Forum, Aug. 8: Town of Hartford must send a strong message on privacy

Published: 8/7/2019 10:00:17 PM
Town of Hartford must send a strong message on privacy

During the Hartford Selectboard meeting on July 30, I took the responsibility to speak out on the Welcoming Hartford Ordinance and the Fair and Impartial Policing policy. I believe the issue deserves a wider audience.

Local police forces should understand that their duty is to serve and protect the people of their communities, which includes all residents, independent of their nation of origin, and independent of any documentation attesting to such, or the lack thereof.

In this case, the people of Hartford need to send a strong message to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Justice and the White House that privacy must be maintained, the government is its people, and the people are us.

At one point during the meeting, Selectboard Chairman Simon Dennis acknowledged to the assembled that the board had let them down. To those who invested so much goodwill to the beleaguered: May the gods bless you. To those who undermine justice: I trust the fates to reciprocate equivalent hardship and trauma — so that they may learn.


White River Junction

The discussion isn’t working; a petition would be more fair

I suggest that the Hartford Selectboard drop all discussion on the Fair and Impartial Policing policy and the Welcoming Hartford Ordinance.

After watching the broadcast of this past meeting (some parts several times) it is obvious that continuing to try to have civil conversation on this matter is not to be.

The board has had two meetings that got out of control. I have never seen such disrespect and lack of civility in the town of Hartford.

I feel that this would be the best time for the board to take no further action and to inform the people who are advocating for, or demanding, changes to start a petition. Doing this would be the fair way for all voices to be heard.



Focus on the real problem, and the proposed solution

How people of color react to systemic violence should not be the subject of judgment or intrigue by a predominantly white audience and should not be sensationalized like reality TV.

The Valley News article on the Welcoming Hartford Ordinance (“Hartford policy change stalls: Racial epithet, insults, expletives hurled during Selectboard meeting,” Aug. 1) inappropriately focused on an alleged exchange between an audience member and Selectman Jameson Davis. Let’s redirect the conversation to the real problem and the proposed solution.

Directly impacted Hartford residents offered both personal experiences and verified facts to support the ordinance. Requiring local police to enforce the federal immigration scheme violates the 10th Amendment and stabilizes racism through misinformed fear-mongering.

The Selectboard hesitates to pass this ordinance for fear of community backlash and division, police Chief Phil Kasten resigning, and a lawsuit. Are these reasons valid?

Racism, not the proposed ordinance, is the force dividing this community. By not wanting to alienate bigots, the Selectboard validates bigotry as a perspective worth considering. Failing to act for fear of backlash is not neutrality, it is siding with those who endorse the violent status quo.

Kasten’s misunderstanding of the separation of powers doctrine does not give him the right to hold democracy hostage. As part of the executive (not legislative) branch, his role is limited to enforcing (not drafting) laws.

Anyone can be sued for anything, to be clear. But ample constitutional support exists to uphold this ordinance in court. The judiciary exists in part to settle discrepancies between laws and constitutions, which cannot happen if lawmakers are too afraid to highlight these inconsistencies.

If the Selectboard thinks continued inaction keeps immigrants safer than passing the ordinance, the Selectboard needs to give reasons based on facts rather than on paternalistic claims to be acting in good faith. No purely conjectural secondary effect justifies clinging to a known, devastating reality that the ordinance would directly improve.

The Selectboard should stop prefacing its repeated rejections of the ordinance with impassioned rants about how important the cause is. Acknowledging one’s own racism does not excuse one from acting decisively to end it.



Disrespect of the Selectboard is unacceptable and must end

I wrote to all the members of the Hartford Selectboard to say how very sorry I am that they have been subjected to the verbal abuse on display among some residents of Hartford as the board tried to tackle the complex subject of shielding undocumented immigrants.

I’ve long thought that working on a town board — particularly selectboards and school boards — can be a thankless task and I honor the commitment, time and the care that it takes to represent all of the people of Hartford.

The actions of a few have brought shame to our town.

When this all began, I counted myself as a supporter of the attempt to shield undocumented immigrants. I still believe it is important to do this — but the disrespect that Selectboard members have all endured needs to end.

May I recommend that this issue be tabled permanently and that the Selectboard move on to subjects that concern all of the people in town, not the disrespectful few who believe that bullying is an acceptable way to treat those with whom they disagree.

I hope other folks in town will join me in supporting the people who volunteer to work so hard for all of us.


West Hartford

Public meetings are no place for slurs and name-calling

We want to express our deep distress over the personally divisive tone that the discussions at the recent Selectboard meeting about Hartford’s proposed immigration stance took. There were statements made that skirted far too close to bigotry and racism. As Quechee residents, we are especially upset that the representative from Quechee, Jameson Davis, was the target of racial slurs.

Name-calling has no place at a town meeting. We see the value in occasional loud, lively and even raucous disagreements, but this was an ugly personal attack. Let’s not destroy the value of the New England town meeting by turning it into setting where “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” is lost in the shouting.



Put immigration enforcement resources to much better use

In recent discussions about the Welcoming Hartford Ordinance and in debates about immigration along the southern U.S. border, one frequently hears the opinion that immigrants without proper papers are breaking U.S. laws and should be called out as “illegals.” The implicit or explicit assumption is that “we are a nation of laws” and that everyone whose immigration status is not in doubt is a “legal.”

Wait a minute. Have you ever driven a car at a speed above the posted speed limit? Have you ever won $5 on a scratch ticket and failed to report the income to the IRS? Did you ever drink alcohol below the legal age limit? Or use your hand-held cellphone while driving? If so, you have broken the law and are an “illegal,” too. The self-righteous notion that we are all law-abiding is pure fiction.

The discussion we should be having is how much of our resources should we be using to enforce which laws. We could hire thousands more state police troopers to catch every speeder on the interstate, but that would be counterproductive. The vast majority of speeders are only speeding a little and pose no threat to themselves or others. So the state police focus on the worst offenders and try to keep the drunks and flagrant speeders off the roads.

The same should hold true for immigration enforcement. We could try to deport every undocumented immigrant, but what a foolish waste of resources. The vast majority of these people are productive members of society who work hard, pay taxes, raise wonderful families and enrich their communities. Let’s put our immigration enforcement resources to work catching the few immigrants who are dangerous, and leave the rest alone. Or better yet, provide them with a realistic path to citizenship, so they can become “legals” like all of us.



America’s national malaise is being reflected locally

The unruly behavior of some of the attendees at recent Hartford Selectboard meetings is a reflection of the national malaise and a cause for concern.

Apparently, many of our leaders are intent on dividing these united states. From Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon slurring Africans as “monkeys” to President Donald Trump telling some U.S. citizens to “go back where they came from” — nobody deserves this abuse.

I wish to thank the members of the Hartford Selectboard, especially my friends Dan Fraser and Kim Souza, for their dedicated service to our town. I would not be subject to the stress they endure even for 100 times the $75 they receive for each meeting.


White River Junction


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