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Vail, Park City officials look to ease citizen concerns in wake of Trump election

Eagle County School District Superintendent Glass issues letter targeting discriminatory behavior

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November 17, 2016, 10:40 pm
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Illustration by Mark Hammermeister, Creative Commons, Flickr

Officials in cities and ski towns across Colorado and Utah are reacting to last week’s stunning election of Republican Donald Trump, assuring residents they will be protected from violence and discrimination.

At Tuesday night’s Vail Town Council meeting, a young woman told town leaders she was fearful of being targeted by an incoming Trump administration that has threatened mass deportation of illegal immigrants, religious bans, stop and frisk laws and the return of enhanced interrogation.

“Given national election results, an East Vail resident is asking what [Vail] Town Council/community can do to support the rights of all people,” Vail officials reported on the town council Twitter feed Tuesday.

Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler told The Rocky Mountain Post he met with the woman and provided his phone number.

“I assured her that that Vail would not under any circumstances tolerate any form of discrimination or violence against any person for any reason,” Zemler said. “I encouraged her to contact me if such situation ever arises.”

In September, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin expressed concern that anti-Mexico rhetoric coming out of the Trump campaign would have an adverse effect on Vail’s tourism economy, which draws about 10 percent of its guests from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Chapin also was worried about Trump’s impact on Vail’s immigrant workforce.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this week posted a YouTube video addressing the concerns of immigrants, women, minorities and gay people who have been flooding his office with fearful inquiries about the looming Trump administration.

“I want to be clear, you can count on me, and you can count on your city. We’ve got your back,” Hancock said in the video. Denver and Aurora police officials issued statements saying they will not enforce federal immigration laws, and Denver Public School officials provided an immigrant fact sheet to address the flood of calls they’ve received.

Locally, Eagle County School District Superintendent Jason Glass issued the following letter on Friday, Nov. 18:

Dear Eagle County Schools Community,

The results of the election have given us much to consider, reflect on, and process.  Let us begin with our celebrations.

Both Eagle County Schools ballot questions 3A and 3B passed. This brings a new day for real changes for our staff, students, and schools. Work has already begun planning for the new construction and renovation projects at many of our schools. We are also revising budgets and planning for the salary increases promised to teachers and staff.

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the YesforECS campaign efforts in our community.  They ran a quality and effective campaign that our schools and students will benefit from for years to come. We are humbled and honored that our community supported us through a positive outcome for both of these ballot measures.

In our diverse community of almost 7,000 students, we also recognize that many students and their families are struggling with intensely personal questions, concerns and fears about the impact of the national election. Within Eagle County Schools, we are all champions of equity, justice, tolerance, opportunity, and love for our students and community. That has not changed, regardless of the outcome of the election.

Our mission is to insure that our schools are safe spaces where a student’s race, ethnicity, religion and immigration status do not create any barriers to that child’s education.  Because of this, we wanted to share answers to questions regarding immigration status. These are provided in the attached document.

As you may be aware, there have been increased instances of bullying and discriminatory behavior in schools across the nation since the election. While our students’ rights to free speech do not stop at the schoolhouse door, we also do not tolerate purposeful speech intended to make any student fearful or unwelcome in their own school.  I want to assure you of our commitment to protect all students from discrimination and harassment.

Eagle County Schools Bullying Prevention and Education Policy as well as other district policies related to student behavior and discipline are posted on our website. Should any student feel that they are a victim of discrimination or harassment, they should report the issue to the school principal, a teacher or superintendent. We take these complaints very seriously to ensure that our schools continue to be safe spaces. We also utilize Safe2Tell, a program sponsored by the Colorado Office of the Attorney General, where anyone can anonymously report anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family or your community. The tip line for Safe2Tell is 1-877-542-7233.  This number is printed on every student ID and posted in every school bus.

Thank you for your support of our schools and students. I hope you will embrace our commitment to provide a quality education to all students, join in our spirit of equity and tolerance, and work with us toward building a welcoming and supportive community for all.

Jason E. Glass, Ed.D.

