Originally Published: December 4, 2018 8:39 p.m.
In a highly charged meeting Tuesday morning, a majority of Prescott City Council members attempted to distance themselves – and Prescott – from recent racially disparaging comments by local state legislator David Stringer.
The special council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 4, ended with an official city call for Stringer’s resignation and a condemnation of his recent assertions that African-Americans “don’t blend in,” and that non-English speaking immigrants pose a burden.
Mayor Greg Mengarelli led off the discussion by maintaining that Stringer’s remarks indicate he is “out of step with our community,” and that the state representative “has forgotten the moral compass” exemplified in the Declaration of Independence.
“Although Mr. Stringer is entitled to his opinions in his recent remarks, those opinions are harmful to the image of our community and those who work and live here,” Mengarelli said.
Noting that he had been inundated with messages from local residents who were outraged by Stringer’s remarks, Mengarelli said, “I believe most would agree that Mr. Stringer’s comments do not represent who we are as a community.”
LESS THAN UNANIMOUS
While six of the seven council members and most of the audience members appeared to agree with the council action, the meeting was repeatedly disrupted by an unidentified woman who booed and hissed at the councilmembers’ statements, and ultimately walked out during Councilwoman Alexa Scholl’s comments, saying the proceeding was a “disgrace,” and a “public hanging.”
In addition, the council’s action fell short of a unanimous decision by Councilman Phil Goode who voted against the measure, maintaining that the matter was “not within the scope” of the council’s responsibilities, and that the action would ultimately hurt the city’s ability to work with Stringer in the future.
“I know David reasonably well, and I believe he is not likely to resign due to this council’s action,” Goode said, pointing out that Stringer had not resigned in June 2018 when asked to step down by the governor and state Republican Party, “so he’s not likely to do so now.”
While emphasizing that he does “not condone (Stringer’s) statements or beliefs,” Goode said the city would “most likely lose any support we might need from him during the next two years of his term in the legislature …”
But for most of the 100 or so people who turned out for the meeting, the council’s decision was applauded. Many in the crowd stood and cheered after the vote.
While the meeting did not include time for public comments, local resident Laurie Back said after the meeting, “I am proud of Mayor Mengarelli and the City Council … (The vote) was a brave move, separate from politics.”
Audience member Joe Zarnoch said he viewed Stringer’s comments as “absolutely reprehensible,” and added that he was glad that the council “stood up and voted for what is right for Prescott.”
Stringer was not in attendance at the council meeting and did not respond to a request for comment to the Daily Courier on Tuesday.
But plenty of other people have weighed on the controversy that arose late last week after the Phoenix New Times published recordings of Stringer responding to questions from ASU students.
A number of local officials were in the audience Tuesday, including Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who had earlier expressed her support for the City Council action on Twitter.
Also in attendance was Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Chairman Rowle Simmons, who said after the meeting that he, personally, would like to see the supervisors consider a similar stand, although he added that it is “too soon to say” whether the matter would end up on a future board agenda.
Prescott Mayor Pro Tem Billie Orr said she came to a conclusion “that our City Council could no longer remain silent” after reading and listening to Stringer’s recorded comments. “We needed to make a statement against these disgusting words,” Orr said. “Silence is complicit.” Scholl added that she believes Stringer “is a threat to our community – to our moral being, our reputation, and our ability to be economically competitive.” She added, “Mr. Stringer’s racist words are not illustrative of our community.”
NO CITY AUTHORITY
City officials note that Tuesday’s action was largely symbolic, because the City Council does not have the authority to compel Stringer to resign from the State Legislature.
Still, Mengarelli said on Saturday that he felt it was important for him to speak out. “He represents the citizens of Prescott, and he lives in Prescott,” Mengarelli said. “The national media is citing that he’s from Prescott, Arizona. So yes, I felt like it was my place to express my opinion.”
At the council meeting, Mengarelli added,” This is not a partisan or non-partisan issue … this is a moral issue that needs to be address by all of our leaders in our city and in the greater region.”
Leadership with both the county Republican and Democratic parties have issued statements saying Stringer should step down. (See related story).
A Dec. 3 news release from the Yavapai County Democratic Party adds that recall from office is also a possibility. “Independent groups have already approached the party for assistance in launching a recall effort against David Stringer,” the news release states.
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