MAYOR AND COUNCIL
FEBRUARY 21, 2017
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Council members Liz Gross, Linda C. Kuiper, Samuel T. Shoge and Mauritz Stetson, W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council meeting of February 6, 2017. Mr. Stetson moved to approve the Mayor and Council minutes of February 6, 2017 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that total operating cash on hand for unrestricted use is $1,557,885.03 and assigned funds for waterfront initiatives in the amount of $180,480.00 were included in those funds. Mayor Cerino stated that there was a separate fund for the Broad Reach sculpture donations in the amount of $37,495.49.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay bills. Ms. Gross moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.
Chief Baker presented the police report for January 2017. Chief Baker stated that Part I offenses were 11 with 0 arrests and 0 exceptions. Part II offenses were 14 with 12 cleared by arrest, 6 by exception and 6 unfounded.
Chief Baker stated that on January 29th there were two businesses burglarized on the end of South Cross Street. He said that conversations have occurred with the DCA and said that he discussed the importance of having motion detector lights, cameras, looking out for one another and calling the police if something seemed out of the ordinary. He said that there was an email hotline started to use if something like this happens again.
Chief Baker stated that on February 3rd the Centreville Police Department arrested 3 people in the North Brook community who were stealing from vehicles. He said that these men travelled over 60 miles to target the area and that people should be vigilant about locking their houses and cars.
Mr. Stetson asked for Chief Baker to provide information as to why Ward 4 led in calls for service in January. Chief Baker stated that he would look into the reason and get back to Mr. Stetson to explain the anomaly.
Mayor Cerino stated that Mr. Tim Fields asked to be on the agenda for a discussion on Sanctuary Cities. He said that this was a discussion only and came about largely as a result of concerned citizens flooding the Town with emails the Monday after President Trump’s travel ban went into effect. He read portions of some of the emails received.
Mayor Cerino stated that Mr. Fields was present at the last Mayor and Council meeting but because there was to be discussion at the State level regarding this topic, it was decided to postpone the issue until now. In the meantime, word leaked out that the Town was going to take a vote on becoming a Sanctuary City, which led to another onslaught of emails.
Mayor Cerino stated that there were people present for both sides of this issue but the gentleman who requested to be on the agenda was Mr. Tim Fields on behalf of Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible. He said that he and his group were going to speak and then the Council would speak. Depending on the amount of time there might be further discussion. There would be no action taken by the Council at the meeting.
Mr. Fields said that there would be six speakers toking about 2 minutes each. The first speaker was Ms. Rosemary Ramsey-Granillo who stated that Kent and Queen Anne’s Indivisible was part of a nationwide group of concerned citizens working together to voice issues and concerns to the Trump Administration and U.S. Congress regarding immigration. She said that they were not present to request that Chestertown become a Sanctuary City, but to seek clarity on what lies ahead for families who are uncertain about their place in the country. She said that Kent County is home to 800 Latino community members and that their immigration status is unknown and does not need to be known as they are neighbors and family members, most of which has been here for years. Queen Anne’s County is home to over 1700 Latinos. Washington College has over 145 international students from 37 countries around the world. She said that immigrants make up over half of the small businesses in Washington, D.C. She said that the message the group was trying to get out tonight was that they care about the community’s immigrant members regardless of their status and wanted them to know that they are supported and also to help maintain a friendly and productive sense of community which is valued on the Eastern Shore.
Ms. Marcy Brown told a story of her immigrant neighbor who crossed the border when he was 11 years old. As an English speaker he was interpreter for his family and neighbors and after receiving his GED he worked in landscaping where he eventually created his own business. He married and has 2 children. Immigration officers came to his home but he did not allow them in because they did not have a warrant. She said that when the officers left they said they would return to take him and his wife but not to worry because his 2 children, they would be well taken care of in foster care. Her neighbor has no criminal history and did not break any laws, except for crossing the border may years ago when he was 11 with his parents. Ms. Brown stated that immigrants are an integral thread in the social fabric and should be left to live the life that they have created for themselves in America.
