Claim was ‘racist’
To the editor:
The headline of the Review online article June 17, “I was called a racist,” echoes words from the June 14 Bainbridge Island City Council meeting during recommendations for the Race Equity Advisory Committee. While no one called councilmembers racist, the deputy mayor, however, asked the council to consider that their claim to know better than the city attorney about conflict of interest is racist.
The council’s recourse to conflict of interest is racist because it discounts Olivia Hall’s experience, which includes bringing the first black woman to the position of deputy mayor on the council. There was no conflict of interest, as Brenda Fauntleroy-Johnson made clear. For the council to have approved Hall’s recommendation in the same council meeting where the celebration of Juneteenth was proclaimed would have been an ethical act.
The contemporary realities of racism call upon us to examine what we mean by the “fair-minded individual” as we work with others toward race equity while simultaneously constructing an unprecedented code of ethics. It is fair that someone who helped to campaign a black woman to deputy mayor for the first time on the council and whose profession is devoted to improving the lives of those without legal, economic or social standing is abundantly qualified in her interests to advise that government on race equity.
No one likes to be called a racist. All humans have the capacity for racism. We serve ourselves well by asking how our attitudes, actions, behaviors and words carry the weight of racist histories.
To the editor:
I interviewed for the Planning Commission last week, and was asked whether I agreed that single-family zoning began “to separate white families from everyone else” and is a “relic of the past that is no longer justifiable.” Three out of five questions focused on race equity. I wasn’t asked about the environment or climate change.
Our City Council officially opposed House Bill 1782, which would have abolished single-family zoning statewide. Why, then, did the selection panel—Councilmembers Joe Deets, Brenda Fantroy-Johnson and Jon Quitslund; Planning Commissioners Sara Blossom and Ashley Mathews; and Race Equity Advisory Committee member Deanna Martinez—ask me to agree with such a plan? Have they created a commission that will push for that result?
Don’t assume abolishing single-family zoning will create affordable housing. Cities that have abandoned such zoning failed to require affordable units. That is our history. Our most recent “affordable housing” ordinance was limited to a 50% requirement—after the former Planning Commission chair voted against requiring 100% — just before resigning to work with Clark Construction. Another member of the Planning Commission also resigned to work with Clark.
Deets received thousands of dollars from Clark owners and employees when he ran for office last year. Pro-environment opponents of recent high-density development have been called racists to diminish their voices, while some on council and their insiders quietly push to create more density for money—at our expense.
Please pay attention to your government while there’s still a chance to preserve single-family zoning on Bainbridge Island.
To the editor:
I note with great concern and sadness the recent City Council decision to reject the Race Equity Advisory Committee’s nomination of Olivia Hall as a member. The rejection of Hall on the basis of a “potential conflict of interest” smacks of the old days where vagrancy ordinances, dress codes and parade safety rules were all used as excuses to suppress the First Amendment rights of citizens.
Hall was rejected not because she presented a potential conflict under the Ethics Code, but rather because in the past she had participated in a political campaign on behalf of a councilmember. If this exercise of her First Amendment right to participate in the political process were to become a reason to reject her participation in future volunteer city activities, anyone who took part in any political campaign could be barred from further community service. That is both an absurd and dangerous result.
When public officials misuse duly adopted laws to achieve an impermissible result, trust in our government is inevitably eroded. In rejecting Hall’s nomination, the council has used the language of ethics to make a decision based on personal animus and in violation of her First Amendment rights. The council should reconsider this decision and affirm her as a member of the Race Equity Advisory Committee.
Shame on council
To the editor:
I am ashamed of the Bainbridge City Council on several fronts after its recent meeting.
The council’s dismissive questioning of Racial Equity Advisory Committee members’ suggestions for the Planning Committee (and in ways demeaning to the REAC members) is a clear example of their unwillingness to allow REAC any real say or influence.
Going against REAC members’ approval for Olivia Hall’s application to join REAC is an even more egregious example: Hall is a respected community member and equity activist with demonstrated skills and background that make her well-suited to serve on REAC.
The council members who claimed there was a conflict of interest and/or ethics issue because Hall had served as Brenda Fantroy-Johnson’s campaign manager completely ignored the fact (affirmed by Fantroy-Johnson) that both the city attorney and city manager had determined that there is no issue of ethics or of conflict of interest should Hall be allowed to serve.
The ugly, disrespectful treatment dealt out in both situations created harm and amount to public shaming. Shame in return on the attacking councilmembers and those who remained silent. How long will we sit back while our council bullies women of color?
To contact Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray regarding the Salmon River dams go to https://bit.ly.ly/3voL1o1. The site listed in a letter recently was incorrect.