LEWISTON — Officials tabled the adoption of a city equity statement Tuesday, after a councilor said the language should be subject to a legal review.

However, those opposed to the delay said the joint equity statement, established by City Spirit L/A, has already been vetted, and does not bind the city to any policy decisions.

The equity statement was developed as a joint initiative with Auburn through the ‘Spirit’ council, a group of city, school and community leaders formed to address conflict and inequity in the Twin Cities.

City officials in Lewiston and Auburn got a first look at the statement during separate workshop sessions earlier this month. The statement is seen as a way to guide the future work of the cities.

Its development since June was led by Portland human rights nonprofit Mindbridge, which helps municipalities implement equity plans and conducts trainings on implicit bias, among other services.

Laura Ligouri, Mindbridge executive director, has said the statement is designed to represent the Twin Cities’ collective values, “committing the cities to the healing of inequality and discrimination.”

On Tuesday, Councilor Michel Lajoie motioned to table the vote because he said he was surprised the city’s legal counsel had not reviewed it.

City Administrator Denis D’Auteuil said staff “didn’t see any reason” based on the language.

Lajoie said he agrees with the statement, but was “disappointed” it didn’t receive a legal review.

“Others may feel more comfortable by having that review,” he said.

Councilors Luke Jensen and Safiya Khalid, who voted against tabling, said it was unnecessary. Khalid had City Clerk Kathy Montejo read the entire statement as a way for councilors to hear the statement’s intent.

“This does not commit us to anything,” he said. “It’s more of a guide for us to look at. Stalling this for a legal review, I just completely disagree. A lot of work has gone into it.”

The motion to table also came after Councilor Lee Clement questioned a section of the statement that refers to immigration status, which he argued could be interpreted that Lewiston condones illegal immigration.

The section reads, “Here the City endeavors to create an environment where everyone is treated fairly, respectfully, and embraced, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender identity, marital or familial status, immigration status, sexual orientation, age, economic status, disability, or other individual identities expressed and experienced.”

Clement said one immigration status is undocumented or illegal, and that he would not approve “any language that says we condone anything illegal.”

Jensen responded that he does not interpret the statement as “somehow condoning illegal immigration,” and that it’s not the intent of the statement. He also added, for legal asylum-seekers, this statement says they’d be treated fairly.

“I would hope our city would treat every person the same way regardless,” he said. “I don’t interpret it that way.”

Khalid said, “It’s unfortunate that some have misunderstood the equity statement,” adding, “Singling out the term illegal is dehumanizing.”

Clement said he would amend the language to state “legal immigration status.”

The vote to table was 4-2, with Councilor Alicia Rea absent.

“We will get this back on the agenda as quickly as possible,” Mayor Mark Cayer said. “I do believe this is a document that overall the City Council supports, but I think we need to take a couple steps. We recognize this is really great work.”

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