Residents debate Welcoming City measure as Council delays vote

Joanne Landry was among those who opposed the Welcoming City resolution during a City Council meeting on Monday, March 27.

Residents debate Welcoming City measure as Council delays vote
March 30
05:30 2017

Photo by Todd Luck



A vote on the controversial Welcoming City resolution was pushed back so City Council members could meet with state lawmakers about it.

The announcement was made at the City Council meeting on Monday, March 27, which had once again attracted an overflow crowd because of the symbolic resolution.

City Council Member Dan Besse told attendees that, per a request from lawmakers in Forsyth County’s legislative delegation, they would hold off the vote until April 17, so they could discuss it with them on Wednesday, March 29, during a Town Hall Day in Raleigh.

The resolution came about after months of local residents asking the city to adopt a Sanctuary City petition reaffirming its commitment to non-discrimination and to not participate in immigration enforcement that “runs counter to constitutional and international human rights.” City Attorney Angela Carmon said this ran afoul of a state law and a recent federal executive order banning Sanctuary Cities, which are usually cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

Besse wrote the Welcoming Cities resolution to help reassure immigrant communities while not violating current laws. The resolution says the city “takes pride in serving and protecting” all residents and “opposes any measures which target populations within our diverse community for legal scrutiny or other challenges.”

Carmon determined the new resolution does not place any restriction on cooperation with federal immigration enforcement and doesn’t violate any statute.

Opponents, who mostly wore red shirts, seemed to believe the resolution was still in violation of the law and would make Winston-Salem a Sanctuary City.

“I believe that voting Winston-Salem as a Welcoming City, or a Sanctuary City, is a coup against the citizens of our city and our state,” said Joanne Landry of Advance during the public comment period.

They argued undocumented immigrants, or “illegals” as they referred to them, would be drawn to the city, draining its resources and bringing crime.

Proponents also spoke, rejecting connections between crime and undocumented immigrants, cit-ing the many studies that show they’re actually less likely to commit crimes. They said reassurance was needed now with the rhetoric and actions being taken against those from other countries like President Donald Trump’s repeated travel bans against several Muslim-majority counties.

“Targeting specific populations by an elected leader is a potentially dangerous act,” said Charlie Wilson. “At this time, it is imperative we reaffirm our ideal of welcoming persons who have been marginalized without justifiable reasons.”

Also during the meeting, the City Council voted to approve:

*Participation of up to $1.65 million over 10 years for the redevelopment of the old GMAC property by Grubb Properties. The city’s funds will go to demolish a six story building on the property to make way for a 240-unit apartment building with possible ground floor retail space on Fourth Street. Rent will be between $1,000-$1,100. It’ll have workforce housing, with 5 percent of units set aside for those making up to 90 percent of the Area Medium Income and 25 percent of units for those making up to 110 percent. City Council Member Derwin Montgomery was the sole no vote, saying that he supported the project, but felt it didn’t follow the city’s commitment to affordable housing because it aims for those at the higher end of workforce housing.

*A credit of up to 50 percent on stormwater fees for non-residential property owners that install stormwater management devices on properties that currently have none. Stormwater fees on impervious surfaces like parking lots and roofs are used to fund the management of stormwater runoff pollution. Stormwater fees have been a sore point with the local school system, which paid $223,391 in fees in 2015, and the County-owned Smith Reynolds Airport, which struck a deal with the city to receive development money to off-set its fees.

*Rescinding a $100,000 Economic Development loan the city agreed to give The Chronicle in 2014 to expand its operations. The Chronicle never took the loan and the action returns the money to the Economic Development Loan Fund/Technology Fund. It was announced this weekend that City Council Members James Taylor Jr. and Derwin Montgomery are heading a group that is buying The Chronicle.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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