alternative point of view, in a respectful way, truly bringing a sense of community dialogue to the discussion.

It's one thing to be able to express your point of view in private meetings -- or in a publication like this -- which doesn't allow for discussion -- but I want from my councilors to be able to make these statements when we are all sitting down together at the table and be able to publicly discuss them when we have these public workshops. That's the only way that true dialogue can occur -- when we are all participating -- putting our thoughts and concerns on the table when it counts.



Posted by: paula sutton | Apr 03, 2017 06:39

I applaud your willingness and ability to look down the road and see the possibility of unintended consequences.  Many of the votes made in Augusta are to clarify or modify poorly written but well intentioned laws.  The devil is in the details and every word matters. Thank you Will.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Apr 01, 2017 20:37

kudos will for standing up to these bullies.  I like many others (please note the results of last weeks poll on Diversity, in this  weeks courier)  60% voted no,  resent being told what to think and feel.  I have lived here my entire life and have never seen the type of behavior they talk about.  I agree their is an agenda here and endgame we have not seen yet.  Perhaps even seeking the status of a "santury city".  Anything is possible especially when those pushing this agenda  are unwilling to compromise on the wording.  This has all the makings of a witch hunt and it disturbes me to think they are looking for a sacrificial lamb.  Embracing Diversity also means willing to accept differing points of view.  I am not seeing this here.



Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Apr 01, 2017 14:15

Excellent Will



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Apr 01, 2017 13:41

Thanks Will for standing up for those of us that felt it not necessary to have to be told how to treat others. Thanks for easing the pain of a 3-1 vote to those that feel more welcome now by this resolve.



Posted by: George Terrien | Mar 31, 2017 10:50

Thank you, Will, for describing your concerns here.

I suggest that if such contention arises in the future, and you or other members of the Council might hope for reconciliation, that the workshop phase of consideration be extended.  Though the workshop that I attended a week before the vote identified at least some of the concerns you address here, modification of the original language proposed by Councillor Glazer might have been better understood (by me, at least) as specific proposals to individual sections, rather than a as a general rewrite.  The text you had proposed before the workshop as a substitute resolve made comparison difficult for me, particularly within the short period of time before the workshop after I had seen your rewrite publicized.

Thank you again, Will, for taking the time and effort to extend your thoughts to those of us who would have liked our mayor to have been able to support a resolution declaring Rockland a welcoming community.

 

 

 

 



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