Alan Ehrlich – District 3
1. The issue of reducing racial bias (conscious and unconscious) and systemic racism is a major concern throughout the nation, and in cities large and small, including South Pasadena. If you are elected to the South Pasadena City Council, what specific actions will you pursue to reduce unconscious or conscious bias, systemic racism and hate crimes in the city?
If I have the honor of representing District 3, my pledge is to fulfill my oath of office to the fullest. In making that solemn promise to the City of South Pasadena, I will strive to ensure that my actions and my words represent the values of my constituents. District 3 is home to a racially and culturally diverse community. It will be my job as their council person to invest the time and interest into analyzing policy to make sure that all actions taken by the City Council, it’s departments and the city manager are in the best interest of all South Pasadenans and those who pass through our borders.
Over the past summer alone, citizens have publicly raised concerns about how the poor, people of color, women and the homeless are treated by some residents and our city staff. From the unprecedented code enforcement raid on the home of single mother Alison Smith to the way the police have addressed the attacks on BLM activist Fahren James, the community continues to ask relevant questions regarding equal treatment by our City Government. These questions remain curiously unanswered.
In order to address systemic racism, bigotry, and bias, we must first as a city government and community understand and acknowledge that these ideologies exist in our community and are negatively impacting our well-being. You can’t change that which you refuse to see.
Bias does not just apply to race, gender orientation or religion. It is also economic. South Pasadena is 55% renters and yet aside from two temporary ordinances, the City Council has historically been hostile to adopting any policy that protects renters. When renters on Raymond Hill were faced with enormous rent increases, the community came together to demand this City Council act on behalf of renters and enact some form of rent stabilization or rental cap. The Council, instead, did nothing. What they did do is contract with a housing organization to provide workshops on housing rights and then called it a day.
When local progressive activists, including SPHS high school students, workers and the faith community called on the City Council to consider an ordinance to raise the minimum wage in our town to match the County, Pasadena and Los Angeles, this council voted to direct staff to research the possibility and then voted against it. From the outside looking in, as a renter and the parent of two, it’s hard to watch these actions and not think that the Council refused to consider the needs of renters, students and low income workers when making their decisions,
As a city council person, I will not have the luxury of a legislative staff to rely on for research and reports. Our council leans heavily on department staff as directed by the City Manager. To ensure that the data that is reported to the council is complete and presented fairly, I will push for a staff that is as diverse as possible. I will fight to get the staff the resources they will need to engage in research that is sound and thorough. I would also lean on members of the community such as housing advocates, the faith community, parent and cultural organizations for their input and insights on policies that are put before me.
If I am elected to City Council, I can assure that I will be invested in taking the time to analyze all items on every agenda, ask questions of the staff and request more information so that I can be confident that my vote does not result in unintended consequence of perpetuating systemic racism and hate. There will be no rubber stamping by me. Not even when it comes to city contracts. I will make sure that all contracted companies and individuals do not engage in discriminatory practices in their business.
I will work with my fellow council members to make diversity training among our city staff and public safety departments a priority. Such training should not just be a one off but ongoing. We can’t continue to hobble along doing nothing because we refuse to acknowledge there may be a problem.
I have already stated that I would reimagine the Public Arts Commission into an Arts & Cultural Heritage Commission. As a city, we should be investing in the celebration of the many diverse groups that live and contribute to the fabric of South Pasadena life.
Why is it that we have such a large community of Asian Americans and the City does not sponsor a AAPI Heritage Month? We don’t even put forth a resolution acknowledging our LGBTA+ community during Pride Month. This is not inclusion. It’s exclusion. This month, October, is Hispanic Heritage month, what is South Pasadena doing? Squat. February is Black History month. What has our city ever done to celebrate? Squat. When the city invests in honoring every member of our community the hope is that others will as well.
The leadership required to address how to best handle the incidents of potential hate crimes would first and foremost lie with the Chief of Police. When police leadership is willing to acknowledge that these types of crimes are happening in South Pasadena, I will expect that it will become a part of the police culture to recognize these cowardly acts for what they are and follow instituted policies for proper questioning and handling of evidence in their reporting. Our officers have not been properly trained nor are they empowered to make these judgement calls on their own, however there should be an expectation from above that these crimes should not be dismissed. Given recent events, I have requested for the city manager to add two items to the Public Safety Commission’s October meeting, 1) an explanation from the Chief of Police as to how & why he promoted an event sponsored by a known hate group. I do not accept it was a ‘lapse of judgement.’ 2) I have requested for SPPD to report on hate crimes in the city in the last 12 months. We know there has been an increase since the George Floyd murder earlier this year, but as I have said, you can’t fix what you don’t measure.
“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (1913)
We can’t always change how people think, but as leaders we can model the behavior in our language and actions that genuinely reflect the values that represent the majority of South Pasadenans: equality, compassion, inclusion, and anti-racism.
2. Anti-Racism means actively working to end racism, systemic racism and the oppression of marginalized groups. Describe the specific Anti-Racist actions you have taken in the past and how you intend to continue this work moving forward as a City Councilperson of South Pasadena.
Countering the effects of systemic racism must first start within our own homes by nurturing an environment of anti-racist language and behaviors. By having conversations with each other, that may test our own comfort levels and beliefs, we ultimately conclude with healthier points of view.
My children are bi-racial. Some think that bi-racial persons do not experience bias and discrimination. I know from experience that is not true. I have, however, raised my children to be confident in who they are, to be aware of the potential biases formed against them and how to respond with grace and dignity. My children’s friends include Matt, Sebastian, Helena, Aaron, Hye-won, Manny, Sidharth. Their friends have names, not labels
As an AYSO Coach, Little League and GSA softball manager, active school parent and volunteer house builder in Tijuana, I confidently say have modeled not just tolerance, but more importantly, ACCEPTANCE! My children, team members and parents have been able to see this in action, not just in my words.
As a member of the Public Safety commission, I have a record of asking the hard questions with regard to police department and city policy. Most recently making the motion to reject the City Council’s plan to revise the Commission charter and replace members only with those with law enforcement or public safety experience or background. I did this because I don’t believe that a public safety commission or any commission should have exclusionary guidelines.
On October 1, 2020, a federal judge ruled that President Trump’s Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice violates Federal Law. Because the President appointed only commission members with law enforcement backgrounds or those who currently are employed in a law enforcement capacity, US District Judge John Bates said that “….the 18-person commission does not include civil rights groups, civic leaders, criminal defense attorneys, academics or community organization representatives, only current or former law enforcement, noting, this is the “imbalance” the law should prevent.”
At a time when our nation and our city is aching from the results of racial injustice, to replace community stakeholders with law enforcement professionals is not the best move for an already challenged city hall. I have and will continue to defend the current charter of the public safety commission, push for better oversight and fight for expansion to include more community stakeholders such as members of social services agencies, educators, civil rights groups, and the faith community.
3. Please share your views on the Black Lives Matter movement. Are you in support of this movement and actions being taken both locally and nationally?
I have had the privilege of getting to know and work with London Lang, Fahren James and local activists and, while I don’t always get it right, my goal is to continue to learn how to be a better ally by respecting their leadership. I don’t just talk the talk. I am honored to have been asked and able to lend my support and encouragement to Black Lives Matter South Pasadena by facilitating city permits for rallies and protests, actively participating in marches & events they have organized. As a council person, I will continue to seek their and other’s input on matters of social justice and police reform.