Porterville City Council Rescinds LGBT Pride Month Proclamation, chaos erupts in Chambers 7/17/13

Screen capture, video by Bryse Roeben
Screen capture, video by Bryse Roeben

Council votes 3 – 2 to rescind June LGBT Pride Month Proclamation.
Mayor Gurrola and Vice-Mayor McCracken vote NO, Councilmembers Ward, Shelton, Hamilton vote YES.

Protestors stage peaceful civil disobedience, are arrested. Police refuse to cooperate prior to event, overreact with arrests/detentions.
Most law enforcement agencies work with protestors before an event, to discover what attendees plan, and to explain arrest procedures. Porterville Police refused discussions before the event, and booked those arrested at county facilities, incurring booking fees for the City.  Most other jurisdictions cite arrestees to appear at court, and release them after processing.

Councilmen blame Mayor for incident they voted into existance, one becomes verbally hostile with Mayor’s husband.
Mayor, visibly upset, demands Councilman stop harassing her husband.

Porterville City Council once again a three ring circus.  Councilmen Ward, Sheldon, and Hamilton each with their own spotlight.

It’s a shame when you only have two adults on a five person City Council.  Mayor Gurrola and Vice-Mayor McCracken are the only two people on the Porterville City Council worthy of the positions they hold.  The remainder of the Council are, unfortunately for the citizens of Porterville, prime examples of what not to elect to office.

A quick recap: On June 4 of this year, Mayor Gurrola issued a Proclamation that recognized June 2013 as LGBT Pride Month in Porterville.  Although added to the meeting’s agenda a bit late (but apparently still within the legal requirements, since the City Attorney did not object), the proclamation was presented to several representatives of the LGBT community.  The other four members of the council immediately objected, strongly stating that they did not approve, and none but the Mayor had signed.  A large group of anti-gay speakers harangued the Mayor, citing false information often promulgated by anti-gay organizations, quoting Christian scripture, some calling for the Biblical punishment that gays were “worthy of death”, and verbally abusing the Mayor for her action.  The Mayor, and the LGBT community, were left in shock, and the Mayor in tears.  The other council members immediately began working to rescind the proclamation.

Tuesday’s meeting, while not as packed as previous sessions, was still standing-room-only.  Speakers alternated between those in favor of the council rescinding the proclamation, and those against.  Several of those in favor of rescinding again displayed their ignorance of human sexuality, the cost of bullying on children, and of how their city government actually works.  Too many felt compelled to stand up in front of the Council and tell them how city government is required to operate, as they inaccurately  described how they thought that government should function.  It did not seem to dawn on any of them that the job of the City Attorney, sitting directly in front of them, is to insure the Council follows the law in all it’s actions.

Several respected community members spoke against the planned action of the Council.  A local pediatrician tried to explain to apparently closed minds the reality of human sexuality, with little obvious success.  Another young man spoke emotionally about growing up gay in Porterville, and how he never felt safe walking in his city, or attending school there.  His words were even more powerful as he publicly came out, in order to speak his mind to the Council.  Few people have the courage he displayed at the dais, and he was perhaps the most powerful speaker of the night.  It didn’t seem to make an impression on the circus.

In Ring Number 1!

Councilman Brian Ward is the author of the bland “A Month of Community Charity and Goodwill To All in Porterville” resolution, meant to replace the LGBT Pride Month proclamation.  Mr. Ward has been instrumental in every anti-gay action the Porterville City Council has had before it, since he was first elected in June of 2008.  In comments made during Tuesday’s session, Mr. Ward demonstrated a frustrating lack of understanding of LGBT issues.  This is especially distressing,  since he is by trade a psychologist at Burton School District.  The nonsense he spoke from his council seat about the LGBT community, it’s goals and methodology, exposes a strong bias against, and ignorance of, important medical facts and social findings concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students and adults.

In Ring Number 2!

Councilman Greg Shelton does not seem to grasp the simple idea of respect for any of his fellow council members, especially the Mayor.   He was constantly interrupting during the council session, without regard for the propriety of his comments or their timing.  He acted as if he thought HE were in charge of the meeting, and that things should run the way HE thought they should.  The Mayor is to be congratulated for her ability to maintain her decorum throughout most of the evening, despite the constant barrage from him.  The Vice-Mayor also had to remind Mr. Shelton who had the floor, and where they stood in their formal procedures, more than once.  Shelton’s attempts to manipulate the Mayor were extremely transparent to those of us watching, and the Mayor is to be commended for brushing those attempts aside with all the respect they deserved, which was none.  Shelton is a classic bully, who uses words and rudeness rather than physical violence to achieve his goals.

In Ring Number 3!

Councilman Cameron Hamilton once again used remarks at the closing of the council session to pontificate about the “gay agenda”.  He takes great pleasure in pointing out that the protests and actions of the evening were “planned”.  He doesn’t seem to grasp the idea that the “plan” was in response to how he and the other two council members voted that night.  Had he done the right thing, there would have been no outburst, no protests, and no arrests.  Had the Council led, instead of following the anti-gay crowd, it would have been just another boring Council meeting, attended by those whose job it is to be there, and perhaps citizens interested in particular items.  Instead, he accused a local activist of being under the control of some unseen manipulator, because she uses an electronic device to write comments on during meetings, and reads from her notes when speaking before the Council.  Mr. Cameron sees conspiracy everywhere when ever he looks at the LGBT community, and expresses his disdain that anyone would dare be out and proud.  His attitude is perhaps the strongest indicator of the need for proclamations like the one issued by the Mayor in June (as well as by countless other city councils across the United States, including Visalia’s).

The Ringmasters!

Mayor Gurrola and Vice-Mayor McCracken must be commended for their attempts to be serious city officials, and to run the council meetings with decorum and professionalism.

The Vice-Mayor, while not perhaps an out-and-out ally of the LGBT community, was still quite eloquent and forceful in defending the Mayor and the historical process of proclamations in Porterville.  False statements made by other council members were challenged, and attempts made to explain what had happened in previous councils and with prior proclamations, to no discernible effect.  He spoke against the proclamation in June, but was unwilling to vote to rescind, or change how the council handles proclamations going forward.

The grownups on the council were outvoted by the circus.

Now, Porterville adds another dubious distinction to it’s history books.  Someone should perhaps explain to the circus how large corporations think when they consider communities in which they might operate.  Many will consider things other than housing costs, taxes, transportation facilities, or even the education of the local workforce.  Many will look for a diverse, welcoming community, who will respect new arrivals.  Being anti-gay, and spectacularly so, is a big disincentive for many major firms.  They would no more consider putting a company office in Porterville than they would in some third-world city.  They want good people to work for them, and some of the best are LGBT, or LGBT allies.  They won’t live and work in a hostile community, and the company will not locate there.

In 2008, the Porterville City Council approved a resolution in support of Proposition 8.  It was the only city council in California to do so.  It has taken other anti-gay votes since.  Now it has officially voted to rescind a proclamation honoring the LGBT community for working to improve the lives of all the citizens in Porterville.  It becomes the first such city government that (at least as far as I know) has done so.

What the Mayor has wrought, in accordance with her authority as that office holder, the Circus has undone.  Porterville should hang it’s head in shame, and clean house in the next city election.  (a recall might even be in order, but I’m not holding my breath on that)
Some videos of the meeting:

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