The Sanctuary for Peace ordinance; city councilors in the midst of a city that is evolving
By: Gricel M. Ocasio*/TRT Publisher—
If we do not understand what we need, if we do not participate in civic engagement, if we do not educate ourselves on the voting records of our elected officials, particularly relating to disenfranchised groups—LGBTQ, women, immigrants, refugees, children, elders, racial and ethnic minorities, etc.— and if we don’t vote, we will not be able to progress toward a culture that values inclusion of all Americans and those who aspire to be. At a time when human morale and the rights of the immigrant community around the country are in peril—especially given the presidential executive orders—you must rise up to counter adversity and make your vote count come November for municipal elections. There’s never been a moment that is so critical for local governments to take a stand. If you are Latinx or a member of any marginalized community, don’t sit this one out because you feel silenced by the majority. Now is the time to act, to reclaim your space and make your voice heard. Cast your vote!
The current City Council in Salem, Mass. is comprised of 11 councilors, four of whom are At-Large. That means that all voters in Salem, regardless of which ward you belong to, can vote for these four seats. Some of the sitting At-Large Councilors have publicly or otherwise expressed discontentment of the Sanctuary for Peace ordinance. Of the At-Large Councilors, Arthur C. Sargent III and Jerry L. Ryan appear to be against the Ordinance at this time, while sitting President Elaine Milo is allegedly on the fence; and, lastly, Thomas H. Furey has expressed to support for it.
Again, remember that these are the Councilors that all of Salem can vote for, which is of particular interest to Spanish-speaking voters of the city’s largely underserved Point Neighborhood. Speaking of The Point, Robert McCarthy, the Point’s ward councilor, has expressed support of the measure, as well as the following ward councilors: Beth Gerard, David Eppley, Josh Turiel, and Heather Famico. The remaining two are allegedly opposed to the ordinance and are strong-held in their opinions, regardless of the amounts of information that has been provided to them. They are Stephen Lovely and Stephen G. Dibble. Perhaps they’ll change their minds once their questions are answered by the Police Chief, attorneys, and the immigration experts providing information sessions that have been available throughout the past couple of months in Salem. I made attempts to meet with Councilor Lovely but I was told his schedule didn’t permit it. I hope you find the answers you’re looking for Councilor.
With that said, I think it’s time to take a more action-based approach in Salem. We ought to remember who is for Latinx voting rights, the Sanctuary for Peace Ordinance and other measures that help disenfranchised groups and Salem as a collective, because it is at election time when we can elect those who stand for “liberty and justice for all,” not just some. The next election cycle for City Council is in November 2017.
Of the candidates who have announced their At-Large campaign for the 2017 vote, there are two contenders of particular interest at this time for the Latinx community–David Eppley and Jeff Cohen. These candidates are responsible for crafting the original Sanctuary for Peace ordinance. In a revised version, the original ordinance was carefully rewritten by a coalition (composed of Salem residents, Salem Police Department staff, Salem business owners, members of the clergy, immigration experts and attorneys) to hone a message specifically that would avoid the loss of federal funds to the city, a point that many initially used as an excuse not to support it.
We should consider supporting candidates like them (Eppley and Cohen), and all who continue to support and vote for initiatives that help marginalized communities in Salem, especially Latinx people, where there has traditionally been a gross lack of representation fighting on behalf of this ethnic group in the council (i.e. voting rights).
We also need to get involved in action groups such as the No Place for Hate Community Engagement sub-committee. This group will have a rally on March 25 from 2-4:30 p.m. We need your presence there. There will be music, snacks, and information tables relating to the ordinance and what it means to be a sanctuary city for all people—immigrants and citizens. At 3 p.m. the rally program in support of the ordinance will begin. On March 29, at Bentley School Cafetorium, the councilors will meet for a public hearing on the measure. City Council President Elaine Milo has recently called for a “special meeting” following this public hearing. Such a filing by the City Council President will initiate the voting process of the Sanctuary for Peace Ordinance. However, we need at least six (6) councilors to sign on in support of President Milo’s request for a special meeting.
In the March edition of The Rainbow Times, there is an investigative report on the Sanctuary Cities in Massachusetts with specific interviews from key public figures in Salem and some of the councilors, as well as another investigative report on immigration. I hope you read them to inform yourselves about the Trump administration’s orders and how divisive they are to all of us who live in the U.S.A.
Especially, I’d like to reiterate that it is of extreme importance to attend the No Place for Hate Community Engagement subcommittee Rally on the 25th to send a message of solidarity and strength to the councilors who still do not know whether they will vote in favor of the ordinance or not. Join the subcommittee to ensure that in Salem, we care about our immigrant community! It is right. It’s the honorable thing to do. It is what’s fair. And, it’s not 1692, is it?
For more information on how to participate and make your vote count, join the subcommittee here. Also, consider attending a meeting of the Salem No Place For Hate committee, each month on the first Tuesday. Remember, information and education are powerful tools. Use them wisely.
*Gricel M. Ocasio is the Publisher of The Rainbow Times. Gricel holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a Bachelor in Journalism from Temple University. Reach Gricel at: [email protected].