BrattonNote… instead of running Chris Krohn’s weekly Majority Report I asked him if we could re-“print” a letter that originally ran in the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s editorial page. He agreed. This letter is signed by some of the most active women in our community and gives a very deserving and needed approach all the recent fuss and furor over Mayor Watkins and the agenda choice.
“We respectfully disagree with a recent opinion piece regarding Santa Cruz City Council decorum. As women who have worked most of our lives, we are very sympathetic to the challenges women face in a sexist culture. As women, however, we are not exempt from the standards we enforce. We need to stay mindful of our responsibility to accuracy, inclusion and public process.
The Santa Cruz mayor and city council are no exception. We have a well-educated, firm woman serving as mayor at present, Martine Watkins. We are fortunate that our City Council, including all of the three men: Drew Glover, Chris Krohn and Justin Cummings, are unusually supportive of and sympathetic to women, as well as to people of other oppressed genders living in our sexist culture. We are aware of the personal journeys each has taken to be effective in that struggle. That is why we are saddened by the mayor’s actions this past month. On Feb. 5, Mayor Watkins declined to agendize items that council members Glover, Krohn and Brown had prepared together and forwarded to her several days before the regularly scheduled “agenda review” session. She did not communicate with her colleagues personally to discuss her decision. The item addressed the topic of how to help move levee encampment residents, an urgent problem. The decision was the mayor’s to make and her responsibility. Declining her colleagues’ request, however, was unnecessary. None of us supports using the role of meeting facilitator as a means to prevent colleagues from bringing forward new ideas. Especially when three elected colleagues, the most allowable under public meeting laws, endorse the ideas.
On Feb. 8, as part of an article on homelessness, Councilman Glover wrote about his feelings of being sidelined in this way, ending his article with the following: “I can understand what the mayor may be trying to do and I think she is a good person, but needless to say, I am disappointed,” communicating sadness mixed with conciliation. Unfortunately, Mayor Watkins responded by delivering a now-infamous, public tongue lashing from her seat at the center of the dais on Feb. 12, taking her colleagues and the large public audience by surprise, and giving the objects of her accusations no details and no opportunity to respond. Sexism is a serious problem in our culture, but using unsubstantiated attacks to tar your colleagues does nothing to improve the situation at best and at worst, weakens the entire movement to dismantle sexism.
We are disappointed with Mayor Watkins and her supporters. Mayors serve as facilitators, and hopefully leaders, of the council. Mayor Watkins received the support of Krohn and Glover. The ad hominem attack included a group opinion piece alluding to nonspecific sexism and poor decorum attributed to members Krohn and Glover. Choosing sides, as the opinion-piece promotes, feeds the flames of division on the council and promotes the very divisiveness that the women who signed the opinion piece objected to. The comments seem a frustration that the centrist leadership has shifted and she is now serving on a council with a more progressive council majority. The resulting attack to the integrity of councilmembers Glover and Krohn seem exactly the personal attacks that the mayor discourages at council meeting public comment.
We are confident that the mayor and all council members have the capability to resolve any misunderstandings and differences for the good of the community on their own time. We also hope that all council members maintain the ability to address issues with each other in person rather than from the dais. We wish Martine Watkins, Chris Krohn and Drew Glover success in their leadership roles. This is a dynamic time for the city of Santa Cruz with a high-level community engagement which many communities would envy.
Signed by, Mathilde Rand, Randa Solick, Susan Martinez, Ernestina Saldana, Denise Elerick, Alesa Byers, Sara Ringler, Barbara Riverwoman, Abbi Samuels, Isabelle Scott, and Kaitlin Gaffney. (Previously published in the editorial section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.)