Racist Rant at S.B. Council Eclipses City Manager Concerns
By Dianne Anderson
Tightening up technology and how it is administered shouldn’t be as hard as narrowing down two racist disruptors of the recent San Bernardino City Council meeting, and questions of why it happened.
The city is working with the police department to identify the criminals that Zoom bombed the podium, even as advocates worry the incident only detracts from what they say prompted the verbal assault in the first place.
San Bernardino resident Amy Malone was exercising her civic duty in speaking out against the incoming City Manager when she was hit with the N-word, called a B***h, and told to go back to Africa.
Councilmember Kim Calvin said the whole situation is emotionally distressing, most of all for Amy Malone, but also for every other African American within earshot.
That same evening, she spoke to Ms. Malone.
“It was not so much on behalf of the city, but on behalf of myself being another Black woman, a Black person, and having to listen to that. I was quite stunned. We were saying on the dais – Stop it, why is it going on so long?” Calvin said.
Calvin said even throughout the 2020 election of three Black councilmembers, there has never been a similar incident.
Last week, in response to the attack, the Mayor and City Council brought the city and community together to the steps of City Hall on Monday, October 23 to stand against racism at the October 18 City Council meeting.
But besides the city’s Black Councilmembers, Calvin said the other councilmembers did not show up, except for Councilmember Theodore Sanchez, who came out for the last few minutes of the event.
“They just didn’t come. That’s what that is. It speaks volumes in my opinion. Nor did we get a phone call to say we can’t make it today, but we are with you, yada yada.” she said.
Everyone knows racism exists, but until now, she said nothing so blatant. Lately, she said the big concerns for the Black council members have been how Black people are not hired in the city, and that many Black contractors or developers are not given equitable opportunities.
For now, she remains focused on the City Manager, who plays a vital role in the city. At the podium, Malone had expressed opposition to hiring Charles Montoya, which included all the Black councilmembers Ben Reynoso. Damon Alexander and Calvin, adamantly opposed in a 5-3 vote of Council and Mayor Helen Tran at the October 18 Council meeting.
Calvin believes the Zoom bomb was designed to distract from their original objections, and to take the city in a different direction. She said the situation was very dark and hard to come to terms with.
“Go out and find [the racists], who and where and when, long enough for us all to go to sleep and forget what we were actually there to protest or discuss,” Calvin said. “I was very disappointed with my colleagues moving forward making that decision with the city manager.”
Another concern is the city manager is responsible for funding that could help Black businesses, or not. Like many other cities, the local city manager can contract with anyone he chooses to award up to $100,000 in funds without getting permission from City Council. Without the right fiscal experience, she said it could be dangerous with the city at a turning point in development and planning.
“You will need a trustworthy city manager with a record of being very fiscally sound and carrying the expertise needed for us to drive the city forward, ” she said.
Calvin and the other Black councilmembers opposed Montoya for city manager because of his history of discharge for alleged misconduct and several financial mismanagement concerns from other cities in Arizona.
Now that he is hired locally, she wonders how to ensure those issues won’t resurface in San Bernardino.
Amy Malone was speaking out against Montoya’s hire when the racist rant happened. She said the racist outburst was not immediately addressed by the Mayor’s office. Worse, she said business went on as usual at the council meeting as though nothing happened.
“I had to ask for an apology. There was no follow-up from the Mayor’s office, the video was taken down, there was just nothing done. They wanted to just keep moving forward with the agenda to appoint that city manager, bottom line,” she said.
When the City of San Bernardino announced it was gathering to denounce racist remarks, they stated they were working to identify the criminals.
“The City Clerk and her staff, along with our IT department are working with the San Bernardino Police Department on this. We have identified all the IP addresses that were in the queue at the time and are working to identify those that were involved. SBPD is investigating this as a violation of California Penal Code 403,” the city website says.
Sgt. Chris Gray of the San Bernardino Police Department said the case is currently under investigation and the names will be released when they are identified with charges filed under Penal Code 403, Disturbing a Public Meeting.
When the investigation is complete and the suspects identified, he said the department will seek charges and arrest warrants.
“Although a misdemeanor offense, it will not deter us from investigating this egregious crime. Currently, we are moving forward with the investigation. Lastly, we are in contact with our federal partners to seek any applicable federal statutes that may have been violated,” he said in an email.
San Bernardino branch NAACP President, Chache Wright, said the shock of what happened has prompted him to seek help as a hate crime incident from the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We are pursuing it the best way possible under law, [Penal Code 403 is] not as severe as we would hope for as a form of justice, but it indicates any disruption to a public setting is punishable up to six months in jail,” he said.
His next step is to give the Mayor’s Office a list and framework of what needs to happen to achieve justice.
“What happened to Ms. Malone and the experience that most African Americans had to witness, it has not changed the core of the issue that Charles Montoya as a city manager is not quite qualified,” he said.
Montoya stepped into his new post as San Bernardino city manager on October 30.
Wright said one argument he’s heard in favor of the new city manager is that with the city’s limited resources, they can’t find someone without an unblemished work history.
“I refuse to accept that this is the best we can get,” he said. “ It’s a no-brainer. As Amy was speaking, [that] if this was your company and you were trying to hire this man, you would not give him consideration.”
The city released its statement to denounce racism, but Wright said it fell flat.
“I thought it was a great move for the city to put the press conference together to denounce racism and all those pretty words, but only half the City Council members showed up – the ones who are Black,” he said.