| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – An effort to arrange a face-to-face meeting between Mayor Domenic Sarno and the Pioneer Valley Project was not successful, and Sarno has stuck to his previously stated position about more refugee resettlement in the city.
On Jan. 17, a number of the members of the organization along with Somali Bantu residents of Springfield went to the mayor’s office to ask for a meeting on his stance. According to the videos posted on the organization’s Facebook page, Sarno did not meet with them and Tom Ashe, his chief of staff, promised them an answer about the meeting by Jan. 21.
That answer read, “My editorial letter comments are very clear and speak for themselves. No need to meet. God bless. Respectfully, Domenic J. Sarno.”
The comments the mayor references were released in December of last year and read, “As a proud life-long resident of Springfield and in response to a City Council resolution – No, I will not be issuing a letter of consent to the White House, U.S. Department of State, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in support of continuing refugee resettlements in Springfield. It’s time for other much more affluent communities to take on their fair share.
“My position has been very clear on that this issue taxes our city and school services and calls into question the accountability and follow-through aspects of refugee agencies, who not too long ago, placed a number of refugees in condemned housing units. We have a number of residents in Springfield who need assistance and that will continue to be the concentration of my efforts. Springfield has proudly done more than its fair share on this issue.
“As a recent Boston Federal Reserve report indicated about Springfield – ‘you cannot continue to concentrate poverty on top of poverty.’ I ask, as those more affluent communities demand of Springfield, to step up to the plate and put their money where their mouth is – to take on their fair share of social justice responsibilities. The familiar tune I always hear from these much more affluent communities is that we do not have the capacities for refugees, the homeless, subsidized housing and methadone clinics.
“Springfield is at capacity – the ball is now in their court.”
Tara Parrish, director of the Pioneer Valley Project, released a statement prior to the attempt to meet that read, “Our mayor doesn’t have a right to say that an entire group of people no longer belongs here. Refugees, people who are heavily vetted by the U.S. government, arrive to this community with support and resources to assist with their integration into our community. We take issue with Mayor Sarno suggesting that refugees aren’t a valuable part of our community. Certainly, some of our fellow Americans from Puerto Rico will decide to leave the island following the recent earthquakes and resettle in Springfield. Will our mayor also say that they are a burden to our city? We all belong in this city. We stand with our friends from the Somali Bantu community and the broader refugee community. It’s time for our mayor to sit face-to-face with some of the people who he has maligned and listen to them. Perhaps he will re-think his position.”
Reminder Publishing asked Parrish if the Pioneer Valley Project had plans for additional protests or efforts to meet with the mayor. There has been no response by press time.