Ms. Jan Elvin stated that under the order local law enforcement agencies the local agencies will be deputized to arrest or detain those who are suspected of violating immigration laws and screening those people using federal databases. The detainees would be held until officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could pick them up from police custody. She said that basically the federal government wants local law enforcement to do ICE’s job further breaking down the allocation of scarce local resources. Ms. Elvin stated that it was not local authority’s job to enforce immigration law.
Mr. Jon Eliassen stated that he emigrated to this country on June 23, 1953 and when he was 6 years old. He spoke no English. He said a simple act of kindness demonstrated by a man when he got off the boat made him believe that kind and generous were the two traits that most identified Americans. He said that this June would be 64 years from that day and he still found that Americans were kind and generous. He said that everyone in the room had someone who came to this country who could not speak the language and needed help from someone else in America.
A woman named Anita was present and said that she was bi-lingual but Spanish speaking by choice. She worked in the inner city and rural Cecil County with Hispanic and Latino populations. She said that these immigrant families are dedicated to work, religion and education. Most work 10 to 12 hour days in service jobs that other residents need but do not care to do. They are faithful in their religion which builds good character in the children. She said that the children are succeeding and so are our American children by learning first-hand about the reality of the world and that it is not all one race, ethnicity or culture. She said that these people are our neighbors and friends and are no threat to America and that families should not be torn apart in hate and prejudice as it is un-American and unpatriotic.
Mr. Tim Fields stated that any argument should be rejected if it was not grounded in fact and evidence. He said that myths and misinformation were being perpetuated which did nothing to increase understanding the issue. He said that in the end this was about hard-working people whose labor benefits us as individuals and our entire community. Mr. Fields stated that elected officials must engage in honest, thoughtful debate on this issue.
Mr. Fields stated that he wanted to dispel some myths. He said that studies show that immigration has no effect on crime rates and immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than the general U.S. population. In Chestertown there are 17 registered sex offenders. Of those offenders 82% are white and 18% are black, while none or Hispanic or Latino. Collectively, undocumented immigrants pay $10.6 billion dollars to State and local taxes and also contribute to Medicare and provide as much as $7 billion dollars every year to the Social Security coffers. Undocumented workers pay sales tax where applicable and property tax (directly if they own and indirectly if they rent). Mr. Fields stated that undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and most other benefits as they are only permitted with proof of legal immigration status. Legal immigrants cannot receive benefits until they have been in the United States for at least 5 years.
Mr. Fields stated that our ancestors came to this country for a better life for themselves and their children. Today’s immigrants want the same and deserve respect and compassion.
Mayor Cerino stated that he thought there were misconceptions on what it meant to be a Sanctuary City as it did not mean that undocumented immigrants will be harbored and hidden from federal authorities. The students from Washington College were here on visas or other legal documentation so this would have no bearing on college students.
Mayor Cerino said there was a perception that undocumented immigrants will flock to Town and a blind eye would be turned which was not true. Deportations took place more under President Obama than any other president (2.6 million), noting that the administration under Obama targeted undocumented immigrants with criminal history. He said that if all deportations from every President in the 20th century were added the total was less than during President Obama’s tenure.
Mayor Cerino stated that Sanctuary Cities are almost always a large city with thousands of immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. Often, when an undocumented immigrant is arrested and jailed, ICE may contact the city and ask them to hold the person until they can get them. This becomes a city taxpayer problem because it is their tax dollars that are supervising and feeding the incarcerated individual. The police departments in larger cities will sometimes have an understanding that they will not inquire on immigration status because the immigrant’s first thought is deportation and therefore they are uncooperative with law enforcement.
