One community. One hometown. One Kent.
Kent is one of the most popular destinations in northeast Ohio. Our unique shops, entertainment venues, and eateries play a big part in that draw — but the real star of the show is the diverse mix of people that share our hometown with us.
The downtown has turned out to be a great way to showcase Kent as the global village that it is. Which is why the national debate over immigration laws and sanctuary cities has been so troubling. Where Kent has worked so hard to pull people together, the national debate seems intent upon pulling people apart.
The debate has led Council to try to understand exactly what it means to be a “sanctuary city” — and more importantly to evaluate what impact a “sanctuary city” designation would have on people’s lives in Kent.
It’s been clear from Council’s remarks that they are most concerned about what they can do to improve the lives of people in Kent on a daily basis, rather than worrying about adopting the label of a sanctuary city which may or may not have any meaningful impact beyond choosing a side on a politically polarizing national issue.
I admire City Council’s patience as they try to sort through the inflammatory nature of this issue with a conscious decision to keep the focus on people rather than politics. If it turns out that adopting a sanctuary city designation is important to the Kent community, I’m sure Council will step up, but in the meantime they have chosen to put people first by announcing the One Kent initiative which has the potential to be far more impactful for the Kent community than anything we’ve done in generations.
In April Council released an Open Letter to the Kent community re-affirming their commitment to tolerance and support for everyone that calls Kent home. The statements made in that letter were intended to clearly demonstrate Council’s unwavering support for tolerance regardless of what the future may hold for the political label of a “sanctuary city.”
April 14, 2017
OPEN LETTER: No place for intolerance in public policy
Over the course of the last year the Mayor and Members of the Kent City Council have watched with growing concern as the debate over immigration law has at times sounded like a call for a nationally sanctioned intolerance policy in the name of public safety.
As a City Council, we feel compelled to make a strong public statement against intolerance and argue that public safety in our community has always been stronger when we stand united, not divided.
Public safety is paramount to the City of Kent’s mission to protect and serve all equally — and never at the expense of the rights and liberties of people that may not fit a particular profile for what they look like, what they believe, or where they’re from.
Throughout history intolerance has proven to be bad public policy and a prescription for failure. The Kent community endured a tragedy in 1970 to learn that lesson and we will not let that lesson be forgotten.
This emotionally charged issue has become a flashpoint, testing the very foundation of what it means to be a community. As a Council we recognize our differences as our most valued and vital attributes. Kent’s strong sense of community is because of our differences, not in spite of them.
Many faces, names and cultures have shaped Kent through the years, making the community stronger and more resilient thanks to a diverse population that contributes its own customized blend of skills, insights and experiences to meet the endless challenges of serving the public good.
Our ability to rise to the next challenge is rooted in a belief that whatever we do, we do it better when we do it together. Kent has relied on talented people from all walks of life to step up to support their community, and as Kent’s leadership we’re proud to take our turn now to rally the community behind our people.
As home to Kent State University, the small town of Kent Ohio is blessed with an abundant mix of people. Kent’s story is about people living, learning, connecting and growing together, celebrating their differences with enthusiasm, secure in their shared sense of community.
Not everyone can speak all of the languages heard in Kent but shared space is a great teacher, revealing the universality of a smile, a wave, a nod of appreciation, or a laugh. We have shared personal moments that needed no translation, and we’ve seen personal connections lead strangers to become neighbors, and neighbors to form a community.
From its early pioneer days to May 4, 1970, and into 2017 with a growing international population, Kent has been a small community with a big impact. Whether it’s changing the course of a war or working to change the world, Kent has a reputation as a place that makes a difference. The difference maker in Kent has always been its people. That will never change.
Jerry T. Fiala, Mayor & President of Council Garret Ferrara, Council Member, Ward 1 Michael DeLeone, Council Member at Large Jack Amrhein, Council Member, Ward 2 Melissa Long, Council Member at Large Robin Turner, Council Member, Ward 3 Roger Sidoti, Council Member at Large John M. Kuhar, Council Member, Ward 4 Heidi L. Shaffer, Council Member, Ward 5 Tracy Wallach, Council Member, Ward 6