Hesperia, Smugly, & Redlands, Obsequiously, Make Official Denunciations Of Racism

The city councils of two San Bernardino cities this week made similar denunciations of racism, one doing so in a smug fashion that made no concession of participation in any of the current or past acts or attitudes it was decrying, and the other doing so somewhat obsequiously and perhaps even imprudently from a legal perspective, acknowledging past insensitivity and transgressions that carry with them potential liability issues.
In the first instance, involving the City of Hesperia, the city council’s use of language in reckoning with the matter was in no small measure shaped by the consideration that the city as an institution and its city council as a political body, including one of its current members, stand accused by the Donald Trump Administration no less of racially biased policing of its citizenry and in its housing policy, extending to efforts to force members of what are classified officially as minority populations to move out of the city. In the second instance, the resolution offered by the City of Redlands was so concessionary that some legal professionals were concerned that it may have created the basis for not-yet filed claims of discrimination against the city.
Both cities’ councils met on Tuesday evening, July 21. During the course of those meetings, each panel took up the issue of racial injustice, a subject that has been in vogue throughout the country in the aftermath of the May 25 death of George Floyd, which was brought about when a Minneapolis police officer effectuating his arrest gratuitously knelt upon his neck for some nine minutes while he was prone on the pavement with his hands handcuffed behind his back. Floyd’s death has since become emblematic of the full range of injustice borne by African-Americans and what are commonly referred to as minority groups in the United States.
Prompted by written and verbal calls from members of the Black Lives Matter movement for the City of Hesperia to confront and address issues of racism in its community, which included accusations that the sheriff’s department in Hesperia, serving under contract as the City of Hesperia Police Department, has engaged in racial profiling, staff prevailed upon the members of the Hesperia City Council to take up the issue.
Prior to the hearing, two entities, the Inland Empire Citizens Action Committee and the Victor Valley Freedom Campaign cautioned the council to resist what was characterized as partisan political pressure to adhere to an agenda of politically correct platitudes being foisted upon decision-makers at all levels of government by left-wing extremists.
In the resolution the Hesperia City Council passed, it noted that “Hesperia is a highly diverse community and it is this diversity that makes us such a desirable place to live, work, shop, play, worship and get an education,” and asserted that as “the City Council of the City of Hesperia” its members were “deeply saddened by the tragic events that have recently occurred across the country and that racism and intolerance have no place in our community, and we are committed to working actively against all forms of racism.” Moreover, the resolution avowed the council is “committed to safeguarding our community against the damages that racism causes and to ensuring that the Constitutional rights of every person who lives, works, plays and visits Hesperia are respected and protected,” such that there was determination that “the City Council of the City of Hesperia stand steadfast with all citizens of Hesperia” to reaffirm a “commitment to fighting for human and civil rights for all. The City Council of the City of Hesperia stands steadfast with all citizens against racism and intolerance and we are committed to working actively against all forms of racism.”
Unmentioned in the resolution was the lawsuit filed by the civil section of the United States Justice Department against the City of Hesperia in December accusing both the City of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department of using the City of Hesperia’s “Crime Free Rental Housing Ordinance” to systematically induce, persuade or force African-American and Latino renters to move out of Hesperia. The lawsuit was filed by Nicola T. Hanna, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles and includes as those representing the United States the names of William P. Barr, the U.S. Attorney General; Eric S. Dreiband, the Assistant U.S. Attorney General; Sameena Shina Majeed, the chief of the office’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section; the section’s deputy chief, R. Tamar Hagler; David M. Harris, the chief of the civil division in Los Angeles; Karen P. Ruckert, the chief of the Los Angeles Office’s Civil Rights Section; Matthew Nickell, the head of the civil division within the Los Angeles office’s Civil Rights Section; and Megan K. Whyte De Vasquez, who as a member of the bar in Washington, D.C. is to be the trial attorney. The lawsuit alleges that city officials enacted the ordinance to drive African-American and Latino renters out of Hesperia. The Justice Department’s lawsuit is based on an investigation and charge of discrimination by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which found that African American and Latino renters were significantly more likely to be evicted under the ordinance, which was in effect between January 1, 2016 and its amendment on July 18, 2017, than white renters, and that evictions disproportionately occurred in areas of the city where both black and Hispanic populations predominated. According to the complaint, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that African American renters were almost four times as likely as non-Hispanic white renters to be evicted because of the ordinance, and Latino renters were 29 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white renters to be evicted. Sheriff’s department data showed that 96 percent of the people the sheriff’s department targeted for eviction under the ordinance in 2016 had lived in what the federal government refers to as “majority-minority census blocks,” meaning districts in which white residents are outnumbered by Latinos and Negroes.
