Council votes 5-3 to support 'inclusiveness' resolution

WILLMAR -- A resolution supported by Mayor Les Heitke reaffirming Willmar's "commitment to inclusion as a fundamental aspect of our community'' has received less than unanimous support from the Willmar City Council.

WILLMAR -- A resolution supported by Mayor Les Heitke reaffirming Willmar's "commitment to inclusion as a fundamental aspect of our community'' has received less than unanimous support from the Willmar City Council.

The council voted 5-3 Monday night to approve a resolution supporting the National League of Cities' Partnership for Working Toward Inclusive Communities. The resolution invites local officials to join the partnership in building more inclusive communities in their own cities and towns.

The resolution states the League of Cities and its members believe an inclusive community promotes equal opportunity, fairness, citizen participation and engagement.

Heitke said the league and its president selected the idea of building inclusive communities as this year's theme. Willmar is one of 50 member cities in Minnesota and one of more than 18,000 League of Cities members.

"As all of you recall, on the front of our packet we list our community values -- nine values. The last one the council added a couple years ago is the community value of inclusiveness. To me, it seems right and proper that we support this idea of building inclusive communities and support the work of the league as they try to promote this,'' said Heitke.


Council members Rick Fagerlie, Bruce DeBlieck, Doug Reese, Denis Anderson and Steve Gardner supported the resolution.

Voting against were Ron Christianson, Cindy Swenson and Jim Dokken.

The vote left Heitke momentarily speechless.

"Perhaps we'll carry this conversation on another time,'' he said after a few seconds. "I am concerned about a vote that says we are not an inclusive community. We need to talk about that some more.''

Christianson said the term "inclusive'' was broad, and said he was concerned that somehow the resolution will be used politically across the nation or state.

"I have a problem with the very first statement: that Willmar is committed to inclusion as a fundamental aspect of our community. There are some things that fall under inclusion that some of us maybe don't agree with: the marriage amendment, gays, lesbians, whatever it be,'' he said.

"I think it's a major concern. Can you guarantee me it won't be used politically somewhere? Without this document, Willmar is inclusive. We're leading the way statewide and nationally. By not accepting this doesn't mean that we aren't inclusive because everybody knows we are,'' he said.

Heitke said he couldn't guarantee it.


"But I know how it's being used in the places that I've visited,'' Heitke said.

Swenson said she agreed with Christianson.

"I know we talked about this at our retreat last year, but I just feel a big push behind it to be acceptable of everything that comes at us no matter what. I'm not so sure I'm OK with that,'' she said.

"I would not want anyone to assume that I am not inclusive just because I didn't vote 'yes,''' Swenson said.

Dokken said he doesn't believe that his vote indicates that he's not in favor of inclusiveness. He said he served in the Air Force and everyone was treated by the same rules.

"This is part of my culture as a noncommissioned officer,'' he said. "I think we need to be very specific when we're talking about inclusiveness. That needs to be spelled out and defined.''

"It's under our community values to the last word,'' Fagerlie pointed out. "It's nothing new to us.''

In other business, the council:


n Approved the low bid of $600,059 from Breitbach Construction of Elrosa to build a 16-unit T-hangar at the new airport. Five bids ranging from $600,059 to $752,700 were received. The engineer's estimate was $665,733. Odens said the city has 14 serious requests for hangar space. City Administrator Michael Schmit said he won't sign the contract until the city receives the grant.

n Approved a short-term agreement with Willmar Fabrication to use a portion of the former airport to test farm-related spray vehicles. No spraying or application will occur. The city will receive a rental fee of $100 per month.

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