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Hostility between the city commissioners and the public ignites into major disruptions

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / JULY 21, 2019

Near the beginning of the afternoon session of the July 18 City Commission meeting, a large number of citizens spoke about the perceived attitude of the commission toward citizens who participate in public comment. If you want to watch any of the hour and fifteen minutes of citizen and commissioner comment, you can view it here. We will be quoting most of what was said; we left out a few people who spoke about issues other than the hostility that has become prevalent in city commission meetings. It’s long (particularly the comments of the commissioners), but we encourage you to read all of it.

First in line was Debbie Martinez, who encouraged the commission to cut the budget instead of raising GRU rates, property taxes, and fire assessment fees. 

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Tana Silva was next: “I was shocked, frankly, to hear the remarks coming from the dais after the BOOST presentation… To hear from commissioners that citizens who raise objections and who ask questions of you, our representatives who hold the purse strings, are not welcome here, that more people like the BOOST people need to come forward and come to the meetings and support what you are trying to do. We are all trying to support what we all think is the right thing to do. But we can’t do it if, as we experienced during Gainesville RISE, if you are fighting us, if you are an echo chamber, and if our remarks that are trying to bring up concerns that are sincere about the direction our city is going are not welcome here, then we are in bigger trouble than it appears.”

At this point, multiple people in the audience applauded—judging by the audio, it was about half the audience and certainly not just one person.

Mayor Poe spoke directly to Jo Beaty, “Ms. Beaty, that is your second warning [her first was for trying to finish her comments earlier after running out of time]. I warned you earlier this afternoon, that is your second warning; the next time it will be expulsion from the chamber. Anybody else that claps, we do not allow outbursts, we do not allow cheers or jeers in this chamber. I am enforcing the adopted commission rules.”

Tamara Robbins was next: “I did watch some of the meeting earlier and honestly, why are you guys so angry at people who come here? They are volunteering their time. You either sneer at them or scowl. And if somebody comes up and says something you like, then the audience gets to cheer for that situation, but otherwise people are scolded like they are 8-year-olds. I mean, I just don’t get it. [At the beginning of the meeting, multiple people asked for items to be removed from the consent agenda, but the commission did not make a motion to do so.] The consent agenda: You put all these things on the consent agenda that are not routine. They are items that deserve to be heard out. I appreciate that some of you are smiling, this is very nice… It’s that there are many items on the consent agenda that should be discussed in the open, and when the public requests that an item be pulled off, I believe it’s your due diligence to do that. Because to not do it is contemptuous, it’s mean, and it’s just not in the spirit of a good public servant. So you don’t like to do it. I mean, across the street [at the county commission], they’ll ask, Chair Chestnut will ask, is there any citizen have anything that you want pulled off the consent agenda? You guys will not even do it for one of your colleagues, which your rules state. And so do Robert’s Rules of Order state, that if a fellow commissioner requests an item be pulled from consent, it is done. And you guys won’t do it. What is it? And I think you really need to think about that and explain to the people in this community why you are so contemptuous. Because people come down here. You think I don’t wish I was somewhere else? But you know what, you just can’t help it because you guys have such a bad attitude… So I’m hoping when I hold this up [holds up smiling clown mask that was handed out during the previous proclamation], when I’m done, everybody is going to get to clap for this clown just like they clapped for you and the other clowns that were here. Okay? So thank you very much for your time.”

Again, multiple people applauded. Mayor Poe said, “Madam Manager? That was Ms. Beaty’s third. She needs to leave for the rest of the meeting.”

Many people shouted, “No!” and there was general disruption in the room.

Mayor Poe said, “That is the third time.”

Lee Malis, who had been sitting in the audience, said, “What, is this some sort of dictatorship? I’ll leave for her. You guys make me sick.” He stood up and left.

Again, there were multiple outbursts. Mayor Poe warned a woman that it was her second warning. A GPD officer escorted Jo Beaty out. A voice from the audience said, “This is a sham.” There were more outbursts. Poe continued to insist that he was enforcing the rules of the commission.

