City Council wrap-up: Council terminates agreement with Homeland Security Investigations

It’s the first Wednesday of February, so we’re back with another City Council wrap-up. If you’d like to read through the full agenda, please click here.

City Council terminates agreement with Homeland Security Investigations

Last night, the City Council – in a 3-2 vote – directed staff to terminate the San Gabriel Police Department’s agreement with Homeland Security Investigations.

The agreement – which was officially signed in December 2017 – addressed mid-major crimes in the city, including human trafficking, large scale fraud, counterfeit goods and other fraud-related crimes with local and federal resources. Under the agreement, the SGPD could use federal resources, funding and infrastructure to tackle crimes to help protect documented and undocumented residents in the city. The MOU could not be used in any way that violated California Senate Bill 54.

As a result of last night’s City Council decision, Chief Harris sent a letter to HSI formally exercising the 30-day termination clause for the MOU. The SGPD officer assigned to the task force was also directed to wind down activities and to sever ties with the task force.

Councilmember Liao, Councilmember Menchaca and Councilmember Pu voted to direct staff to terminate the agreement, while Mayor Costanzo and Councilmember Harrington voted to let the agreement remain as is. Councilmembers who voted in opposition to the MOU voiced their concerns regarding the city’s association with HSI and ICE, and the lack of notification that the agreement was signed to both the City Council and the public.

Here are some quotes from this week’s meeting:

Councilmember Liao:

According to the statistics, 2017, only 37 police departments joined this effort out of a total 15,338 police departments. You’re a minority of this huge law enforcement department. And the reason why they don’t want to sign this MOU – right away, it gave the city bad press, bad public publicity. Look at tonight, it already damaged San Gabriel’s reputation.

Councilmember Menchaca:

The public also has every right to speak on this issue and express their views – we both [the Council and the public] just needed to be made aware, not by the media, but by our department head. I have spoken to a variety of elected officials from all political parties…state, regional, Local, former elected police chief and police officers, even school superintendents. All agree that this MOU should have been vetted with the people and Council before entering into any kind of partnership with ICE.

Councilmember Pu:

The staff report itself points to other task forces like the San Gabriel Valley AB109 task force and LA Impact which have already – as we have seen in previous other staff reports – been extremely effective at addressing those same crimes. Therefore, I don’t agree with those who have said we need to have this – this is something that is absolutely necessary. Clearly, we are able to also address some of these mid-major crimes through these other task forces and having a formal agreement with ICE is not necessary.

Councilmember Harrington:

It would be irresponsible to end this MOU, or to even to change the process that brought this MOU. None of the councilmembers are experts at fighting crime. They may be politicians, but they’re not crime fighters. We hire people such as Chief Harris and the men and women of our police department to do this. If we leave this MOU, we’re telling the community that politics is more important than the safety of the residents.

Mayor Costanzo:

The City Council sets policy, and if we undermine the efforts of our City Manager or department heads, what good are we, especially when it has a political twist.

Council approves restoration of the Mission Playhouse façade

In a unanimous vote, the City Council voted to approve $102,500 to restore the Mission Playhouse façade. Much of the funds come from foundation grants, donations and allocated funds from the city.

The Playhouse was last repaired after the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake.

In addition, the City Council passed the following motions with a 5-0 vote:

Public Works to spend $100,000 on sidewalk repairs

The City Council voted to approve a $100,000 contract with Precision Concrete Cutting to assess and repair the city’s sidewalks.

Instead of replacing concrete panels (which is costly), Public Works staff is proposing that the city utilize a proprietary process to cut the concrete to make the sidewalk surface level. This process complies with all ADA requirements, and can be applied to up to 80% of sidewalk, curb and gutter defects according to Precision Concrete Cutting.

Council approves $53,960 for Del Mar Avenue street improvements

The City Council approved $53,954.15 to repave approximately 475 linear feet of street on Del Mar Avenue along with the construction of four pedestrian ramps. The contractor in charge on the Del Mar Avenue rehabilitation project submitted a $193,226.15 proposal to complete work on Del Mar Avenue.

The ACE Project, as part of the trench project, has agreed to reimburse the city for $139,272.00. That leaves the city with $53,954.15.

Finally, the City Council approved two additional items (one regarding Human Resources, and the other concerning salary and benefit changes for the Police Officers’ Association) along items included in the consent calendar.

Editor’s note – February 8, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.: this article was amended with quotes from the City Council regarding the MOU.