Santa Clarita’s reputation as a great place to live—a neighborly city where people are friendly and we all help each other out—took a huge hit Tuesday night. Sadly, the blow was delivered by its own City Council.
A meeting that was supposed to be a civil discussion where the council would receive feedback from residents concerning a proposal to formally go on record against SB 54, the “Sanctuary State” law, turned into an ugly, vicious incident.
For hours, people who went up to the podium and espoused an opinion different from the rowdy crowd that was opposed to SB 54 were heckled, cursed at and insulted. The other side was, in turn, accused of being racist, seemingly regardless of the views expressed.
The council members, led by Mayor Laurene Weste, for hours sat by and let it happen. She even praised the civility of the crowd afterward. These same council members then voted unanimously in favor of opposing SB54.
It was a memorable City Council meeting—memorable for the fact that the council members allowed the intimidation of its residents to go on right before their very eyes.
Weste made feeble attempts to control the crowd but never could and even admitted she couldn’t. The other council members just sat their silent apparently in deference to her role as mayor and leader of the meeting.
The hecklers essentially took over the meeting.
Some of the hecklers should have been removed from the meeting or the meeting should have been adjourned in a symbolic move to make a statement that our city and our council believe in respectful discussion and won’t conduct any other type of discourse. The unanimous vote against SB 54 was itself purely symbolic – but in a way it also validated that behavior.
We very much believe in free speech and we also understand that meetings can get spirited, but we also believe that human beings need to respect each other above all else. Because if we don’t do that, what we believe about any issue is meaningless.
Many of us in this country have been lamenting over the past several years that civility in politics and government has been lost, and our country is worse off because of this. But this generally has been limited to what goes on in Washington. We’ve been under the impression that it has been better on the local level.
Apparently not. Civility has been lost here, too.
The tenor of Tuesday’s meeting was horrible and the blame goes mainly to the person in charge of the meeting, but also to the other city council members. They let this happen.
They are our leaders and should foster a welcoming atmosphere when people come to a City Council meeting. These meetings should be a place where people feel comfortable giving their opinion.
That was hardly the case Tuesday and the council’s and the city’s reputations have been damaged because of it.