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What Diversity Means to the City Council

| News | February 23, 2017

SECTION 1. The City of Santa Clarita reaffirms its status and commitment to be an inclusive community.

SECTION 2. The City of Santa Clarita recognizes, values, and will support the rights and privileges of all members of our diverse community.

These 40 words, part of the anti-hate resolution the City Council unanimously passed last week, could mean different things to different people.

The current political environment, in which people march in protest of President Donald Trump’s policies, particularly his desire to build a wall along the Mexican border and limit immigration, might have weighed on some.

Councilmember Bob Kellar, who brought forth the resolution (although he said city staff wrote it), and Mayor Cameron Smyth said he was aware of the possible political overtones but insisted it had nothing to do with that.

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For Kellar, it was promises kept to some community members who had come to him and expressed fear about increased hate crimes, though they were not personally victims.

“I said I would give it some serious thought,” Kellar said. “We have never, as a city, stood for anything but responsible behavior.”

Kellar said he made verbal statements similar to the resolution last year as mayor, “but that wasn’t enough to satisfy some people, so the best thing to do was put it in writing,” he said.

Having it in writing, and thereby reaffirming the city’s position, was exactly the resolution’s point for Smyth and Councilmember Marsha McLean. “It did nothing more than put into language the policy of the council,” Smyth said.

McLean said, “The city has never tolerated bigotry or intolerance. In my mind, the words are no different than the way we have conducted ourselves all along,” and if having it on paper makes people feel better, that’s fine.

Smyth said this sentiment goes back to at least Sept. 11, 2001. Following the terrorist acts of that day, Smyth said, the council (on which he served) moved to assure any skittish residents that the city didn’t want them to feel unwelcome or targeted.

Although he didn’t recall the council passing any sort of resolution then, he felt the council had made it clear even then that “we are a city that is open and welcoming, and we are not going to tolerate bigotry and discrimination at any time.”

Councilmember Bill Miranda also thought the resolution reiterated the city’s policy, since the city has “diversity of race, diversity of culture, diversity of thought, so we welcome that. … I feel, personally, I represent diversity on the council, so I feel strongly that we should embrace it.”

But he had more on his mind when he cast his vote.

“It is February. It is Black History Month. It is Women’s History Month. These things will always come to mind this time of year,” he began, forgetting that Women’s History Month is in March. “We just celebrated President’s Day. It’s a chance to look back on our history and see what ones embraced diversity and who didn’t. I think you’ll find embracing diversity works. That’s one of our core strengths of our country, and we want to make sure we don’t lose it. The history of the world and the history of the United States of America is filled with threats to diversity, starting with colonial days. Certain people were allowed and certain people were kept in the background: women, men of color, some religions. In this country, if you were Catholic, it took a while for you to be able to come to the table. Al Smith (first Catholic presidential nominee) didn’t happen until (1928). JFK in 1960. The biggest issue wasn’t his youth and inexperience, it was that he was Catholic.”

Miranda also recognized diversity of thought as part of the First Amendment. “Many times, if we disagree with people, we tend to shut the other person’s opinion off, and that’s not right. There’s freedom of speech. We might not like it, but it’s in our Constitution. We must allow it.”

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book “If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language,” a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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