The Glendale City Council, reacting to the painting of swastikas on a synagogue, Tuesday created a city response team for hate crimes.
The team--made up of representatives from city government, various ethnic groups, religious leaders and members of Glendale business and educational organizations--will promote public condemnation of hate crimes, offer counseling to victims and help with graffiti cleanup and property repairs.
At a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, the council unanimously passed a resolution establishing the team, suggested by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Community Relations set up four months ago by Mayor Eileen Givens.
With emotions running high in the public discussion session before the council's vote, supporters of the motion stressed the need to change the city's decades-old image of racial antagonism. Opponents called for African American representation, and said violent crimes against people are more important than the motivations behind criminal acts.
"This is another logistical step in assuring everyone in our community that Glendale is a city for all people," said the Rev. Phil Wood of the First United Methodist Church, a task force member.
"We're only as strong as we can be together," he added. "This resolution will show the world that Glendale is pro-active against hate crimes."
Community activist Emzy Veazy III, however, excoriated the mayor for not including representatives from the entire community in her selection of task-force members and demanded that a new group be created and that it include an African American representative from within the city's boundaries.
"This city is selective in their categorization of hate crimes," Veazy said. "The black community is continually excluded from these kinds of concerns.
"There are larger socioeconomic problems here, which the city will not address."
Dr. David E. Wallis said "a Blue Ribbon commission on hate crime is a preposterous overreaction.
"Where's the Blue Ribbon commission for denouncing other, more serious crimes such as muggings, rape and white-collar fraud?
"We pay for an excellent Police Department to handle crime and should, simply, leave it to their expertise. It is not a city function to 'denounce' anything, but to make sure things run reliably."
City Councilman Sheldon Baker responded to Wallis in tears, saying there is no such thing as an overreaction to such incidents. "Why don't you explain that to the victims?" Baker asked.
"Explain it to those who suffered from the Holocaust or to the Cambodians bombed during the Vietnam War?"