Mark Goldstein stood up to comment and started by asking and receiving a clarification of the rules. “Well, I’m not comfortable about it. Having served with, well, I’m not comfortable about it, having served with commissions before you, about what’s happening here. There’s five of you, I guess, here voting tonight [several of the commissioners had left the room]. I would hope three of the five undermine or suspend those rules so that you don’t create a condition in the city, that the public is alerted that their building and their place is not theirs. That’s a feeling one gets. I would ask that three of you, not vanity votes to look good, but real votes, speak against this. Make a motion and ask the people to come back. The more people talk to you, the better. Not the words, but the more they tell you what’s on their mind, the better. You don’t want to shut them up. I understand there’s a great deal of distress about the cost of government and the problems at the utility. But the object here is to encourage them to bring those thoughts down here, bring the concerns, because y’all don’t get to hear them every day of their lives, but they live here every day of their lives. There’s a lot of concerns. So if there’s three of you who would vote, like I said, not a cosmetic vote, to look good because you are running for office, but a real vote, shut this thing down, change the rule for tonight, ask the people to come back in. This is their place. And they need to be here, and it’s just one of the problems, as you’ve pointed out, Mayor, and others, one of the problems and pains of government… I would ask somebody to make a motion and ask them to come back.”

Mayor Poe replied, “It’s outbursts and cheers and jeers. Those are what’s against the rules.”

Goldstein responded, “We’ve all lived through that. There’s no harm in that. Sticks and stones… I understand you’ve got rules. I also understand that if you inflict them in a way—look. None of you were voted in by a majority of the public… you need to listen to the rest of them, who maybe have a voice that you want to hear, because it won’t always be the political science department of the University of Florida sending people to support you.”

Brian O’Brien came up to the podium next, “I’m again shocked at the behavior, Mr. Mayor, that you displayed from behind the dais. It started out tonight as such a joyous occasion to have the park service get an award and like Mr. Goldstein just said, there are so many things that can bring us together in this city. It is a wonderful place to live. You have extraordinary natural beauty and resources, and there’s really no reason for you to continue bullying people from the dais. At the last meeting that I attended and spoke on 6-20-19, people can now look it up in your foyer, thank you for putting in the giant TV, all I wanted was a paper copy of things like the audit so I can see what’s going on in the city. Why is this money being kited around like you’re doing? And why haven’t you delivered your CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) report to the auditor general? It’s unnecessary to have such a contentious environment. I would like to know now, am I going to be able to speak again later, with this change of rules you are attempting?”

Poe: “Of course. You can speak on any item on our agenda, as any citizen can.”

O’Brien: “How about public comment at the end of this meeting?”

Poe: “No, according to our rules, the evening, at the end of the meeting is reserved for people who were not able to speak at one of the first two public comments.”

O’Brien: “So once again, you are trying to subvert my first amendment rights.”

Poe: “No, I’m not, it is the city commission rules. I’m simply…”

O’Brien: “Sir, we’re asking you to change that right now.”

Poe: “On August 8th, we’re going to be having a discussion about our rules. We encourage you to take part in that conversation.”

O’Brien: “I object to my first amendment rights being limited by your whims. I would really ask you, as Mr. Goldstein asked for, to back off of your temperamental tyrannical behavior and allow us to comment, allow us to speak. Allow us to see the audit. What are you hiding, Mr. Mayor?”

Sharon Bauer was next: “On Monday, citizens expressed surprise on learning that the CRA districts are not going to be just consolidated, which people knew about, but actually eliminated. And Commissioner Hayes-Santos said, ‘We’ve been discussing it for months’— among yourselves, not with us constituents, not us affected district residents, us neighborhood groups. Not one email about this was sent out to the city’s list of registered neighborhood groups that was recently updated and is now 100, up from 40 last year, when you didn’t send a single email to affected residents about your plans to eliminate single-family zoning. But your staff had dozens of meetings with businesses about that. Pursuant to Chapter 119 Florida Statutes, I’d like to request any records regarding any meetings that your staff have had with business groups or business owners regarding the CRA dissolution. You have made it very clear, the commission majority has made it very clear, that you don’t want input from neighborhood groups or from anyone else. In the last year, I have heard Mayor Poe, Commissioner Ward, and Commissioner Arreola all say, ‘Go ahead and comment. It doesn’t make any difference. I’m going to vote for this anyway because I know it’s the right thing to do’… and we have links to the video on our Save Gainesville Facebook page. In October, Commissioner Johnson made a very moving speech that, among other things, cited examples of a lack of citizen engagement. And your response was to hire more staff, more high-paid staff, with titles like Civic Collaboration Specialist and Citizen Engagement Specialist, who don’t collaborate with or engage us. At our meeting on Sunday, I said that we have three primary means of communicating with the commission: We can send emails that you ignore. We can have private meetings with you, where you make promises you don’t keep. Or we can come here and make a three-minute televised comment.”