Superintendent & Chief Learner

Immigration Questions for Students & Families

In largely conservative Utah, Park City Mayor Jack Thomas issued an extraordinary letter to residents of that ski town. Here it is in its entirety:

A message from your mayor: Please re-friend your friends

No matter your choice last Tuesday, the course and surprise results of the Presidential Election have left some of us battle-scarred. Many friends and family members, frustrated by the inability to convince one another of “the obvious,” have chosen to stop talking altogether. In the mobile device world, lots of people un-friended one another.

Without question, we as a nation just witnessed the least substantive campaign in U.S. history. As an older, white government official from a community wealthy in businesses, culture and education, I am neither the voice of those disenfranchised enough to vote for change, nor have I experienced the realities of those who may fear potential new threats of discrimination. I remain steadfast with hope that our shared values as determined by our community did not change. As I try to understand the election, I want to hear my friends. We disconnect at that moment we start judging the individual burdens and prejudice every single one of us uniquely bear or suffer, whether such realities sprout from racism, nationality, sexism, bullying, economic displacement, poverty, mental illness or disability. We cannot afford to push each other away. We all face demons and obstacles. While some are clearly more onerous or unjust than others, no one has the privilege to judge another’s troubles.

In fact, although the perception and realities of privilege differ widely, in our country people do not have the right to assert privilege at all. A limited privilege is entrusted by the people to those in public service to represent others. Every single day, I bear the burden of the privilege the people of Park City bestowed upon me. I say burden because with that privilege comes the obligation and responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of EVERYONE in our community. Not just my kind or my family. I am equally responsible for every single person in this community. President-elect Trump will soon bear this privilege and obligation to represent this country, our republic. Voting does not end your participation in our democracy. Each and every one of us should demand that President Trump exercise that privilege with the responsibility and trust that the entire country bestowed upon him- equally, fairly, justly. I will witness and support the peaceful transfer of power in our nation. Unequivocally, I believe in our people and our democracy.

So, I plead with you not to label half of our country “elitists” or “ignorant,” or as taking a step against our country or as taking a step backwards. Only when we really work to understand each other will we be best positioned to hold our government accountable. To oversimplify the expression of 60 million voters will only increase the divide that some seek to exploit. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly.”

In a time when many are voicing a call to action, I have no right to ask you to stop. I simply ask you to calmly talk and listen, really listen to one another. Conversations do not always have to be won. Community is not always about convincing one another of the right path, but respecting one another enough to trust the path collectively chosen, even when we disagree. Only with common understanding can we overcome our mutual ignorance of perspective and governance that I believe fed this political cycle. In my heart, I still strongly believe that all people share the same basic values. I still believe that we all want what is fair, what is right and what is just. And as we all just try to do our best for ourselves and our families in this a complex and fast-changing world, we need to stop and remember that we are not separate and we are not different.

But those conversations and how they are conducted in our community must occur in a safe environment free of fear. Those who feel susceptible to new attacks have my pledge, the pledge of your Mayor, the entire City Council, and your local government staff, that we stand vigilant and committed to doing everything within the power our community has given us to equally protect the rights of all in our community. I hope and do not think that will be necessary.

I offer such assurance not because anyone is asking for special treatment under the law, but as a confirmation of commitment that your community will not stand blind or idle.

We have left some behind. Not just in our nation; we have left some behind in our very own community. Now, more than ever, we must reach out and all stand together. For we are not complete standing with only some; standing with only those who look like us or think like us. To aspire to become a complete community, we must all try to rise together.

So shout if and when you must. And you will. But also sing. Sing the stories of people of all races and nationalities, of all men, women and especially children. Because only when we listen to our collective stories can move forward together:

To sing, sing at the top of your voice,

Love without fear in your heart.

Feel, feel like you still have a choice.

If we all light up, we can scare away the dark*

Sincerely,

Park City Mayor Jack Thomas

*An article dated 11/17/14 in The New Yorker coving several potential presidential primary candidates prior to the start of the campaign season quoted this lyric from a song by Passenger, which one such candidate sang to reflect hope. I did not endorse that candidate (who lost in the primary), but I do endorse hope. You may view the full song here if wish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgIdTzpXB2c

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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