Even the small, affluent, northern Sonoma County town of Healdsburg is not immune to the civil unrest and tough conversations about systemic racism happening around the country. And over the weekend, newly elected Mayor Leah Gold was apologizing on Facebook for "off the cuff" comments she made during a virtual city council meeting last week.
A petition effort has grown to push Gold to resign, and it has amassed 1,084 signatures as of this writing. And the outrage stems from something she said last week during a council meeting that was publicly broadcast on Zoom.
When a city councilmember asked the town's chief of police to provide a briefing about use-of-force tactics at a future meeting, the mayor and a couple of other councilmembers objected to the request, with Gold reportedly saying, "My reaction to that is we don’t have that particular problem in Healdsburg because we have a very good police chief who is on top of these issues." As the Chronicle reports, and as the petition writers discuss, Gold's statements were taken to mean that there was no racism in Healdsburg, and residents are accusing her of being insensitive or out of touch.
"Clearly, the Mayor is out of touch with reality and is not in a position to lead our city in an inclusive and forward-moving manner," the petition reads, also citing comments Gold made on social media discouraging people from attending a protest.
On Facebook on Saturday Gold wrote, "I was speaking off the cuff and within a narrow band at the Council meeting, on the question of whether excessive use of force is an issue in the Healdsburg Police Department. But clearly, the public is engaged in a much broader conversation."
She adds, "As a white woman of privilege, I don't experience that racism, and need to be mindful that it gives me blindspots. As the Mayor of Healdsburg, this is a time when I, along with everyone else in our city government, need to be listening, and learning... I am taking it upon myself to educate myself and think about what I and the City of Healdsburg can do."
Healdsburg was the site of a protest last Thursday that drew hundreds of people in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as the Press-Democrat reported. As reporter Kevin Fixler noted on Twitter, it was likely the largest demonstration happening that evening in the North Bay, and it seemed an odd place for it to spring up.
The largest protest Thursday in the @CountyofSonoma, if not the entire North Bay, took place in – of all places – posh, swanky @GoHealdsburg. The #BlackLivesMatter movement appears to have taken hold and only stands to grow from this point on. h/t @ChantelleHLee @_erik_castro https://t.co/4gPgevlg10— Kevin Fixler (@kfixler) June 5, 2020
Speaking by phone with the Chronicle Monday morning, Mayor Gold said, she felt her comments had been misconstrued, and she has no plans to resign. "I support the Black Lives Matter movement. I am as shocked and outraged as anyone else about the murder of George Floyd," Gold said. "I understand that racism is pervasive and systemic in America and I am open to any ideas that we can do to make Healdsburg a more inclusive place."