Last month, tiny Los Alamitos (population 12,000) lit a wildfire by approving a ‘sanctuary ordinance’ that states in part:
Los Alamitos Municipal Code Chapter 9.30 Constitution of the United States Compliance
The City of Los Alamitos, a Charter City, does hereby exempt the City of Los Alamitos from the California Values Act, Government Code Title 1, Division 7, Chapter 17.25 and instead will comply with the appropriate Federal Laws and the Constitution of the United States.
Last month’s first reading of the ordinance and 4-1 approval (only Councilman Mark Chirco voted against) brought dozens of non-residents to speak both in opposition and in support.
As is standard for City ordinances, two readings are required to make a proposal law. The ordinance is included in the consent calendar for the April 16 regular meeting. That’s also standard for an ordinance’s second reading.
All items in a Council consent calendar are considered routine, and adopted by a single vote. Other examples of consent calendar items at the April 16 meeting include “Authorization to Apply for Environmental Cleanup Tier 1 Grant Funds” and “Off-Street Parking, Zoning Ordinance Amendment. (ZOA-15).”
Items in the consent calendar may be pulled at the request of a Council Member for individual discussion. That may happen with the ‘sanctuary ordinance.’
One bit of evidence that a large crowd is expected at the meeting is another of the consent calendar items that would waive a requirement for a separate vote to allow the meeting to continue past 9:45 p.m. Last month’s disruption after the vote was taken to approve the ‘sanctuary ordinance’ prevented the required vote, shutting the meeting down with items unconsidered.
Outside media coverage
An article by Amy Taxin published today by the Sacramento Bee covered the spreading opposition to the California Values Act and other sanctuary policies, but tried to make a case that opposition has been ginned up by Republican politicians and outside agitators.
The state passed a measure backed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s to deny public health care and education to immigrants in the country illegally. It was later overturned but left a lingering resentment among the state’s growing Hispanic population.
In recent years, California Republicans have taken a less strident approach to immigration in a state where one in four people are foreign-born. But the Trump administration lawsuit has energized many in a party that has been rendered nearly irrelevant at the state level, where Democrats control every key office.
A “lingering resentment’ may also be found among those who wish to stem the burgeoning illegal immigrant population, and the costs associated with that growth. That includes both native-born citizens and those who gained citizenship through legal channels.
And there’s this:
In many cases, meetings on the issue have drawn boisterous crowds. Anti-illegal immigration activists have traveled from city to city to attend, heightening tensions with those who want their communities to support immigrant-friendly policies or stay out of the fray.
In the case of the Los Alamitos meeting, non-locals on both sides of the immigration issue overflowed the Council Chamber. The way in which Ms. Taxin reports on this makes those opposing illegal immigration sound like carpetbaggers. Further, she starts the sentence saying “anti-illegal immigration activists” but characterizes their opponents as supporting “immigrant-friendly policies.” The phrasing gliding right past the distinction between legal and illegal immigration.
None of those that I spoke with at the Los Alamitos meeting who oppose the California Values Act and other sanctuary policies oppose legal immigration. They support policies that are friendly to legal immigrants. Many of them are themselves legal immigrants.
Warrent Kusumoto sits down to chat
Warren Kusumoto, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Los Alamitos, originated the proposed ‘santuary ordinance.’ He recently sat down to answer questions from a panel of three local newsies: Ted Apodaca, editor of the News Enterprise; John Underwood, video producer for LATV3; and myself, Shelley Henderson, editor of Orange County Breeze. The discussion was taped by a crew under the direction of Larry Strawther of Los Al TV. An upstairs studio at Alamitos Eye Care was generously made available by John Osborn.
Mayor Pro Tem Kusumoto characterizes himself as an introverted nerd — he’s an engineer. That is relevant because it explains why he decided, on his own and without consulting much of anyone including Los Alamitos City Attorney Michael Daudt, to propose the ordinance.
He said more than once over the course of the interview, and afterwards, that the issue is simple. He also insisted that the ordinance is local, with no effect beyond the boundaries of the City of Los Alamitos. He was elected to lead the City. He judged that the California Values Act places public officials and businesses in the City in an untenable position — in violation of Federal law, or in violation of State law. He took the time to draft an ordinance, and brought it forward for consideration by the Council. A majority agreed with him.
Let’s look a bit at the process he went through, considering the problem as an ordinary citizen who happens to be an engineer rather than a politician or lawyer.
He considered the oath of office which all public officials in California take, as it appears in the California Constitution under Article 20, adopted in 1879:
“I, ___________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
“And I do further swear (or affirm) that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that now advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means; that within the five years immediately preceding the taking of this oath (or affirmation) I have not been a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means except as follows:
_____ (If no affiliations, write in the words “No Exceptions”) _____
and that during such time as I hold the office of _____ (name of office) _____
I will not advocate nor become a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means.”
Article 20 goes on to state:
“Public officer and employee” includes every officer and employee of the State, including the University of California, every county, city, city and county, district, and authority, including any department, division, bureau, board, commission, agency, or instrumentality of any of the foregoing.
Note, first, that the oath-taker must “support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California.”
Second, that the California Values Act is a lower level law, part of the California State Code and not the State Constitution.
Third, that established Supreme Court precedent holds that where there is a conflict between federal and state law, the Constitution takes precedence. That precedent is based on the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2.
Warren Kusumoto, engineer and citizen, weighed the evidence. The California Values Act conflicts with federal law. He found that he could not remain faithful to his oath of office if he complied with the California Values Act. Further, he felt that the California Values Act presented a similar conflict to anyone trying to comply with both federal and state law.
You could get on the wrong side of the federal government, or risk being arrested or sued by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
So he proposed that the City of Los Alamitos, as a charter city, exempt itself from the state law.
Nowhere does Donald Trump or Jeff Sessions figure in this analysis.
Just prior to the final vote to approve the ordinance, Mayor Troy Edgar suggested an amendment that would call for the City to join the suit against the State of California by the federal government on the side of the federal government. That amendment was accepted and included in the final vote.
At first, there was no great show of support from Orange County Republican politicians. That has gradually changed, but the state GOP is actually running to catch up with Los Alamitos rather than leading the way.
Other news from that interview
Mayor Pro Tem Kusumoto is eligible to run for Council once more before being termed out. When asked if he will run for re-election this year, he said that he is inclined not to run.
The City of Los Alamitos faces a budget gap brought on by ever rising assessments to cover underfunded public employee pensions. He expressed strong opposition to closing that budget gap by enacting a sales tax increase.
Much of the building stock along Los Alamitos Blvd. and Katella Ave. dates back decades. The City has no direct control of these buildings nor any direct way to apply pressure to owners to upgrade. Many of the owners are original small business people, or family trusts established to manage the assets after the death of the original owner. They are not cash rich. Mayor Pro Tem Kusumoto floated an idea about creating a special assessment district to help defray the costs that owners face in remodeling or upgrading. He asked for feedback from the Los Alamitos business community.