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Aligning with Trump? City of Menlo Park looks to hire Trump-affiliated lobbyist

Recently, the traffic in Menlo Park has reached a new high, inciting frustrated residents to ask the city council to take action as soon as possible. The city staff plans to start public infrastructure projects to ease the traffic, but these projects are expensive and require funding that the city does not have on its own. The project highest on their list is the construction of the Dumbarton Corridor, a passage that would connect drivers between the Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties, easing traffic. California issues are low on President Donald Trump’s priorities, so it is unlikely that Menlo Park will get the necessary federal funding without an insider connection.

According to Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith, one of the major goals for the city this year is to hire a lobbying firm to represent Menlo Park in Washington D.C. and try to gain federal funding for infrastructure projects. However, when the city council announced that they were looking to hire Mercury Public Affairs, a D.C.-based lobbying firm managed by conservatives, they received over 70 emails from Menlo Park residents who objected to these plans. The city council has announced that they have postponed plans to hire and are looking to engage in more discussion about whether to proceed. Nevertheless, the plan to hire Mercury Public Affairs is still very much a possibility.

The Mercury proposal named Vin Weber as one of the leaders in lobbying for Menlo Park. Weber is a former Republican congressman from Minnesota. He is currently a person of interest in the Russia investigation; Robert Mueller’s grand jury is looking into Weber’s communication with pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and how that might tie into Trump’s relationship with Russia.

The head of the lobbying project would be Bryan Lanza, the deputy communications director for the Trump-Pence campaign, and the director of communications for Trump’s transition into office. Lanza was also the communications director of Citizens United, a right-wing nonprofit. Citizens United was involved in the 2010 Supreme Court Decision which declared that there should be no limit on campaign spending, giving advantages to moneyed interests.

Lanza is public about his firm support of Trump, and his dislike of Hillary Clinton and other Democratic politicians.

Following the November 5 Texas massacre, Lanza posted a video of Clinton talking about gun legislation, completely turning down her ideas and her presence in the national conversation.

Lanza’s Twitter is full of Trump tweets, through which Lanza shows his avid support for Trump’s notions of “fake news,” opposition to the NFL anthem protests, and support for the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act.

Menlo Park, along with Redwood City and San Francisco, are sanctuary cities, which means that all city officials, including police, are not to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in their investigations into the immigration status of residents.

Lanza is against nearly everything the M-A community stands for. Our school’s football team recently took a knee during the national anthem at its game versus Sacred Heart Preparatory. Our community came together at the sit-in DACA protest, where Dreamers who attend M-A struggled through tears to tell their hopes, dreams, and fears following the DACA repeal. Almost exactly a year ago, 1,000 M-A students walked out to protest Trump’s election, waving the Mexican flag and posters that said, “#SíSePuede” (“Yes We Can”), “My Body My Choice,” and “Brown and Proud.”

From my experience at M-A, I can say with confidence that our student body and staff unite against all hate and collectively support the minority voices that Trump and his administration are trying to push out.

Do we want to align our city with the Trump Administration?

On one hand, Washington D.C. is dominated by Trump’s supporters and the Republican wing. If we want to get federal funding for public infrastructure, hiring conservative lobbyists will be more effective in terms of making connections, getting meetings and phone calls, and gaining access of every kind.

However, the principle of hiring a lobbying firm headed by Lanza does not sit right with the Menlo Park community. On the Nextdoor neighborhood social media platform, residents of Menlo Park spoke up about their views on this controversial plan. Their opinions are below.

The difference in opinion on this issue really comes down to whether one looks at this problem from a utilitarian or moral perspective. If the means to the end do not matter, and what does matter is what we gain from Mercury Public Affairs, then hiring them may make Menlo Park better off than it is now.

But to me, and to many other Menlo Park residents, hiring Trump supporters to represent us would undermine our city’s values. Our neighborhoods and surrounding cities are home to undocumented citizens, women, LGBT+, and other minorities. What will it say about our city if we hire people who advocate against these people’s rights?

Mayor Kirsten Keith says that hopefully, the city council will be talking about hiring a lobbyist firm in January.

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