Darlene Pifalo followed: “I haven’t been here for a while and I’m here just to — I sent you all an email. I know some of you haven’t read it. The main thing I want to talk about is the utilities that’s going up. It hurts a lot of people, businesses especially. Probably more businesses will be leaving because of the utilities rates that are going up, the real estate taxes that are going up, and also the fire assessment. If that doesn’t say you are spending too much money, I don’t know what does. You are spending too much money … you just need to stop your spending and look at your budget really, really hard.. I would like to say also that I watch the county commissions all the time, and they are very civil with their people that talk to them. They give them a few more minutes, they don’t interrupt them in between sentences and things like that, that you do, Mayor, all the time. It’s a shame. I feel sorry for the citizens that spend their time to talk to you. And it should be five minutes. It probably should be as long as you take to talk that we could talk, also. And that would be really good. But just stop being so nasty to the people and be more respectful to the people. We are trying to be respectful for you. But what goes around usually comes around. And what we see with your faces and your attitudes, it’s sad. It saddens me. I have been here 25 years in front of the commission talking to all the commissioners. And they have all been very, very, very nice. Sometimes you scream and holler because you feel guilty. And I understand that. But you need to stop spending money. It’s easy to spend money and then you go bankrupt because you spent too much money. And that’s what this city is going to do. It’s going to go bankrupt because you are spending too much money. And with the solar going in and all this other stuff, GRU is going to get less money. And guess what? If you get less money, you’re going to raise our rates again. You’ve done it three times. I remember a year and a half ago you were saying no rates are going up because we are buying the biomass plant. No rates are going up. And the last thing I’d like to say, Mr. Mayor, is that I wish you would resign your position. Thank you.”

The audience again applauded, and Poe said, “Ma’am in the purple, that’s your fourth. I’m sorry. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” [We believe that was Wendy Noon and that she left.]

Heath Silberfeld then came up to the podium: “I’ve been a resident of Gainesville for going on 20 years. I haven’t had occasion to come to these meetings very often. And I haven’t been here in a number of years. But I have been reading a lot lately about some of the decisions that you have been making, and things related to GRU, and things related to the budget. And so here I am trying to see what’s what and to hear what you have to say about things and maybe to voice some objections… I am appalled, however, of what just transpired in here. And coming on the heels of hearing people say that county commission meetings are calm and respectful, I’m seriously—I’m doubly appalled at the fact that people who have come here because they are concerned about the health and wellbeing of Gainesville and its residents were told to leave because they clapped. I think you have an opportunity—I guess it’s you, Mr. Mayor, especially—you have an opportunity right this minute to turn the tables. To open your heart and open your mind and invite those women and whoever else you kicked out while I was outside, invite them back in. Don’t be terrified of people clapping or voicing their opinion if it differs with yours. Maybe some people can be annoying at times. You are the mayor. You’re the commissioners. You should be big enough to be able to handle that without making people leave a room and having a rule that if you clap more than twice you’re going to be asked to leave. That’s pretty much what I wanted to say, other than I’m watching. Thank you.”

Nathan Skop then made some comments about a public records request that has not been fulfilled and asked questions about whether the broadband consultant was authorized to do business in Florida, then continued: “I also want to speak about what just happened because, again, I believe what happened was illegal. You [Mayor Poe] directed the police officer to remove, not the… Interim City Manager. Okay. Under the charter, no commissioner or mayor can direct a city employee to do anything. It has to be the commission. That’s not what happened here. I think it’s an illegal act, and it’s funny because show me — here’s a dollar right here. Prove me wrong and it’s all yours. Show me in your rules where it says you can cheer and jeer for proclamations. You won’t find it. It’s funny how you’re hypocrites because when Susan Bottcher comes here on a regular agenda item and gives the city money, you guys were clapping. That’s a violation of your own rules. So again, it’s funny how, you know, you guys are not being fair to the citizens. And we understand this… Yet you’re willing to kick the public out of a public meeting. This is our house. You are elected to serve us. And I think you should be recalled. Thank you.”

