Bexley City Council officially has adopted a resolution declaring the city as welcoming to all refugees and immigrants.
The resolution, introduced on May 23, declares that Bexley "welcomes all residents and visitors; including immigrants and refugees seeking new homes, safety, freedom, and opportunity; feel welcome, safe, and able to fully participate in and contribute to our city's economic and social life."
In a 6-1 vote June 27, council approved the measure co-sponsored by members Lori Ann Feibel, Mary Gottesman, Steve Keyes, Troy Markham, Deneese Owen and council President Tim Madison.
Madison said he considers the resolution to be as significant as the nondiscrimination ordinance the city adopted in 2015, which was designed to prevent and penalize discrimination of all kinds, including against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
"The nondiscrimination ordinance and this resolution, in my opinion, are the two most important pieces of legislation that this council has passed or will ever pass," Madison said.
The resolution is especially important, Madison said, because a group of residents drafted it. A coalition of neighborhood groups known as East Side People Power, which includes several Bexley residents, approached council about the resolution earlier this year.
The idea originated from discussions about the 2016 presidential election and the divisive debate about immigration, said Tim Katz, a Bexley resident who is part of East Side People Power.
"I'm really impressed with the level of discourse on council and really impressed with how very seriously the council members took it and considered it," Katz said.
"The resolution only has so much impact -- it's not an ordinance. But it is a statement of philosophy and approach, and now I'd like to see it shared broadly with the community," he said.
Owen said the resolution has personal significance, since she and her mother were born in Taiwan and moved to the United States when Owen was 14.
"I understand the immigrant experience perhaps a little bit, at least," Owen said.
"To have a daughter who was born here in this country who was asked in recent months whether or not her grandmother and I would be sent back to the county where we were born. To be able to say to her that I was able to sit up here with city leadership and vote for something like this (resolution) is pretty tremendous," she said.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler said he supports the resolution and the issue also hits close to home because his wife is a legal immigrant from Ireland.
"This isn't about legal or illegal immigrants," Kessler said. "This is really about our philosophy as it pertains to being a country that honors the promises that we make and is open to refugees."
Councilman Richard Sharp, who cast the sole dissenting vote, said he opposed the resolution because it makes a partisan political statement and doesn't go far enough to send a welcoming message to all people.
"I didn't think it was a balanced political statement," Sharp said. "It didn't address all sides of the issue."