Sequim City Council votes to have others continue race discussions

$1,000 membership not renewed for equity, inclusion group

SEQUIM — City of Sequim leaders look to pass the baton to other community groups to carry on community conversations about race, equity and inclusion.

At Monday’s Sequim City Council meeting, the vote was 6-1 — with Council member Brandon Janisse opposed — to stop formal conversations and turn the effort over to the community, with staff and council allowed to participate at their discretion.

Along with stopping formal conversations, council members agreed 4-3 to not renew a $1,000 membership to The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), described on its website as “a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all.” Council members Brandon Janisse and Rachael Anderson as well as Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell were opposed.

Council member Keith Larkin, who made both motions, said he feels the city has done a tremendous job in recent months for a “great community conversation.”

Ferrell said when conversations began, it seemed like the community was in pain.

“We’re at a point now, like a continuation of the discussion, that’s not necessarily led by the city but a rotating leadership group,” Ferrell said.

He added he’d “love to see the other organizations in town involved, and we stand ready should we need to be.”

City staff held guided, virtual conversations on March 20 and March 23 with moderators asking four questions about race, equity and inclusion.

The conversations followed multiple rallies and online and in-person conversations on race, equity and inclusion in the area leading the city council to pass a resolution condemning discrimination and racism.

Barbara Hanna, Sequim communications and marketing director, said she has one more meeting with the Community Conversations Design Team, which includes staff and members of the community that helped design the first two conversations, to thank them.

“We’re hearing from a lot of other community organizations delving into this work,” Hanna said.

Anderson said she wants to see conversations continue so as to make emotional and mental health safety just as important as physical safety.

“Having these conversations allows that to happen,” she said.

GARE membership

Larkin felt the city had gone through the conversation process, so he felt it was appropriate to not renew the GARE membership.

He asked that the $1,000 membership fee go instead to help children who cannot afford membership in Sequim Youth Soccer.

Interim City Manager Charisse Deschenes said when the city faced race and equity details that staff members were unfamiliar with, they looked for help from other organizations such as GARE.

“Many cities were looking to find a resource to help with community conversations,” she said.

Deschenes added that, since the city joined GARE last June, the organization has helped with some internal operations.

She said there have been politics arising around race and equity and that is some of the reason why GARE is being targeted.

“For the most part, GARE has been very helpful,” Deschenes said.

Sequim is the only city with a GARE membership on the North Olympic Peninsula, with mostly larger cities across the U.S. holding memberships, Larkin said.

He said similar resources were available through the Association of Washington Cities.

Deschenes said city leaders with Port Angeles and Port Townsend have asked them about membership, but she’s unsure of their willingness to become members.

“I understand where you’re coming from and we can certainly not renew that,” Deschenes said. “We appreciate that support, but can look at other ways for race and equity (information) and let you know how we’re using the resource.”

Ferrell said he didn’t have a problem with the membership. Discussing it felt like micro-management, he said, adding that it should stop.

“We’ve got to trust the city manager to do her job,” he said.

Mayor William Armacost said the national narrative on race and equity brought up concerns in Sequim he felt didn’t apply in the town.

But he told Ferrell he was proud the city passed the resolution and that “city staff have gone above and beyond” with the community conversations.

Anderson said she agrees with Ferrell and she doesn’t “think race and equity issues are ever going away.”

As for the $1,000 in funds, Larkin said he learned 15 percent of youth soccer players can’t afford membership and he felt the city could help.

Ferrell said it could become difficult trying to earmark small funds when there are many groups with many needs.

Sue Hagener, Sequim’s administrative services director, said the city doesn’t have a mechanism in place to allocate funds like that through a parks and recreation district, and it would have to go through an application process for the poor and infirm.

City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross suggested speaking with the group and/or Sequim School District to see how their sports program applications work, while Deschenes suggested not earmarking the funds specifically but rather putting the funds generally towards the effort for now.

The city will review the Parks Master Plan this summer, Deschenes said.

For more information on the Sequim City Council, visit

More in News

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port Townsend, uses a pencil for scale as she sketches the work at the new entrance to Point Hudson Marina on Monday morning. A group in town, the Port Townsend Urban Sketchers will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday to sketch at the Port Townsend Aero Museum. Sessions are free and open to sketchers of all skill levels. For more information, see (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Marina art

Artist Chris Stevenson, who described herself as an urban sketcher from Port… Continue reading

The site of the former Rayonier mill in Port Angeles, shown on Tuesday, awaits completion of environmental cleanup almost 27 years after the last roll of pulp rolled off the line. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Cleanup at Rayonier site still years away

Action plan to be approved in 2024-25

About 25 people, including Warren Musgrove of Port Angeles, far right, rallied in support of Palestine on Saturday in front of the Clallam County Courthouse. The event, also scheduled to run from noon to 1 p.m. this Saturday and March 2, included an information table that provided information about the history of occupation in the Gaza Strip, organizer Christy Cox said. (Lois Danks)
Rally for Rafah

About 25 people, including Warren Musgrove of Port Angeles, far right, rallied… Continue reading

Report: Crime down in Port Townsend in 2023

New hires added to city department

Clallam County eyes four locations for reservoir

Clallam County will know more about the four potential… Continue reading

Conservation Futures Fund citizen committee to elect officers

The Jefferson County Conservation Futures Fund Citizen Oversight Committee… Continue reading

Cetacean system aims to reduce ship strikes

The U.S. Coast Guard is launching a cetacean desk pilot… Continue reading

Evelyn Jefferson, a crisis outreach supervisor for Lummi Nation, stands at the grave of her son Patrick George Jr., who died last September due to an overdose of street drugs containing the synthetic opioid carfentanil, at the Lummi Nation cemetery on tribal reservation lands on Feb. 8 near Bellingham. Jefferson had to wait a week to bury her son due to several other overdose deaths in the community. (Lindsey Wasson/The Associated Press)
State tribes battling a devastating opioid crisis

Legislation could provide annual funding to help

Tom Ferrell.
Former Sequim mayor announces resignation from council

Ferrell said work obligations overseas limit his time

June Claypool.
Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market names new executive director

The Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market’s board of directors has… Continue reading

Port Angeles City Council to address STR regulations

Tuesday meeting will tackle contentious topic