Mayor Cerino stated that as Mayor he questioned if it made sense to declare Chestertown a Sanctuary City. He said that if the Chestertown Police arrested an undocumented immigrant and the charge rises to a level of incarceration the person is transferred to the Kent County Detention Center, at which point any interactions are through Kent County and ICE, not the Town of Chestertown. Mayor Cerino stated that he feared declaring Chestertown a Sanctuary City would put a spark in a powder keg of an emotional issue that may not have any tangible results on the ground and will further divide the community. He said that he did not think ICE round ups would happen in the Town of Chestertown. Mayor Cerino stated that he spoke with the Sheriff’s Office and asked how prevalent this issue was in Kent County and said he was told that criminal law is what they enforce, regardless of immigration status. ICE is contacted when warranted, noting that ICE has never come to Kent County for an undocumented immigrant to date. Mayor Cerino stated that he asked Chief Baker how much violent crime was tied to undocumented immigrants in Chestertown and was told it was less than 1%.
A member of the audience stated that the Maryland Trust Act was in committee regarding the State of Maryland becoming a Sanctuary State.
Ms. Gross stated that she had personal experience with immigration, having moved to the U.S. in 1992 from Canada after she married an American. She is now a U.S. citizen, which is required to be elected to Town Council. She said that she was a relatively recent immigrant of the U.S. entering legally on January 10, 1992. Ms. Gross stated that the immigration process was difficult, taking almost a year, and she said that she was subjected to personal indignities, fees and medical bills that were substantial. She said that when she presented herself to the U.S. Consulate in Montreal, Canada for the required interview before entering the country it was the Christmas season of 1991. Ms. Gross stated that she was treated with a minimal amount of courtesy as English speaking, Caucasian citizens of the U.S. and Canada. She observed U.S. Immigration employees treating people from all over the world with incredible disrespect that verged on abuse as they were herded like cattle into different lines and forced outside for hours on a day, even when temperatures were well below 0°F. Ms. Gross stated that a few weeks later she entered the U.S. as a “resident alien” with a green card and became a U.S. citizen in June 2000. Ms. Gross stated that she loves this country but wanted to present this personal experience to ask people to consider the incredible obstacles that face potential immigrants these days, especially if they don’t speak English, come from a different culture, and since 9/11. She said that people were seeking a better life for themselves and their families, escaping war, gang and drug violence or political assassinations and working jobs that nobody else wants. Ms. Gross stated that in 2016 the U.S. claimed 6 Nobel Prizes, each of which was won by an immigrant. Ms. Gross stated that because the Town does not own a jail the Mayor and Council had little control over what happens when someone is picked up and detained and said this issue would be more properly addressed with the Kent County Commissioners.
Ms. Kuiper stated that she agreed that the Town of Chestertown was not in a position to declare itself a Sanctuary City and agreed with Mayor Cerino that all those arrested and detained go to the Kent County jail. She said that every level of government has a fiduciary responsibility to its taxpayers and must realize that there would be a financial loss if this happens to Chestertown. She said that the Town was waiting on expected federal grants for the Chestertown Marina project. The maintenance of effort in the public school system, which was a combination of local, State and Federal tax dollars was already $1.6 million in the red with schools consolidating in Kent County. Ms. Kuiper stated that there could be parents who would not want to send their children to a college located in a Sanctuary City. She asked who would provide long-term care for an illegal immigrant with no resources, or how long free health care could be provided. Ms. Kuiper asked how many people would take illegal immigrants into their homes and where additional housing would be located. Ms. Kuiper stated that undocumented immigrants were not supposed to receive benefits but said that it does happen. Ms. Kuiper stated that the Town of Chestertown cannot absorb the $2.5 million dollars that it needs, but anyone who would like to sit in on the budget and find ways to cut services without receiving fines from the State would be welcomed. She said that she did not think that people were aware of the financial impact becoming a Sanctuary City would entail or how much the property taxes would go up in order to fund such an undertaking.
Mr. Shoge stated that he saw both sides to the argument but he did not think that people were anti-immigration; rather they were in favor of legal immigration. He said that nobody doubts the hardworking nature of our undocumented immigrants but the immigration system needs reforming. He said that American jobs are for American residents, however, some of these jobs are only filled by undocumented immigrants played a vital role in this country.
