But it all began with Mayor Weste’s invocation. Her Presidents' Day-inspired remarks reflected on the wisdom and foresight of George Washington.
Mayor Weste, seen presiding over tonight’s meeting, sported freshly cropped hair and a smart floral jacket.
Next, all six of our local high school bands were recognized for competing in the Bands of America Competition. Hart, it seems, won. Councilmembers were quick to embrace the opportunity for awkward banter with students as they came up to the City Seal for photographs. Asked Councilmember Laurie Ender to one small boy “How come the shortest guy plays the tuba?” Councilmember Frank Ferry then reminisced about having “flag-offs” with flag team members, recalling with obvious pride that he “twirled it the best.”
Committee Reports followed the. It was the usual blend of hooray City (for open space), boo State (for letting criminals out of state prisons to help balance the budget), hooray charity events (celebrity waiter dinner).
On the Consent Calendar, two items drew comments. Alan Ferdman came forward to applaud the City for passing (after second-reading) a zoning change ordinance that will allow for a much-needed medical office building to be built in Canyon Country. Ferdman said “It’s been a long time coming.” Larry Mankin was inspired to comment on behalf of local businesses, applauding the City for establishing an Industrial Development Authority that will allow certain types of local businesses to apply for tax-exempt bonds. The money comes from the State, not the City, Weste reassured anxious Claritans.
At 6:41, it was time for Public Participation. Duane Harte was the first of many Claritans to come forward in support of Bob Kellar, who is still the focus of attention for attending an anti-illegal-immigration rally and using the word “racist” in a weird way. Other supporters included Ellen Wright who said that not only was Kellar “a decent man,” but also “a good realtor.”
Somewhere around the middle of the Kellar love-fest, some LA-based immigration activists came forward to have their say. First was Carlos Alvarez, a 23-year-old running for Governor of California and affiliated with the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He delivered his generic, pro-illegal-immigrant speech quite eloquently and with excellent timing and emphasis. But try as he might, his attempt to link Bob Kellar to the Minutemen to the KKK didn’t work out.
Following Alvarez was the rather sad Robert Gittelson, a man who made bold demands with a timid voice and squirmy eye contact. He began by saying that Councilmember Kellar’s words had put the Hispanic community “in some measure of danger, and a large measure of distress.” He told Kellar that his group, the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, would not pursue legal action against Kellar if he verbally acknowledged that comprehensive immigration reform, as outlined by Gittelson, was needed. He basically proposed granting illegal immigrants citizenship if they paid taxes and passed a background check. When he challenged Kellar to give his support, Mayor Laurene Weste was happy to dash Gittelson’s hopes by saying that the Council does not respond directly to public comments when they are made. For Gittelson, it was a resounding ultimatum FAIL.
Berta Gonzalez-Harper came forward shortly after and dismissed the words of those who had come from LA to speak out against Bob Kellar. Holding back a skeptical chuckle, she told Governor-hopeful Alvarez “Good luck with that” and suggested that he and his fellow speakers go home. Gonzalez emphasized the distinction between legal and illegal immigration and, despite her usual vociferousness, finished her comment with time to spare and even a sprinkling of applause (which Mayor Weste was quick to squelch).
Delivering the closing remarks for the anti-Kellar contingent was John Fernandez. He submitted copies of a letter of formal complaint that he would be submitting (or had already submitted--it wasn't clear to me) to the CA Attorney General and others. He gained instant credibility with the locals by referring to “Santa Clara’s Code of Ethics” (emphasis added; he would later say Clarita, though). Apparently, eight violations of various parts of the code have occurred. The first one was Kellar’s failure to declare that he was speaking as an individual, not a City official, when he talked about illegal immigration at a rally. Other violations apparently refer to fellow City Council members for not condemning Kellar’s actions. As you may have guessed from the Clara/Clarita mistake, Fernandez was not a very good speaker, and relied primarily on throwing around words like “xenophobic” and “racist."
Nearly lost in the back-and-forth was an incredibly gutsy, gasp-provoking comment/accusation from City Council Candidate David Gauny. Gauny said that at the last City Council meeting, Councilmember Frank Ferry approached him in the chambers and—reportedly in front of several witnesses—Ferry threatened Gauny with an all-out smear campaign. Gauny described the encounter, recounting that Ferry said “You threw the first punch, and we’re coming after you now...you're going to learn the hard way.” Gauny reaffirmed support for Bob Kellar as a model councilmember, and said in contrast that “Ferry exemplifies everything that is wrong with our government” and derisively called attention to the non-angelic behavior of “our esteemed Catholic High School [Alemany] Principal.” And no, this wasn’t TimBen Boydston wearing a Gauny mask. It was the sort of comment there is no going back from, but one that will surely offer Gauny (and others living vicariously through Gauny) deep satisfaction whether he wins a CC seat or not. We can only presume that Gauny is telling the truth about Ferry's threats, as this is not the sort of thing one just "makes up," which means Ferry has some explaining to do.
The end of the meeting was a drawn-out affair. Kellar said that hundreds of people have offered him overwhelming support. He says that whether words are delivered in person while he buys coffee or over email from people across the country, the message is the same: “Bob, stay the course.” His repeated arguments about how much money “illegals” cost Californians drew the ire of the LA illegal immigrants rights crowd, one of whom tried unsuccessfully to challenge Kellar by coming to the public microphone and yelling something about the Brown Act before he was cut off.
It was decided that within a month or two there will be a Study Session—which the public can attend and comment at—on illegal immigration and what the City of Santa Clarita can do about it. If anything, the Kellar-inspired immigration dialogue is growing louder, not softer.
Here's the Governor-to-be's website