Council votes to make Mountain View a human rights city


Spurred by a wave of intolerance in the national political discourse, local leaders last week signed up Mountain View as a "human rights city," pledging to protect life and liberty. By doing so, Mountain View joins cities such as San Francisco, Seattle and Eugene, Oregon in adopting the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a framework for guiding future local policies.

What this means for local government may be more symbol than substance, given that many of the same human rights are already enshrined in the U.S. constitution. But city leaders said it felt appropriate to reassert basic principles of dignity and tolerance given the circumstances surrounding the presidential election.

"We are facing a time when the kinds of speech have now become commonplace that, for 20 years, were not said publicly," said Mayor Pat Showalter. "At this time, we need to stand up and say that human rights are very important."

The Mountain View City Council approved becoming a human rights city in a 5-2 vote, with John Inks and John McAlister opposed at the Dec. 13 meeting.

The human rights proposal generated a fair amount of controversy when it was first floated. Many council members were lukewarm to the idea when it was proposed last year. They pointed out it was a symbolic gesture to reaffirm the city's principles, but they worried that signing the city onto international human rights rules could somehow leave Mountain View vulnerable to legal liability in the future.

Other took that concern a step further, hinting that the action could gradually surrender local governance to a foreign set of rules. City staff described the human rights framework as mostly aspirational, but Councilman John Inks warned the doctrine's language could result in real social-welfare costs for the city.

"This is a manifesto for socialism," he said."This is only a starting point; this is a springboard for a U.N. system of governance and economic policy."

Supporters described it very differently. Professor Francisco Rivera, director of Santa Clara University's International Human Rights Clinic, assured city officials they wouldn't face any extra legal or economic responsibility by adopting the U.N. human rights framework.

"This would send a much-needed message to our community at a much-needed time," he said. "It would force a discussion about the positive and negative impacts of the policies and priorities that you choose."

The action could prompt Mountain View to more closely investigate the human impact of certain projects, ssaid Councilman Ken Rosenberg. For example, if the council was considering redeveloping an apartment complex, staff could provide more details about any tenants being displaced.

City Manager Dan Rich warned that staff didn't have enough manpower to automatically include this analysis as part of every report to the council. He recommended council members designate which projects deserve extra attention in the coming months as part of their annual goal-setting meeting.

Councilman John McAlister opposed the proposal, saying he believed Mountain View leaders already strongly weigh the human rights value of any project. Approving a new framework seemed unnecessary, he said.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


77 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 20, 2016 at 2:05 pm

How much is this going to add to our taxes that could be better spent helping the homeless or issues that are more pressing?

105 people like this
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Total nonsense. Council members were elected to run the city, something they haven't been doing very well. This is nothing more than lipstick on a pig

96 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm

This is liberal virtue-signaling. It means nothing except extra costs including, no doubt, for signs that will go up around the city to proclaim to the lowlies in Sunnyvale and the fancypants in Palo Alto how virtuous we are here in MV.

Whatever money was spent on this was wasted and should have been spent on crime prevention, assisting the homeless, or other more pressing items.

20 people like this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 20, 2016 at 2:22 pm

I would strongly support the City of Mountain View adopting the position of a Sanctuary city. My understanding is that under a Sanctuary city status, under the new Presidential administration, the City would refuse to assist Federal agencies to determine citizenship status, for detention or deportation of any of its residents or those seeking sanctuary in the City limits.

36 people like this
Posted by Trump Lover
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Don't worry, we will vote them out like the rest of real America did the leftists trying to take them over. Someday soon all of America will be great again.

48 people like this
Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Great work city-council! Please ignore the angry minority here. I doubt any of the people calling to help the homeless have volunteered for the homeless a day in their lives. People who complain about taxes rarely do.

I'm most concerned about Councilmember Inks strange U.N. conspiracy theory. Fortunately, he's not going to be on the council for long.

@Resident, what's virtue signaling? It sounds like your accusing the city council of not acting in good faith.

27 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 20, 2016 at 3:26 pm

observer is a registered user.

Does it seem odd that the opponents of this are concerned that it will lead to undesirable new obligations or responsibilities,
while the proponents unanimously assure us that nothing will happen as a result of this new status?

So, it's either unwanted, or meaningless?

Is there a better example of government wasting time on symbolic gestures while failing to address real concerns of their constituents? Easy for politicians to claim they improve the world by such gestures--the hard work of real leadership remains undone.

28 people like this
Posted by I support MV as a Human Rights City
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

I support MV as a Human Rights City is a registered user.

Words matter. According to the resolution “the City aspires to be a leader among cities in advancing human rights and human dignity [by] explicitly embracing the principles of equality, inclusion, respect, involvement, and the recognition of human dignity.” The timing of this resolution is also important, as it provides a counter-narrative to the divisive discourse surrounding the election (and seen in the comments here). This is the right message to send at the right time. This resolution is putting local government officials on record as committing to human rights norms. It is essential at a time when the public is being bombarded by hate speech, racism, Islamophobia, and other acts of discrimination against women, immigrants and the LGBT community. This symbolic gesture helps educate, raise awareness, and shifts discourses in the right direction. I am thankful that Mountain View decided to make this important proclamation of principles. We needed a reminder that there are still people in government that remember what the Declaration of Independence says: that "the purpose of government... is to secure these rights."

24 people like this
Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm

MyOpinion is a registered user.

I am all for human rights, but what is the point of attempting to implement something that is "mostly aspirational" that the city council will discuss at their "goal-setting" meeting? Sounds like a Dilbert cartoon.

Even with this "framework" I seriously doubt any developer proposing a glitzy commerical or residential project will be denied because low income residents or small businesses will be displaced.

