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Second time’s the charm for anti-racism resolution

TUPPER LAKE — The town board passed a resolution opposing racism and affirming inclusion on Thursday.

This resolution is a rewrite of one Councilman John Quinn presented at an Oct. 8 board meeting. His resolution did not get seconded by another board member, meaning it could not be discussed or voted on at the time.

This decision generated lots of discussion this month: at board meetings, on social media and in numerous letters to the editor. Some residents were disappointed that the board did not pass or discuss the resolution. Others were disappointed in the resolution itself.

Since Oct. 8, town Supervisor Patti Littlefield said she has drafted a couple of versions of new resolutions. The board members chose the first as their favorite.

The original resolution failed because it asked residents displaying the Confederate flag to consider taking it down. This was a request, not a requirement. Still, it was a perceived overstep of government, according to board members.

“If we as officials affirm a resolution requesting that they remove an object found offensive, it can be interpreted as a directive from a governing body,” Councilwoman Mary Fontana said at an Oct. 15 budget work session.

The new resolution removed this request, focusing exclusively on the town’s position: opposing racist symbols and supporting diversity.

Quinn said he had focused on Confederate flags because a few of them have attracted negative attention recently. He noted that Thursday’s resolution did not specifically mention the flag, focusing on being a more general condemnation of racism.

“I was hoping we could address a specific problem with specific language, but apparently that’s not something that’s going to happen with this board,” Quinn said. “But I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t always get what you want.”

Nevertheless, he was glad there was a resolution.

In September the board had agreed Quinn would draft a resolution to be discussed and possibly voted on this month, and he was noticeably disappointed when it was not discussed on Oct. 8.

Vote

After a bit of discussion at Thursday’s meeting, Fontana moved that the board discuss and vote on the resolution. Quinn seconded this motion. After every board member shared thoughts on the subject and the text of the resolution, they voted. It passed unanimously.

The full text of the resolution, titled “Supporting diversity, inclusion and equity; and opposing racism in the community of Tupper Lake,” is printed below, as is Quinn’s initial proposal.

A fair amount of the approved text was directly lifted from Quinn’s Oct. 8 proposal, including the first few stanzas word-for-word. Littlefield thanked Quinn for his role in crafting the resolution.

Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun also delivered a statement on discrimination and diversity “on behalf of the village board,” although the board did not vote on it, at its Wednesday meeting.

Discussion

The town board members were satisfied that the new resolution conveyed their feelings.

“I think that it covered everything that we were looking for,” Councilman Mike Dechene said.

Councilwoman Tracy Luton said Quinn had “great intentions” with his initial resolution and that without the request for flag removal, she was on board.

“I’m fine with the resolution, as long as it doesn’t offend anybody,” Luton said. “I don’t want to infringe on someone’s rights to do whatever they want to do on their property.”

She also said she and other Tupper Lakers have questioned how necessary the resolution is, saying they do not see a lot of racism in town.

“That’s the United States’ issue, the race issue,” Luton said. “That’s not Tupper Lake’s issue.”

She said the country has fought to fix racism for hundreds of years and has come a long way.

“I just hate to see us keep going backward,” she said.

She said she wishes someone of color would come to the town board and tell them about their experience in Tupper Lake.

“We certainly have a diverse culture here in Tupper Lake,” Littlefield said.

The town of Tupper Lake is 95.9% white, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Quinn said he believes the Confederate flag offends the average person and is glad the issue is being discussed now. He said he has “no regrets” that he brought the topic up, though he was sorry it brought the town some bad press.

He said he does not believe the community is racist but that a small minority of its residents are.

“It doesn’t take but a few symbols to make all this hard work we’ve done to try to promote this community to be a welcoming, friendly community to become something else for people specifically of color,” Quinn said.

Differences

The main difference in the new resolution is the elimination of the final paragraph: “Be it further resolved that the Tupper Lake town board requests that all public display or expression (of hateful or racist signs, flags, symbols, actions or sentiments) be removed.”

The new resolution focuses more on stating that these displays or expressions are hurtful to the town’s image and declaring that the town opposes them.

The new resolution also goes into further detail about what diversity means.

The new resolution generally carries more positive language, as Littlefield had requested on Oct. 8. While in Quinn’s resolution the town “opposes” “hateful or racist signs, flags, symbols, actions or sentiments,” the new resolution “affirms” that display of these things are not “beneficial” to the community.

Full text of final resolution

“Whereas, Tupper Lake is proud of an benefits from its reputation as a friendly and welcoming community, and

“Whereas, any symbol of racism or prejudice on public display is detrimental to our image of our community as friendly welcoming to all, and

“Whereas, the Tupper Lake town board wishes to express its support for diversity, equity and inclusion for all, and

“Whereas, the Tupper Lake town board wishes to express its opposition to racism, bigotry, xenophobia and any hurtful speech or action, and

“Whereas, while the town board acknowledges that human diversity can be defined as differences in race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical and/or mental capabilities, and religious belief, and

“Whereas, the Tupper Lake town board acknowledges that diversity enriches and adds value to the community of Tupper Lake, and

“Whereas, the Tupper Lake town board acknowledges the Constitutional right to free speech, and

“Whereas, the Tupper Lake town board affirms that public displays of symbols of racism and hate are not beneficial to the community’s image

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Tupper Lake town board affirms that the public display or expression of symbols of racism, inequity and sentiments lacking in diversity, inclusion, equity and/or hate are not beneficial to Tupper Lake’s image of being a friendly and welcoming community in which all are welcome to live, work and visit.”

Quinn’s initial version

“Whereas, Tupper Lake is proud of an benefits from its reputation as a friendly and welcoming community, and

“Whereas, any symbol of racism or prejudice on public display is detrimental to our image of our community as friendly welcoming to all, and

“Whereas, the Tupper Lake town board wishes to express its opposition to racism, bigotry, xenophobia and any hurtful speech or action, and

“Whereas, While the town board acknowledges the constitutional right to free speech, the board affirms that the public display of confederate flags and other symbols of racism and hate are not beneficial to the community’s image.

“Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Tupper Lake town board opposes the display or expression of hateful or racist signs, flags, symbols, actions or sentiments, and

“Be it further resolved that the Tupper Lake town board requests that all public display or expression be removed to ensure that Tupper Lake can change and be perceived as a friendly and welcoming community and that all are welcome to live and visit.”

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