Human Relations Roundtable member defends group’s mission at City Council meeting

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

Gloria Locke, a member of the Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable, discussed the group’s mission in her comments to the Santa Clarita City Council Tuesday evening, saying she sought to break the “ill perceptions” that some community members have of the group because its meetings are not open to the public. 

The roundtable had been a regular topic at recent City Council meetings where two residents have made public comments criticizing Mayor Bill Miranda, a co-chairman of the roundtable, and the city of Santa Clarita. 

Locke spoke after Alan Ferdman, one of the roundtable’s frequent critics, during the meeting’s public comment portion when residents have three minutes to discuss any issues not on the City Council’s meeting agenda. 

She called the roundtable “a widely diverse group of distinguished, caring professionals selected to carry out a lofty yet doable, a challenging yet achievable mission.” 

“The mission of the city of Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable is to encourage and assist our community, to eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination, and to promote inclusion, understanding and appreciation of human differences,” according to the roundtable’s website. 

Locke told council members she wanted to break the “ill perceptions and stereotypes” that “were being formed concerning our group and our work.” 

“I remember the moment I saw the mission statement. I said, ‘Yes, that is me,’” she said, assuring the council that the roundtable is making a positive difference in the community. “But moreover, it meant so much to me to see it coming from the city.” 

In his comments, Ferdman maintained that the roundtable should not speak on behalf of the city.  

Miranda previously told The Signal that the roundtable, which has issued a statement supporting the change of the Hart High School mascot as well as statements on a range of other issues, does not speak for the city. 

“The public, the council, and you Mayor Miranda should understand that we’re only asking for the activities of the Human Relations Roundtable to be conducted in public,” Ferdman said, noting that he acknowledges the discomfort associated with having “an honest discussion related to diversity.” 

The Santa Clarita City Council decided in June to give the roundtable – formed by then-Mayor Cameron Smyth late last year following local protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd – more time to work toward its mission before reviewing possible changes to the group, which currently does not meet in public. 

Parks commission changes 

The Santa Clarita City Council appointed Don Cruikshank to a vacant seat on the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission Tuesday evening. 

Mayor Bill Miranda nominated Cruikshank, a local business owner, for the role, which he had previously been appointed to in 2016.  

“He has served our community on several nonprofit boards and will work to provide our residents with enhanced access to trails, open space, park amenities and recreational programs,” said Miranda. 

Cruikshank filled the seat vacated by the resignation of Victor Lindenheim, who was recognized by the City Council for his service Tuesday night. 

“Here we had these facilities provided by the city where these kids, these young people trained, developed their skills, developed their personalities, attitudes, grew up basically, and look where they ended up,” Lindenheim said of the decorated Santa Clarita HEAT 12U Baseball and Legends FC Santa Clarita Valley Girls 2007 teams, which were also recognized by the council earlier that meeting. “So, I’m really proud to be part of the commission that contributed to that.” 

Lindenheim also thanked the city parks staff members for their contributions. 

“The commission provides some leadership, asks a lot of questions, (gives) some guidance, but the staff, as you know, gets it done,” he said. 

Closed session 

The City Council received an update about a letter from an attorney representing Steve Kim, owner of the Sand Canyon Country Club, who is now threatening a lawsuit against the city for denying his proposed Sand Canyon Resort & Spa. 

Kim’s letter is currently under review by the city attorney. 

The City Council also received an update about anticipated litigation alleging that the city’s current “at-large” elections dilute the votes of Santa Clarita’s Latino community, which comprise one-third of city residents.  

Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2020 Census data that it sent to states to advance in the decennial redistricting political boundaries. 

The city would rely on the same data to draw City Council districts. 

Jonathan Ahmadi, one of the founding members of the Santa Clarita Independent Districting Committee, asked the City Council to “direct (city) staff to begin the work of preparing to transition to district-based elections for the 2022 election of the City Council.” 

By creating representative districts, he said, the city could comply with the California Voting Rights Act, which forms the basis for the anticipated lawsuit against the city, based on his independent committee’s preliminary analysis of the 2020 Census data.  

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