Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 8, 2017

“You turn off the mic for the Black man”

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Tuesday’s meeting was pretty much as expected.  A cluster.

It was pretty cluster-y for the whole Pride thing, but I’ll get to that in a series of other posts.  First I want to write about the rent ordinance agenda item.  I know that there are some Trish fans that were the the audience and probably chomping at the bit to defend her, but I would say that even a neutral person would agree that her actions were not a great look.  Even with as many excuses and reasons one can give to attempt to justify her actions it was a bad look all around.

Where to jump in: let me first provide some context.  So public comment is, I think, a tricky subject in general.  I would imagine that it’s hard for anyone to be that person and have to interrupt anyone in mid-stride about a topic that they feel passionately about and say “time’s up.”  However, if you’ve been lax about it in the past and allowed folks to run overtime for issues and commenters that you agree with it’s really hard to then lay down the hammer for people who are disagreeing with you or taking you to task.  But that’s where being a strong — and secure — facilitator comes into play.  Trish Spencer is neither of those.

The TL;dr of that is: Trish Spencer often lets people run overtime with their comments, she appears to only enforce the time limit on topics that make her uncomfortable or for people that she disagrees with.  In fact before Tuesday night I only recall Trish Spencer demanding that staff turn off the microphone once before and that was for a group of Filipino youth who had sat, very patiently, through an agenda item about the Beltline park while several people ran over the time limit without a word of admonition from Trish Spencer.  They attempted to ask her to move the rental housing agenda item up because of their curfews and instead of accommodating their request she simply tried to get them to take it outside and then asked for the mic to be switched off.

Now we have a second example of Trish Spencer asking for a mic to be shut off.  This time it was during the comments of Rasheed Shabazz, a local community activist.  He pointed out that many of the housing related initiatives that he has come to the City Council for have ended in “heartbreaking” decisions.  He then references the racially coded rhetoric in Alameda’s history which has changed subtly but is still alive in statements found in the mailers referring to “criminals” that landlords would be unable to remove from their units.

As his time expires, he asks for some latitude to which Trish Spencer says “no.”  She then proceeds to talk loudly over him into the microphone, stand up, announce to staff to “turn the mic off”, and call a recess.

So for those keeping count, many people have run over their allotted public comment times, but the only people that Trish Spencer has demanded that their mic be cut off are (1) Filipino youth and (2) a Black man.

When this was righteously pointed out by Councilmember Jim Oddie that Trish Spencer seemed to be using some racially motivated metric to silence some speakers but allow others to go overtime Trish Spencer took great umbrage to this observation.  I mean, it wasn’t a great night for Trish Spencer given that she had just had leaders of Alameda’s LGBTQ community reject the proclamation for Pride month because of her votes and lack of allyship during the Lesson 9 implementation and then she was, on camera, shouting down a Black man attempting to silence him.

Her response to Jim Oddie’s comment was that she didn’t “appreciate” a white man pointing out racial biases to her as she is a “Mexican woman.”  Trish Spencer then pulled out that she didn’t think it was “appropriate” for a white man say that after he responded that he was “call[ing] it like he [saw] it.”

Well as a Asian woman and not a white man, I will say that Trish Spencer’s track record of using her bully pulpit to silence people of color by cutting off their mic smacks of racial bias.  Yes, even people of color have racial biases and can display those biases in a highly public way.  And it’s up to all people who have a concern about social justice to speak up.  Even white men.

Did I mentioned that she allowed a public commenter (a person who is not a person of color), reading a letter for someone who was out of town, to go over the time limit that very night?

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12 Comments »

  1. If you thought the mailers against Daysog were rough, the amount of material Trish has supplied….

    Comment by BMac — June 8, 2017 @ 7:05 am

    • is ten times that.

      Comment by jack — June 8, 2017 @ 7:10 am

  2. Although there are no clips of it included in this post, the Mayor was cutting off everyone at the 3 minute mark on this item on Tuesday. I think the entire meeting ended up going past midnight.

    Mr. Shabazz’s case before the RRAC was the subject of extensive comments to a post on Blogging Bayport: https://laurendo.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/rrac-reveal/

    You’re right that it is probably not a great day for someone when there is a plan, justified or not, to reject accepting a proclamation from her in front of a packed Council chamber. For more complete context and reporting, you might have mentioned or included the clip from Tuesday’s meeting of the very thoughtful comments by another member of the LGBTQ community who, along with other members of the LGBTQ community, did accept the proclamation after the Mayor asked the audience whether anyone else would accept the proclamation after the initial, planned rejection.

    Finally, although it is probably better to just ignore and forget them, Mr. Oddie’s comments about Mayor Spencer shutting down someone for “speaking truth to power” were awkward at best and really seemed like a cheap shot. As you acknowledge, keeping speakers to the 3 minute limit is not a fun or easy task (and comments like Oddie’s only complicate it). Mr. Shabazz’s passion and commitment to these issues is clear and no one disputes that it is near impossible to boil down one’s thoughts on complex issues into a 3 minute piece. I’m sure next time there would be plenty of audience members who would have been happy to sign speaker slips and concede their time to Mr. Shabazz so that he could have 6 minutes (or whatever the max limit is).

