By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The proposed visit to the mountain by members of the Westboro Baptist Church was very much on the minds of the members of the Lake Arrowhead Municipal Advisory Council and guests at the Sept. 7 meeting.
The newest MAC member, Steve Valentine, explained that he had been sworn in prior to the meeting by Supervisor Dawn Rowe as she wanted him to attend a meeting with the Department of Justice Community Relations Service to address the murder of Lauri Carleton and the proposed Westboro Baptist Church protest.
The purpose of the Community Relations Service, Valentine said, is to reach out to communities in need. Their mission, according to the website, is to serve as “’America’s Peacemaker’ for communities facing conflict based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability.”
They can help, Valentine said, a community learn “how to heal, move forward in a positive fashion, show respect and address the sad thing that happened.”
Valentine noted that a private memorial had already been held for Carleton but a public one will be planned. After that takes place – and the family has some time to heal – the Community Relations Service (CRS) would like to hold a meeting with the chamber of commerce, the LGBTQ+ Alliance, faith groups and other community leaders.
“We want the community partners, the pillars of the community, to have a say-so in what happens moving forward,” Valentine said. “We have the resources of the sheriff’s department and the Department of Justice.”
Supervisor Rowe also asked Valentine to attend a meeting with Sheriff Shannon Dicus, which took place on Aug. 31. “He addressed the hate crime and the murder,” Valentine said, adding that other members of law enforcement, politicians and activists were at the meeting.
“I felt very buoyed by the assets the sheriff shared they are putting into action,” Valentine said. Their mission, he said, “is to show concern for and protect all humanity.”
Lt. Mauricio Hurtado, newly arrived at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station, echoed that sentiment: The Westboro Baptist Church, he said, “is very much a hate group. The things they say and do are vile but the First Amendment applies whether you like what they say or not. Our job is to guarantee the safety and security of everyone.”
Lt. Hurtado said the group had made the sheriff’s department aware of their plans and where they wanted to protest on Sept. 16, 17 and 18. “We are taking appropriate measures so that whatever happens stays safe and within the scope of the law,” he said.
Their research, the lieutenant said, shows this group is nonviolent. But, he added, “their message is not kind. We don’t want to give them notoriety.”
And, Lt. Hurtado noted, the protesters cannot impede the flow of traffic or prevent people from going into businesses. “They have the right to protest but they must be safe while doing so. They are very well versed on what they can and cannot do.”
Officer Ubaldo Gonzalez from CHP said they will be there to assist the sheriff if necessary and to keep the roadways clear for travel.
As a final note, Valentine said the advice from the meeting he had with Sheriff Dicus is to not show up at the protests.
In other news shared at the Lake Arrowhead MAC meeting, Joe Barna, assistant chief with San Bernardino County Fire, clarified some information about the fire that took place on Mammoth Drive on Aug. 18. The primary station for that area, Chief Barna said, was on a medical emergency call so there was a delayed response. “The secondary station was the first in, which caused some delay. Traffic coming out of the area also caused a delay.”
Because the fire that erupted in the first house was so hot, it put out a lot of energy, which required a great deal of water. The firefighters were using so much water out of the first hydrant, he said, “that they outran that first hydrant quickly. The second hydrant was working but we were using too much water too fast.” It took 10 or 15 minutes to “grab another hydrant. We had to put down more hose. We didn’t have enough fire flow for the energy coming off the first house.”
Lewis Murray, Supervisor Rowe’s local representative, shared a new short-term rental complaint hotline phone number: (833) SBC-STR1 (722-7871), which the county thinks will be easier for folks to remember.
He also shared that he had gone on a tour of the area of Highway 38 that collapsed in the recent storms. The repairs, he was told by Caltrans, will take three to four months. As for why mountain residents should be concerned, Murray said the closure of Highway 38 will mean more traffic on Highway 330.
Scott Rindenow, who is chairing a MAC subcommittee on the repair and reopening of the closed portion of Highway 173, reported on a meeting the committee had with Caltrans at the beginning of August. The goal, he said, is to “find a way to repair and reopen the closed portion.”
He shared a list of project supporters with the Caltrans representatives and a PowerPoint presentation on why the project is important to the community. It was, he said, a “positive and productive meeting.
“They gave us a lot of great suggestions on how to move forward and they were cautiously optimistic.” Caltrans told the committee that the cost could be as high as $400 million. “That is a minor issue compared to the environmental issues and other obstacles we would have to overcome including new laws that govern roadways in the state.”