Green Bay formally welcomes Afghan refugees with resolution
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Afghan refugees are welcome in the City of Green Bay.
That’s the message the City Council made clear Tuesday, Jan. 18, as it unanimously approved a resolution in support of its new neighbors from Afghanistan.
“The City of Green Bay, I think, has a long and proud history as being a welcoming community – welcoming refugees from Vietnam, the Hmong population, as well as recent refugees from Somalia, Congolese refugees, really refugees from all over the world,” Mayor Eric Genrich said. “This is another example of Green Bay opening our arms, our community to these recent arrivals. I feel strongly that this is a mission we are called to play as a community, when we are well-equipped to handle in spite of challenges that inevitably will be faced by the refugees and by us in meeting some of their needs… I look forward to great things from this new population.”
The resolution states, that since last fall, 125 Afghan refugees have made homes in the City of Green Bay.
The approved resolution states “Green Bay is known the world over for its hospitality, a characteristic native to nearly all great traditions of faith and culture; and has a history of welcoming refugees into our community.”
The resolution also states the council will provide support and encouragement to those resettling in Green Bay, and also encourages city residents to “be a welcoming community for all people of good will.”
Council members resoundingly supported the resolution.
“I have the privilege, honor, being able to work in my day job in regards to placement, and I will tell you in my experience, and I say this not necessarily in my position as a council member, but as as member of an employer who is working hard resettling, I’ll say the response from the City of Green Bay has been overwhelmingly positive,” Council President Jesse Brunette said. “From landlords to businesses, who are looking to employ our new guests, to the school district and hospitals it is a community effort, and it is just wonderful to see from the position that I get to serve.”
Several other cities across the country have passed similar resolutions.
In other business, council members approved a motion to direct staff to repeal and recreate a section of the city’s municipal code relating to appointed officials and their removals, which will then come back to council for approval.
The proposed change would include indefinite terms for appointed officials and Common Council removal for cause by majority vote.
Under the current ordinance, appointed officials – assessor, attorney, chief of operations, clerk, comptroller, director of Community and Economic Development, director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, director of Public Works and treasurer – are appointed to two-year terms and subject to removal at the pleasure of the mayor or another appointing official, or by council for cause.
“It will come back as an ordinance for the whole council to vote on to approve or amend at the Feb. 1 meeting,” Chief of Operations Joe Faulds said.
Some alderpersons raised concerns on the uncertainty the current ordinance brings staff.
“I guess we believe in a process, some of us on council, that doesn’t afford the people we have working for us the right to defend themselves,” District 4 Alderperson Bill Galvin said. “We are going to let these directors walk into a meeting, not knowing if their job is secure or not. Because I could see some council members ambushing some directors and try to remove them from their job, and not giving them any recourse except trying to come up with a defense at the last second at a meeting. That doesn’t seem right. That doesn’t seem American to me to do that to people… and I’m embarrassed.”
District 1 Alderperson Barbara Dorff shared Galvin’s concerns.
District 8 Alderperson Chris Wery made a motion to receive and place on file, which failed absent a second.
“I do think this is an unnecessary move,” Wery said. “Anytime we take away power from the council, and we are doing it, I don’t think, for a good reason. Why would we voluntarily give up some of our ability and power? That’s beyond me… I just think this strengthens the mayor’s role and shrinks the council’s, is basically what it does… these are appointments not anointments. Once you get the role, it doesn’t mean you get it for life. You should be earning this, and every two years you earn it again… We should really rename this the DHPA – the Department Head Protection Act.”
District 3 Alderperson Lynn Gerlach said the process shocked her after she took office.
“For what it’s worth, it was less than two years that I started my job,” Gerlach said. “And at my first or second meeting, we were reappointing directors, and I was stunned to find out that we were going to appoint these leaders to their job every two years. In all of my working life, I had never heard of such a thing before… We are so fortunate to have the quality of leadership we have in all of our departments… and it undermines that by constantly keeping them on the edge and wondering if they are going to be reappointed. I just think it’s unprofessional.”