Mayor Bill Miranda and resident Steve Petzold engaged in a shouting match during the Santa Clarita City Council’s meeting Tuesday after Petzold questioned the way the city-created Human Relations Roundtable operates.
The verbal altercation culminated in Miranda telling Petzold to “sit down and shut up.”
Petzold took issue with the Human Relations Roundtable — formed at the behest of Councilman Cameron Smyth and Miranda last summer following Black Lives Matter protests in Santa Clarita — which issued a statement condemning the display of a Confederate flag at a Fourth of July car parade organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Republican Party.
Petzold has spoken against the roundtable at several City Council meetings — primarily because its meetings are not open to the public and he contends that the roundtable is operating in violation of the council’s own norms and procedures. On Tuesday, he asked council members to tell Miranda to “rein that commission in.”
“They are going to hurt somebody. They are hurting people in this community. That wasn’t the purpose of the commission, but that’s exactly what they’re doing,” Petzold said during the meeting’s public participation period, which allows each member of the public three minutes to address council members.
Petzold also asked Miranda if the roundtable, which Miranda has said is not an official city commission and does not speak for the city of Santa Clarita, had held a meeting about the display of the flag, which was later identified as a “triple threat flag” that includes a portion of the Confederate flag.
Petzold silently awaited a response from Miranda for 39 seconds, while many in the packed City Council chambers whispered about the drama playing out before their eyes.
“(The) protocol is (a member of the public) gets three minutes. It’s their three minutes. We do not interrupt them. We do not respond to anything and then we go on to the next speaker without commenting,” Miranda said in an interview with The Signal on Wednesday. “(Council members) get our chance after all speakers have gone and that’s what happened.”
Miranda said he helped organize the roundtable to ensure that people in the community with grievances were represented, and he found Petzold’s questioning of it “absolutely insulting.”
“We organized the roundtable and yes, maybe it wasn’t perfect, but for you to come here at every council meeting and do your high-roller charade act — yes, you,” Miranda passionately told Petzold as the crowd began to applaud.
Petzold, angered, stood up and responded “yeah” before Miranda told Petzold to “sit down and shut up. We’ve heard enough of you … You had your 27 seconds of fame. Sit down.”
“I am not going to sit down and shut up,” Petzold said three times in response as a sheriff’s deputy approached.
The deputy asked Petzold to sit down as Miranda called Petzold’s repeated accusations against the roundtable “insulting.”
A back-and-forth between the two men continued until the deputy returned to Petzold’s seat a second time.
“I apologize for taking the meeting a little strange, but I’m passionate,” Miranda said, concluding his remarks.
He told The Signal he had had enough of Petzold’s bullying.
“I’m standing up to a bully,” Miranda said. “I’ve had a lifetime of bullies, a lifetime of bullies and sometimes the only way to deal with a bully is to stand up. That’s what I did.”
Miranda said that people who want to embrace multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusion have a right to be heard.
“I am never going to apologize for the passion I have for diversity and inclusion. I embrace it,” he said. “I’ve fought for it all my life and I’m not going to let a bully push me into doing something that’s not right.”
The roundtable is not perfect, according to Miranda.
“We’re not there yet in terms of creating it the way it needs to be created,” he said. “We’re not there in terms of trying to achieve perfection. But we are working toward it.”
A majority of the City Council decided in May to give more time to the roundtable to figure out their path forward after Miranda suggested that the council add the roundtable as a discussion item to the council’s June agenda.
Petzold, who said he had just returned to council chambers from taking a phone call when he realized Miranda was addressing him, gave Miranda credit for that attempt, but maintained that the roundtable lacks transparency.
“Nobody can monitor what they do and so they go out and they issue these press releases,” Petzold told The Signal. “We don’t know if they had a discussion, whether they had a vote (before issuing a statement)… It’s kind of like ‘we’re a club and you’re not in it,’ and that’s not the way public agencies are supposed to work.”
Petzold has cited a section of the Santa Clarita City Council norms and procedures that addresses City Council conduct with commissions.
The norms limit discussion between the City Council and commissions and committees, between the chair or an appointed representative of the commission or committee and the council.
“We don’t know how (Miranda) got to be the co-chair, except that he’s the mayor,” Petzold said. “(Miranda and Cherise Moore, president of the William S. Hart Union High School District board) are the only people that don’t have to file applications to be on the Human Relations Roundtable…They should follow the rules.”
Petzold acknowledged his persistence, noting that every statement issued by the roundtable has provided another opportunity to address this issue.
“I’ve been hammering on him a long time because I always thought that they would have a public meeting and formally approve the Human Relations Roundtable,” he said, expressing his disappointment in the rest of the City Council for not “reining (Miranda) in.”
Petzold sent a letter to the City Council after Tuesday’s meeting asking the council to adopt a resolution censuring Miranda “for his outrageous behavior targeting (Petzold) for abusive language and intimidation meant to discourage me from exercising my right to attend and participate in the meeting of a public agency.”