Jason Davis was next: “It is a shame about what just happened. And I think I’m just gonna tell you, you just are really a disgrace to the city of Gainesville, to even be a mayor. Many people have spoken… Every last one of you is a disgrace to the city of Gainesville. Every time I read the paper, I’ve got to read something about some city official or something that’s going on with the mayor of Gainesville. And enjoying himself in Hawaii. That’s our money you are spending. And you think we don’t have a right to come up in here and say anything to none of y’all about what y’all are doing.”

Faye Williams came up to the podium: “I’m also just totally frustrated because people are looking at TV. And you are representing everybody up on the dais, Mayor. You are representing all the city commissioners. I was born on the same day as Martin Luther King. Not the same year, but the same day, January 15th. And I hope that I have his spirit. And one of the things that I learned about from Martin Luther King was that sometimes they don’t hear you, so you have to do other things, like do a sit-in. And that’s what I’m going to do right here, for the rest of my time. A sit-in.”

Williams then sat on the floor between the podium and the dais. 

Poe gestured to the next speaker: “Mr. Martinez?”

Williams spoke up: “I’m [inaudible] until my time is up. I want you to think about why I’m sitting on this floor. I have 2 more minutes left. Do not speak until I get up… Think about what you did. Think about what it looks like for our citizens who came here to speak… What’s next? We’re not able to come here and speak? What’s next?… You may not be feeling any shame, but it’s really an embarrassment to me. It’s an embarrassment… People come here to speak, and you want to throw them out for clapping… This is our city commission. This belongs to the people.”

Williams then announced that she would remain on the floor: “I’m having a sit-in.”

Ernesto Martinez followed Williams at the podium: “I had to come to this lectern and stand with my fellow citizens and voice my concern and my displeasure with what is happening here tonight. I’ve been here many times, and I have predicted this. And now you are proving it, and you continue to prove it. And this is not all on you, Mr. Poe. It is on all seven of you up there. Not a single one of you even blinked when the mayor ordered these ladies removed from this chamber. Does that mean that you stand in approval? I think it does. And you, Mr. Mayor, have in the past displayed racist behavior, blatantly referring to yourself as a gringo. And I think most people in this audience know what that word means. I certainly do. But I’m going to leave you with a few thoughts for my fellow residents of color in this community that have been unjustly punished by your GRU rate hikes, raising the taxes, fire assessment fees, increasing your budgets, every last one of you wouldn’t even dream of cutting one nickel. If your house is on fire, would you take a bucket of gasoline and throw on it? That’s what you are doing. Seems like one of y’all would take a bucket of water.”

Donald Shepherd: “I’m a citizen now, intending to run for the mayorship. And I stand by what is happening here today. It is disgusting… I’m sorry for things that have gone on. These people—when I came here in ’97, these are the people who are giving you advice. These people that were removed, these people in this room, they’re the ones that give us the advice… I’d like to see also where it says in the law books where it’s a law that you can take and have people removed from your court, your commission here… this is an insult to every police officer, every human that walks and lives because God made every one of us. And for us to be treated this way, you treat God this way. And how are you going to face your pastor when you go into church this Sunday? This is not going to be acceptable actions by him. And I’ve been to your church. You have a very lovely church. They have young girls from Girl Scouts who talk very highly of you. I invite these girls to come to these meetings and their parents come to these meetings and hear what kind of actions and how they happen at this city commission.”

After the last citizen had spoken, Mayor Poe said he had some comments: “The last thing I want to do ever is ask a person to leave these chambers. The city commission has a set of adopted rules. And they are incredibly brief and simple: no cheering, no jeering, no outbursts. Those are the rules. That’s it. That’s it. That’s all we have. And that’s the simple set of rules that we ask everybody to abide by. And there’s a reason for those rules. They are so we create an environment of civil discourse so that everybody, no matter their opinion, their level of education, their age, whether they are a first-time visitor or come here every single time, are on an equal footing and feel equally welcomed to share their opinion without threat of being clapped down or shouted down or jeered down or cheered down. It’s what allows for a civil discourse. Otherwise, we have a tyranny of the majority. Otherwise we silence the minority viewpoint through intimidation. And it has been proven over and over and over throughout history. At which time this city commission votes to change our rules to allow for cheers and jeers, to allow for booing or clapping or outbursts, those will be the rules I enforce. It is simply the job of the chair to enforce the adopted rules of the commission. We will be having a discussion about those rules on August 8th. The public is welcome to attend. We would love to hear your input as we do for every meeting. But until that point, I am going to enforce the same rules that my predecessors and predecessors before them were asked to enforce. And hopefully, we can all agree that in doing so, we will allow for an open and energetic dialogue with one another.”

