The City Council on April 4 sent a citizen resolve stating that Belfast welcomes all people back to the drawing board after several councilors voiced concerns that the document could have the opposite effect.

The draft resolve was circulated in petition form by the citizen group BelFem and garnered signatures from 650 people and close to 50 businesses, according to representatives of the group.

The "Belfast Resolve Welcoming City" touched on a wide range of progressive positions, affirming the rights of women, blacks, the LGBTQ community and other groups that have historically been subject to discrimination and violence, and taking a stand on climate change, education and access to health care.

Several municipalities in Maine have passed similar resolves, including Hallowell, Appleton, and, last month, Rockland.

City councilors voiced approval for the idea that Belfast is welcoming to all people, with some adding that the city is already very much so. But nearly all felt the resolve included statements — such as a vow to prosecute hate crimes — that veered outside the authority of city government.

Additionally, they said the language was too specific, either because it named local organizations (Belfast Soup Kitchen and New Hope for Women) that could unintentionally get a leg up by their inclusion, or causes (Black Lives Matter) that could be construed as political.

"If you say it, you're suggesting it," Councilor Neal Harkness said. "If we say it, we're giving it the force of law."

A smaller contingent of councilors simply didn't want the city passing a "pledge," as one described it, that included statements of philosophy or worldview that many residents might not share.

"There are people who believe climate change is not real," Councilor Eric Sanders said. "It's not my job to tell them it is. Even though I believe it is."

Councilor Mike Hurley called the resolve "an extremely partisan document" and suggested the petitioners were living in a bubble if they thought otherwise. He noted that 1,400 Belfast residents voted for Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

"I don't think I have to, or anybody in Belfast has to, take this pledge or make this resolve where their morals or their beliefs are questioned, and that's what I feel this did," he said.

Lindsey Piper of BelFem said the resolve is not meant to put the city in the role of policing everyone's actions and rooting out every bad character. Rather, she said, it would let those who are subject to discrimination know that their city doesn't condone it.

"If the person being targeted by said bad character says in the back of their mind, y'know what, my city has my back, the place where I live has actually come up and said this isn't OK, versus thinking, jeez, where did I move to? What kind of place is this? This is back in time 15 years. People are still doing this stuff here? They'll say, oh, this individual's out of wack, because I know that everybody else doesn't think that, even though this person is behaving in that way," Piper said. "That's the impression of what this would say."

The council asked BelFem representatives to winnow the four-page resolve down to a shorter, less specific statement.

Speaking after the meeting, BelFem member Nicolle Littrell said the group appreciated the input from the council and hopes to hold a public meeting to get a better sense of what residents would like to see changed. She also cautioned against watering down the resolve.

"We want to be responsive and make appropriate revisions," she said. "But we want to maintain the integrity of this document."

Responding to Hurley's comment about alienating Trump supporters and Republican constituents, she said the tenets of diversity and respect that form the basis of the resolve were issues before Trump was elected and will continue after his presidency.

In her work with BelFem and the resolve, Littrell said, Hurley's was the first direct opposition she heard. And of the 650 people and 50 businesses that endorsed the resolve, she said, surely some of them were Republicans.

In a later email, she added that there were probably Greens and Independents, too.

"We are not just a community of Democrats and Republicans," she said.