NOTE: I apologize for the sloppy writing and lack of complete editing. I tried to record everyone's comments, so it's a bit (i.e., a lot) wordy.
The agendized, official business that happened during tonight’s City Council Meeting was little more than an obstacle on the road to reaching the far more important unofficial business: delivering judgment on the person and words of Bob Kellar. [For those who missed it, Bob Kellar attended an anti-illegal-immigration rally and made some impassioned comments. After invoking the nationalist ideology of Theodore Roosevelt, he said that if people were going to call him racist for wanting to enforce immigration laws and for wanting America to be united under a single flag and language, then he was “a proud racist.” He went on to clarify that he adopted the racist label rhetorically and that he did not actually discriminate against people based on their race. Still, many were upset at his inflammatory choice of words. Others were upset that when he made his remarks, he did not formally state that he was speaking as an individual, not a representative of the City of Santa Clarita.] After nearly two hours of comments during Public Participation, it was clear that Bob Kellar had many supporters and illegal immigration had none. As for the handful of people who were waiting for City Attorney Carl Newton to clarify whether Bob Kellar had acted in violation of the City’s Code of Ethics, well, they just heard the same answer that was reported in TMS phrased slightly differently.
Before directing our complete attention to Kellar, though, it’s best to review the earlier events of the evening.
Laurie Ender delivered tonight’s invocation and spoke about the earthquake in Haiti, the response to which has made her “proud to be an American.” 72 LA County firefighters (five from SCV stations) are in Haiti now, and they rescued nine people. Mayor Laurene Weste thanked Ender for drawing attention to on-going relief efforts and suggested that a link be added to the City homepage for people who wish to donate. Though individuals who know how to get to the City website are probably quite capable of reaching the Red Cross website on their own, the link is a nice gesture.
Next, Mayor Laurene Weste applauded the running efforts of Golden Valley, Saugus, and Canyon’s JV cross-country teams.
After reading off dozens of names of gifted teenage runners and taking many pictures in front of the imposing city seal, it was time for individual reports. Councilmember Bob Kellar went first and said “I have nothing to report at this time.” Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean was visibly delighted as she recalled presenting a large (in both linear dimensions and amount) check to the Senior Center. Councilmember Frank Ferry had no comments, and Mayor Weste told us to get ready for dog licensing season. Oh, Laurene.
Since council reports were so brief, it was clear that we were in store for a lot of public participation on the topics of Bob Kellar and illegal immigration. TimBen Boydston jumped the gun, however, and weighed in on the controversy during Public Participation for the Newhall Redevelopment Committee Meeting. He stated that, while he supported free speech and Bob Kellar’s belief in the need for enforcing immigration laws, he also believed that Kellar had violated the City Council’s Code of Ethics by not stating that he was speaking for himself and not in the capacity of an elected official. Boydston, while slightly theatrical, as always, was not overly harsh and made it clear that he was condemning a particular act, not the man himself.
No one responded to Boydston, and the Council quickly passed a resolution relating to the right-of-way for the soon-to-be-built library.
On the Consent Calendar, everything passed with the recommended action. Two cards expressed support for Item 12, which designated a little under $500,000 to buy irrigation controllers that limit sprinkler output based on current weather conditions. They will save an estimated twenty-million gallons of water in their first year of operation, which is, in layman’s terms, a shitload of water. Most of the other measures that were approved related to grant applications or to infrastructure.
The first public hearing—updating fire district development fees—resulted in adopting the fee adjustment (about four cents more per square-foot in fees).
The next public hearing was called to decide whether a proposed medical office building would be approved in Canyon Country. The plan was a popular one. As the developer noted, more than 90% of medical facilities are on the west side of town, but about 60% of seniors are on the east side of town. He said that Canyon Country, which has been treated like a “red-headed step-child,” will finally get the treatment it deserves when the medical facility is built. It would also create 410 new, full-time jobs and over $21M in wages. Apart from serving an under-served area and creating jobs, the project was praised for its potential to decrease traffic across the valley. To this end, the project had a number of bike racks required (who rides their bike to a doctor’s appointment?) and City Transit would have drop-offs nearby. Mayor Pro Tem McLean, however, was very concerned that some people wouldn’t be able to walk the 400 – 600 feet from bus stop to medical office door. The developer assured her that they had done all they could to make the facility accessible, and dial-a-ride could take those who were incapable of walking from door-to-door. McLean was appeased. Building the three-story medical office building garnered support from the Senior Center, the public, and ultimately the City Council. Thus, with a yes, yes, yes, yes, and an aye, approval of the project was passed to a second reading.
