Naperville pitching 'welcoming city' resolution to say 'we serve everyone'
Council member Becky Anderson wants Naperville to approve a resolution that would be a "total reaffirmation" of the city's inclusiveness.
It would stress one of Naperville's best attributes, she says: its open arms and welcoming spirit that includes all people -- regardless of race, religion, culture, sexuality or background -- and treats them equally.
"I do want to say we have a resolution as a 'welcoming city,' to say we serve everyone equally and everyone is accepted within our city boundaries as residents and visitors," Anderson said during a recent council meeting.
No action has been taken yet, but the idea got enough support that city staff members will begin drafting such a "welcoming city" resolution, something the council could approve at any time.
"It's important that people moving in know this town is going to support them," said Naperville resident Barbara O'Meara, who told the council she moved here 20 years ago as part of a same-sex couple looking for acceptance. "Continue to be welcoming as you always have been, and I thank you."
Anderson's push for a "welcoming city" statement from Naperville comes after several municipalities, such as Chicago and Oak Park, have publicized their status as "sanctuary cities." Those cities refuse to turn over undocumented immigrants or assist with deportation by federal authorities.
Although Naperville police Chief Robert Marshall has said the city's police force does not assist with immigration investigations, official "sanctuary city" status is not what Anderson wants for her hometown.
"It's just a statement. It's not a sanctuary city ordinance or anything like that," Anderson said as she described her proposal. "I think it's just a public statement that we are a welcoming city and we always have been and will remain so."
In the wake of changes President Donald Trump's administration has made to federal immigration policy, Anderson said it's important for Naperville to reaffirm its openness and equal treatment for all. She said area Muslim and Jewish residents seem on edge because of discriminatory and anti-Semitic behavior, and she hopes the "welcoming city" resolution can offer some comfort.
There could be a downside, though. Council member Patty Gustin said the risk of approving a welcoming resolution is that it could signal a change from past practice.
"We don't want this to be seen in the negative, as we aren't welcoming so we need to do this," Gustin said.
Plus, if the council isn't careful, the potential resolution could be seen as toothless.
"One of my concerns with proclamations and resolutions is sometimes they can feel a little empty," council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said.
Instead of just adopting a "welcoming city" resolution, she said the council should closely consider ways to support people who might be facing discrimination. One such opportunity could come soon when council members decide soon how to distribute funding from the city's social services grant.
"If we really want to be welcoming," Boyd-Obarski said, "let's think about ways that we can do that with our dollars as well as our voices."