The Delta Junction City Council held its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday evening and had a packed meeting room full of concerned citizens.
The Delta Wind placed an article online concerning the council’s handling of the Consent for Refugee Resettlement at the previous city council meeting on Tuesday morning (full article is in this edition of the paper).
At about same time the Delta Wind article was posted online, local area resident Crystal Hollembaek placed posts on several Delta Junction related social media sites saying that the City Council would be voting to turn Delta Junction into a sanctuary city. The social media comments quickly turned into a firestorm of emotions.
The post from Hollembaek urged those who viewed the post to share it. The post urged people to go to the meeting and vote no, (even though the public has no way to vote at the council meetings). It further said, “We cannot allow this to happen to our town. We cannot handle a load of people coming in, and if this passed we will have NO SAY!” The post also questioned why the general public was not informed.
Currently the City of Delta Junction only posts their agenda on the city website. While the agenda lists the topics to be discussed, it provides no further information. Additional information is contained in the council meeting packet that can be picked up at City Hall.
City administrator Mary Leith commented before the meeting that the phones at city hall had been “ringing off the hook” all afternoon about the refugee resettlement issue.
More than 60 local area residents turned out to attend the council meeting. The meeting room was standing room only.
Mayor JW Musgrove invited those in attendance that if they wished to make comments, they could do so during the beginning part of the meeting or at the end of the meeting. Musgrove instructed the audience that there would be a three-minute time limit on their comments.
Musgrove opened the floor for comments. Comments continued for the next 96 minutes.
Those in attendance who got up to speak displayed the lack of information that has been provided by the City on the topic. Speakers expressed their concern about health issues that could be carried into the community by refugees. There were also concerns that if this program was given consent by the council, it could be a “slippery slope” for the city in the future.
It was expressed to the audience by Musgrove that this entire issue is currently about one individual who has family members that reside within the city limits and that the number of refugees could come to a total of five.
The general sentiment of those that spoke is that they did not want to, “throw open the doors” to the city and risk the community that we already have.
Council member Audrey Brown who was vocal at the previous meeting concerning the refugee resettlement was not present for this meeting.
When the council finally reached the refugee resettlement item on the agenda, Musgrove informed the council that he would wait for 20 seconds for a council member to make a motion.
Council member Pete Hallgren who attended the meeting by phone and was not available for the previous meeting, made the motion to approve the consent for refugee resettlement.
Musgrove asked if anyone would second the motion so that it could be voted upon. After a delay of several seconds, Musgrove declared that the motion has failed because of no second.
During the public testimony portion of the meeting, several residents expressed confusion that this item was once again on the agenda.
Musgrove explained that this item was brought back because a member of the council requested that the issue be renewed at the next meeting. Musgrove explained that there is no limit on the number of times that an item can be renewed. Musgrove would not disclose which council member made the request.
Hallgren admitted that he was the one that requested the item be renewed because he was not available to speak to this issue at the previous meeting.
After the meeting, the number of posts on social media decreased substantially. Local area resident Walter Stockwell commented on Facebook, “It was pretty obvious how Delta felt and it was embarrassing the way our Mayor acted. As for “it’s not this or not that” it is a toe in the door and a clear message needs to be sent to all our levels of government.”
Area resident Emily Pettitt also commented on Facebook, “I hope that there will be a balance of wisdom and compassion. Much of tonight was driven by fear and ignorance or lack of knowledge.”