After what some residents labeled foot-dragging, it appears the Santa Clarita City Council is going to take a symbolic but formal stand against bigotry and intolerance.
In response to comments from citizens at the last two council meetings – calling for the body to issue some kind of official resolution in support of diversity, and against hate speech – Councilman Bob Kellar told The Signal on Tuesday that he plans to introduce such a measure, either at the council’s next meeting, on Jan. 10, or the following one, on Jan. 24.
“It is my intention to make a proclamation to that effect, that Santa Clarita is a community that does not accept any form of bigotry or racism, and absolutely has zero tolerance for any form of racial hatred – something to that effect,’’ Kellar said.
Kellar was reluctant to speak publicly on the matter Tuesday because he had not yet had the chance to alert the other council members or City Manager Kenneth Striplin, and he did not want them to learn of his plans through the media.
But following comments from several citizens at the last two council meetings and in interviews with The Signal that the city needs to step up and take a symbolic stand, Kellar disclosed his intentions.
The issue first came up at the council meeting of Nov. 22, when Sheryl Lima, a city resident, urged the body to “to make an official statement — to say, ‘We are not going to tolerate any kind of hate crimes in this community, ’cause that’s not who we are as Santa Claritans.’ ’’
Lima’s comments that night followed those of another city resident, Patti Sulpizio, regarding what she said was an increase in hate instances, locally as well as nationally, during the presidential campaign and after the election of Donald Trump.
“I asked them to make the city a ‘safe city,’ ’’ Lima later told The Signal. “People are being bullied, being told, ‘We don’t want your kind here in Trump’s America.’ ’’
Lima, who has two daughters in local high schools, added, “I’ve heard these stories from kids in high school who are gay, Chinese, Mexican, kids who are Muslim.’’
“While Santa Clarita has done a lot to make a stand against that, it’s obviously not enough in light of the political climate,’’ she said. “I’ve asked them (the council) … to take an official stand against intolerance of how people look, or love — to say that intolerance is not tolerated.’’
Then-Councilman TimBen Boydston, that night, agreed with Lima, saying, “Perhaps it would be appropriate for us to have a resolution, to make it a very public way … just to reiterate it. I’m not talking about making a political statement, using political language … but I say a reiteration would be an excellent idea.’’
Boydston’s comments that night drew no response from other council members, and they moved on to other matters before adjourning the meeting.
No such resolution was on the council’s next meeting, on Dec. 13 — and at that meeting, Lima expressed disappointment, saying, “I was hoping to see it on the agenda like you said it would be, Mr. Kellar, but I don’t see it.”
Kellar replied by relating a private conversation he had with Lima, saying, “As the [then-] mayor, I came out and I made a statement …. that we absolutely support diversity and there is no tolerance for hate crimes or anything of that kind. That’s what I said, I did not tell you it would be on the agenda. I said that I personally would make a commitment to you.’’
Tuesday, Kellar told The Signal that his upcoming proclamation plan is his way of keeping that commitment.
For his part, Boydston – no longer on the council after losing his bid for re-election in November – told The Signal on Tuesday that he was disappointed and puzzled that his call for the matter to be on the Dec. 13 agenda was not heeded – even if it amounted to only a symbolic stand against intolerance.
“As a council, it’s our job to do leadership and set an example — and also to reiterate things,’’ Boydston said. “It’s almost as if they’re afraid to say we can’t pass a resolution like that, that it might be admitting that we have a problem.
“And honestly, we do have a problem — the human race has a problem. There is hatred out there, and as a civilized society we have to reiterate that it is not acceptable.
“We already have (anti-hate) laws in place,’’ he added. “We can even re-read those. It’s important for people to stand up and say, no, that’s not acceptable. If not enough good people stand up, then bad people will take control. In Santa Clarita, it needs to start at the City Council level.’’
Mai Do, a Vietnamese-American and a sophomore at College of the Canyons – who was born and raised in Santa Clarita – said she was recently the victim of hate speech, and agrees that a council stand, while symbolic, is still important.
“I think it’s something small that the city can do to make its residents feel safe and comfortable in the city,’’ she said.
Do said that, around Election Day, she was walking to the Albertson’s supermarket in Saugus when a car pulled up beside her and a young male, about high-school age, shouted, “Go back to China!”
She said the incident was the most overt example she has experienced, but not the only one.
“(Anti-hate) sentiment is fantastic, but it needs to be manifested in a more concrete way,’’ Do said of the calls for the council to make a public stand.
“This would be a concrete representation of what our leadership believes. Then the words become an action. Actions speak more powerfully than words.’’