Mr. Shoge stated that while working at the College he saw students whose families escaped horrible conditions and faced incredible obstacles to get to America in order to achieve the American Dream. Mr. Shoge stated that he was the son of immigrants. He said that his parents are Ivy League educated and raised 4 children, all of whom went to college which itself is testament to the American Dream. He said that most conservatives applaud his story and stories like his because his parents entered the Country legally. The problem was not that the people were not good people or were suffering, it was that they were undocumented and therefore here illegally. He said that he hoped people would look at the situation from the perspective of reforming the overall immigration process.
Mr. Shoge stated that he did not think Chestertown becoming a Sanctuary City would make a difference one way or the other as this was not an issue that Chestertown can address, it was an issue for the County where the jail is located.
Mr. Stetson stated that the United States was a country based on the rule of law and the laws for immigration are Federal laws. He said that if people wanted Federal laws changed they had to write their Congressmen and Senators. He said that it was not right to put the Town in conflict with the Government. He said that people might feel good if Chestertown becomes a Sanctuary City but it would not solve any problems because people aren’t jailed in Chestertown.
Mr. Tim Kingston of the Queen Anne’s County Republican Committee stated that he heard rumors about a sanctuary city and was present to see if legislation was being passed. He said that he agreed with Mr. Stetson that this is a nation of laws and his only concern was illegal immigration. He said that ICE deported 360 criminal illegal aliens in Maryland in 2015 and 130 non-criminal illegal aliens. In 2016, 340 criminal aliens were deported after going through the judicial process and 115 non-criminal aliens. Mr. Kingston stated that the numbers did not indicate the ethnicity of those deported as there were just as many people not checking in at the border as there were who were in the United States on visas and remain here longer than they are allowed. He said in 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act was adopted which says that local personnel should not be hindered by relaying someone’s immigration status to Customs.
Mr. Kingston stated that there was a financial cost to a Sanctuary City that the Town would have to pay if they became one. Mr. Kingston stated that he wanted the Council to make sure that policy, ordinance or directives were not adopted that would limit enforcement of Customs on the local law enforcement. He said that Senator Hershey and Delegates Arentz, Jacobs and Ghrist have submitted a letter indicating that they do not believe that becoming a Sanctuary City is the direction that Chestertown should take and said that President Trump indicated that there would be consequences should a city choose to become a Sanctuary City.
Mr. Fields asked Mr. Kingston’s feelings on the path to citizenship. Mr. Kingston stated that there is already a path to citizenship set and he did not believe that when someone crosses the country that they do so without going through Customs. Mr. Fields stated that when someone’s visa expires it is a civil offense. Mr. Kingston disagreed, stating that it was an unlawful presence in the country.
Mr. Scott Boone, Kent County IT Director was present to discuss the fiber project taking place in Kent County. Mr. Boone stated that there were 3 phases to this project. He said that anyone can go to www.fiber.kentcounty.com to see the project and progress reports. There was an interactive map showing construction. To give the Council an idea of the speed of data he said that before Galena Town Hall was hooked up they were pulling 6 megabits per second down and .55 up. Once the fiber installation was complete, they were at 800 megabits per second down and 900 megabits per second up.
Mr. Boone stated that there were 54 buildings designated in Kent County as anchor institutions for fiber. He said that library branches, community centers, police stations, firehouses, schools and government buildings were used as anchors.
Mr. Boone stated that the hope when writing the RFP was if a dark fiber provider was found as a partner it would become an open access network, where any provider can come in and work out a lease agreement for the infrastructure. One partner has already been found, which was a “fiber to home” solution and there may be more in the future. Mr. Boone stated that there were already some businesses using the fiber and they should be used in homes shortly. Mr. Boone stated that the County was concerned with anchor institutions at this time, which would be hooked up for free and Kent County would then provide internet.
