Split City Council opts to give roundtable more time

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council lacked the necessary votes Tuesday night to add to the agenda of the next City Council meeting a discussion about the city of Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable. 

Mayor Bill Miranda suggested the idea for an “open and transparent discussion” to talk about the future of the roundtable. 

“I am amazed at all the press and all the interest there is in the roundtable, and that’s a good thing,” said Miranda. “After the last council meeting, The Signal was gracious enough to feature me in four articles in their weekend paper and, I have to say, what’s in their writing, I can’t disagree with.” 

Miranda said the discussion would consider all options, including separating the roundtable from city government, establishing it as a formal city commission and everything in between. 

Councilwoman Marsha McLean voiced her support for the mayor’s idea, recalling the Human Relations Forum, a predecessor to the roundtable created in the 1990s, which she said brought people together.  

“I hope that this roundtable is going to take that same premise and not divide people,” McLean said. “And I have to be honest, I’m a little concerned with some of the things I’m hearing.” 

Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste opposed the option of converting the roundtable into a city commission — a format adopted by the County of Los Angeles and other cities in Los Angeles. 

“I can’t see you putting a group of people that need to be able to freely express themselves and have probably encountered a tough, maybe very emotional or hurtful experiences, and putting them in a situation where they’re structured with the Brown Act, lawyers, the press is always available,” said Weste. 

“You need to give these people more time. They have not had an opportunity to really find out everything they want to do and where they want to go. I don’t think there needs to be guidance at this time,” Weste added. 

Councilman Jason Gibbs joined Weste in voting against adding a discussion about the roundtable to the next City Council meeting. 

“Whatever we want to do, I don’t want to be the reason that they don’t feel they can get their message out in a positive way,” said Gibbs. “But at the same time, they can’t be able to go out and give messages on behalf of the city. That’s not the role of a committee or commission.” 

“(The City Council) shouldn’t be the arbiters on what (the roundtable members) feel is appropriate to discuss or appropriate to not discuss,” Gibbs added.  

Councilman Cameron Smyth and Cherise Moore, of the William S. Hart Union High School District board, formed the roundtable following Black Lives Matter protests in Santa Clarita last summer. The purposes of the roundtable was 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.”  

Smyth joined Weste and Gibbs in opposing a discussion at the next City Council meeting. 

“I’d like to give (the roundtable) a little bit more time to kind of work through the growing pains and find their footing,” said Smyth. “And if there’s still concern, maybe after the summer break, you still want to revisit this — and there may be a need to have the discussion more formally — then I’d be OK with that.” 

The Signal recently reported on the resignation of one of the original 16 roundtable members, who cited “reverse racism” in a letter to the Santa Clarita City Council. Four members of the roundtable, including Miranda, who is the roundtable’s co-chair, met with the former member prior to his resignation advising him reconsider his decision, according to Miranda.

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