Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda said Wednesday they will work to make clear that the city denounces racism and would formally pen support for reforms, such as changing police use-of-force policies, currently pending at the county level.
Their statements came after reconvening at City Hall with a group of more than 10 local residents advocating for civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, following protests in Santa Clarita and around the nation after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
The two-hour-long conversation, which included dialogue about the city’s recently adopted budget and revitalizing a human relations commission, came down to one of many requests for the city: Make a public statement denouncing racism.
Attendee Shara Darden said she would like to see something similar to that of San Bernardino County’s Tuesday vote declaring racism as a public health crisis.
“What we need is the city to step up now. San Bernardino, just yesterday, declared racism as a public health crisis. That’s leadership. That’s what we’re looking for you to do, is to say, ‘This is a problem, and we don’t stand for it,’” she said.
Harry Reed, a 23-year resident who partook in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, broke down while asking the same. He said, “I would like to see the city make a formal statement saying, ‘Racism is no longer welcome.’ And I choose those words very deliberately. It’s been here.”
To which Smyth responded: “I apologize that we haven’t said that racism is not acceptable in this community, in this city.”
And Miranda said, “We are both anti-racist and pro-diversity. So, let’s do something out of this meeting.”
Denouncing racism publicly
Smyth said he and Miranda would circle back with city staff to “debrief” what was said Wednesday to see how a statement would be delivered, but said he envisioned the message to be rolled out via the revitalization of a human relations commission that is currently underway.
“I envision, as we roll out more details of what our human relations forum is going to look like, that we use that as an opportunity to talk about the city’s position on racism,” he said.
Human relations commission
Santa Clarita had a Human Relations Forum in 1994 that put together educational enrichment activities, such as in music, art and dance, for the community to help understand the experience and differences between people, but it later disbanded, according to Janine Prado, the director of the Recreation and Community Services Department, who led the forum at the time.
The revamp currently in the works, brought forth by Smyth and Cherise Moore, board member of the William S. Hart Union High School District, will serve more as a commission and look to include more than just an educational aspect and offer the community a platform to converse about issues and create opportunities for change.
The SCV Civil Advocacy Network has presented a series of demands for what it would like to see in the commission, according to member Christian Olmos, who has been actively meeting with Smyth and spearheading the network’s goals in creating a more inclusive community.
Among them includes the reactivation of its defunct programs, such as the Community Law Enforcement Awareness Registry, an awareness program that helped individuals with disabilities reduce the risk of encountering issues with law enforcement, and the creation of a “Civilian Review Commission” that could work with the Los Angeles Civilian Oversight Commission by submitting reports about the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Letter to L.A. County Board of Supervisors
Smyth said he would draft a letter to the county Board of Supervisors as early as Thursday to formally express support for Campaign Zero, which includes eight reforms such as requiring officers to de-escalate situations and prohibiting all neck restraints.
Miranda said he would join the mayor but both would send letters as individuals and not the City Council as a whole because it would require their vote to send such a letter and their next meeting would not come in before the next Board of Supervisors meeting on July 14. The mayor said he would communicate their efforts with the rest of the council.