City announces reactivation of human relations roundtable, applicants sought

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Residents who would like to play a key role in Santa Clarita’s efforts to eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination in the city can now apply to join a revamped roundtable tasked with that goal, officials announced Tuesday evening. 

The Human Relations Roundtable aims to “encourage, assist and empower our community to eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination and to promote inclusion, understanding and appreciation of human differences,” according to a city news release Wednesday. 

Mayor Cameron Smyth first shared publicly the relaunch of the roundtable during the City Council meeting Tuesday, announcing that the city and the William S. Hart Union High School District are now accepting applications from community members to join. 

“Over the last few months, we have met with many community members to discuss concerns of racism and discrimination within our valley,” he said Tuesday. “And this is a key step forward toward making sure the broad spectrum of residents in Santa Clarita, as well as in our schools, feel accepted and included.” 

The goal, he added: Bring together residents with different views, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, ages and beliefs to capture the city’s diversity. 

In 1994, Santa Clarita had the Human Relations Forum, which organized educational enrichment activities, such as in music, art and dance, for the community to better understand diversity among community members, but it was later disbanded, according to Janine Prado, director of the Recreation and Community Services Department, who led the forum at the time. 

The roundtable’s reactivation follows a series of meetings with Smyth and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Miranda and several residents advocating for civil rights and the Black lives matter movement, where activists pressed on making headway with the human relations group. They had also urged for a “civilian review commission” that would function as “a board to research and report on best practices tailored to the needs of the city of Santa Clarita,” according to a document they presented to the city listing recommendations. 

Annie Astorga, one of the local activists who had advocated for the roundtable’s revitalization, said Wednesday she and others had met with Miranda before Tuesday’s meeting to express how they felt about a lack of feedback regarding the status of the revamp. 

“We explained in our meeting how we felt we weren’t getting much feedback about the roundtable and where it was headed until he discussed the application process, as well as a few other things,” she said. “I am hopeful for the Human Relations Roundtable, but I would like to see the council members more involved and would like for the relations roundtable to start sooner.”

The group will consist of up to 15 members tasked with engaging in monthly meetings, subcommittee meetings, activities, events and training. Applicants must reside in the Santa Clarita Valley, represent the diverse community, have experience in human services, community organizing, or human rights advocacy and must show ability to work tactfully with diverse populations, according to the city news release. 

Applications, accessed via scvhumanrelations.com, opened Wednesday and submission deadlines will run through Wednesday, Sept. 30. After the deadline, a diverse panel of community members will review the applications and conduct interviews, followed by the first roundtable meeting sometime in October, city officials said. 

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