BY MATTHEW HALL
As President-Elect Donald Trump begins to shape his administration, local authorities are clarifying their stance on potential controversial issues before Trump even takes office.
Officials have released statements on bullying, harassment, immigration and climate change in recent weeks prompted by questions from the public and concern about Trump’s potential policies.
The County of Los Angeles said a disturbing increase in hatred and bigotry does not reflect the values of the county. In a statement officials said several cases have been reported since the election including a man who threw a soda at a mother pushing her baby in a stroller and told her she was lucky he didn’t have his gun, a Muslim student was assaulted in the San Fernando Valley, a racist note sent to an African American man and a substitute teacher in South Los Angeles telling Latino students their parents would be deported.
“The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is calling on residents, County departments and law enforcement agencies throughout the region to speak out and reassure vulnerable individuals and communities that they are supported and have recourse if they are subjected to acts of hate or bigotry,” said the County’s statement.
The County said anyone who feels targeted by hate speech, harassment or threats of violence should also contact the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations at lahumanrelations.org.
In Santa Monica, the City, Police Department and School District have all issued statements clarifying policies that could be impacted by a Trump administration.
Police Chief Jacqueline A. Seabrooks issued a statement clarifying SMPD’s position on immigration issues.
Seabrooks said her department has been fielding additional questions on immigration following statements by Trump and his advisors.
She said SMPD has a decades old policy of leaving immigration enforcement to federal agencies to foster cooperation and trust among all residents.
“By maintaining its long-standing practice of not enforcing immigration laws, the Santa Monica Police Department continues to enhance community safety by ensuring the focus remains on equitable treatment, police-community cooperation, and enhancing community safety,” she said.
Seabrooks said the entire community is made safer when the department does not enforce immigration violations because otherwise individuals might not report crimes or seek police help for fear of deportation.
“SMPD does not, nor will it, independently conduct sweeps or other concentrated efforts to detain those suspected of being undocumented. SMPD traditionally has not participated in federal immigration operations as part of any detention team unless in direct response to a specific request for assistance and then only on a temporary basis or for officer safety reasons,” she said. “This, too, will not change.”
SMMUSD’s Co-Interim Superintendents have sent a pair of letters to parents regarding the District’s policies.
The letter said federal agencies have a policy against conducting immigration enforcement activity in schools unless there are special circumstances. The district does not ask for citizenship during its enrollment process and the District values all its students.
“The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District remains steadfastly dedicated to maintaining positive school climates that promote student learning and development. School counselors are available at school for students who are feeling overwhelmed or fearful,” said one of the letters. “Our district is committed to the education and welfare of
students from all backgrounds. We want to ensure that our families are aware of current practices and policies that are in place with respect to maintenance or protection of data related to immigration status and federal enforcement. We will be exploring, along with other school districts and governmental entities and with legal counsel, whether there are other measures we might take to protect our students.”
The School Board is expected to discuss the issue at their upcoming Dec. 15 meeting and could issue their own statement at that time.
Mayor Tony Vazquez was among a group of elected officials who signed a letter urging the President-elect to reconsider his position on climate change.
The letter says local residents have made clear their desire to fight climate change and asks for federal support.
“As President, you will have the power to expand and accelerate these local initiatives which the people resoundingly supported,” it said. “We call upon you and the federal government you will lead to help cities leverage funds for the hundreds of billions of dollars in transit, energy, infrastructure and real estate development necessary to upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st century. We ask that you lead us in expanding the renewable energy sources we need to achieve energy security, address climate change and spark a new manufacturing, energy and construction boom in America. We ask that you help provide American businesses the certainty to invest through continued tax credits for electric vehicles, solar power, renewables and other clean technologies. And we ask that you shift to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement and make U.S. cities your partner in doing so.”
City Manager Rick Cole said local agencies are issuing statements and defining their policies as a means of reassuring residents that local policies are in line with local preferences and attitudes.
“We continue to believe that climate change is primarily the result of man-made activity and that it’s our local, national and international responsibility to curb those activities to limit the damage from climate change,” he said.
Cole said the pre-emptive statements come before the Trump administration takes office but are an important way to reaffirm the City’s commitment to important principles that transcend individual presidents.
“And probably more salient when we’re talking about something that has immediate personal impacts, like in immigration, is reassuring residents workers and students who are part of our community that our longstanding policies are not changing,” he said.