Finally, official business concluded by approving $30,000 for two studies. The first will determine whether Santa Clarita can support a conference or convention center, and the second will determine where it should go. Here are some bold predictions about what these pricey studies will find: (1)A conference center is needed in Santa Clarita, and (2)The perfect spot is (*drumroll*) somewhere near Town Center, by the proposed Sheraton Hotel!
A ten-minute break followed, signaling that the members of City Council were emptying their bladders in preparation for an extended Public Participation session.
The Kellar Trial
Mayor Laurene Weste called on everyone to take their seats, then made the announcement that all were in store for two hours' worth of comments (she over-estimated by nineteen minutes). But before the public spoke, Bob Kellar finally spoke on his own behalf. He said “Ladies and gentlemen, I am not a racist in any form, shape, or fashion.” He made it clear that he simply wanted to uphold the law: “If we are to remain a nation of laws, we must respect those laws, all of them.” Applause followed.
Now, I present portions of the comments made during Public Participation. I apologize if I spelled the names incorrectly or missed a speaker or two. The most impactful comments are marked with asterisks:
*Steve Sturgeon: Steve said that on behalf of law enforcement officers, we must respect Bob and his views.
*Larry Rasmussen: “Bob is all-American, and Bob is right[…]calling Bob names is a dishonest political trick.”
*****Roger Gitlin: Gitlin argued that elected officials need to give more support to enforcing immigration laws. To Bob, “You are no more a racist than Lady Liberty.” He called on the City Council to clarify their positions on illegal immigration for the record.
*****Bruce McFarland: McFarland spoke about Bob Kellar’s “apparent stupidity” and said that City Attorney Carl Newton was making excuses for a clear breach of the ethical code. He wanted clearer channels through which ethics violation accusations could be evaluated and lead to appropriate punishment. He requested that Kellar to be censured.
>After McFarland left the podium, Ferry heard an expletive thrown McFarland’s way and said such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated. Mayor Weste reminded speakers that a whole troop of Boy Scouts was sitting with them—really.<
*Cam Noltemeyer: “The issue here is illegal immigration.” She said that public officials take an oath to uphold laws and protect the constitution, and that the City Council should reaffirm these commitments.
*Alan Ferdman: “Bob Kellar’s comments are being taken out of context.” He said Kellar is entitled to his position and lamented the fact that there are so few rational discussions about the serious illegal immigration problem
*****David Gauny: The council hopeful said of Bob Kellar “He will do whatever is right for the citizens of Santa Clarita”. He said his wife labeled Kellar’s racist remark his “Howard Dean Moment.” He also challenged Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean, and Frank Ferry for essentially abandoning Kellar based on their quotations in TMS. He spoke well.
*Berta Gonzalez-Harper: She first took a moment to pronounce her name “bairrr[rolled r]-tuh gowne-ZAH-laysz” and delivered a passionate defense of Bob Kellar, who she said has “never been remotely anything near a racist.”
*****Carole Lutness: The notorious local plagiarist said that Bob Kellar reminded her of an old lady who sees ants invading her kitchen one night. Despite stomping them, they return night after night until finally her granddaughter points out that the woman should get rid of the bowl of sugar on her table. That is, businesses that hire illegal immigrants are at fault.
*****Spencer Leafdale: “Councilman Kellar is not a racist” (slaps table, pauses for dramatic effect) “Sweet Lord!” (laughs from audience at the Kellerism)
*Gloria Domingues: “I am Hispanic, I came here with my family when I was very little […] I obtained my residence card, I then became a US Citizen. […] The legal way is the right way.”
