Sequim City Council to discuss racism

Council originally opted to wait on talks

SEQUIM — Sequim City Council members will consider a resolution Monday condemning discrimination and racism in the city and city government.

Initially the council had decided to put off a discussion about racial issues until after the Fourth of July.

The day after that decision on June 8, Sequim resident Shenna Younger started an online petition urging Mayor William Armacost and the council to denounce systemic racism. It is at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-sequimpetition.

“If you are not willing to discuss the biggest issue at hand, step down,” she says on the page. “We need real leaders willing to have real conversations and come up with viable solutions to combat this horrible behavior happening in our city.”

As of Saturday morning, the petition had 1,862 signatures.

On June 11, Armacost released a statement that was posted to the City of Sequim’s website at htts://www.sequimwa.gov/.

“The City of Sequim is opposed to racism, bigotry, intolerance, and bias of any form,” the statement says.”Based on current racial tensions, the City wants to assure the community that the organization, including its governing body and staff, will manage and lead to ensure equal and fair treatment of every citizen.

“Respect … because every person matters, is one of the organization’s stated and adopted values. Council and staff are committed to serving all citizens of Sequim with respect and will continue to strive to earn the respect of the public and build a community together that makes us all proud.”

Council member Brandon Janisse plans to present a resolution written by Younger.

“As an official, I’m responsive to what the community wants and that’s what I’m doing,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m presenting it on behalf of Miss Younger.”

The resolution seeks the city to remove barriers keeping citizens experiencing Sequim to its full potential; that the city does not support or tolerate hate speech, discrimination, and racism; that groups providing a platform for hate speech, discrimination, or racism have no place in city government or the community; and that the city will implement/continue anti-harassment and anti–discrimination training on an annual basis for employees.

Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush had proposed on June 8 that the city open a community dialogue to gain a “deeper understanding from different perspectives” about national issues that culminated in Black Lives Matter protests and vigils in the city in recent weeks.

He said the Sequim Police Department has received numerous calls and he felt “it was an opportunity for a discussion” using trained facilitators within the city staff.

Janisse said then that he agreed with Bush about engaging the community.

“When I talk to people, I tell them I can’t help make changes or policies from what I don’t know,” he said.

Janisse said a discussion could help to educate the council because “Sequim as a community has its own unique challenges.”

Other council members, however, were hesitant to immediately schedule such a community conversation.

Deputy mayor Tom Ferrell said he’d “be willing to talk about (this) after the dust settles from everything and from the emotions across the nation. I don’t want to do knee-jerk things,” he said.

Council member Troy Tenneson said that there are “emotions on both sides” and, “as the City of Sequim, I think holding our cards now is the best move.”

Council member Mike Pence said, “It’s too soon to see which way this is going to go. Now that the two political parties have gotten involved, it’s going to be funny to see who comes out on top and what’s under them when they come up,” he said.

Said Armacost then: “Let’s get past the Fourth of July, and at that point see if we need to reengage the community and talk about bringing it back to the community.”

On the petition page, Younger wrote that a plea in March for the council to denounce racism was ignored.

Younger and other Sequim residents Nicole Clark and Vicki Lowe spoke on March 9 while holding signs of examples of racist comments against the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe they said they saw on the Save Our Sequim (SOS) Facebook page. Organizers and moderators for the SOS page said at that council meeting they deleted the comments and don’t condone or allow those comments.

SOS opposes a medication assisted treatment center (MAT) the tribe plans to build in Sequim.

The group issued a statement on June 11 that said, it “condemns racism in all its forms. … We are aware that some people want to vent their opinions on social media, however, SOS has standards that we adhere to and moderators of the SOS Facebook page immediately remove objectionable and/or racist posts as soon as they come to their attention.

“Save Our Sequim supports Mayor Armacost, the Sequim City Council and our Police and Sheriff Departments in their efforts to maintain law and order during these difficult and contentious times; SOS is aligned with these public organizations against racism. We are fortunate that our public agencies continue to remain free from any widespread or systemic racism.”

Officials with the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce, Sequim School District, Clallam County commissioners and other agencies have released statements or initial draft statements condemning racism and racist acts.

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