The Task Force submitted questions to each of the candidates in the upcoming election. Here's the reply from Shannon Williamson, candidate for Sandpoint mayor.
1. The mission of the BCHRTF is to affirm the American principles and ideals of the inviolable dignity and worth of each human being. Who do you think experiences the most discrimination in our community? Is it discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status or disability (including mental illness)?
Even though Sandpoint is a small city, I think that some community members would say with confidence that they have been discriminated against due to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status or disability (including mental illness). I couldn’t say with 100% certainty which of these classes experiences the most discrimination in our community, however I believe all are equally important. I’m glad that Sandpoint has expanded its community-driven resources to help address discrimination, particularly when it comes to mental health.
2. The BCHRTF was established in 1992 to confront the growing challenges of white supremacist organizations and activities in our around Bonner County. To what extent do you think that challenge exists today? Is this still a challenge—or should the TF say ‘mission accomplished?
I think there are challenges in every community related to intolerance. I don’t think it’s possible to completely eradicate intolerant thoughts and actions and it’s unfortunate that this challenge will likely exist in some capacity within our own community. That being said, I believe the number of caring and compassionate people in this community far outweigh those that are hateful and that’s one of the things I love most about Sandpoint.
3. What do you think can be done to counter the reputation that North Idaho has, nationwide, as a haven for racists and white nationalists?
It’s important to immediately denounce and address any incidents that occur in the community because of racist actions. I feel it’s also equally important to not feed the flames of hate by acknowledging the kind of rhetoric that makes it difficult to move forward in a productive manner. We need to focus on what makes Sandpoint a wonderful place to live and visit for everyone that wants to enjoy its natural beauty and vibrant culture.
4. How does this reputation affect the lives of those of us who live here? How does this reputation affect our community’s ability to attract potential employees and visitors?
I would say that there are some community members who are sensitive to Sandpoint’s perceived negative reputation and other community members who choose to focus on all the reasons why so many love this city. Similarly, there may be some who choose to not visit Sandpoint or pursue employment opportunities here because they are concerned. However, I don’t have a strong sense that Sandpoint’s perceived reputation is having a significant impact on tourism or our ability to attract employees.
5. How important do you think it is to work toward making Sandpoint a community where everyone feels valued, everyone feels safe and everyone can thrive?
I think that every resident, business owner and visitor of Sandpoint wants to feel valued, safe and can thrive. I also think that the city could work into perpetuity on achieving this and still not have every resident, business owner and visitor feel this way. As Sandpoint continues to change, so will the conversation we need to have with our constituents around these issues. As an elected official, I believe that my time is best spent advocating for the best interests for our citizens across the board.