Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happenings: Illegal Immigration, Massage Parlors, and a New Captain

I began watching the meeting a little late, in the midst of newly-promoted Commander Anthony La Berge’s review of crime in Santa Clarita[1]. He highlighted the reduction in gang-related violence over the past year. Sergeant AJ Rotella was recognized for his work with the City of Santa Clarita Business Alliance Program, which Councilmember Frank Ferry credited for Santa Clarita’s relatively low rates of cigarette and alcohol sales to minors compared with other cities. And finally, we were introduced to Commander La Berge’s replacement, Captain Paul Becker. Becker will serve as the new Chief of Police for the Santa Clarita Valley, and he was excited about his new post, noting that he had “big shoes to fill.” And indeed, Becker was slight next to La Berge, so it's unlikely that they could exchange footwear and enjoy a satisfactory fit.

Next, it was time for the City Councilmembers to give their reports. Mayor Weste began by describing how wonderful it is to have CBS filming in our City. The one downside is that film crews will continue to use Soledad Canyon Road through Friday. If you live in Canyon Country and have to deal with the traffic on Soledad, you may not share Weste’s warm regard for the entertainment industry. Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean described her efforts to build support for a ballot measure that will prevent the State from “stealing, confiscating, [or] taking” City money. She handed out some petitions and asked for them back, noting that about 700,000 of the required 1.1 million signatures had been collected thanks to efforts by the League of California Cities.

The whole chamber grew somber and quiet as the City Council turned to reflect on the recent death of a soldier from Stevenson Ranch, Ian Gelig. He was killed by a roadside bomb while on a routine patrol in Afghanistan. A service for Gelig will take place at 1pm on Saturday and will include a procession along Seco Canyon Road; details will be forthcoming from KHTS and The Signal for those who are able to turn out and pay their respects.

At 7:08, we moved onto the Consent Calendar, which consisted of just 5 items. The City Council took the recommended actions on all of them. In so doing, they accepted a grant from the Red Cross for a community emergency preparedness handbook and authorized the planning of road improvements on Golden Valley Road. Strangely, Mayor Weste affirmed the recommended actions with a “yes” instead of the usual “aye.” (By the end of the evening, she would return to her trademark "ayes.")

Next it was time for a controversial bit of “New Business.” Mayor Weste introduced seven pieces of federal immigration (and immigration-ish) legislation that the City Council could vote to support. They included a resolution to support English as the official language of the United States, a resolution to add 350 miles of fencing to the border, one to de-fund ACORN, and a resolution to prevent illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition unless all legal citizens from out-of-state were also given access to the same in-state tuition rate. More controversial was H.R. 1868, the Birthright Citizenship Act that would “exclude granting naturalized citizenship to those persons born in the United States of parents who are residing in the country illegally.“[3]


Mayor Weste stated that her intention in presenting these legislative actions to the City Council was to start a "dialogue", a word she would utter 246 times in half-an-hour.

Public speakers got to weigh in first. Juan Jose Gutierrez said that he had come to Santa Clarita—where he does not reside—because he “couldn’t not notice the issue you’re dealing with tonight.” He said he was in favor of birth-right citizenship, and said nothing could be more un-American or inhumane than withholding citizenship from children born to illegal immigrant parents. Gutierrez was followed by a number of other speakers who were equally upset at the content of H.R. 1868, including Alan Ferdman, who gave an unusually impassioned speech about how the resolution would destroy rights granted by/implied in the 14th Amendment.

On the other side of the issue was David Gauny, who got off to a good start by saying “Mayor McLean” instead of “Mayor Weste.” He then made a suggestion, half-jokingly, that he was leading the City Council before he had even been elected. That is, he had said earlier that his first action on the City Council would be to support federal immigration legislation, and the sitting CC had decided to do just that a few weeks after he made the suggestion. He said that his next plan to address illegal immigration would be to get the League of California Cities to unite and pressure state and federal governments to act decisively against illegal immigration. Roger Gitlin followed Gauny, and he quoted “an SCV blogger”—by which he meant the SCV blogger, Jeff Wilson—who wrote about sympathizing with some of the anger that Minutemen express over the consequences of illegal immigration[2].

Other notable speakers included a two-month resident of Santa Clarita who called the birth-right provision a “poison pill” amongst somewhat more reasonable proposals. There was also a speaker from Honduras who told us in not-so-great English about how he waited for 10 years to come to the United States legally. He felt very strongly that we should support legal immigration, suggesting that in Central America, immigration enforcement is stricter than it is in the US.

Councilmember Bob Kellar tried to get the City Council to support these resolutions with a quick motion that was seconded by Frank Ferry. Laurie Ender, however, said that she wanted to vote on supporting H.R. 994 and 1868 separately. These measures would do away with automatic citizenship for children born to parents who are in the United State illegally. Ender said, barely holding back tears, that she was very uncomfortable with challenging the traditional interpretation of the 14th Amendment as it pertains to citizenship, and she said that local children need support regardless of their citizenship status.

Weste spoke after Ender. She admitted “I don’t think any of these bills are going to pass”—at least without modification—and argued that all of the items should be supported in the name of promoting debate and dialogue at the federal level.

Without much more discussion, the City Council voted unanimously in support of 5 of the H.R.s, but Laurie Ender chose not to support H.R. 994 and H.R. 1868 for the reasons expressed during her comments. With this nod of approval, it is expected that the House of Representatives will make sweeping immigration reforms beginning tomorrow.

At last it was time for Public Participation. Alan Ferdman reminded Claritans that the Canyon Country Advisory Committee would be holding its final installment of the City Council Candidate question/answer sessions. It seems that Johnny Pride, the unlikely CC candidate who was recently accused of raping teenage girls, is scheduled to appear. Who knows what will happen in light of recent “developments”? Next, TimBen Boydston came forward to remind the City that it had done a miserable job of interpreting crime numbers from the previous year. He added “Another thing that is disturbing is the explosion of the number of massage parlors.” According to Boydston, these parlors might be offering more than massages. The penultimate speaker was an older gentleman who said that the City ought to forgo a celebratory party for the opening of the cross-valley connector and instead give the money to the Food Pantry. Finally, the last speaker asked whether McLean and Weste were displaying campaign signs that were too large according to City rules. City Attorney Carl Newton gave a vague and unsatisfying answer about how limiting the size of posters could be seen as limiting free speech, so the code would not be enforced.

The meeting adjourned in the memory of Ian Gelig.

[1]Here's the agenda

[2]Gitlin quoted J-to-the-Wilson's fourth from last paragraph here: "I did share one thing with the Minuteman. I am angry. I am very angry that Deputy David March was murdered. I am angry there are illegal immigrants driving without licenses or insurance. I’m angry that the taxpayers foot the bill for an undocumented immigrant’s kidney dialysis at my mom’s unit while an elderly American gentleman struggles getting his insurance company to pay for his. I’m angry that Adrian Avilla, an illegal immigrant, raped several women in Canyon Country a few years ago. I’m also angry that American companies get fat off the backs of these people and no one stops them."

[3]Read all of the H.R.s here

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