Yarmouth councilors agree on pot, but not on hate

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YARMOUTH— Councilor David Craig’s motion to end debate on a proposed resolution caused debate at the Town Council’s Aug. 17 meeting.

And that was his intention. 

Item 9-A was a last-minute addition to the meeting agenda after Craig and Councilors April Humphrey and Timothy Shannon drafted and submitted a resolution condemning recent acts of hate and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The resolution read in part that “Yarmouth hereby condemns all hateful speech and violent actions directed at any racial or religious minority, including Jews, Muslims, immigrants, or people of color.”

Action on the resolution was moved forward to the start of Thursday night’s meeting. Later, the council approved a moratorium on retail marijuana and social clubs, and endorsed the Chebeague Island Transportation Co.’s request for a ferry replacement. 

In order for an agenda item to be added to a previously drafted and distributed agenda, a councilor must receive consent from either the council chairman or three or more councilors. 

On Tuesday, Aug. 22, Craig said he, Shannon, and Humphrey collaborated on the resolution, which Chairwoman Pat Thompson later called a “three-person, back-room resolution draft.” They submitted it via email to the rest of the council Tuesday, Aug. 15.

According to Craig, his discussion with Shannon and Humphrey happened “very organically.” 

Thompson and Vice Chairman Robert Waeldner intended to call for a motion to postpone action on the resolution. But after the resolution was read and seconded, Craig immediately moved the question, which essentially ended all debate and required an immediate vote. 

Craig said he expected the motion to fail 3-3, and it eventually did. But he said it was a calculated risk.

“If the motion to move the question succeeded, we would have voted to approve or disapprove of the resolution right then,” he said Tuesday. “I think it would have passed unanimously. I can’t image anyone voting against it, but it was a risk.”

Humphrey, Shannon, and Craig voted in favor of the motion; Thompson, Waeldner and Councilor Richard Plourde were opposed. Councilor James MacLeod was absent. 

But the motion to call the question opened the floor to debate.

Thompson and Waeldner stuck to the traditional process of stating a resolution, and said there had to be more time for councilors and the public to have input .

Thompson also said additional minority groups should have been identified in the resolution.

She also noted that three people died because of the violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. The resolution referenced only the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Thompson said it was important to include the names of Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, who were killed in a helicopter crash while patrolling from the air.

“Not one of us is opposed to a resolution against violence, hatred and bigotry; that is not the issue here,” Thompson said. “The issue is upholding Town Council rules that the good people of Yarmouth adopted many years ago.”

“I do not believe that this resolution is of such importance that the voices of the residents of Yarmouth must be denied,” she added, as a member of the audience left the room, repeatedly saying “shame.” 

Craig, Humphrey and Shannon asserted the urgency of the issue merited having the council speed up its traditional process. 

According to Craig, the council received 44 emails between Tuesday and Thursday in support of the resolution, and one in opposition.

During public comment, residents also urged the council to vote on the resolution that night. Some people shared personal stories about why their local government taking a stand meant so much to them. 

After an hour of debate, the council unanimously approved a motion to hold a workshop on Thursday, Aug. 24, a special operations committee meeting on Friday, Aug. 25, and scheduled vote on the resolution on Monday, Aug. 28. 

“I’m still baffled as to why this (vote) didn’t happen,” Craig said. “I don’t understand it.”

After moving on to other agenda items, the council presented a more united front, unanimously approving a moratorium on all retail recreational marijuana activity, and the location, operation or licensing of any and all retail marijuana social clubs and retail marijuana establishments. 

Effective immediately, the ordinance will remain in full force and in effect for 180 days, unless extended or until a new and revised set of regulations is adopted by the state. 

The council also backed CTC’s request to replace the 32-year-old “Islander” ferry. It will be replaced by a slightly larger vessel, built by Washburn & Doughty Associates in East Boothbay.

While the town has no financial obligation, approval was required because the CTC uses the Cousins Island dock.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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