Alaska fishing town rejects inclusivity measure

AP News
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Posted: Feb 28, 2017 6:52 PM
Alaska fishing town rejects inclusivity measure

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A resolution aimed at promoting inclusivity in a small Alaska fishing community has been rejected after it proved too divisive.

The Homer City Council on Monday night voted 5-1 against the measure, which was aimed at affirming Homer's commitment to inclusion amid national concerns about the treatment of immigrants, religious groups, the LGBTQ community and others.

In an interview Tuesday, council member Donna Aderhold said the resolution's wording was unclear and that people took their own message from it. She said it isn't good legislation if it's ambiguous.

She joined with four others in voting it down, even though she personally agreed with what she saw as the measure's aim to uphold human rights and "reaffirm that for individuals in this town who feel vulnerable at this time or at any time."

"What I read was very different from what other people read," Aderhold said. "You don't want things out there that are that open to interpretation."

The resolution stated that Homer would resist any efforts to profile "vulnerable populations" and reject any expressions of fear and hate.

It said that before "and especially since the election," some people on extreme ends of the political spectrum have been emboldened to express an intolerance of diversity, but most others disagree with their actions.

The resolution had been softened from an earlier draft, which was posted online, that said President Donald Trump took power without a popular mandate, and he had stated a "disregard" for the First Amendment.

Even with the revisions, some residents considered the measure unnecessary for a community they already consider welcoming. Some had a hard time separating it from the earlier draft they considered distasteful.

Mayor Bryan Zak called the earlier draft damaging and worried about potential economic fallout.

"Now, we want to move forward," he said Tuesday. "A lot of people put a lot of effort into communicating Homer as a beautiful, wonderful, sharing place, where people help each other, where we have beautiful views, and we have just an incredible quality of life. That's the message we want to continue to share."

Homer, a community of about 5,200, bills itself as the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World" and has a history of political activism. It's literally where the road — the Sterling Highway — ends on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

If the measure had passed, Homer would have joined other cities like Boise, Idaho, that in recent weeks have branded themselves as welcoming. It wouldn't have gone as far as places like Seattle, San Francisco and New York, which offer sanctuary protections for people in the country illegally.