TWIN FALLS —Twin Falls’ City Council has passed a resolution declaring the city a “neighborly community.”
The vote was 5-2, with Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins and Councilwoman Nikki Boyd against.
The Council has listened to more than three hours of public testimony on the proposal at meetings over the past month, and didn’t take any more public comment Monday night.
“We feel like we have had plenty of time to (hear from) the public on this,” said Hawkins, who was running the meeting because Mayor Shawn Barigar wasn’t present. He listened in and voted by telephone.
“It changes none of our policies,” Barigar said. “It does not lay a groundwork for any future activity that some may think we’re up to.”
The public comment at meetings has been about 75 to 80 percent in favor of the resolution, which reaffirms the city’s commitment “to build a community where all residents are welcomed, accepted, and given the opportunity to connect with each other without bias in pursuit of common goals” and encourages residents, businesses and community groups in town to join in similar efforts.
However, City Manager Travis Rothweiler said the phone calls and emails he has gotten have been more equally split. Hawkins said the feedback she has gotten has been about 80 percent opposed to the resolution, suggesting that “citizens reach out to those who they feel more aligned with.”
Councilman Greg Lanting, who said about 60 percent of the people he has heard from favor the resolution, said he views it as a statement of what the city is, and as a rebuttal to how Twin Falls has been portrayed in “some of the media,” an apparent reference to some of the coverage of refugee resettlement by right-wing online outlets. Lanting said the resolution does not align Twin Falls with the national “welcoming cities” movement and is not a precursor to becoming a “sanctuary city,” as some opponents have said it is.
“To those who say why, I say why not?” Lanting said.
Boyd said the city can’t control what others say or think, but that being a good Samaritan starts at home.
“I think that says everything and we don’t need a piece of paper to say that’s what we do,” she said.
The resolution doesn’t mention immigrants, refugees or any other group of people specifically, but it traces its origins to a project some local Boy Scouts did at the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, and much of the public testimony both for and against it has focused on these issues. The final resolution goes through a series of points in the city’s strategic plan and connects them to the concept of being a welcoming community.
Also at the meeting
The Council heard a brief update on the Main Avenue reconstruction. CH2M Engineer Paul Johnson, who is serving as the Urban Renewal Agency’s representative on the project, said the work is “on schedule and on budget,” with some partial demolition already having started on the stretch of Main Avenue between Fairfield Avenue and Gooding Street, which will be the second block to be rebuilt. The stretch between Shoshone and Gooding streets was the first and work is still being done there.
And, the Council voted to award a $699,000 bid to Kloepfer Inc. to build a section of the Canyon Rim Trail extending it from the Eastland and Pole Line intersection to the Evel Knievel jump site.
The Council also heard presentations from this year’s applicants for $100,000 in Municipal Powers Outsource Grants money, which is money the city gives to nonprofits to provide services the government might have to provide otherwise or enhance existing city services. The Council plans to decide next week who will get funding.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say the resolution says "...without bias in pursuit of common goals."