Mercury Public Affairs is a D.C.-based lobbying firm managed by conservatives. The City Council responded to the negative public reaction by postponing a decision on the plan, pending more discussion. Nevertheless, hiring Mercury is still very much a possibility.
Let's take a look at the Mercury team. A team leader could be Mercury partner Vin Weber, a former Minnesota Republican congressman and a person of interest in the FBI's Russia investigation. Robert Mueller's grand jury is looking into Mr. Weber's communication with pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and how that might tie into Trump's relationship with Russia.
The firm proposed Mercury Managing Director Bryan Lanza to work with the city. Mr. Lanza, deputy communications director for the Trump-Pence campaign and director of communications for Trump's transition into office, was also the communications director of Citizens United, a right-wing nonprofit that was the successful plaintiff in the 2010 Supreme Court case that gave advantages to moneyed interests in campaigns.
Through Twitter, Mr. Lanza bashes Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton, and retweets President Trump. Following the Nov. 5 Texas church massacre, Mr. Lanza posted a video of Ms. Clinton, dismissing her opinion on gun laws and her presence in the national conversation. He avidly supports the president's notions of "fake news," opposes NFL anthem protests, and defends repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act.
In contrast, Menlo Park, along with Redwood City and San Francisco, is a sanctuary city. City officials, including police, are not to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in their investigations into the immigration status of residents.
Mr. Lanza is against nearly everything the Menlo-Atherton High School community stands for. Our community came together at the sit-in DACA protest, where M-A Dreamers struggled through tears to tell of their hopes, dreams, and fears following repeal. Our football team recently "took a knee" during the anthem at the Sacred Heart Preparatory game. Last November, 1,000 M-A students walked out to protest Trump's election, waving Mexican flags and posters reading "#SiSePuede" ("Yes We Can"), "My Body My Choice," and "Brown and Proud."
From my experience at M-A, I submit that our student body and staff unite against hate and collectively support the minority voices that the Trump administration is trying to silence.
Do we want to align our city with the Trump administration? On one hand, D.C. is dominated by Republicans. Conservative lobbyists will be more effective in making connections — arranging meetings, phone calls, and access of every kind.
However, hiring Mercury does not sit right with much of the Menlo Park community. Residents writing on the City Council email feed and Nextdoor sharply criticized the plan. One resident wrote that she would rather "sit in traffic for the next 8 years than sell [her] soul to the man who has divided this country." Alternatively, some residents offered a utilitarian perspective, focused on securing funding, regardless of Mercury's political bent.
To me, and to many other residents, hiring Trump supporters to represent us undermines our city's values. Our neighborhoods and surrounding cities are home to undocumented citizens, and members of the LGBTQ+ and other minority communities. What will it say about our city if we hire people who advocate against these people's rights?
Councilwoman Keith says that this topic may be reassessed in January, during the council's 2018 goal-setting process. When the matter does return to the City Council for discussion, public opinions will be important.
Let the council hear your opinion — email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beatrix Geaghan-Breiner is a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School, and a writer for the M-A Chronicle.
This story contains 744 words.
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