After their city was peppered with white supremacist propaganda earlier this year, Black Diamond council members sat down to discuss their response.
The Feb. 20 meeting was lively and impassioned, and in the end, the council decided the resolution sponsored by Councilwomen Kristiana de Leon and Tamie Deady needed additional input and workshopping before coming back for a vote.
Here’s some background: Shortly after the new year began, a hate group known as Patriot Front rolled through south King County, placing stickers and fliers promoting their group in cities like Black Diamond, Enumclaw, Maple Valley, and Renton. Black Diamond Police Chief Jamey Kiblinger said she’s only received one report of propaganda being placed in her city, but Enumclaw has been hit at least three times since January.
According to both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti Defamation League, two national hate-watch groups, Patriot Front attempts to disguise its anti-semitism and racism with a veneer of nationalism. For example, the various messages placed around South King County included phrases like “Keep America American,” “Better dead than red,” and “Reclaim America,” and were colored in red, white, and blue.
But the group’s own manifesto reveals its true ideals, claiming that one must be of the “European diaspora” descended from the “founding stock of our people” to be American. Much of their message focuses on the belief that America is being “conquered” by minorities, and Americans must “reclaim” their country.
These recent incidents are what led de Leon and Deady to introduce a resolution reaffirming Black Diamond’s spirit of inclusivity and diversity.
“The Black Diamond City Council hearby proclaims that we reaffirm our communities shared values of compassion, inclusion, respect, and dignity and our commitment to building an environment, and a community, in which everyone is valued and everyone has the opportunity to thrive; and we encourage the citizens to likewise affirm these values of inclusion,” the resolution reads in part.
In introducing the resolution, de Leon explained she was working with the city of Maple Valley to pass its own inclusivity message before she became a council member, and felt this was the right time for Black Diamond to do the same. In fact, the language of Black Diamond’s resolution is nearly verbatim to Maple Valley’s.
“It is important that we as a council lead by example on that, that we do say, ‘We do not support hateful rhetoric,’ but instead, ‘We do stand together as a community,’” she said, adding that this resolution isn’t just to push back against racism, but also as a message of inclusivity to the Ten Trails development in Black Diamond. “They want to feel welcome and part of Black Diamond… as our city continues to grow, this is the kind of language that we need.”
It quickly became clear that the full council was in favor of the sentiment of the resolution, but the other six members wanted more input, both from them and the public, to shape the resolution into something that reflected their city, rather than use the exact same language Maple Valley used.
“I think this resolution or proclamation would be really good to move to a work study, and sit down and discuss it, and for the council and the mayor to say, ‘Here’s what we want it to say,’” said Deady. “That way, it would be all our input, and it would come out from all of us with a statement we all agree on.”
Others expressed that Black Diamond is already an inclusive community, and passing (or not passing) a resolution won’t affect that.
“I don’t feel that this resolution needs to state something we have been continuing doing for a long time in this city,” said Councilwoman Melissa Oglesbee. “This community has deep roots. We act this way, we respond this way — this is what we do as a community in Black Diamond.”
Oglesbee also suggested that the council work with the Enumclaw School District in these discussions, which would add additional gravity to what message Black Diamond may eventually approve.
Councilman Chris Wisnoski said while he agreed with the message the resolution carries, he thought it could have “some more inclusive verbiage around not just the people who live, work, and go to school here, but also the people that visit here, the people that shop here (eventually), the people who stop at the bakery, the people that ride their bikes through town… We want them to feel [included] too,” he said, adding that with the rise of white supremacy not just in Black Diamond, but around the country, a message like this — especially with the backing of a school district — would be valuable.
De Leon pushed back against the council majority, saying it is “very critical that we act sooner on this rather than later,” and that using the same language as Maple Valley “gives us a great opportunity to stand in solidarity with a city that we already work so closely with.”
This earned her some reproach from other council members.
“We all sat up here and stated that we are an inclusive city, that we welcome everyone. I don’t think a proclamation or resolution tonight is going to say anything different than what we just said, just now,” Deady said. “You had the opportunity in Maple Valley to write this, to get it passed through the Maple Valley council. This council has not had the chance to put their mark on this statement.”
Mayor Carol Benson suggested the March 12 work study would be a good time to pick apart the resolution and craft an original message from the city, which the council agreed with.
OTHER COUNCIL NEWS
• Some residents may be surprised to find Wisnoski back on the city council so quickly after losing his re-election race to de Leon by 45 votes last November. However, former resident Hunter Cooper — who was an unopposed candidate expected to fill former Councilwoman Janie Edelman’s seat — moved away after shortly after his election win, said Benson, which left Black Diamond with no choice but to put out a request for appointees. Both Wisnoski and another resident, Frank Broom, applied, and the council voted 5-1 to appoint Wisnoski to Edelman’s seat during the council’s Feb. 6 meeting.
• The council also approved the purchase of a new fire truck from Pierce Manufacture, which was met with applause from the residents in attendance. Although owned by the city, Mountain View Fire and Rescue will be using it, and it will serve as Black Diamond’s “first-out apparatus,” Fire Chief Greg Smith said in a later interview, adding it will be stationed at Station 98, off Lake Sawyer.
The cost of the engine is nearly $730,000, paid for by city real estate taxes and Fire Impact Fees negotiated with Oakpointe, the developer of Ten Trails.