Valparaiso City Hall

Valparaiso City Hall

John Scheibel, The Times

VALPARAISO — A proposed resolution aimed at making residents from the Middle East feel more inclusive in the community was released to the public prematurely, City Council member Deb Porter, D-at-large said.

Porter referred to a Sunday story in the Times of Northwest Indiana about the proposed resolution.

She said the resolution, which she had penned and clearly marked as a draft, had been sent internally to city officials only.

"It was very premature to be released to the press. It put us all in an awkward position," Porter said.

Porter asked fellow council members and Mayor Jon Costas their thoughts at the City Council meeting on Monday night.

"It's a question asked all the time. It's not usually expected or done. It (the leak) didn't come from the mayor's office," Costas said.

Porter said she was contacted by reporter Bob Kasarda and that she asked him who had released the information to him.

"The reporter said he couldn't disclose his source," Porter said.

Porter said she is still working on the draft of the resolution and hopes to have it in final form and presented to the council Feb. 27.

The city already has a human rights ordinance on the books, Porter said, but this one takes a more general stand.

"This is a whole new reality," Porter said.

Those living in Valparaiso from the Middle East should be able to go home to visit a sick or dying family member without fearing whether they will be able to return to their classes, jobs or businesses, Porter said.

Porter said part of her rewrite is to make the proposed resolution more inclusive to cover people from countries beyond the Middle East.

City Councilman Matt Murphy, R-3rd, said he believes the issue is already addressed by the existing human rights ordinance.

He was particularly concerned with a line in the draft version of the resolution that reads, "We will embrace the diversity in our community and resist efforts to deport, detain or dehumanize those who are targeted for their diversity."

"That statement appears to suggest that the city is not going to, at a minimum, cooperate with the federal government," Murphy said. "Are they advocating violating federal law?"

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Jan. 27 banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for 90 days and suspended the admissions of refugees for 120 days.

That ban has been suspended by two separate court actions.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a $325,000 capital equipment fund, the bulk of which will be spent on the lease purchase of squad cars, trucks and other equipment, officials said.
  • Approved a draft School Board appointment schedule setting the timeline for the selection of interviews and public meetings.

City Councilman Robert Cotton, D-2nd, suggested there be more defined criteria for the candidates for the council members when making their selections.

Those interested in applying to become the City Council's appointment to the Valparaiso Community School Board must apply with resume and supporting documents by 4 p.m. May 24 at the clerk-treasurer's office at City Hall.

Reporting like this is brought to you by a staff of experienced local journalists committed to telling the stories of your community. Support from subscribers is vital to continue our mission.