Remarks by Council Member Bruce Baker to the Westminster City Council on January 9, 2017.
Councilor Seitz brought to this council’s attention the program called It’s on Us. It’s on Us began on college campuses. It’s on Us aims to change the way society and our culture deals with sexual assault. The plain fact is that American culture has poorly dealt with sexual assault. The victims were and are still afraid to come forward and tell what happened to them, today only 1 in 8 survivors comes forward. Only 1 in 50 victims that were incapacitated at the time of the attack comes forward. Society invents excuses to make believe that the attack did not happen. It is easier to say there must have been a miscommunication or that a party changed their mind after the fact, then to confront the reality that sexual assault is a crime of violence, intimidation and remorseless power. Making the situation even worse is the betrayal of previously trusted friends or partners because in 8 of 10 victims knows their attacker. The harm from the attack does not end quickly. 40% of survivors fear reprisal from their attacker. Medical aid needs to be given in a timely manner, immediately if possible, and the victim should be monitored and given follow-up care.
This is not a problem that will solved by police or courts. Addressing these crimes after-the-fact is too little, too late. This problem will only be addressed by fixing what is broken in our Society and expecting everyone to help. Indeed, everyone must help. Here is what It’s on Us challenges everyone to do: 1- Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. 2- Identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. 3- Intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. 4- Create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
Understanding how society got to this state of affairs is important because it is only society, all of us, that will make a change come about. Fighting against those changes are strong attitudes and undercurrents. Those forces restrain people from enthusiastically supporting sexual assault laws. Those forces are from our bygone past, a time when we were willfully oblivious to the harm being done.
It was a mere 40 years that marital rape was finally recognized as a crime in the United States. Old attitudes die slowly. Even today we hear those attitudes that hide in the dark corners of our society. They have no sympathy for the victims of sexual assault. Those attitudes blame the victims for their sexual assault, rather than the perpetrators. Remember the sad individual that thought a woman’s body could reject a pregnancy from what he termed a legitimate rape. And that person occupied one of the very highest positions within our society.
It’s on Us is right on target in their approach to addressing sexual assault. We all must obey the law, support the law, be smart about situations, intervene if possible and encourage everyone in society to do the same. It is only by obeying the law that we will keep full value of the wonderful place we are.
Americans take for granted the safe, secure, prosperous, imaginative, respectful, liberty filled place we have. I don’t think most of us have stopped to consider why Americans have those benefits. I have stopped to consider the question. I say we are this wonderful place because the overwhelming majority of Americans voluntarily obey the law. American government doesn’t need machine gun toting police on every street corner to enforce the law. American government doesn’t have legions of secret police spying and sneaking around to enforce the law. Americans enforce the law on ourselves because we respect the law.
So why do Americans respect and obey the law, when all around the world and throughout history people hate the law, avoid the law and cheat the law? I think it is because Americans view the law as a shield that protects us instead of a weapon that hurts us. I made this observation years ago. I truly feel our unshakeable knowledge of our safety under the law is a key to our success.
I think It’s on Us and I share the same view of the law. Sexual assault laws are not weapons that hurt Americans. Sexual assault laws are a shield that protects Americans. When we all are convinced that non-consensual sex is breaking the law, and we are knowledgeable about when and where these crimes occur, and we find the courage to intervene if possible, and we create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and the victims are supported, we will have better America.
Moreover, this is true of all breaking of the law whether they are big laws, like murder, or small laws, like shoplifting. When we are convinced that shoplifting is a crime and is breaking the law, when we are smart about where those crimes occur, when we find the courage to intervene, and when we create an environment in which shoplifting is unacceptable, we will have a better America. And that is true with robbery. And fraud. And embezzlement. And being unlawfully present in the United States.
Just 4 weeks ago, in my comments to city council I was making the same point about the obeying the law that It’s on Us makes about obeying the law. Unfortunately several of my colleagues did not hear what I said. It was as if they had heard some of the words I said, but not did understand the content contained in the words.
Now part of that non-communication was caused by the example of law breaking that I highlighted. My colleagues are afraid to approach the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States. Part of the fear stems from the fact that for the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States, there is no sympathetic victim to which we can point. If there was a distinct, individual victim, that victim and their injuries would provide a point of focus we all could grasp. The victims of people that are unlawfully present in the United States, while many in number, have no obvious injuries which the media can showcase. Their stories of loss and displacement are difficult to quantify. Their hurting is minimized and ignored.
Instead of talking about the real harm to the victims of people unlawfully present in the US, my colleagues choose to talk about being a welcoming community. How odd. I do not think for second that my colleagues would be welcoming to the perpetrators of sexual assault. I think my colleagues join me in all efforts to prevent sexual assaults from happening, eliminating any place in which assaults happen, intervening to prevent or stop an assault whenever possible, promoting an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable, and supporting the victims of sexual assault.
So I ask my colleagues, if you would never be welcoming to rapists, or murderers, or bank robbers, why would you be welcoming to people unlawfully present in the United States?
Let me draw into sharper focus the crime of being unlawfully present in the United States. Our society and culture continuously minimizes the crime. Media paints this crime as a trivial infraction. But it is not. People unlawfully present in the United States are taking something to which they are not entitled. They are taking the rights, opportunities and privileges of citizens and of lawful immigrants in the United States. Rights, privileges and opportunities are very valuable assets.
A person that takes assets to which they are not entitled and without the permission of the owner, is a thief. People unlawfully present in the United States are engaging in the conduct of thieves. We should and must hold these thieves accountable for their conduct.
