February 11, 2014 8:04 pm • By Stephen Rickerl and Tammy Real-McKeighan/Fremont Tribune

Fremont voters have spoken again — and the results are the same.

Voters in Tuesday’s special election opted to keep the city’s illegal immigrant ordinance as written with nearly 60 percent casting “no” ballots.

Unofficial results from the Dodge County Clerk’s Office showed 3,850 (59.6 percent) no votes to 2,610 (40.4 percent) yes votes on a proposal to amend Ordinance 5165.

Those in favor of upholding the housing provision of the ordinance argued the voters had already spoken in 2010 when 57 percent voted in favor of the ordinance.

Many have contended in recent weeks that the special election has become less about listening to the will of the people and more about a business-controlled city government influenced by outside money attempting to impose its will on residents.

About 100 supporters of keeping Ordinance 5165 intact were jubilant after results of Tuesday night’s election poured in. The supporters, who met at The Gathering Place, cheered and clapped as longtime ordinance advocate John Wiegert shared the latest tally.

But some ordinance proponents saw the victory as bittersweet.

“I wish it felt better to win,” said Paul Von Behren as Big Band music played. “We understand there’s a lot of work to do on the ordinance, but the point is — instead of working this out, as real leadership would have, they’ve just chosen to fight the people of Fremont. … Their impulse was just to get rid of it. They sent a very clear message that they have no regard for the people.

“That’s what makes it less than a victory, because we are back to where we were in 2010.”

Former city council member and ordinance proponent Bob Warner also spoke in somber terms.

“What saddens me is the professional people — not all, but some — willingly misled the people and I never thought that would happen in Fremont,” Warner said. “… Now the big question is — is our city council — do they represent the people that put them in their chair or do they represent the special interest groups?”

Von Behren expressed similar concerns.

“Is the council now going to work in good faith to implement the ordinance effectively?” he said. “Secondly, by choosing to make this such a high profile fight, have they now invited lawsuits and retaliations from the leftist organizations that have poured in all the money? They certainly made it a high profile event.”

As he’s said previously, State Sen. Charlie Janssen said the vote wasn’t only about the ordinance, but “about elected officials not listening to their constituents.”

He expressed more optimism regarding other election aspects.

“It’s good to see that the special interest money from out of town that outspent Fremont citizens 11 to 1 was silenced by the vote of the people and hopefully this will be something that elected officials think about when they try to overturn the will of the people,” Janssen said.

Janssen also addressed a possible recall issue.

“I think there’s a lot of talk about recalls,” he said. “I’m not a supporter of recalls. I disagree with the council actions on this, but they in no way violated any law by doing what they did. … I’m friends with most, if not all, of the council members and mayor and I feel if people want to recall the council they should do it when the election comes up, and they should vote for the candidate of their choice.”

Across town at J’s Steakhouse the mood was subdued as about two dozen supporters of amending the ordinance discussed the results.

The 43.7 percent of voters who turned out Tuesday, lower this time around compared to the approximately 45 percent that cast a ballot in the 2010 election. In all, 6,600 of Fremont’s 15,119 registered voters cast their ballot, including 722 early voters.

Turnout was highest in Precincts 1C and 4D on the northeast side of town, with 50.4 and 49.9 percent respectively. Westside Precinct 3B saw the lowest turnout with 27.5 percent followed closely by Precinct 3A with 28.1 percent.

Supporters of the amendment, which included the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce, several city officials and grass roots organizations, had argued the housing requirement is little more than a toothless public policy that gives the city a black eye and drives away potential investors and jobs.

Although supporters of an amended ordinance were disappointed with Tuesday’s result, they said they will continue their work to make Fremont an inclusive community.

“We’ve talked to our friends and neighbors all across Fremont and we’ve made fantastic connections in our community for people who want to make Fremont a welcoming and vibrant and strong and inclusive community,” Virginia Meyer of Fremont Yes! said. “I know my family is here to stay and I will continue to do this work.”

“We’re going to be paying for this decision for a long time I think,” said Krista Anderson of Fremont Yes! “As taxpayers and in our reputation.”

The Rev. Scott Jensen said the community will move forward and needs to focus on healing, but Fremont will unfortunately learn the hard way the consequences of upholding the housing provision of the ordinance.

“The sun is going to come up tomorrow and we are going to continue to move forward,” Jensen said. “As this ordinance is likely to move forward to be enforced, we will learn what the true ramifications of the ordinance are, and we will together discover how that is going to be interpreted in the courts.

“And if we look to the other two communities that are a little ahead of us in this scheme — that’s very clear where we’re heading. It’s most unfortunate that we’re going to discover the hard way the cost of this vote tonight. But we’ll make it through, we’ll learn and we’ll grow together.”

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Ordinance 5165, Immigration, State Sen. Charlie Janssen, Bob Warner, Voters, Paul Von Behren, Fremont City Council, Fremont Area Chamber Of Commerce, Virginia Meyer, Krista Anderson, The Rev. Scott Jensen, Dodge County Clerk’s Office