The ordinance had been passed by a city council then consisting of members Eric Schmidt, the late Russ Blewett, Paul Russ, Mike Leonard and Bill Holland. Holland is the lone remaining member of the council as it was then composed.
In adopting the resolution, the council used language in the body of it and made statements during the meeting that demonstrated why it was willing to defy the Inland Empire Citizens Action Committee’s and the Victor Valley Freedom Campaign’s calls for the city to not engage in a politically correct diatribe relating to race relations. The resolution provided the city with an opportunity of self-promotion and a public relations opportunity to controvert the negative publicity of the Justice Department’s civil suit against it. The language of the resolution stated “the City of Hesperia truly appreciates the overwhelming support we receive daily from this great community, and it is our promise to each of you that we will work diligently every day to exceed your expectations in all aspects of city-wide operations and community engagement.” During the council’s interaction Tuesday evening with regard to the resolution, Mayor Larry Bird, in a pointed dig at the U.S. Justice Department, said “It’s great to live in Hesperia, where we already practice what we preach.”
In Redlands that same night, the city council, which was down to four-fifths strength because of the absence of Councilman Paul Barich, voted to adopt a series of admissions in a five-page document prepared by Councilwoman Denise Davis and Councilman Eddie Tejeda. The document and action by the council declared racism to be a public health crisis
While expressing the approximately same sentiment as contained in the Hesperia resolution, the Redlands’ action was much more expansive, serving as an indictment of not only what were represented as racist attitudes in a wider context but of policies at the local level as well, with references that, while not overly specific, offered sufficient definitude, legal experts said, to become problematic for the city if any individuals who can demonstrate having been victimized by the policies referenced seek legal recourse.
“This city council acknowledges that systemic racism was manifested throughout the history and development of our community and region, resulting in the forced dislocation of local Native American settlements in its earliest forms and in a latter form by the implied geographic segregation of communities of color, known to them as the north and south sides of town, causing disparities of access and service to be felt by these residents due to their race, color, level of education or income, educational and recreational disparities, and other such deficiencies consistent with systemic racism,” the resolution states.
Moreover, the resolution states that “this city council acknowledges the historic grievances held by black Americans and the various forms of injustice that people of color have experienced for generations and further recognizes the opportunity for our city to participate in the healing process with members for our black and Latino communities and other communities of color by acknowledging past transgressions.” According to the resolution, “this city council declares that the lives and experiences of black people matter, and furthermore that the lives and experiences of people of color living in Redlands matter.”
The resolution specifies nine ways in which the council is committed toward “actively participating in dismantling the remnants of racism in Redlands by implementing annual training on implicit bias, diversity, equity, and inclusion for all elected officials, city staff and members of boards, commissions and committees; assessing and revising city department policies, procedures, and ordinances to ensure racial equity and transparency are core elements; ensuring that hiring practices provide greater opportunities for people of color to be employed to further diversify our workforce; ensuring diversity of race, age, and gender within the city commissions; creating a system of reporting progress towards achieving the goals outlined in this resolution and communicating such to the greater community; supporting community efforts to amplify issues of racism and engaging actively and authentically with communities of color wherever they live; adding health, equity, and justice to the objectives and purview of the appropriate city commission to address ways to improve the public health and welfare of all the residents through an equitable lens as prescribed in the Healthy Redlands resolution and to identify specific activities to further enhance diversity and principles of equity; continuing to work with and support “Unity in the Community” in conjunction with The Human Relations Commission and/or appropriate city commissions and community groups to help measure and achieve the goals outlined in this resolution; building and strengthening alliances with other organizations that are confronting racism, and encouraging other agencies to recognize racism as a crisis, including considering city membership in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), which is a national network of local government agencies working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all.”
The document prepared by Davis and Tejeda recommended that efforts be made to “involve community representation and input in matters of historic and continued racial injustice.”
The Hesperia and Redlands resolutions were the latest in similar resolutions passed by the Apple Valley Town Council, the Fontana City Council and the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
It is noteworthy that in none of those resolutions is the application of excessive force or the use of brutality by law enforcement, an issue central to the Floyd Matter and the issues being raised nationally and locally as a consequence of it, specifically addressed.
-Mark Gutglueck

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