City Council Approves Drafting ‘Welcoming City’ Resolution
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – The Twin Falls City Council on Monday evening unanimously agreed to pursue establishing Twin Falls as an official "welcoming city" for refugees.
The City Council Chambers was packed Monday evening, with about two dozen people commented on the proposal and the area's refugee program. Some spoke against the resolution, but most said they were in favor of establishing Twin Falls as an official "welcoming city."
Dr. Mark Crandall, representing a local Boy Scout troop in attendance, asked council members to consider adopting such a resolution.
Crandall referenced the Mormon pioneers, who, after being persecuted in the Midwest in the mid-1800s, fled the borders of the U.S. and entered Mexican Territory, now Salt Lake City and other parts west, including Idaho.
“We call them Mormon pioneers, but they were American citizens,” he said. “Our refugees are part of our community.”
Rick Naerebout, director of operations for the Idaho Dairymen Association, spoke in favor of the resolution, saying he and the association itself were “proud supporters” of the refugee program.
He said he was concerned about some alternative media reports that painted Twin Falls as not very welcoming to all races and cultures of people, and that an official resolution would go a long way making others see that Twin Falls is a friendly place for all people.
Not everyone shared the same views.
Terry Edwards, a Jerome resident with property in Twin Falls, and who has been a frequent visitor at City Council meetings over the past year, said he was a third generation American but that “these refugees of today are different. And it’s not because of their ethnicity, it’s because of their culture.”
He likened those coming through the refugee program to M&M’s, saying that out of a handful their might be one that is poison. Would you accept M&M’s if you knew that out of the mix one of them was poisoned? he asked.
Byrd Golay raised his voice at the council. “Where are you guys at?” he said, noting that he didn’t believe the city needed an official document saying it was a welcoming city. “This is a different time in America.”
He turned his comments to the Boy Scouts who proposed the resolution, saying he doubted any 15-year-old knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the refugee controversy. They only repeat what adults tell them to say, he said.
That did it. Boy Scout Reagan Larsen, 15, said he hadn’t originally planned to comment but decided to voice his opinion after hearing some of the comments.
“Maybe I’m only 15 and don’t know anything,” he quipped, but he said it’s not a correct comparison to liken all refugees as being the same. “I know that sometimes in class if one kid does something bad, all the kids get punished for it. Nobody likes that.”
Daryl Webber also spoke in favor of the resolution, saying refugees “are not pills" or M&M's. They are human beings,” and part of the reason she and her family decided to move to Twin Falls was because it was a diverse and welcoming community.
Several of council members expressed their own views, each saying he or she believed Twin Falls was already is a welcoming community.
“We are a welcoming city,” said Councilwoman Nikki Boyd, “and every one of you has demonstrated that here tonight.”
Council Greg Lanting said “we are all emigrants,” and that he was in support of drafting an official resolution.
Mayor Shawn Barigar said he was proud of the Boy Scouts, who, by their efforts on taking a stance and bringing the issue before the council, each has demonstrated true leadership in the community.
Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins proposed that before city staff draft a resolution that it ask for further input from residents on what they'd like to see in the document. That proposal passed 6-1, with Councilman Chris Talkington voting against it, saying he believes the city already received enough information from residents at the meeting.
He said, however, that he was in full support of drafting a resolution. He said the U.S. Constitution was his guiding light on the matter.
"All men are created equal," he said. "That's my dogma."
The council will revisit the topic at a later date, once a draft proposal has been written.