Mr. Boone stated that he wanted to discuss site plans for the Town. He said that the police station, water tower, visitors’ center and firehouse were anchors. Mr. Boone also noted that there was no intention by the County government to put anything on the Town’s water tower. He noted that video surveillance may be required in the future to see who enters into the water treatment plants and if the fiber is hooked to it the problem is solved. Mayor Cerino stated that it was his understanding that they were requesting for a right-of-way to run the fiber to the base of the water tower. Mr. Boone stated that was correct, noting that it will also help saturate that neighborhood with fiber.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he received plans a couple weeks ago for the first leg of the project in Chestertown and said that the lines run under and over the water and sewer lines so he also showed the plans to Mr. Sipes. He said that he wanted to go over the bonding that was in place in case Town lines were damaged during the installation process. Mr. Ingersoll stated that other towers were going in and Washington College was moving their tower. There was a fiber line along the rail-trail to the College tower as well.
Mr. Boone stated that the project was 60% complete and started in June 2016. He said that he thought the project could be finished in a year.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that there were many vaults and yellow posts shown on the plans. He asked if they were planned for the Historic District. It was explained that the yellow posts were at the request of the SHA and State highways but they would build to the standards of the jurisdiction in which they were operating. Mr. Ingersoll stated that he did not think they would be permitted in the Historic District or commercial downtown but those were the details he wanted to discuss further.
Mr. Shoge asked if there was any cost to the Town in this project. Mr. Boone stated that there were no costs to the Town.
Ms. Gross asked how it would look once finished. It was explained that most of the work would be underground directional drilling and go unnoticed. He said that the work would be done behind the buildings downtown, adding that they had hoped to utilize aerial service but the poles are overloaded. Mr. Ingersoll agreed, stating that parts of Town are overloaded and it was difficult to imagine additional wires.
Mr. Shoge asked if the next step after drilling was the antenna system that was being explored as it would improve cellular service and Wi-Fi. Mr. Boone stated that was correct and they would look for strategic locations to distribute signal town wide.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Mr. David Startt would attend the March 6th meeting to discuss the plaque at the Memorial Park.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that he had a permit request for Earth Day, which was planned for Saturday, April 22nd. The Council agreed to the request.
Mayor Cerino asked for ward reports.
Mr. Stetson stated that all was well in the Fourth Ward.
Mr. Shoge stated that all was well in the Third Ward and that he was working with Mr. Sappington on some issues.
Ms. Kuiper stated that Chester Gras would be held on Saturday, February 25th beginning at 1:00 p.m.
Ms. Kuiper stated that volunteers were needed for the Tea Party Committee, the Historical Society, and Sumner Hall’s Smithsonian Exhibit. If anyone was interested in volunteering for the Smithsonian Exhibit there would be someone at Sumner Hall on Saturday, February 25th to speak with regarding the details.
Ms. Gross stated that all was well in the First Ward.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any questions or comments from the audience.
Ms. Sharon Harlow was present and said that she lived in Queen Anne’s County. She said that she came to the meeting tonight because she heard that Chestertown was trying to become a Sanctuary City and said that she was not asking for Chestertown to do that but to recognize that there are documented and undocumented immigrants in this community and that people should be kind to all of them, even though there was no way to know how the Federal government would handle them. She said that she wanted to apologize for the people from both sides as the request was not intended for Chestertown to decide whether or not to become a Sanctuary City.
Mr. J. R. Alfree was present and said that he was a member of the Business Advisory Board at the request of Comptroller Peter Franchot. He said that at that time he discussed the economic growth in Kent County and he was now trying to get a loan and would like the Town and County to support him. He asked if the Town would be willing to write a letter of support to M&T Bank explaining economic growth taking place in the area now and planned for the future. He said that this is for work that will take place on High Street at the Lemon Leaf Café. He said that he was also taking advantage of the local help offered in Kent County through the Greater Chestertown Initiative (GCI), Kent County Revolving Loan Fund, Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) and VOLT. Mayor Cerino asked that Mr. Alfree work with Ms. MacIntosh in drafting the letter of support and when it was complete the Town would sign it as there was no question that they supported him and his business.
There being no further business, Ms. Gross moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:20 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor