Despite facing backlash, S.B. Council stands by Trump letter

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Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino Generation Now member Miriam Nieto demanding the San Bernardino City Council to organize a town hall meeting to discuss the letter sent to President Donald Trump within 40 days. A cohort of groups, including San Bernardino Generation Now, the Inland Congregations United for Change, and the San Bernardino Young Democrats (and many others) have denounced the city's letter addressed to Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which asks for support to address illicit drug and marijuana trafficking.

In spite of facing what appears to be an apparent Brown Act violation, the San Bernardino City Council continues to stand by its decision of asking President Donald Trump to help with crime and drug use in the city.

However, the City Council decided on Monday night to approve new policy that will require public discussion and a vote before it sends out future letters.

Last Tuesday dozens of residents attended the ‘Evening With the Mayor’ event hosted by Mayor Carey Davis to denounce a letter addressed to Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to gain the support and partnership of the federal government to address illicit drug and marijuana trafficking.

As reported by the San Bernardino Sun, City Clerk Gigi Hanna drafted a letter to City Attorney Gary Saenz last week, indicating that there was discussion concerning the Trump letter, “…without the benefit of public input, in what appears to me to be a serial meeting.”

“I reached this conclusion after reviewing the agendas for the Mayor and City Council meetings for the past several months and determining that there were no agenda items pertaining to this letter, and the council did not vote on it,” the letter reads.

Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis looks on as residents address the City Council during their meeting on March 6, 2017.

Saenz did not clearly express whether the letter did violate the Brown Act. The Act guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of government bodies and prohibits elected officials from meeting through intermediaries or in succession to discuss city-related business.

Those who spoke out against the letter on Monday night included organizers affiliated with community and political groups that are demanding more transparency and action from the City Council in regards to gun violence and poverty.

Some brought up statistics regarding marijuana use to counter the city’s claims that the substance leads to more crime.

“Crime and poverty are mostly independent of drug use,” said Anthony Fernandez, who cited reports from the American Civil Liberties Union and Columbia University to support his claims. “Although white and black people smoke marijuana at the same rate, black people are four times more likely to be arrested. This makes it very clear that these laws are intrinsically racist in their implementation.”

Others were concerned that potential collaboration with the federal government may lead to exposure and deportation of undocumented residents.

“Our immigrant community fears the establishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the San Bernardino Police Department,” said Inland Congregations United for Change Organizer Erika Ruiz. “This letter only actively grows that fear.”

At least one councilmember, Fred Shorett, acknowledged that the drafting of the letter was an error.

“I do believe in retrospect that it was not handled properly,” he said. “The way we went about it was a mistake. If I had to do it over again, I would have probably had more conversation, and your policy will help us do that.”

Councilwoman Virginia Marquez thanked residents for attending the meeting and urged them to continue to be engaged, but stood by her decision to support the letter.

“I know this was issue driven, but I really believe if all of you attended every Council meeting like this you would be engaged in the everyday activities,” Marquez said. “I signed the letter and I would sign it again.”

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