Earlier this evening the Portland Board of Education narrowly voted to support a resolution permitting noncitizen residents of Portland to vote in local elections. The vote was 4 – 3. Those voting for the resolution included: Chair Anna Trevorrow, Roberto Rodriguez, Marnie Morrione and Timothy Atkinson. Those opposed included: Jenn Thompson, Mark Balfantz and Laurie Davis.
The passed resolution will be forwarded on to the City Council in time for its August 13, meeting. There it will be deliberated upon and voted on whether or not the matter should should be placed on the ballot in the November election for the public to have the final say. An amendment offered by Timothy Atkinson was approved unanimously by the Board.
Timothy Atkinson was an effective leader in support of the resolution. He stood his ground despite comments from the Board as to why the resolution should be put off – comments such as it would be “bad timing” and that the Board does not have jurisdiction over the matter and legal concerns stated by Mark Balfantz. “I do not want to stand in the way of giving voters a chance to vote. There is a large part of our population whose voice is not heard. It is the job of this body to make decisions,” Atkinson said. He added that this is a matter for the School Board, although critics said it was not.
Atkinson’s comments were in response to comments made by other board members. Laurie Davis, who voted no, said: “It is not for us to decide. This is not a litmus test as to whether or not school board members support immigrants or not.” Mark Balfantz said: “I don’t think it is within the Board’s purvue to tell the city council how to act.”
Close to twenty (20) members of the public testified before the board – the overwhelmingly number in support of the resolution. Many of them immigrants. David Hopkinson, not an immigrant, said in part:
“Our racist President has used rhetoric and direct verbage that is out of the ordinary for any sane individual. This allows our imagination and “cajones,” to grow, especially behind closed doors in the glow of our computer screens. One needs simply to look through the mayhors facebook page to identify many of these individuals. You know who you are, you are racists. Racism comes from fear. Specifically, a white mans fear that someone that appears different than you might have an idea that is better than yours and work more dynamically than yours….You literally trust immigrants to put food in your mouth, but not to help decide if their tax dollars should pay for a School Resource officer. Come on Portland, we are better than this right?”
Following the hearing Clovis Leaba, originally from the DRCongo where he was a medical doctor said: “The School Board will figure out how to make positive changes for all Portland parents to respect all of our democratic rights.”
(note: Many thanks to Miguel for showing me how to reduce the size of oversize photographs so I can download them onto this post, for example!)