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The Problem with Performative Diversity: The Human Relations Roundtable in Santa Clarita
How the HRR violates the Brown Act and undermines transparency in local government.
The heated exchange between Steve Petzold and Mayor Bill Miranda during a city council meeting brought to light the necessity of adhering to the Ralph M. Brown Act, commonly known as the Brown Act. The Human Relations Roundtable (HRR) has been causing repeated violations of the Brown Act, putting the city at risk of legal action.
The Brown Act was established in 1953 after the San Francisco Chronicle discovered that local governments were holding secret meetings despite state laws that required transparency. Its purpose is to ensure that official bodies conduct business in public view except under exceptional circumstances. However, it appears that the HRR holds secret meetings, as there is no public notification, posted agenda, or meeting recap required by the Brown Act on the city's website.
The city is at risk of expensive legal action, and the inaction of the city's legal council is questionable. The HRR is a roundtable aimed at eliminating all forms of racism and discrimination in the community, which is an admirable goal. However, it should not be operating illegally and violating the very rights of the people they claim to protect.
The lack of transparency in the HRR has prompted some to call for it to be turned into an actual commission that openly discusses issues related to human relations. Currently, the HRR seems like a secret club with handpicked individuals, and the community does not know how they operate or how they were selected. Using the HRR for personal gains, as some have done, only undermines the noble cause it stands for.
The HRR was formed as "performative diversity" to give the appearance that the city cared about the protesters' demands when it was just appeasement. This move only benefited city officials, who got to pretend they were doing something for underprivileged people. It is contradictory to have an organization with the word "roundtable," implying that everyone at the table is equal and able to give their input or bring a concern when no one knows when or if these entities meet.
Another problem with the HRR is that there is no defined process for selecting its members. It appears the people on this HRR were just various people in the community that were friends with city council members. The city already has multiple commissions, and that process is clearly defined. We have five city council members, so we have five park commissioners, each selected by a city council member. Those commissioners act as an extension of the city council member that appointed them. There is also a clear term limit that generally mirrors the city council person's term. Finally, there is typically an announcement so the public can express their interest and give feedback on a potential commissioner's selection. This is how public business is supposed to work.
The HRR is a lame duck at this point; it is a pointless endeavor that only benefits city officials, and given the current temperature in the room, they won't be able to disband it without an uproar from town simps. So my call is that they make it an official commission; perhaps it has 7 or 9 members. Commissions should always have an odd number to avoid deadlock votes. Clear directives should be open to the public so that citizens can voice their concerns.
The city's officials should uphold the Brown Act and ensure that their business is the public's business. As the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said, "The most important thing we do is not doing." Therefore, officials must not tolerate any attempts to keep the people from being fully informed about what is happening in official agencies.