Commissioner Helen Warren spoke next: “Put the timer on for me? I’m going to try for three [minutes]. I’m not held to that, but I just want to say first off, in five years that I have been here, I have never been so embarrassed by the public show, of the comments that have been what we talk about on the national stage, watching a lot of the politics that happened up in D.C. this week, and this whole current presidency is you elect a clown and you get a circus. I have never been so embarrassed with the amount of behavior that we’ve had growing, boiling in this room. We want to invite people to come in, but if we don’t agree, we get criticized, and I’ve got to say that there are issues that I have to vote for that my wife doesn’t support, but if I don’t agree with everybody in this room, it is very difficult to deal with some of the comments that we get and that we are forced to listen to and if you want to say that we look somber and depressed, there are studies that show that when you are being bullied and talked to in tones that we hear, and if you look at some of the meetings that we sit through and I look at my colleagues and every one of them looks like they just lost their firstborn. But if you listen to the tone of voice that… there’s a small group of people who come here, and they’ll gladly parade themselves out, with or without a smile face. They’re glad to be theatrical. They’re doing it right over here on the side now. They’re entitled to their voice, but we’re entitled to disagree when we vote… I’m angry. You won’t hear me raise my voice like this on a regular basis, but I am angry and annoyed that we don’t have more people show up that say right now, this government is trying to do some things, the commissioners that we have on are trying to do some things that have been disregarded for decades to try to make this city a better community on many, many levels, and it was wonderful to hear the program we had earlier this afternoon about BOOST. Did I go through one three minutes already? Okay, I promise to be less than six. I’m one of six, so I speak on tangents. Kali Blount, I appreciate every time you show up. You speak with information, you identify problems, and you see that there are solutions. We are people who show up, who will talk about problems, and even when we’re working on solutions, they will pull the rug out on anything that could be one of the best things that we ever do. I’ll sit and I will meet with anybody for days if we’re going to talk about solving problems. But I don’t have five minutes if you’re just going to throw the poop bag at it. If you’re not going to make something better, I don’t have time. I have two jobs. And I’m putting all kinds of time in on housing issues right now because we need it, and we gotta have some conversations. You’ll hear me say many times, what we have is a failure to communicate. I’m working on communicating as well as I can right now. If you want to help solve problems, we’ve got a lot of organizations and committees and things that need to be done. If we only have 12% of our population voting, then get those other people out there and get them to vote. I’m becoming more and more of a libertarian because I’m wanting to take the pledge that it’s up to every one of you make our roads safer. It’s up to every one of those landlords out there to make sure there’s housing for everybody. It’s up to every one of you to make sure that you’re not fighting with your children and your wives and dismembering them, which happened this week in a very grotesque way. Where are we as people, and where are we as a country that we’re not recognizing the American politics, what created this country 200+ years ago isn’t a done deal? Every one of us is supposed to be voting in every election once you’re eligible to vote. Every one of you should be teaching your children how to take care of their homes so that they don’t have to have it evicted because they don’t know how to pay their bills. Every one of you should be making sure everyone in this city knows how to read. 7 minutes and 3 seconds, but don’t go blaming your commission for not solving every problem if you aren’t helping to fix it.”

Commissioner Harvey Ward spoke next: “I want to say some things before we recess. I think it’s time. I see the smirks on a few people who always have smirks when you come. And I’m probably guilty of smirking back occasionally, and that’s not right on my part, it’s not right on your part. We all share responsibility for government, every one of us. Even the people who walk in and call people traitors, we all share the responsibility. Folks don’t call you when they’re scared to come to city hall because the same people who come to the microphone every time have followed them to their cars and yelled at them. They call me and tell me, ‘Harvey, I’m not coming back.’ They did. I call people up and say, hey, you’re doing some really cool work in our community, why don’t you come talk about it. And they laugh. Why would I want to do that? I’ve seen how people get treated down there. This is not — let me tell you about my summer vacation briefly. My family and I took an old driving trip. We spent some time in Charlottesville, Virginia, some time in Jamestown, some time in Williamsburg, and I got really inspired. I was into it. I spent some time at Monticello and went on the tours, the free tours that they give you there, and spent time learning about Jefferson, the visionary, the great man, and Jefferson the slave holder, and the dichotomy in that and learning about people’s lives there, and the things that people sweated and bled and DIED for so that people could come stand at the mic and commit political theater. Yeah, let her know. Yeah, let her know I’m committing political theater. I’m just fed up, I’m disgusted. That’s the people’s mic. There are people who won’t come use it because they’re scared of some of the people who come to every meeting and talk nine, ten, twelve times at three

