Twin Falls is a welcoming city. From its founding, the city has welcomed people of all kinds. At first, it was investors from the east. Then, anybody with enough moxie to head west and try to scrape together a living and a life transforming barren desert into fertile farmland.
In the hundred or so years since, we’ve seen waves of immigrants. Basques, South Americans, and most recently, Hispanics from Central America and Mexico.
That same spirit – that if you have enough guts to take a chance, Twin Falls is where dreams can come true – is still as vibrant as ever. Just look around the valley at the scores of small businesses and companies large and small who chose here to pursue commerce. Look at their workers and employees. Look at your neighbors.
Last week, the New York Times ran a front-page story about Twin Falls that captured some of our ethos. From city politicians to developers, the refrain from locals was the same: If you’re tough enough to try it here, chances are you’ll be rewarded.
We welcome people. Competition breeds success.
So why has the city been so reluctant to say it?
Nearly a year ago, we urged the City Council to pass a resolution stating Twin Falls was a place that welcomed people of all kinds, colors and creeds. We felt it important for the city to stake a position as our welcoming spirit came under unprecedented attack from a handful of bigots trying to close the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center and out-of-state special interests opposed to Muslims and non-whites.
Sadly, the Council did not act. Instead, it listened at meeting after meeting to some of the most despicable and misinformed accusations against refugees and others in our city.
And still it did not act.
In January, the Boise City Council unanimously passed a resolution proclaiming it a welcoming city. Ketchum has done the same.
Now it’s finally time for Twin Falls to act.
Such a proclamation wouldn’t be all that unusual. Already this month, the Council has dealt with proclamations declaring it Child Abuse Prevention Month, Volunteer Appreciation Month, National Service Recognition Day and Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
Surely, simply stating that Twin Falls is a welcoming place would be just as benign. It’s true, so it should be easy to state. The problems is, opponents are likely to see the move as a wink and a nod to refugee resettlement, an issue over which the city has no control. Resettling refugees is a federal issue.
To be sure, the proclamation is being driven by the refugee issue. Dr. Mark Crandall is a Boy Scout leader whose troop recently volunteered at the refugee center. When the boys asked what more they could do, the center urged them to become vocal advocates. The boys have been happy to engage and are turning to their government.
“A similar statement of support (as the Boise resolution) would go a long way in our current environment to demonstrate that Twin Falls is a welcoming city,” Crandall wrote in a letter to the Council. “It would help show that our city is full of Good Samaritans like the boys in my Scout troop, and that we do not allow ourselves to be defined or caricatured by the alt-right media. I applaud the city council for your fairmindedness and measured response to the out-of-state anti-immigration advocates from last year. They do not represent our values as a city.”
Now it’s time for the Council to step up and be as brave as these boys. It’s time to stand up and say, finally, that Twin Falls will not be defined by outside influences or small-minded locals who fail to see the diverse and pioneering spirit that’s been the secret to our success for more than 100 years.
It’s time for this Council to make us proud. It’s time to make the proclamation: Twin Falls is a welcoming city.