OPINION -- Interim City Manager Lane Dilg's Comments at Tuesday's City Council Meeting
Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, and members of the City Council, it is hard to believe that it has been only 14 days since this City Council last met.
As a nation and as a City, we continue to be in days of crisis and reckoning.
Yesterday, the National Bureau of Economic Research formally announced that our country is in a recession.
Our budget faces $224 million in deficits in the face of the local impacts of COVID19 and the broader economic downturn.
And public health in our region remains precarious as the virus continues to spread, even as we enjoy the slow reopening of our local stores and restaurants.
In the midst of these historic crises, we have been called to join the millions in our streets who demand justice and accountability over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the far too many men and women that came before them, and to condemn and take action to end institutional racism in a country that has, in fits and starts, grown from but never escaped the searing stains of slavery.
Council, long before we entered these historic times, we articulated our City’s values:
Accountability. Equity. Inclusion. Innovation. Resilience. Safety. Stewardship.
In these difficult days, we must, as a community, live up to those values.
Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, the right to assemble peaceably and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. As the Supreme Court has explained, these rights, “though not identical, are inseparable.”
Our democracy has been alive in recent days as protestors have gathered “through speech, assembly, and petition – rather than through riot or revolution,” “to bring about political, social, and economic change.”
This type of peaceful protest, and the change it can bring, is the essence of our democracy; and we honor it.
In our City, on May 31st, peaceful protests were marred not only by those who would agitate violently, but also by organized criminal activity from those who would exploit protest as an opportunity to steal property in our downtown and beyond.
Some have argued that response to criminal activity came too late; others that response to civil disobedience was far too strong.
I commit that there will be an independent and thorough investigation of the events of May 31stin our City. Chief Renaud welcomes this, and I am committed to it. We will not shy away from what there is to learn.
Council, as we move forward, we must also embrace a new call to lead.
As your Interim City Manager, I respond to the resounding call of this moment by affirming, without reservation and with humility for the progress we have yet to make, that Black Lives Matter.
We will lift up and hear the voices in our community who have shared painful reflections on their history of interactions with police. We will hear from those who say that our country’s current model of public safety does not assure them that they feel or are safe.
And, together, we will work with ongoing commitment to build a community in which safety is a benefit we all share: A Santa Monica where all feel and are safe to learn, safe to play, safe to enjoy our streets and public spaces, safe to start and run a thriving business – and safe in the knowledge that the institutions designed to protect us all will do so fairly and equitably.
We will open dialogue, and we will pursue meaningful change.
But just as in order to build a safe and vibrant community, we must maintain clean public spaces, school readiness of our children, abundant areas for recreation, and the mental health and resilience of our community members.
So to build a more equitable society, we must examine not only our current approach to policing but also the ways in which racism infects our inter-staff relations, relationships between community members and City staff, and the services that we provide to the community. We will be accountable to that much broader obligation.
Members of the community, we, your City staff, are here to serve. I want to express my gratitude to our emergency responders and other City staff who have worked in the hardest of circumstances in recent weeks and months.
Today, we are faced with challenges that require dedication, introspection, courage, and accountability. We commit to showing up.
We ask that you do the same. Please exercise your rights to criticize and petition your government, but I also implore you to engage. The challenges before us are immense. Join us and join each other as we reexamine, reenvision, reimagine, recover, regrow, rebuild, and reform, together.