    Comment by MP — June 8, 2017 @ 8:47 am

    • I’m pretty sure Rasheed Shabazz was referring to more than his case before the RRAC. He was highly involved in the evictions at the old BV apartment buildings and has worked on social justice issues in Alameda for a long, long time.

      No response to the leniency received for a supporter during a different agenda topic. I provided a video.

      I’ll be writing about the Pride proclamation issue later but one thing you left out is that one of the “volunteers” to accept the proclamation was subsequently nominated by Trish Spencer to fill the housing provider seat on the RRAC at the end of the meeting. If we’re continuing on the “not a good look” topic.

      Comment by Lauren Do — June 8, 2017 @ 10:58 am

      • was Rasheed formerly Reggie ?

        Comment by MI — June 8, 2017 @ 11:29 am

        • The Alamedan formerly known as Reggie.

          Comment by Lauren Do — June 8, 2017 @ 11:35 am

      • I know he was speaking about more than his RRAC case. You have his comments in your clip.

        Next, I was only pointing out that on the rent ordinance agenda item — which did not start until the meeting was well into the evening with big City budget items to follow — the 3 minute limit was enforced across the board (people speaking for and against got cut off at the 3 minute limit). I think there was a motion to limit comment to 2 minutes, but that was rejected. If the Mayor let landlords pop the time limit, then my memory (or attention span) is deteriorating at a faster pace than I thought.

        I don’t know or even know of the person who made the speech accepting the LGBTQ proclamation, or if she is the RRAC nominee who you are speaking of. Her comments are worth listening to (I was in the audience). I did not know that the audio of her comments was not captured by the video recording until I looked at one of your other video links. I owe an apology for jumping the gun and suggesting that you left that clip out when, in fact, you can’t even hear the comments in the recording (she was speaking in her own voice, not into the microphone). She also spoke later on the rent issue.

        Comment by MP — June 8, 2017 @ 11:51 am

        • The person who appears to be speaking in the video and later spoke during the Rent issue was also nominated by Trish Spencer to sit on the RRAC in the housing provider seat.

          You only referenced his RRAC case, it’s not clear why you focused on that as opposed to his larger work on housing issues and social justice in Alameda as that was, largely, the direction that his comments were headed in: the coded, dog whistle language being used — even that night — to paint a negative picture of renters and just cause.

          As I pointed out in my initial post, you can’t enforce a hard and fast rule when you have already given leniency in the same evening. When mics are only turned off on people of color and non people of color are granted enough time to finish their thoughts then be prepared for that criticism and not attempt to deflect that you can’t hold racial biases because you are a person of color.

          Comment by Lauren Do — June 8, 2017 @ 12:05 pm

  3. I’m particularly disturbed by the treatment of the Filipino students simply asking for an agenda item to be moved up in the schedule. That’s not how you treat young people, especially young people interested in local politics. Alameda absolutely needs new Mayoral leadership in 2018!!

    Comment by davidemitch — June 8, 2017 @ 11:26 pm

  4. If Mayor Spencer wants to run City Council meetings well and be respected for her leadership she needs to be more consistent–not just within the same meeting or agenda item but across weeks and months of meetings–and fair to all public speakers.

    Being more compassionate and ready to discuss and resolve problematic situations “in the moment” would help, too: I can think of several previous mayors who have accommodated young people such as the Filipino students who were facing curfews, or at least not shut down a dialog in mid-sentence. Respect is a two-way street.

    Some of us have been ready for “new leadership at city hall” since the need was clearly demonstrated early in 2015….

    Comment by Jon Spangler — June 9, 2017 @ 7:02 am

  5. I was just enjoying some coffee at one of our fine local establishments and there were a couple of other customers there who were having a LOUD conversation about this very incident. One of them just kept railing against Trish: “She didn’t do ANY of the things she promised to do when she was running! She’s an embarrassment!” etc. etc. “I have no idea when she’s up for reelection” — (I had to stop myself at this point from responding, “Next year”) — “but I’m going to get involved and support whoever’s running against her!” The person then added that she just hoped it wasn’t Malia Vella, because she’s “a tool of the unions.” Anyway, this Alamedan sounded like a disillusioned former Trish supporter, so it’ll be interesting to see how many of the people who voted for her in the last election will stick by her.

    Comment by trow125 — June 9, 2017 @ 1:24 pm

    • I’ve heard a lot of buyers’ remorse from people who thought she was progressive, breath of fresh air, etc. Her differential behavior toward speakers suggests she is trying to keep her old, white conservative base happy. That or she has no idea what she’s doing.

      How is her husband’s lawsuit against the city for stopping him for alleged drunk driving proceeding? Having your spouse suing the city you’re running has a nice hillbilly flavor.

      Comment by BC — June 9, 2017 @ 4:40 pm


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