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Passive Resistance

Jager, Brady refuse to sign Eureka's human rights resolution

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On Jan. 17 the Eureka City Council voted 4-1 in favor of a broad resolution "affirming human rights, inclusiveness, environmental sustainability, affordable healthcare and religious freedom." One month later, the resolution sits unsigned by both the city's mayor, Frank Jager, and its mayor pro-tem, Councilmember Marian Brady, in what appears to be a passive resistance to the council's decision. The resolution — which begins, "in light of the current climate in our country and the negativity and hate that is being fostered" — follows the example of several cities in California that drafted statements of values following the election of President Donald Trump.

Brady, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said in a phone interview this week that she found the resolution unnecessary and "distasteful."

"We had just had the Martin Luther King Jr. event ... with the whole town coming out in unity and then we get this resolution about how we should be fearful," she said. "It was just negative, designed to make people fearful and scared."

The resolution includes language supporting immigrants ("We will build bridges, not walls"), the LGBTQIA community ("no conversion therapy") and people of all faiths ("the only lists we keep are on invitations to come pray together"). Brady said the language was divisive and pointed to problems that do not exist in Eureka.

"It wasn't helpful," she said. "All these little things, like, we're not going to have clitorectomies in Eureka. It's just bringing out all the negatives."

(The resolution, it should be noted, contains no references to clitorectomies.)

Brady also spoke at length during the Jan. 17 meeting, challenging Councilmember Kim Bergel, who drafted the resolution, over its necessity.

"In light of the current climate, I don't think there could be a more appropriate time to move forward," said Bergel as she introduced the resolution.

Councilmembers Heidi Messner and Natalie Arroyo suggested changes to make the language more inclusive, adding the letters IA to the original LGBTQ (IA refers to intersex and asexual). The original language of Bergel's resolution also referred to the protection of women's rights, saying, the city would not back down from protecting women where they are "threatened by a man who treats women as obstacles to be demeaned or objects to be assaulted." This was amended in the adopted resolution to say that the city never back down on "human rights," and the reference to women changed to "people," man changed to "others" and a later reference to girls was changed to "youth."

Despite the changes, Brady still found the subtext irritating.

"We know who we're talking about," she said in the meeting. "You might as well just say Trump. You have to hide it between fluffy words."

Bergel responded that she appreciated Brady's opinion but stood firm in her intent to pass the resolution.

"I think we would be remiss not to consider the people that are potentially being deported ... the homeless that are being discriminated against all the time," she said in the meeting. "We can agree to disagree. This is a priority. People are a priority."

Eureka's municipal code is not clear regarding resolutions, but the procedure for ordinances requires that a bill passed by a majority of the city council be signed by the mayor pro-tem and then forwarded to the mayor, who can sign it, reject it or passively allow it to go into effect without his or her signature. If the mayor rejects an ordinance, he or she is supposed to return it with an explanation to the city council, which can override a mayor's veto with a four-fifths vote. And, under the municipal code, if the mayor doesn't sign or veto an ordinance within 10 days, "it shall take effect as an ordinance as if the Mayor had approved the same."

This appears to be the fate for Resolution 2017-05, which went unsigned by the mayor and the mayor pro-tem, but was nonetheless made official with signatures from the city manager, city attorney and city clerk. Jager did not return the Journal's calls seeking comment. Councilmember Austin Allison, who seconded the approval of the resolution on Jan. 17, said the mayor has "a right to not sign something if he doesn't want to."

"My problem is ... as a public official, he is obligated to share his reasoning why with the public and he never gave one to Kim [Bergel] or anyone else on the council who wrote this," said Allison in a phone interview. "For him not to give a reason to the council as to why he won't sign it kind of denounces the council's action. Anyone is entitled to their opinion but I'm disappointed as to why he didn't share his reason."

Allison said that by refusing to sign the resolution Jager and Brady had "made their stance."

Reached for comment, Bergel said she was disappointed but "not surprised."

"The climate of our nation affects all of us no matter where we live," Bergel wrote in an email. "I believe as a public servant it is our job to do what we can to support all of our constituents and let them know we stand with them. This resolution was put forth to set an intention for how we as Eureka citizens will support all people. I am grateful for those who voted yes and understand the urgency of this matter for so many."

Bergel and Brady are in agreement in one respect — that how the resolution will or could be enforced is nebulous. Bergel refers to it as an "intention," a statement of how the city will treat people who may feel discriminated against or fearful in the face of an administration that has tried to use an executive order to restrict the entry of Muslim people into the United States, is preparing to build a wall along the country's southern border to prevent the entry of migrants that Trump has referred to as "bad hombres" and "rapists," and which includes a vice president who has blamed gay marriage for "societal collapse."

Brady considers the resolution "jargon" and says there is "no there there." After being interviewed for this story, Brady sent the Journal an email pointing out that in 1995 President Bill Clinton spoke out about the impacts of illegal immigration on American jobs in his State of the Union address, saying his administration would take a hard-line approach to stemming this problem.

"How quickly we forget or forgive when the shoe is on the other foot," she wrote in an email. Brady considers the current council to be an "activist sort of council" that is letting down small businesses and is more concerned with political correctness than economic growth.

"My whole purpose is trying to move us forward, move our economy," she said, calling the resolution "meaningless."

Brady pointed to the number of positive initiatives the city has undertaken in recent years, and how the council had been entirely made up of women prior to the most recent election cycle.

According to the Eureka Police Department, there have been no hate crimes reported within city limits in the last six months. Some activists have denounced the involvement of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in a recent drug bust, although no immigration action was taken.

Linda Stansberry is a staff writer at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 317, or linda@northcoastjournal.com. Follower her on Twitter @LCStansberry.

Watch the council's full Jan. 17 discussion of the resolution below. The agenda item begins at about the 58-minute mark.

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