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      3 men and one woman standing next to each other

      (L-R) CM Tony Ding, Mayor Denise Menchaca, CM Jason Pu, CM Chin Ho Liao (Photo – Jon Fu)

      A peaceful, student led march for unity and justice on June 6, following the police killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, was the catalyst for a new Commission in the City of San Gabriel.

      By Cheryl Cabot

      On June 9, the San Gabriel City Council passed Resolution 20-31 in which the Council “committed to an ongoing process of self-reflection, examination, active listening and engagement with the community to review our current policies and practices…to ensure the fair, even and equal administration and enforcement of our laws; to eliminate racism and discrimination…and to hold the entire organization accountable to these standards.”

      A week later, the Council appointed Mayor Denise Menchaca and Councilman Jason Pu to an ad hoc subcommittee to determine how to achieve these goals.

      “Over the course of the next several months, Mayor Menchaca and I reached out and engaged numerous stakeholder groups within the community,” Councilman Pu said. “We of course reached out to residents, as well as the business community. We held online meetings with leaders of numerous faith and religious institutions within the City.

      Councilmember Pu continued:

      We also had discussions with the San Gabriel Police Department and the police union. We reached out to members of the City of San Gabriel staff. To my knowledge, this is the only time since I have been on the City Council that conversations on these issues have occurred between members of the City Council and members of the City Staff.

      The goal of all these meetings and discussions was to understand how racism and discrimination affects San Gabriel.

      “For me,” Menchaca said, “as a councilperson and as Mayor of the City it was a moment of self-reflection. Are we doing everything we can? Do we have blind spots?”

      Mayor Menchaca continued:

      We have never really come to terms with racism and hate that surfaces during out elections. This is the first time we have ever addressed these issues.

      It was at this point that Menchaca and Pu realized the best way to address all these issues was to create a new Commission. It was to be called “Human Equity, Access and Relations Commission,” or HEAR.

      On August 18, the Ad Hoc Subcommittee formally recommended to the City Council that a commission be formed for the purpose of carrying out the mandates in Resolution 20-31. The City Council approved and directed staff to draft an ordinance for consideration, creating the HEAR Commission. The first reading of Ordinance No 670 was on October 6, 2020 and it was fully adopted on October 20, 2020.

      On November 20, 2020, the City held a press conference, attended by the Mayor and four Councilmembers, to formally introduce the new HEAR Commission to the public.

      (photo of press conference)

      As stated by the City, the Purpose of the Commission on Human Equity, Access and Relations, HEAR Commission, reads as follows:

      The purpose of the HEAR Commission is to advance and advocate for equity, access, diversity, social justice, safety, mutual appreciation, increased cultural competency, positive inter-group relations and respect for all members of the San Gabriel Community.

      Seven Members

      Unlike most commissions, instead of five commissioners HEAR will have seven members, all but two need to be residents of San Gabriel. The commissioners will serve staggered two-year terms.

      By reaching outside the City for the possible two additional non-member Commissioners, it is hoped they will attract people with a background in dealing with racism, inequality and discrimination, such as clergy, non-profits and academia.

      In response to why there are two seats available on the Commission for non-residents, Councilmember Tony Ding, who spoke at the press conference, said, “Many business owners, who live outside of the City of San Gabriel, but have businesses here, are afraid they won’t have any input in the Commission. This gives them an opportunity to have a voice at the Commission.”

      Councilmember Ding also addressed the issue of racism and inequality in the City:

      Some people say, ’we don’t have things like racism happening in our City.’ I’m an insurance agent. I sell health insurance. Every year we encourage people to get a check-up. For me, the HEAR Commission is like insurance. If anything happens, we know how to handle it; how to process it and bring the community together.

      According to a statement from the sub-committee, “The HEAR Commission shall serve as an advisory body to the City Council and report directly to the City Council to assess and recommend policies, procedures and activities in the City government to advance the Commission’s purpose.”

      “It is not intended for the HEAR Commission to be a quasi-judicial body, and oversight board nor a body whose primary function is to receive or investigate individual incidents or complaints.”

      A local commission

      Mayor Menchaca and Councilman Pu held a Town Hall meeting on December 3, to discuss in more detail the HEAR Commission and address questions and concerns of the public.

      In response to concerns about the Commission being an anti-police organization, Councilman Pu said, “We are not immune to national rhetoric. It’s understandable that the police department feels targeted and under fire. It has never been the intent of Mayor Menchaca or I had in any of this. Our own San Gabriel Police Department does a very good job on many of these issues.”

      “What as a City can we do more? That might be the genius of the next model of policing. What do we do to go beyond just community policing, towards equitable policing?

      “We can and maybe will set an example and we can become known as a city of diversity, and maybe even a city of redemption.”

      “This is a commission that is going to be San Gabriel,’ Mayor Menchaca said. “This is a local commission. Yes, there are national issues, but this commission originated in San Gabriel and will be San Gabriel specific.

      I’m sure there are other things we can improve on that we just haven’t thought about. This is why an outside perspective has value. If other cities decide to adopt our ordinance, we will assist them. This can be a blueprint for other cities.”

      Update

      The City of San Gabriel received sixteen applications. Interviews will be on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 12 and 13, 2021, and will be streamed live on the City’s YouTube channel. The decision will be made on Wednesday evening and the new selected Commissioners will be contacted.


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