On Monday, April 19, 2021, City Council voted to strip Council Member Jeff Hayner (Ward 1) of committee assignments, in response to a social media post he had made a little over a week earlier.
On April 17th in my newsletter, I denounced the language used by Council Member Hayner and agreed that Council should respond.
However, I also outlined why a response like DC-5 (without any consideration or process) was unprecedented and defied our rules. I emphasized that an appropriate response (with consideration and process) should put the perspective of the LGBTQ community front and center. I still believe that. In a rush to pass DC-5, we have heard fewer of those voices. At the Council meeting, our City Attorney recommended postponement of this issue in order for Council to receive legal advice; I made a motion to follow that recommendation (that motion failed).
At the table, a majority of Council argued that action must be swift in order to acknowledge the seriousness of the offense. Against recommendations from our City Attorney, a majority of Council insisted that any delay and anything short of immediate action was unacceptable. Over and over and in various phrasings, members of Council repeated the idea that any further process or consideration around this decision was an endorsement of offensive language and an affront to LGBTQ in our community. At the table, I protested this framing of the issue, but ultimately I voted with Council Member Travis Radina, former LGBTQ liaison to the Mayor’s office, and former president of the Jim Toy Center.
I have offered the explanation above in response to emails asking me how I could have voted in favor of DC-5. Immediately after our meeting, Ryan Stanton (MLive) asked me if my vote was strategic, in order to bring the issue back for reconsideration. My response to him: I did not ever oppose consequences for [Council Member] Hayner.
Members of the public have already pointed out how and where the DC-5 resolution highlights inconsistent/selective judgements about offense and harm. Moving forward, there is no articulated standard (vague or otherwise) for what will or will not trigger an action like DC-5. Last night is precedent moving forward: the Mayor and a bare majority of Council will make these assessments without process or consideration. I encourage everyone to read the very short text of DC-5 to understand how true this is.
Below are some questions that I submitted to our City Attorney ahead of our meeting, which should have been answered as introduction for DC-5. Most were not answered. The City Attorney recommended a postponement in order to answer them.
- I’d like a clear timeline explanation (ordered sequence) of when this proposal was put in writing, when that written proposal was put before the Administrative committee, when the Administrative committee voted on DC-5, when the written text of DC-5 was shared with CM Hayner, and when the written text of DC-5 was shared with the whole of Council.
- I am aware that CM Radina communicated with staff and attempted to file a formal complaint. Because it is relevant to DC-5, I would like an explanation of why that complaint was not pursued, why it was apparently ignored/set aside. If it was not ignored/set aside, I would like explanation of how that complaint will be pursued, formally and according to our process?
- How was the Administrative committee advised, regarding the appropriateness of this action, in compliance with our Rules?
- At any point was the Administrative committee advised about alternative responses (in compliance with our Rules) other than DC-5? What alternative responses were suggested?
- At any point was the Administrative committee advised about past precedent for DC-5? I would like an explanation of any past precedent.
- Was the Administrative committee advised about process required for “Reprimand” and “Counselling” of a Council Member? Please advise the whole of Council regarding that process.
- I would like staff assessment of whether or not DC-5 is a relatively more serious or less serious consequence than “reprimand” and “Counselling” described in Rule 12.
- I would like staff comparison of the process observed in the preparation of DC-5 and the process prescribed for “reprimand” and “counselling” in Rule 12.
- I am told that DC-5 is allowable because the positions are “Mayoral appointments.” I would like a clear explanation of the circumstances when a Mayor is permitted to unilaterally remove a Council member from appointed responsibilities with a simple majority vote from other Council Members. If staff believes this is permitted under all circumstances – the Mayor’s wish to remove, approved by a majority – please state that clearly.
At the table Monday night, a Council Member argued that “this should be easy.” That statement should frighten everyone who believes in the democracy of elections, representation, and the rule of law. Democracy is not easy. It is work.