Holding people accountable for their conduct is the foundation human civilization. Without holding individuals accountable for their conduct, our society cannot function. How could friendships survive if accountability was not required? Indeed, every relationship, be it marriage, or employment, or parenting, or buying and selling, or contracts, and every promise ever made requires accountability.
And the first step in holding people accountable is they must stop the law breaking conduct. Just like the first step for It’s on Us to stop sexual assaults is to prevent those assaults from happening, the first step for people unlawfully present in the United States is to remove them from the United States. Just like stopping sexual assault is everyone’s responsibility, removing undocumented people from the United States is everyone’s responsibility. And the oddest part of this situation is that removing a person unlawfully present in the United States is no more harmful to that law breaker than is preventing a sexual assault is to the would-be rapist.
The steps and recommendations provided by It’s on Us can serve as our example. 1- Recognize that people being unlawfully present in the United States is a crime. 2- Identify situations in which these people reside or work or interact with any level of government. 3- Intervene, as individuals and especially as government, and inform Federal authorities. 4- Create an environment where being unlawfully present in the United States is unacceptable.
To make that transformation within our society, begins with dialogue. Now one of my colleagues asserted that each council person’s ability to make comments during our meetings is dialogue. It is not. Our comments are a monologue. If this were theatric setting, our comments could be a soliloquy. Or in an academic setting our comments would be a lecture. To some people, I am sure, my comments sound like a harangue. But councilor comments are not a dialogue.
To have a dialogue it takes two parties. Two parties that truly care about each other and that value and respect the other person. To have a dialogue means both parties must be present in the conversation. To have a dialogue means both parties must be willing to listen to and hear what is attempted to be said in spite of the clumsy words and awkward examples that may be chosen to illustrated a point.
Indeed, I say that dialogue is every council person’s first job. Dialogue with voters. Dialogue with residents. Dialogue with business people. Dialogue with visitors. Dialogue with shoppers. And most importantly, dialogue with other councillors.
If that was not our first job, why did our City Charter desire seven members for council? Government is far easier when all power is under one person’s hand. In fact, council chooses a City Manager for just that reason. One person that moves ahead the decisions made and the ideas that council has. One person with the power to make the trade-offs required to bring ideas to life. One person to stand accountable for the choices that they made.
My requirement for dialogue in the city charter is unspoken. It is an unspoken requirement because the authors of the charter could not, even for a moment, think that council members would refuse dialogue. Only arrogant, selfish, disrespectful people would not engage in dialogue with their fellow elected officials.
And the authors of our charter, being very shrewd and experienced people, knew that even with dialogue the council may not be of one mind. So they provided a way for the council to move forward to overcome disagreements that remained. The way forward is majority rule. Majority rule is not always right, but it is a way forward.
Indeed, majority rule is the cause of our present situation and conflict. It was the majority rule election of a new president in 2016 that sets things into motion. As many of my colleagues have pointed out, it was after that election that the anxiety level and fear level for many people rose. It was to address the anxiety and fear that the issue of how Westminster Police interact with people unlawfully present in the United States, became a topic.
Unfortunately, this council, decided to duck the issue. We have attempted push the issue away from ourselves and onto our employees. Instead of standing up, taking authorship and responsibility with an openly passed, official policy, we let stand an anonymous and ambiguous procedure. We let stand procedures that can best be described as giving a “wink and a nod” to people breaking the law.
And do not think for a minute that the published procedure is not the responsibility of this council. Only instead of being made in an open and transparent fashion, it was crafted and implemented years ago in a clever and coercive manner. Westminster Police knew their jobs were on the line unless they twisted themselves to the discreetly expressed wishes of council. The connected and powerful made this procedure behind closed doors.
However even more reprehensible is what this procedure has told our residents and police. This council, like a group of drug selling gang bangers in some decaying eastern city, has allowed to be said “no snitching”. That’s right “no snitching”. Government telling people that no snitching is allowed and implicitly threatening anyone who would. Would this council say no snitching on sexual assault predators? Would we say no snitching on shoplifters?
So why do we say “no snitching” about people unlawfully present in the United States? We say this about people unlawfully present in the United States because the connected and powerful are exploiting those people. The existence of those unlawfully present people allows the connected and powerful to exploit American citizens and legal immigrants, too. The abundance of labor keeps wages down. The excess of people drives housing prices up. The connected and powerful are the employers and mega property owner among us. These connected and powerful people are the economic winners of a no snitching policy when it comes to people unlawfully present in the United States.
The Westminster City Council is not a social club. I did not seek election to expand my circle of friends. I sought election and consider my election as a charge to engage in the difficult but necessary dialogues that serve the citizens of Westminster and further the city’s interests. Now I cannot compel my colleagues to join in dialogue. But I can and will bring to the public’s attention what I consider to be errors on the part of council. I can and will make every effort activate the public to convince my colleagues to live up to the values of open and transparent government. I still have faith in the sleeping integrity of my colleagues. I still believe that my colleagues can move beyond their fears and find the courage to live up to their best values. I will continue to offer dialogue to my colleagues. I will do everything possible to bring better government to Westminster.
Government that ignores lawbreakers is dishonest. Government that tells its citizens and police “no snitching” reprehensible. Government that selectively enforces our laws is corrupt. I do not want Westminster to be a dishonest, reprehensible, corrupt government.
Republican Candidate for House District 35