By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Carlton considers inclusivity statement

CARLTON — After listening to numerous citizens and visitors Tuesday night, the Carlton City Council asked the city staff to draft an “inclusivity” resolution stating that everyone is welcome and due respect in Carlton.

The council will consider adoption at its next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Councilor Amy Wilder asked the group to put sanctuary city discussion on its work session agenda, City Administrator Chad Olsen said. He said the topic came up in July, but the council ran out of time.

An overflow crowd of supporters showed up Tuesday, filling every seat and spilling out into floor space and an adjacent hallway. Several people who had come to discuss other matters, including Marlena Bertram of Your Community Mediators and Jeff Sargent of YCAP, took the opportunity to lend their support as well.

Carlton is not immune to discrimination, even if it’s subtle, speakers said. Even if negative incidents are few, they said, it’s crucial for the town and its leaders to take a public stance decrying discrimination. 

In recent months, many Oregon cities, including McMinnville, have adopted welcoming statements, said Sally Godard, executive director of Unidos Bridging Community. Her organization advocates for Latino immigrant families and tries to “build bridges of support and understanding among Latino and non-Latino communities.”

Godard said she prefers the term “inclusive” rather than “sanctuary,” because cities really can’t promise physical sanctuary. She said being inclusive simply means respecting and serving “people of all kinds.”  

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Considering discrimination and inclusivity is especially important given recent events across the U.S., several people said. They noted the recent violence at an alt-right neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other incidents targeting immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans and other groups since President Donald Trump took office.

“It’s obvious to me there’s never a better time to bring this up,” Wilder said.

Councilor Shirley Ward-Mullen agreed, saying one of the body’s responsibilities is to “help direct the moral compass.” She said, “We need to declare that we’re inclusive.”

Speaking at the start of the meeting, before the word “inclusivity” replaced “sanctuary,” Councilor Scott Carl said he didn’t think such a declaration was necessary. Carlton has a zero tolerance of discrimination, he said, and “everybody already is included.” 

Carl said, “I’m not racist. I’m not against this. It just seems a bit much.”

Later, he reiterated that he opposed only the political term “sanctuary city”; he is “not in any way opposed” to inclusivity. For him, he said, “inclusive” is the very definition of Carlton.

“I love this place. It’s full of people who care for each other and look out for each other,” he said. “A piece of paper won’t change that.”

He said he worried, though, that TV coverage of the meeting might give people the wrong impression about his hometown. “There are haters everywhere,” he said, “but they’re a rarity in Carlton.”

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Mayor Kathie Oriet said it won’t hurt to have an inclusivity resolution on the books. However, she said, she’s “never heard of anyone being discriminated against” in her 30-plus years as a Carlton resident.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” noted Councilor Gwen Jernstadt.

“But this won’t stop it from happening,” Carl responded.

A racially-charged incident happened earlier this month, in fact, according to Wilder and several other speakers.

They said a violent racial slur was found in front of Carlton’s Upper City Park after a festival at which artists drew pictures and positive messages on downtown sidewalks.

Karen McClendon said she discovered “that garbage.” She said she considered calling the police, but realized “there’s no law against that” and erased it herself.

Lauri Lewis said she’s glad the slur was erased. She wouldn’t have wanted her young African American grandchildren to see it. “I want my family to be welcome here,” she said. 

Janet Herring Sherman, who has a son of color, agreed. She also reminded the all-white crowd that it wasn’t the first racist incident in Carlton.

“Some people think it can’t happen here, but it can,” she said. “It may not be overt, but many things happen in a covert way.”

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She and other citizens urged the council to take a public stand. “If it’s in writing, they’d be more tolerant,” she said.

Janet Zuelke reminded councilors they are Carlton’s leaders.

“It’s not a waste of your time to speak publically and say you are an inclusive city,” she said, noting that inclusivity refers not just to immigrants, but “women, gays, people of color, transgendered ...” and an array of others.

Lynette Shaw, wife of one of the councilors, offered “unequivocal support” for a resolution that would make it clear Carlton is inclusive, thus “honors all citizens equally.”

Shaw felt some councilors brushed off the issue in July. She was pleased to see them listening this time, she said.

She told the council, “I condemn in the strongest words any attempts to silence those who think differently.”

Inclusivity is an important topic in any city or area of the country, according to Godard,who doesn’t live in Carlton but attended the meeting to address the issue.

“It’s very important for government to make it clear this is a welcoming place,” she said, “especially now, when people in general feel more vulnerable.

“All of us feel uneasy. We need to know if we’re welcome and if people appreciate us.” 

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