Near the end of the June 5 City Council meeting public comment on the amendments to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, comments were made by a gentleman of color, some of which related to the role of race in the issue.
At the three-minute buzzer Mayor Trish Spencer refused the gentleman’s request to continue with an additional point, explaining that all previous speakers had been held to the same time limit. The speaker continued to speak, resulting in Spencer ordering that his mic be silenced and calling a recess.
In her later comments on the amendments Spencer criticized Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Jim Oddie for supporting the amendments. They had written the ballot argument describing the ordinance as a fair compromise of the interests of both landlords and tenants. Councilmembers Ashcraft and Oddie responded, characterizing Spencer’s comments as personal attacks on them.
However, Oddie went much further, stating that Spencer’s attack was another instance of bad conduct for which she would someday have to answer for. He cited as examples, discriminating against the gentleman of color and against a group of Filipino school children at a previous meeting.
For Oddie to express his ire with the Mayor’s comments about him by fanning flames of racial discord was an irresponsible poisoning of interracial relations in this community.
We all sometimes let anger and the urge to counterpunch overcome our better angels. In the light of day we can mitigate our mistake, and I hope Oddie will do so by publicly apologizing to Spencer and the community for his conduct.