IFC to rescind appointment to Comm. on Immigrant Affairs

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Greg Casar
Posts: 100
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2015 4:20 pm

IFC to rescind appointment to Comm. on Immigrant Affairs

Post by Greg Casar » Fri Apr 10, 2015 2:37 pm

Dear colleagues,

I’m writing to provide you additional information for an item that will be on next week’s Council agenda (4/16) to rescind a nomination made to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs.

Boards and Commissions are a key part of Austin’s government. Through our commissions, dedicated Austinites with a diversity of viewpoints and expertise help shape public policy. Council Members have the privilege of nominating commissioners, and the full Council is responsible for making the appointments by a majority vote. As we transition into the 10-1 system, I have been pleased to see Council Members nominate citizens from all parts of town with all types of political backgrounds and opinions. As a general rule, I have deferred to individual Council Members’ judgments, and I have voted to appoint their nominees. However, it is our responsibility as a Council to reject nominees who clearly are not suited for a commission and to reject nominees who violate our core values as a City.

During a speech at a political rally, the recent nominee from District 6 has displayed a bigoted attitude toward communities of color that violates our core values as a City as well as the purpose of the Commission on Immigrant Affairs. Therefore, I believe the Council has a duty to rescind this appointment.

After last Thursday’s Council meeting, several community members reached out to me to express serious concerns about Rebecca Forest, the nominee from District 6. During a 2011 rally for anti-immigration legislation at the Texas Capitol, Ms. Forest stated, “If you want to know why we can't pass legislation in Texas it's because we have 37, no 36, Hispanics in the Legislature. All of the states that have passed legislation have a handful, and I mean literally, some of them have no Hispanic legislators. Well, maybe 3 or 5 or something. So that's…part of our problem and we need to change those numbers. We need to do something about that.” In addition to these bigoted comments, she goes on to make disparaging remarks about the children of immigrants. I have included a link to a video of her comments here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlSLjdGGpWQ.

Ms. Forest has attempted to retract some of her statements. Regardless of her attempts to retract her words, her underlying attitude toward members of our community is unacceptable for the Commission on Immigrant Affairs.

The Commission on Immigrant Affairs has existed since 1998. Several of the responsibilities of the Commission on Immigrant Affairs, established in City Code, are to “maximize the benefits to local immigrants under existing laws and to minimize the adverse impacts to local immigrants under the laws; promote recognition of the contributions of the foreign-born to the economic and cultural vitality of Austin; and promote the availability of, and promote accessibility to, local educational, economic, legal, and social resources for immigrants.”

I hope the above information helps you understand why I feel strongly that Ms. Forest’s appointment must be rescinded. The attitude she has displayed clearly conflicts with core values of our City and clearly contradicts the duties and responsibilities expected of a successful Commissioner on Immigrant Affairs.

I have asked Council Member Zimmerman to reconsider the nomination of Ms. Forest, and he has respectfully declined. This puts the Council in an exceptional and difficult situation, a situation that I do not like to be in, and that I hope to not be in again. If we do not rescind this appointment before the appointments become active in July, then we are effectively endorsing Ms. Forest’s appointment, with full knowledge of her disparaging remarks toward Hispanics and immigrant children.

This step is a last resort, but I believe it is the right thing to do, given our options.

I look forward to answering any questions you may have. I want to thank Council Members Houston, Garza, and Renteria for their co-sponsorship on this item. I've provided the language of the resolution below.

Sincerely,
Greg


WHEREAS, the City of Austin uses City boards to enable residents to participate in Austin’s governing process; and

WHEREAS, the Commission on Immigrant Affairs was created by the council in 1998; and

WHEREAS, the members of the Commission on Immigrant Affairs serve at the pleasure of the council; and

WHEREAS, the duties established by §2-1-125 of the City Code for the Commission on Immigrant Affairs include recommending to the council actions to “maximize the benefits to local immigrants under existing laws and to minimize the adverse impacts to local immigrants under the laws; promote recognition of the contributions of the foreign-born to the economic and cultural vitality of Austin; and promote the availability of, and promote accessibility to, local educational, economic, legal, and social resources for immigrants;” and

WHEREAS, the Commission’s activities help shape and influence public policy considered by the City Council; and

WHEREAS, Council desires for the membership of City boards to represent the values of the City; and

WHEREAS, the City Council has the authority to make appointments to City boards and also has the authority to remove members by a majority vote of Council; and

WHEREAS, Ordinance No. 20140807-016 provides that before July 1, 2015, a council member elected at the November 2014 election may nominate a person to a City board, and the council may appoint a person who is nominated, but the appointment is not effective, and the person appointed may not assume office, until July 1, 2015; and

WHEREAS, on April 2, 2015 the council made an appointment to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs that has not yet become effective;

NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF AUSTIN:
The City Council rescinds its appointment to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs made on April 2, 2015.
Gregorio "Greg" Casar
Council Member District 4

Don Zimmerman
Posts: 168
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2015 12:05 pm

Re: IFC to rescind appointment to Comm. on Immigrant Affairs

Post by Don Zimmerman » Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:45 pm

We request that item 5 on the April 16th Agenda be pulled off the consent agenda for discussion, at the work session and at the Council meeting.

"Approve a resolution rescinding an appointment to the Commission on Immigrant Affairs."
Don Zimmerman
Council Member District 6 (northwest Austin)

Leslie Pool
Posts: 153
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2015 4:22 pm

Re: IFC to rescind appointment to Comm. on Immigrant Affairs

Post by Leslie Pool » Sat Apr 11, 2015 2:26 pm

Colleagues, I support rescinding this nomination and would like to put a process in place that will keep this unfortunate situation from recurring. Now is a good time to add more transparency to our nominations process. A first step could be posting on the message board our lists of nominees in the week before they're added to the agenda for consideration.
Leslie Pool
Council Member, District 7

Don Zimmerman
Posts: 168
Joined: Fri Jan 09, 2015 12:05 pm

Re: IFC to rescind appointment to Comm. on Immigrant Affairs

Post by Don Zimmerman » Thu Apr 16, 2015 9:26 am

Here is the link to Ms. Forest's written notice declining the Immigrant Affairs appointment:

http://assets.austintexas.gov/austincou ... 092520.pdf
Don Zimmerman
Council Member District 6 (northwest Austin)

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