City Council adopted a resolution this week declaring Statesboro a “Safe and Inclusive Welcoming City for All People.”
The broadly worded resolution makes no reference to lesbian, gay or transgendered people, to immigrants or to any other categories of human beings. It does not make Statesboro a sanctuary city for unlawful immigrants.
Before reading the resolution Tuesday, Mayor Jan Moore said that Councilman Travis Chance had approached her about it at the previous meeting after receiving a number of calls. Moore said she too had received calls and visits from people interested in the resolution.
Other communities have adopted similar statements, she noted.
“I know that there is a feeling amongst people around this country that maybe they feel a little left out, maybe not welcomed in their community – I’m not going to say discriminated against because that’s not what this resolution states by any stretch – and I think it was an effort to feel comforted in where they live,” Moore said.
Statesboro’s resolution, she said, is meant to assure people that the city recognizes that “all of us productive citizens, not folks coming here to commit crimes … deserve the right to feel welcomed and included” and respects everyone’s rights.
“I think it’s a reaffirmation of who we are as a community,” Moore added.
Councilman Phil Boyum noted that he was once a newcomer to Statesboro.
“So yeah, I think it’s important to say it out loud that we’re not like some of these other cities that are putting up signs saying stay away, keep out,” Boyum said. “We want to be the opposite of that.”
“Well, I am from here,” said Councilman Jeff Yawn, “and I certainly want to be perceived and known as a community that is inclusive.”
Councilman John Riggs said: “I feel we’re already that way; this is just putting it on paper.”
“It sounds good. I’ll be in favor of it,” said Councilman Sam Lee Jones.
On a motion from Yawn, seconded by Boyum, the four members present approved.
Blue Mile tie-in
Interviewed Thursday, Chance, who missed Tuesday’s meeting because of a scheduling conflict, said he had brought the idea to Moore and City Manager Randy Wetmore at the conclusion of the previous meeting, March 7.
One local citizen, representing others, had spoken to Chance, he said, and linked the resolution to Statesboro’s finalist status in the America’s Best Communities competition.
With the Blue Mile plan for the revitalization of South Main Street, Statesboro is one of eight finalist communities competing for three project-funding prizes of $3 million, $2 million and $1 million in the corporate-funded contest. Previously one of 15 semifinalists, Statesboro has received $150,000 in prizes so far.
“They were essentially telling me that it had come to their attention that since we were in the America’s Best Communities finalists, that we were only one of two communities in the finalists and actually only one of two in the top 15, before we made that cut, that did not have some type of resolution like this in place,” Chance said.
He told the constituent he did not want to single anyone out but would have no problem looking towards a resolution that would help “to show us as the community that I know and that you know and that we love,” Chance recalled.
He had suggested that Wetmore look at resolutions from other ABC communities but was “shocked” that a resolution appeared on the agenda so soon, Chance said.
Moore and Chance both declined to identify citizens who talked to them about the resolution.
The Blue Mile Committee did not request it. However, a community member brought the idea to the committee a few weeks ago, said Bob Mikell, a local attorney and Blue Mile Committee member.
“While the committee did not formally request the resolution, the members were supportive of the idea and getting city support for it,” Mikell said Friday.
Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce President Phyllis Thompson and Mikell have been preparing the ABC competition final progress report, due next Wednesday. Thompson said the resolution wasn’t mentioned in the final report, focusing on specific projects, which she uploaded to the ABC competition website Friday.
However, in the revitalization plan, an updated final section, “The Road Ahead,” states that the community “affirms its commitment to inclusivity and to expand opportunities for those living in the Blue Mile area.”
In the video
The city’s resolution was mentioned in a video produced by Stouthouse Media for the Blue Mile Committee and shown Thursday during the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority’s annual luncheon.
In a voiceover, Stouthouse Media owner Jake Hallman listed “a new city resolution affirming Statesboro’s commitment to inclusivity” as another sign of progress.
Hallman added the reference Tuesday after hearing that the resolution was expected to pass, but not because this was an expectation for the contest, he said.
“The inclusivity thing was just something that I saw was going on here in Statesboro and said, ‘Oh, yeah, maybe I should put that in because that’s new and recent and big and it will reflect well on us,’” Hallman said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.