SCHENECTADY -- The city officially passed a resolution Monday night condemning racism, but some residents and even a few council members acknowledged it doesn’t go far enough.
The resolution states the city rejects “retrograde ideologies, violence, hateful speech and racial bigotry,” and called on President Donald Trump and other elected officials to denounce racism. About 10 residents Monday night said the document, which is symbolic and has no effect on policy, rang hollow.
“Resolutions are inherently a problem if there is no policy or action behind them,” said Jamaica Miles, a community activist and leader of Citizen Action New York.
Miles and a few others expressed disappointment that the council members sponsoring the anti-racism resolution failed to take action when about 50 residents -- over the course of two months -- urged the council to consider making Schenectady a sanctuary city for undocumented citizens.
Monday night’s resolution was sponsored by Democrats Ed Kosiur, John Mootooveren, John Polimeni and Karen Zalewski-WIldzunas. Those four also sponsored and pushed through a resolution in April calling on Congress to enact immigration reform.
Chad Putman, the former deputy city clerk who, two weeks ago, said part of his motivation to seek employment elsewhere was the lack of movement on the sanctuary city issue, on Monday night read a resolution prepared by many of the residents who spoke at the rail.
The document labeled the city’s resolution “simplistic and void of action,” and called on the council to: publicly support legislation backed by Rep. Paul Tonko censuring Pres. Donald Trump; ensure city police participate in “implicit bias training;” declare Schenectady a sanctuary city and compel Kosiur and Polimeni to notify in writing registered Democrats whose signatures they challenged on Dammoni Farley’s election petitions.
The council responded by passing the city's resolution unanimously, 5-0 with two absent, but not before a few members expressed concerns similar to the public.
“I’m certainly not going to publicly vote against a resolution that condemns racism,” Council President Leesa Perazzo said, prompting a few laughs from residents. “But cookie-cutter legislation doesn’t really work for me.”
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield agreed a more specific resolution would have been better but said she was hopeful voting in favor of the city resolution would at least spark a conversation about how to eliminate bigotry on a local level.
Councilman Vince Riggi acknowledged he was unsure what the resolution would accomplish. He recalled being in grade school when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American, was murdered. The 62nd anniversary of Till’s death was Monday, Riggi noted.
“I really have a hard time getting my arms around what’s been happening in our country” he said. “It really hurts my heart that, in a lot of ways, nothing’s really changed."