Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

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By Sarah Storkin
Observer Staff Writer 

Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich Rolls Eyes at MLK Jr.'s Message on Civility

Mayor continues pattern of censorship under guise of "civility" at City Council meetings

 

January 24, 2022

Rattled after public speakers criticized her favored Housing Commission applicant (an incumbent of ten years), the Mayor admonished the commenters for exercising their freedom of speech during the City Council meeting on January 11, 2022.

"I just want to remind people that it is often enough to support the candidate you want without bashing the ones you don't. That's what civility is. It's unnecessary, it's cruel, and I think it's incredibly not only disrespectful, but just mean stuff." - Mayor Sue Himmelrich

The public immediately pushed back.

"I respectfully disagree with the Mayor about the incivility of criticism when criticism is called for, particularly in someone who was appointed to be a public servant and by nearly all accounts failed to do her job satisfactorily for a decade." – public speaker Michelle Grey

"...Very quickly, regarding Mayor Himmelrich's comment on civility and not criticizing candidates. Number one (please everyone, listen to this), google the term "toxic positivity," and number two, please understand that when the public doesn't feel that someone is qualified to sit on a seat and the City Council has twisted itself in pretzels to try and to keep this person on in lieu of someone new, of course, people are gonna talk about why they don't believe that person is qualified. So, it's very disingenuous and quite disturbing that Mayor Himmelrich would try to create a chilling effect on people not to say anything negative about other candidates. It's not mean. We are not children. We are all adults here. And this is a very important seat. It's an extremely important seat." – public speaker Michael Louis

During the general public comment period, Mr. Louis continued:

"... Earlier I spoke from my heart about the topic of civility that Mayor Himmelrich brought up when she advised the public to censor themselves and never criticize any commission candidates.

Well, this is an excerpt from an article* of 2018 in the New York Times by Thomas J. Sugrue, who is a professor of history and social and cultural analysis, and also an author:

King aimed some of his harshest words toward advocates of civility, whose concerns aligned with the hand-wringing of many of today's politicians and pundits. From his Birmingham jail cell, King wrote: "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'." King knew that whites' insistence on civility usually stymied civil rights.

And then moving to the end of the article:

That history is a reminder that civility is in the eye of the beholder. And when the beholder wants to maintain an unequal status quo, it's easy to accuse picketers, protesters, and preachers alike of incivility, as much because of their message as their methods. For those upset by disruptive protests, the history of civil rights offers an unsettling reminder that the path to change is seldom polite.

Please reflect on that and thank you for staying up late tonight." – Michael Louis

* "White America's Age-Old, Misguided Obsession With Civility," New York Times, June 29, 2018.

Related story: https://www.smobserved.com/story/2022/01/09/opinion/special-interests-fight-dirty-to-maintain-control-over-santa-monica-housing-commission-appointments-agenda/6353.html

 

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