PALMDALE – Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford responded Thursday to a widely reported statement by TCAL Board member Jesse Smith that accused elected officials in Palmdale and Lancaster of making an effort “to do ethnic cleansing.”
“This statement is deplorable and beyond the pale,” said Ledford. “The horribly insensitive use of the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ trivializes the atrocities suffered by peoples here and abroad, and marginalizes the work of those truly interested in promoting equality in our community.”
The Associated Press article, published Tuesday, quoted Smith saying “there is a concerted effort among elected officials in Palmdale and Lancaster to do ethnic cleansing.” Smith’s statement was made in conjunction with a pending federal lawsuit and ongoing Department of Justice investigation into claims of housing law violations by the City of Lancaster and Palmdale. The Community Action League(TCAL) and the NAACP are plaintiffs in the suit.
“Smith’s comment on behalf of the plaintiffs is equating unsubstantiated allegations of housing violations to genocide,” added Ledford. “This is completely disingenuous, irresponsible, hateful and detrimental to the advancement of civil rights in our community, which we embrace as one of our core values and strengths.”
“I call on the NAACP and the Community Action League to retract and denounce the statement made by Jesse Smith, and immediately issue an apology to the Palmdale City Council and all of its residents,” Ledford said.
“These kinds of ridiculous statements are destroying the fabric of our integrated and tolerant community of which our residents, leaders and elected officials for decades have worked together to create,” Ledford said. “Inclusion has always been my mantra, and I am proud of Palmdale’s diversity.”
The City of Palmdale has not commented on a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Community Action League and the NAACP because the matter is still in litigation.
“However, this recent personal and libelous statement against the members of the Palmdale City Council cannot go unchallenged,” said City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy. “While the plaintiffs and their attorneys have been bombarding the media with lurid accusations and inflammatory rhetoric, the City of Palmdale continues to stay true to our values of openness, tolerance, inclusiveness and acceptance, while patiently waiting for the judicial system to determine that the accusations against the City of Palmdale are completely without merit.”
Calls to Jesse Smith were not immediately returned Thursday morning.