• 59°

Sanctuary county

First let me apologize to Mr. Frazier for my poor handling of the sanctuary county meeting at the high school auditorium the other night, and then I will address some of the things he decided not to mention. First, there was a loud raucous crowd of over 600 people in attendance. The people were overwhelmingly in support of creating a sanctuary county and were loud and cheered speakers who spoke in favor and in some cases booed those who opposed. When the crowd roared over a speaker, I hammered my gavel and put up my hand in a stop motion and asked them to let the speaker continue. Those actions calmed the crowd some, but not totally; perhaps I should have tried to stop the proceedings entirely, which would have been difficult to do with a crowd of 600 who came to shout. I will accept the blame for not trying harder. Now to respond to Mr. Frazier’s other assertions, which I did in a phone call earlier from Mr. Frazier … the resolution was not read aloud because over 400 written copies of it were available to anyone who walked in the door of the auditorium and wanted one. Pattie Cooper-Jones’ alternate resolution was read aloud to the audience so they could hear what it said and how it differed from the much longer written resolution.

I had a list of perhaps 30 individuals who had signed up to speak. The list did not indicate whether the speaker was for or against the resolution; it only had their name and their district. In a strong effort to make it a fair hearing, after I called the first name on the list and they spoke in favor, I asked for a show of hands to let someone who was opposed speak. I then called the second name on the list who spoke in favor of the resolution. Then I again asked for hands from those who were opposed so I could select a counter speaker. This went on through seven speakers speaking in favor of the resolution. When no one raised their hand to speak for the opposition, I stopped the speakers. To be fair, I announced at the start of the meeting that I wanted a balance of speakers, and when there were no more speakers for the opposition, I stopped the proceedings. This angered a lot of speakers who signed up to speak in favor, but I personally thought I did what was fair. That’s on me and not the board. With over 600 people in attendance and only six speakers in opposition, I’m sure that perhaps some who were opposed were too intimidated to speak, and for that I’m sorry; though I’m not sure what I could have done with that biased a crowd. After the meeting had been adjourned, I asked Jerry Townsend and Pattie Cooper-Jones, who sat near me and voted differently from the way I voted, if they thought I had handled the meeting fairly, and they both responded “yes.” I also have been stopped several times on the street and congratulated for the way I handled the meeting.

I would like to thank our staff and the sheriff’s department for how well they handled the proceedings with a crowd that was far greater than any of us anticipated. I again apologize to anyone who felt offended by the way I handled the meeting, but I did what I thought was fair.

Jim Wilck is the chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Prince Edward County. He can be reached via email at jwilck@embarqmail.com.