Council votes to become sanctuary city for unborn

Mark Dickson, director for Right to Life of East Texas, prepares to play a recording of a fetal heartbeat during Thursday’s Rusk City Council meeting. Dickson was on hand to encourage city leaders to adopt an ordinance declaring the town a “Sanctuary City for the Unborn.”

RUSK – The seat of Cherokee County has become Texas's newest “Sanctuary City for the Unborn,” as the Rusk City Council adopted an ordinance by a 3-2 vote Thursday in support of the initiative.

The vote came after a two-hour executive session of the council, with councilwoman Martha Neely (Place 4) and Frances Long (Place 5) casting the dissenting votes.

“The crowd seemed pretty pleased with the outcome,” said Bob Goldsberry, executive director of the Rusk Economic Development Corporation.

An overflow crowd spilled out of the council meeting room at the Rusk Civic Center, with an estimated 60 people attending Thursday night's meeting. Of these, more than a dozen spoke for nearly two hours in support of the ordinance, including Right to Life of East Texas director Mark Dickson, who spearheaded the “sanctuary cities” initiative.

Dickson passed around medically accurate models of human fetuses at various stages of growth, as well as displayed a pink teddy bear with a recording of fetal heartbeat of a baby saved from abortion, as he described what spurred the initiative.

“Over in Shreveport, that industry is in the process of shutting down (and) there's a case going before the Supreme Court this year. And that case is a big case. And if the abortion industry shuts down (in Shreveport), they're gonna go somewhere, and there's already been talk about East Texas. That's why Waskom started this, and passed an ordinance making sure, making it impossible, for abortion clinics to move into their city. And (six) other cities followed,” he said.

These ordinances reflect a community's stance on the issue, and “if you say you're pro-life, just saying that will not stop it,” Dickson said. “Guys, this is an opportunity – right now, y'all have that opportunity. You have so many people in this room who will back you and support you. No city has been sued over this.”

However, one attendee had a different view of the proposed ordinance, saying “other issues that are written into this are wrong.

“If you want to amend it, I'll change my mind and support it, but not until then,” said Lori Nielsen. “I don't think the government has the right to dictate what a woman can or cannot do … there are much better ways, with loving compassion, to reduce the abortion rate. There are much better ways to reach the youth of our society to change their hearts, because that's what this is, a heart issue. And there are so many ways that you can change the hearts and minds and the views without slapping down a city ordinance.

“I don't support the government stepping in and making that choice on their behalf. While I agree with what everybody has said, it's wrong, it's murder, you need to deal with it in love,” she said.

During the meeting, the council also took action on an executive item to hire a City Secretary. Cinda Etheridge, who begins Jan. 13, succeeds Rosalyn Brown in the position.

No action was taken on an executive session item regarding claims for damages – Wesley Cumby and Harry's Building Materials, while the council opted to pass on other action items, and will address at a future This includes:

• Discuss/consider a resolution requesting financial participation from the Texas Water Development Board; authorizing the filing of an application for financial participation and making certain findings in connection therewith.

• Discuss/consider an ordinances creating a Municipal Court of Record and the appointment of the judge of the municipal court and the court administrator;

• Discuss/consider an ordinance renaming Weems Street to Adams Lane;

• Discuss/consider a resolution formally accepting repairs to Ground Storage Tank #5 and setting the warranty period for said repairs; and

• Discuss/consider an ordinance formalizing the City’s Public Information Request Policy; and

Meanwhile, Goldsberry said that the search for a new police chief will begin in February, as the city seeks to replace Joe Williams, who was named Jan. 8 as the City of Jacksonville's new police chief.

The council also is looking at starting a process to find an interim city manager, as Rusk City Manager Jim Dunaway announced his retirement for Oct. 2, 2020.

No formal action has been taken on either issue, Goldsberry said.

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