*****Harrison Katz: The youngest City Council contender said he knew Bob wasn’t a racist, but thought that business owners would think twice before investing in Santa Clarita, a City where reps like Bob Kellar make outrageous statements. He encouraged an apology . Despite his verbal stumbles (you try saying Councilmember Kellar three times fast!) and appearing very nervous and making a less than convincing argument, he did OK.
*Sherri-Anne Lima: Lima was very upset at Kellar’s language, saying there is too much divisiveness in the City already and that his remarks only aggravated things.
*Sam Zissleman(?): The owner of the “Derail Amnesty” website applauded Kellar for his bravery. He said opponents throw around words like “racist” and “bigot” to silence the debate
*Gene Ray: She cheered, simply, “Go for it Bob, we’re with you!”
*Ze Gonzales: A third-generation Mexican-American, Gonzales said he knew what real racism was and that Bob Kellar was always respectful of people of diverse backgrounds.
*Kristin Ingram-Worthman: She began by saying “context is irrelevant!” and that the words “I’m a proud racist” are inexcuseable.
*John Olish: John slowly delivered a speech on his complete admiration for Kellar, ending with “Because you are the man you are, I love you”
*****Debbie Hayes: Hayes was distressed at disparaging marks made at Bob’s expense, saying that he does the best work on behalf of the people of Santa Clarita. To speakers who had been critical of Bob, she said “You have a long way to go to fill his shoes.”
*Paul Strickland: Strickland reminded the audience that Kellar hosts two annual fundraisers for groups that largely support needy Hispanic families with their work.
*John Sloane: “The only problem I see is that you [Kellar] need to run for the senate!”
*Robert Crooks: This local minuteman talked about how illegal immigrants are used by drug cartels and bring crime, drugs, and a cycle of exploitation to this country.
*****Minerva Williams: Williams was supportive of Bob’s good local work and clarity/responsibility in dealing with issues like the hospital expansion. But she said that even after watching the racist remark video several times, she didn’t like Kellar’s anger or completely understand where it was coming from. She spoke about hardworking immigrants waiting for a job every morning on the streers, but couldn’t finish before time called.
*Todd Hoover: Rambled on a bit about how it’s unfortunate Kellar made a poor choice of words and that we should all strive to be tolerant people. People in Costa Rica are apparently more tolerant of those who speak a different language than are people in California.
*Linda Payne: This speaker was frustrated at elected reps who support people who are here illegally, and she was tired of being called racist for no reason other than to silence her. She said she won’t be intimidated by being called that name.
**********Sheri: This woman talked about how it is US citizens who bear the cost of illegal immigration. She was a victim of Adrian Arriano, the Canyon Country rapist who twice entered this country illegally and is now serving 21 consecutive life sentences. (I believe this was “Sheri C.”, the alias of a woman who testified in the case).
*Carl Gilson: Employers need to check on that status of their employees
***********Barbara March: The mother of slain Deputy David March said “Ladies and gentlemen, that we can gather at a City Council meeting and discuss the topic of illegal immigration is amazing.” This conversation was something she had been waiting for during the years since her son was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been deported three times and was a drug-runner. This case was followed closely by many Claritans, and March’s words were very powerful.
**********John March: Barbara March’s husband provided some background on why Bob might have been so emotional about the subject of illegal immigration. March said that Bob helped their son get into law enforcement, so that when David March was killed Bob felt “darn near as much pain as we did—he felt almost responsible for helping Dave get in [ to law enforcement].”
[Missed Name]: “Law-abiding citizens call you Bob, law-breakers call you racist.”
*Raymond Herrera: The founder of “We the People California Crusaders” spoke in support of Bob. Raymond said that as a Hispanic man, he’s been called a “coconut” (brown on the outside, white on the inside) for supporting immigration laws. He said that he was very proud an elected official made his views on the subject so clear.
*Robin Hvidston: Another member of WTPCC said of Kellar “The councilman is ahead of the curve.” She said that people who oppose illegal immigration are unfairly labeled as racists, and she looks forward to the day when the word “racist becomes obsolete.”
