What started as a discussion about a new Vallejo police station turned into free-for-all with one public commenter being physically hauled out by police, then threats from the mayor to do the same to a councilmember, who in turn speculated about certain parts of the mayor's anatomy.
We tend to think of the San Francisco government as a dysfunctional entity, an assessment which is often fair. But lordy, let’s take a look at the Solano County city of Vallejo, where government meetings are so not civil that that they have recently required attendees to go through metal detector to attend, and at last Tuesday’s city council meeting, KRON4 reports Mayor Robert McConnell threatened to have a city council member arrested during the meeting, to which said city councilmember responded, “You got the balls? Do it!”
We cannot embed the video of these proceedings, though it is here. The agenda item was about plans for a new police station in Vallejo, as KPIX describes Vallejo’s current police station as “cramped and outdated, with asbestos, mold and other hazards." That station also notes that Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams says these conditions contribute to the “department’s inability to attract new hires and retain current employees,” though honestly, there are quite a few other reasons that department has trouble attracting and keeping employees — such as a scandal where officers allegedly bent their badges to celebrate fatal shootings, the city declaring a state of emergency over police misconduct, and the “Gone Girl” kidnapping wherein police accused a sexual assault and kidnapping victim of faking the whole thing.
In other words, the Vallejo Police Department is not very popular in Vallejo. But the department is hoping to score some prime waterfront property at Mare Island Way for their new headquarters.
The matter went to public comment, and of course every town has rather colorful individuals who speak in public comment. One particularly eccentric commenter, with a history of homophobic and racist comments, went over his time Tuesday and refused to cede. He dropped to his knees at the lectern, refused to leave, and police carried him out. The audience went nuts with applause, and the decorum, at that point, was somewhat shot.
When it came time for councilmember Hakeem Brown to comment on the matter (he’s best known for domestic violence charges, profanity-laced emails to constituents, and owning a pot dispensary), he completely changed the topic to the finances of a nonprofit called JumpStart Vallejo, which is a coalition of business leaders, police officers, and labor groups.
“I’ve heard as I was walking out, people accusing every councilmember up here of taking bribes from JumpStart,” Brown raged. “You know they are in debt, right? My son has more money in his piggybank than JumpStart has ever had, but yet–”
Mayor McConnell tried to cut him off. “You’re overruled, I’m the chair, you’re out of order!,” the mayor said, leaping from his chair, and saying he’d have Brown removed by police too.
“I’m not gonna stop. You can’t make the police arrest me, what you gonna do?” Brown responded.
“Yes I can,” McConnell shot back.
“I wish you would. I wish you would, I wish you would do that!” Brown yelled. “Make the police come get me. Please. Please do it. You got the balls? Do it.”
And oh yeah, about that police station. KPIX reports that the council unanimously voted to research a different site, what is currently a library, to house a new police station.
Yet the dysfunction is likely to continue wherever the Vallejo Police Department has its headquarters. KRON4 also reported Friday that Chief Williams put out a press release touting a 33% decrease in use-of-force incidents over the last two years, which is great. But for whatever reason, the Vallejo Police Officers Association was furious over this, saying “Chief Williams could not pass on yet another opportunity to mislead Vallejoans and credit himself for something in which he played no role.”
Image: City of Vallejo