I had no idea 'virtue signalling' was a thing... Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 20, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Gary is a registered user.

Unlike the earlier proposal to adopt outright the language of the 1949 UN resolution, the City Council was only asked to adopt a resolution which recites that the City government adheres to some of its "principles." The resolution is purely symbolic and would not support city officials acting to create a "sanctuary" for anyone in the United States illegally. Let's move on. There are serious issues and challenges ahead.

8 people like this
Posted by vonlost
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 20, 2016 at 8:52 pm

vonlost is a registered user.

This city, this county, this state is overwhelmingly liberal; get used to it. I remember when John Inks was against Mountain View's plastic bag ban as being pointless for just one city to adopt it.

8 people like this
Posted by Gracie
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Gracie is a registered user.

Having done the 23AndMe DNA testing, I find that I am triracial. This isn't obvious from the outside, and I'm unlikely to be the object of racism or religious bigotry. Still, I find it comforting to live in a city that explicitly reaffirms legal protections already in place, especially when some cities in this country are actively attacking diversity.

12 people like this
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 22, 2016 at 5:08 pm

USA is a registered user.

"We are facing a time when the kinds of speech have now become commonplace that, for 20 years, were not said publicly"

OK Pat, we will give you a trigger warning so you can go hide in your safe place to avoid words like illegal alien, police, responsibility, and tax cuts.

15 people like this
Posted by mvresident2002
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 22, 2016 at 5:11 pm

mvresident2002 is a registered user.

@USA, this is why your ilk have lost California for good. You can't even have a coherent argument without falling back on your talk radio cliches.

8 people like this
Posted by Wally
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2016 at 12:19 am

Wally is a registered user.

The plastic bag 'ban' was good. For plastic bag companies. I don't use the recycled plastic bags from stores anymore--there aren't any. Instead I have to buy new non-recycled plastic bags to put my trash in. Good work guys!

7 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 21, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Gary is a registered user.

Even though the City Council's adoption of some human rights "principles" before Christmas does not logically support becoming a "sanctuary city," a proposal to take that plunge is on the May 23 City Council agenda as item 4.3 on the "consent" (no discussion planned) calendar. Anyone there on time may have the item pulled from the consent calendar for public comment and possible Council discussion. Did any councilmember run for office as a publicized supporter of having the City government defy federal immigration laws? Not that I noticed. And what do city councilmembers know about immigration issues and strategies? Not much. There are over 6 billion persons in the world. How many will come to (or stay in) Mountain View in disregard of federal immigration laws? And how much mobey will the City government lose in federal aid to take the indefensible position that "immigration status" doesn't matter and, by extension, that national borders are just not needed?

17 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 21, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Jared Martin is a registered user.

Hi Gary,

Can you please clarify what part of the proposed policy up for discussion breaks federal immigration laws? Thanks in advance.

7 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 22, 2017 at 4:26 am

Gary is a registered user.

@"Jared Martin" As you know, my comment above does not contend that the ludicrous proposed resolution would itself violate federal law, although I would note that it is a felony under federal law for anyone to aid and abet illegal immigration and the Trump-Pence regime and current Congresional majority are likely to retaliate against any local politicians and local governments that attempt to undermine federal immigration laws.

15 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2017 at 7:37 am

Jared Martin is a registered user.

Hi Gary,

Ok, if I'm reading your answer right, you're saying that the proposed policy does not violate federal law. Can you describe the content of the policy itself to me? Thanks again.

7 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 22, 2017 at 8:09 am

Gary is a registered user.

@Jared. I did not state that the proposed resolution or "policy" would or would not violate federal law (current or forthcoming). Readers might Google or Yahoo: 8 USC section 1324. You appear to be a supporter of sanctuary cities who is just playing games. The point I made is that the proposed resolution is wrong-headed and sure to pass. It is not "up for discussion" as you claim above but up for passage without discussion on the consent calendar. Have you looked at the resolution yourself? It is online with the May 23 agenda. I suspect you have not onky read it but helped write it. So tell readers its purposes. And tell readers why you contend, if you do, that "immigration status" is or should be irrelevant to city government and to residents. And tell readers what you mean by a cute new word used in the proposed resolution: NATIVISM.

11 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2017 at 8:14 am

Jared Martin is a registered user.

Hi Gary,

I'm quite perplexed by your accusations that I wrote the proposed policy. You seem to be well-versed in this, so I was hoping you'd be able to describe what the actual policy is and how it would (or would not) violate federal immigration law. Thanks in advance for your help in this matter.

7 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 22, 2017 at 8:53 am

Gary is a registered user.

Your game is over "Jared." Anyone interested can read the agenda packet online, the law I cited and the comments above.

13 people like this
Posted by Jared Martin
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2017 at 9:34 am

Jared Martin is a registered user.

Hi Gary,

I don't know where this aggression is coming from. You sound like someone who is very knowledgeable on this issue, so your analysis of the policy and it's intersection with federal law would be helpful. I'm not trained in the law, so reading the U.S. code is a little bit over my head. Thanks in advance!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

A new home in Redwood City for Mademoiselle Colette's croissants
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 8,360 views

Lights Out! Foods to Snuggle With in the Dark
By Laura Stec | 0 comments | 1,745 views

Premarital and Couples: The "Right" Way to Eat an Artichoke
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 913 views

What did you learn last week?
By Sherry Listgarten | 0 comments | 515 views


Race Results Are In

Thank you for joining us at the 35th annual Moonlight Run & Walk! All proceeds benefit the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday fund, supporting local nonprofits serving children and families.

Click for Race Results