*Frank Jorge: He began by complimenting himself on his English and by taking credit for organizing the event at which Kellar spoke before describing his opposition to illegal immigration.
*Dave Lutness: After describing his youth during a time when racism was acceptable, he said that he wanted an apology from Kellar for conjuring up the evils committed on racist grounds in our not-so-distant-past.
*Theresa Shr…(?): This speaker strongly condemned Kellar’s language of “hate,” saying that the City Council should censure him. She was visibly upset and closed with a reading of the dictionary definition of “racist.”
*Jim Polarsky: He said that political correctness has muted our representatives
*Bill Kennedy: Kenneday said there are two purposes of government—provide for security and public order—and that allowing illegal immigration meant government wasn’t fulfilling its role.
*Brian Smith: To paraphrase his words: Thanks, Bob.
*****George Thomas: This last speaker said he left the bedside of his gravely ill brother to support Bob. 35-years-ago, he was a young police officer and Bob Kellar was one of his trainers and SWAT team officer. He reaffirmed that Kellar was not a racist and said “Bob, good luck.”
Bob Kellar responded by expressing his appreciation for everyone who came out and made comments, whatever their opinion. [Applause for 20 seconds followed].
City Attorney Carl Newton was asked to respond to concerns expressed by the public. Mayor Laurene Weste preceded her request for Newton's input with the observation that if we agree that it’s important to uphold all of the laws, then that includes laws that define ethical behavior. Newton responded by going through how the City cannot regulate immigration but tries to uphold legal immigration through its hiring practices and complying with ICE, etc. He said nothing about the City Ethics Code, so Laurene asked him to talk about that again. “At a rally, the right to speak freely is sacred” Newton replied. He said that “no one could think but that he was expressing his own views.” In short, he saw no ethical violation. While technically there was a violation (he didn't say he wasn't speaking for the City, as he is specifically instructed to do), one would have to be brain-dead to think that when a councilperson says "I think X, Y, and Z" that they mean "The City of Santa Clarita officially thinks X, Y, and Z." Thus, Newton's repsonse was greeted with another seven seconds of applause.
The other councilmembers tried to clarify their position on the whole event. All professed to being firmly against illegal immigration, but also said it’s important to choose words carefully. Ferry spoke the most, saying many time how he and the other members of CC were all Republicans, but that they needed to be careful to not lump all Mexicans in with illegal immigrants.
Adjournment arrived at 9:49.
The points that emerged, in order of frequency mentioned were:
1. Illegal immigration is bad
2. Bob Kellar is good, not racist
3. Kellar’s words weren’t the best and needed to be viewed in context
4. City Council members need to make it clear where they stand on illegal immigration
Clearly, many in the City of Santa Clarita wanted desperately to talk about illegal immigration. Gauny and Barbara March alluded to the fact that it has never been agendized despite this widespread interest and despite the City’s ability to have some local impact. A clear obstacle to the discussion is the word “racist.” Many speakers were preoccupied with saying that they weren’t racist and stating that Bob wasn’t, either. These speakers were perfectly correct in their observation that the word can be used to shut down conversations. For example, some have dismissed the anti-illegal-immigration rallies as being full of racist buffoons, which means we can dismiss them wholesale rather than evaluate their arguments about illegal immigration . People on both sides of the issue use the word recklessly. Thus, you can’t say Bob Kellar used the word irresponsibly without saying that those who labeled Bob as racist were irresponsible as well. Of course, it was only Bob’s use of the word that was captured on tape.
In closing, I will say that I think the remark at the center of this controversy can be explained by temperament. There are the Ken Pulskamps of the world—the ultra-rational, mild-mannered persons who speak in quiet, steady voices and are supremely self-controlled. Then, there are the Bob Kellars, who can get worked up over a charity golf game and whose sincere passions sometimes get the better of them. While Pulskamp wouldn’t ever make a verbal faux pas like Kellar's, he also doesn’t typically inspire people with the passion behind his words. If Bob Kellar messes up because he is so passionate about a cause that is far more important than his words, then so be it.
(As long as it doesn't become a habit.)
Judgement of Bob Kellar not actually on agenda, which may be reviewed here
Deputy David March