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Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 12:08 am

Mayor trumpets anti-hate measure

But Langfelder opposes welcoming resolution

 Where elected officials live has a lot to do with what they say.

In California, the mayor of Salinas, along with the United Farm Workers and immigrant groups, opposed a welcoming city resolution that passed the city council last summer. The mayor and other critics said they opposed the measure because a welcoming city resolution, unlike a sanctuary city ordinance that bars cooperation with federal immigration authorities, does nothing.

In Idaho, where Donald Trump got nearly 60 percent of the vote last November, the cities of Boise, Ketchum and Twin Falls months ago passed welcoming resolutions for precisely the same reason that critics in Salinas attacked the idea: A welcoming resolution changes nothing.

“I will never vote for Twin Falls to be a sanctuary city,” Twin Falls City Councilman Greg Lanting said last May before voting to approve the town’s welcoming city resolution. “That will not happen.”

Recent events in Springfield, where the city council last month tabled a similar resolution, have not escaped the attention of folks in the Potato State, where the Idaho Statesman, Boise’s daily newspaper, has published at least one story on Springfield’s efforts to pass a welcoming city resolution. To say the whole world is watching might be a stretch, but newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, California, Florida and Washington state also have published stories about the Springfield resolution.

After these stories appeared, the Springfield City Council tabled the measure, prompting kerfuffles on local talk radio and social media sufficient to prompt Mayor Jim Langfelder to buy ads in the State Journal-Register and Illinois Times explaining what the city council does and why.

“The Springfield City Council works hard to focus on the issues at hand, and what will unite us and move us forward as a neighborhood and city and not cause divisiveness,” reads the ad, which took aldermen by surprise. Following was the text of a resolution denouncing hate and bigotry that the city passed in August after violence erupted in Charlottesville during demonstrations over a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Langfelder says that the August resolution is good enough.

“People should know what we’ve already done,” the mayor says. “I think we covered it with the anti-hate resolution.”

But “hate” and “bigotry” appear in different parts of the dictionary than “welcome” for good reason. Folks who don’t burn crosses or use racial slurs don’t necessarily bring over covered dishes when folks from other countries move next door.

“The difference is, the anti-hate resolution tells you what not to do,” says Maryam Mostoufi, president of the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association. “The welcoming city resolution tells you what we should be, what we should aspire to be as a community.”

The mayor’s ad says that the anti-hate resolution approved in August wasn’t part of a national movement or “an organized request,” as if organic is better than canned when it comes to good ideas. That’s thin ice. The council approved the August resolution after Action Illinois, the same advocacy group that’s pushing the welcoming city resolution, contacted every alderman and asked that the city make a statement. And anti-hate resolutions were in vogue nationwide after Charlottesville, with Rockford, the Illinois General Assembly, the U.S. Senate, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Springfield, Massachusetts, among entities that approved measures condemning bigotry.

Meg Evans, co-chair of the Action Illinois Welcoming Cities Committee, said that supporters in Springfield held four meetings before the resolution was written. Supporters contacted folks in other cities such as Carbondale to inquire about resolutions that gained approval, but she said that no one contacted any national group. “No one is pulling our strings,” Evans said.

As folks in Salinas and Twin Falls know, a welcoming resolution can mean pretty much anything you want. So why not approve one? “The downside is, one, it’s just a tip of the iceberg,” Langfelder says. “There’s underlying motives.” But the mayor struggles to define what, exactly, would happen if Springfield did what more than 90 other cities, including seven in Illinois, have done. “This resolution could be divisive,” the mayor says. “We don’t want to be divisive in our community.”

If there had been a tie vote on the resolution, Langfelder says that he likely would have voted “present” instead of voting yes or no. Curious, coming from a mayor who last month told aldermen that they can’t act out of fear and should do what they feel in their hearts after Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer falsely said that the city could lose federal funds if the resolution was approved. As an aficionado of classic rock, Langfelder should consider the sentiments of Rush, a band from Canada that has never voted “present:” If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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