TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – The city of Twin Falls is closer to drafting a welcoming city resolution after more than two hours of public comment and discussion at the City Council meeting on Monday.

City staff had asked the council to further address the topic because of the many citizens who, since the resolution was proposed by a local Boy Scout troop in early April, commented on the topic.

Many residents have let the city know they are against such a resolution, said Mayor Shawn Barigar, but many more have voiced their support in favor of it.

The meeting was another chance for people to voice their opinions.

Photo by Andrew Weeks
Photo by Andrew Weeks

City Manager Travis Rothweiler said he’d prefer to call the document a “neighborly community” resolution instead of a “welcoming city” resolution to curb fears that it’s a precursor to Twin Falls becoming a “sanctuary city.” The information he presented at meeting, however, didn’t mention refugees but instead the city’s strategic plan and its ambition to support a unifying community “without bias.”

He said the city reached out to stakeholders and asked what it is they’d like the city to become. "The community is stronger," he said, "in becoming more diverse.”

Not everyone agreed, but of the more than two dozen people who spoke at the meeting, most were in favor of passing a resolution. Refugees were the main focus of the comments.

Eleanor Burkhart, a child of first-generation Americans, said she believes it’s “simply silly” to have a document that lists Twin Falls as a welcoming and neighborly place because in her experience it already is; but she urged the council to pass the resolution anyway.

Rosie Strobel cited the Golden Rule as her motive for wanting to see a resolution adopted: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” she quoted.

Jane Anderson said she likes the diversity that already exists in Twin Falls and would like to see more of it, including more cultures represented among businesses and restaurants.

“It’s not the 1800s anymore,” she said, urging the council to draft a resolution. “We have moved on. Things change. … Please don’t drag this out.”

Terry Edwards, a Jerome resident who has property in Twin Falls and who previously voiced opposition to the resolution, maintained his position, saying he’s not concerned about refugees, per se, but the safety of the community.

Glenneda Zuiderveld, one of the last to speak at the meeting and who said she represented the family of the 5-year-girl who was sexually assaulted by three refugee boys last year at the Fawnbrook Apartments, said it’s not about race but about culture. She said she believed the boys’ actions had sprung from the culture in which they were raised.

“Theirs is a different culture,” she said.

Pat Petersen, however, said she didn’t like that refugees had become the topic of discussion. "We have to put a label on everything," she said. “But you cannot put a human being in a box.”

The council, for the most part, seemed to support drafting a resolution with two members saying they would not vote in favor of it.

It’s important for the migrant in our community who doesn’t feel welcome," says Mayor Shawn Barigar. "It’s important for the person at the grocery store who’s wearing a headscarf being judged. It’s important for the gay person who cuts hair at a shop being judged for being gay.

Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins and Councilwoman Nikki Boyd said they would vote against the resolution, saying the city doesn’t need a document to be a welcoming place and that the same tenets proposed for the document already exists in the city’s strategic plan.

Mayor Barigar, however, said he believes the resolution would go a long way to make migrants feel welcome and that their contributions are appreciated and needed.

“It’s important for the migrant in our community who doesn’t feel welcome,” he said. “It’s important for the person at the grocery store who’s wearing a headscarf being judged. It’s important for the gay person who cuts hair at a shop being judged for being gay.”

He also said: “I think it’s important that we do take a stand,” especially in light of the many alternative news sources in the form of blogs and online commentary that reflect a small portion of citizens and not the community as a whole.

The mayor praised the Boy Scouts and their leader, Mark Crandall, who came to the April 10 meeting to propose the resolution, saying they were an example of doing something positive and took a stand.

“Those two boys already did a project,” he said. “They already did something. Good for them.”

City staff will draft a resolution and present it to council for a full vote in an upcoming meeting.

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