About 40 people attended a community meeting Tuesday to denounce a letter San Bernardino officials wrote asking for federal assistance to combat crime and drug use.
The ‘Evening With the Mayor’ event at the Faith Bible Church saw tensions rise among residents who have different views regarding marijuana legalization and public safety.
Residents attempted to ask Mayor Carey Davis and other city leaders questions about their request to meet with President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to address crime and marijuana, as outlined in a February 13 letter.
“As San Bernardino emerges from bankruptcy we are striving to revitalize our community but continue to face many challenges including violent crime,” the letter stated. “In order to more effectively reduce crime it would help our city to gain the support and partnership of the US Department of Justice in our efforts to address illicit drug and marijuana trafficking.”
Davis refrained from answering questions relating to the letter. Some residents say it’s because the Mayor and other leaders have no interest in hearing views that don’t align with their agenda.
“He simply refused to hear us out,” said Cal State San Bernardino student Andrew Crampton, who shouted at the Mayor as Davis proceeded to leave the church promptly after the meeting. “It’s not in their best interests.”
Others fear collaboration with federal officials may set a precedence for immigration enforcement.
“How far will Mayor Davis go to get cannabis out of the city?” asked advocate William Cioci. “Will he allow children to be [separated] from their families…allow all this to happen to get resources he needs to get rid of pot?”
The letter controversy comes four months after voters approved a measure to legalize and regulate marijuana in the city. Despite its success, city officials are now struggling to implement Measure O because of litigation, explained Attorney Gary Saenz.
City Manager Mark Scott claims the letter was not intended to play into the Trump administration’s comments regarding further enforcement. Rather, Scott said it was a request to receive an update on federal marijuana regulation and seek help for the city’s crime issue.
“We’ve been asking for help,” said Scott. “We noticed Trump was promising Chicago help. If he’s willing to send resources then we’ll take them. But we’re not asking for an invading army.”
Yadira Martinez believes the city could benefit from shifting its focus away from marijuana enforcement. Martinez, who is affiliated with the Students for Quality Education chapter at Cal State San Bernardino, claims aggressive drug laws have only contributed to more inequality in communities like San Bernardino.
“This was a reactionary decision to ask for more law enforcement funding, which will only put more poor people in prison,” she said. “We definitely will continue to put pressure on the city.”
According to Scott, the letter will be discussed by the City Council at their next meeting on March 6. The meeting begins at 4 p.m.