SEQUIM — Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush will facilitate community discussions about racial issues, the council decided after approving a resolution that condemns racism and discrimination.
Bush said he’ll meet with Sequim resident Shenna Younger, who requested the council action, as well as council members Brandon Janisse and Sarah Kincaid to discuss the next steps for having community conversations about concerns and potential issues in Sequim’s codes and services.
“We’ll take a little bit of time to structure it so it’s effective,” Bush said in a phone interview after the Monday meeting.
Bush said he plans to update the council on the process at its July 13 meeting. He added that the resolution approved Monday could be updated as conversations occur with the community and stakeholders.
The resolution as it stands now says, in part:
“City of Sequim is working to remove barriers that keep all citizens from experiencing this exceptional community and great place to live … The City of Sequim condemns discrimination and racism in our city … The City of Sequim will implement anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training on an annual basis for employees of the City of Sequim.”
Janisse brought the resolution forward at Younger’s request. She and others proposed a resolution in March and then started an online petition asking the council to condemn systemic racism.
The petition, begun June 9, garnered 2,277 signatures.
Janisse said the resolution was not a response to any one event and that the issues need to be addressed in the community.
“It’s good it’s coming from a member of the community and not a politician,” he said, adding later that, “citizens want to have a discussion.
“That’s completely appropriate, but it needs to be meaningful,” Janisse said. “It’s easy-peasy for us to sit here and talk about it. To move it forward, it needs to be a community-building event.”
On June 8, the council decided to hold off on a discussion until emotions settled in the community.
They voted 6-0 Monday — with Council member Troy Tenneson abstaining — to pass an amended resolution; Tenneson did not say why he abstained.
As for possible outcomes from the discussions, Bush said staff may look at city policies and procedures “to make sure nothing institutionally is embedded in those.”
He said the city also wants to hear stories of their experiences from people and what staff can do to improve services.
Bush, who proposed a community conversation on June 8, said he and his team are “ready and willing” to speak with the community and he doesn’t think it’d just be one conversation. He said he wants to work with other community stakeholder groups to discuss racism and discrimination holistically, too.
“I feel like we could make a lot of progress,” Bush said. “It’s a time when a lot of people want to talk about it.”
Bush said he doesn’t know what will come out of the conversations, but “we have the opportunity to move the needle with all these other organizations.”
Tenneson asked Bush if he feels the city has a problem with racism in its codes.
“As we do the code scrub (review), this becomes another lens that we may not have had,” Bush said. “We don’t (have obvious issues) but we want to make sure we don’t. We don’t think we do, but we want to make sure we don’t.”
The council amended the resolution to remove mentions of hate speech.
Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell said the Supreme Court allows hate speech and it cannot be prohibited unless it’s related to “imminent danger” despite “how ugly the language can be.”
“As it stands now, (the resolution) is pretty powerful,” he said.
The original call for a resolution stems from a March 9 City Council meeting where Younger and fellow Sequim residents Nicole Clark and Vicki Lowe held signs of examples of racist comments against the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe they said they saw on the Save Our Sequim (SOS) Facebook page.
Younger said Monday’s resolution was largely the same, aside from amendments the council members made.
Save Our Sequim’s board of directors, a community group opposed to the location and size of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic, issued a statement on June 11 denouncing racism, saying that, “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.”
SOS leaders also wrote they stand against racism.
However, SOS chairman Jodi Wilke wrote on a June 17 Facebook post that the March 9 meeting was not about generalized racism but telling the City Council to censure SOS.
“Comments taken from SOS Facebook were never validated or authenticated. And they were certainly never endorsed as I stated publicly during that meeting,” Wilke wrote.
She added that the “petition against racism relies on misconstrued events painted to look as if racism is endemic in our city and county agencies and all throughout the public.”