minutes apiece, and then follow them to their cars and holler at them. There’s nothing we can do about that. If you’re going to take over and do your best to make a mockery of things, then you will, and other people will try to do their best, and some people will do something else. Some people will go home and watch a sitcom instead, instead of participating in their government. I used to be amused when my predecessor would get really angry and get all red in the face, but I totally get it now. I totally get it. You get to a point where you really just don’t understand how to move forward with this stuff. It doesn’t matter whether we’re doing good work in this city or whether we’re doing bad work in this city, folks are still going to come, the same folks, not a broad array of folks. But the same folks are gonna come and talk as if we’re burning flags

in here, every meeting. You forget about it when you’re gone for a little bit. I invite people who are new to go back and watch some of the video. You will see the same comments over and over and over and over and over. It’s just weird at some point. And shocked, I know, people in the room are just shocked. Come on, same thing over and over and over. Over and over and over. If you try to go to a legislative committee to make public comment, as I have, as many of you probably have as well, you don’t get to do that. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get warnings. You get escorted out, right away. I don’t think we should do that. I don’t think that should be a thing that happens here, but I think that it goes both ways. I think it goes both ways. I think you’ve gotta police yourselves. Before you walk up to the people’s mic, you gotta say, am I doing the people’s work, or am I talking so that I can go get a video clip and show all of my friends?Am I keeping the people’s work from being done because I need to hear myself talk? That’s a question—thank you so much, I appreciate your comments, sir. I invite some news directors to

come spend some time in the chamber. I would invite the Gainesville Sun editorial board to come sit here. Don’t watch it on video, it’s not the same thing. Come down here and sit through this. This is different than it is on video. Don’t tell me it’s not personal. It is personal. It’s absolutely personal because you sit out there and you call us all kinds of names, and you say we’re committing crimes that you have no proof of, you haven’t even thought about that because you know we’re not committing crimes, but you want to say it because it makes you feel good and makes us look bad, right? Why on earth would somebody want to run for this office? I’m trying to figure out why I did, why I would want to do it again. I’m not sure. And I’m not going to resign, ma’am, and yeah, I can hear you all the way across the room. Because I said I would do the job, so I’m going to do the job, and I’m gonna keep doing it. I’ll be done in a second, because

we have a whole lot of work to do tonight and I’m sorry for eating up everybody’s time. Some of you are actually here to get business done this evening, and I apologize for responding, but you know, at some point, you’ve got to return serve. So I’m going to go get a drink of water, clear my head, and hope that we can actually do real business the rest of the evening, but I know there are going to be public comments through all of the items tonight that will make fun of my comments. I’m not looking forward to it. I would say I hope my kids won’t watch, but my wife has already put the kibosh on that, we don’t watch this at my house any more because I don’t want my kids to see this stuff. And we’ve talked about that before. You don’t see any children sitting in this room. Teachers don’t bring their class to this. I hope I’ve given you some good things to pull out for videos that you can share around the internet, and maybe some of you I’ve given you some things to think about.”

Commissioner David Arreola spoke last: “Well, it has been a bit of an evening and I—it doesn’t feel good, but I think I know the way forward and when I say we, I don’t mean that I have the answer, I mean the answer is with everybody here because let’s take a step back and answer the question why are we here. Why does the city government exist in the first place? To take care of people, we’re here to do people’s business and when you’re doing that, there’s always going to be disagreement. The disagreement is not going to change. People are always going to disagree on how you try and conduct government. Where we have to get better in this chamber is with our tones. I’m not going to cast blame because the real culprit is not a single person. It’s the fact that fear and anger and all kinds of negative emotions get rooted sometimes in the mood of the chamber, on both sides of the dais, and I think that we need to find in our hearts, the only thing—we spoke—earlier there was a reference to Martin Luther King Jr., only love can cast that out. So each one of us needs to find that love in our heart and bring it out when we come to these meetings. That’s the only way it’s going to change because we’re still going to disagree on policy; we’re still going to disagree on government. But how we treat each other, that we have supreme control over.”

At that point, the commission took a brief recess before continuing with the rest of the evening’s business.

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