Originally Published: December 6, 2018 5:29 p.m.
Despite the Prescott City Council’s action this week condemning state Rep. David Stringer’s recent racial comments and asking for his resignation, Prescott is now facing the call for a travel boycott by the East Valley chapter of the NAACP.
Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli said he was made aware of the call for boycott through a Dec. 5 post on Twitter of the letter sent to Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers by Roy Tatem Jr., the East Valley branch president of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
According to a copy of the letter that was posted in the tweet, Tatem wrote to Bowers: “Until Rep. Stringer is removed from office, the NAACP will recommend a travel advisory on the City of Prescott advising our members, supporters and allies to discontinue any shopping, travel, and lodging in hotels in Prescott, AZ, effective immediately.”
Tatem’s letter added: “A strong example must be made to Arizona that, in no way, shape, form, or fashion will racism, bigotry and intolerance be accepted in our political spaces and from our elected officials.”
After learning of the tweet, Mengarelli said he reached out to the NAACP and left a message, asking for a meeting to discuss the organization’s concerns.
Mengarelli pointed out that he and a majority of City Council members took quick action to condemn Stringer’s November remarks to Arizona State University students, during which the Republican legislator from Prescott maintained that African-Americans “don’t blend in,” and that non-English speaking immigrants pose a burden on the U.S.
“I’m glad we did what we did,” Mengarelli said Thursday afternoon. “We wanted to make a quick and strong stand.”
Even so, Mengarelli was busy Thursday dealing with a series of media questions about the boycott, as well as Prescott’s culpability in Stringer’s recent re-election.
“I was asked several times about why Mr. Stringer was re-elected after what he said last summer,” Mengarelli said, referring to Stringer’s earlier assertion that immigration “represents an existential threat to the United States,” and that there are not “enough white kids to go around” in Arizona schools.
Although noting “it’s hard for me to say” why Legislative District 1 voters overwhelmingly voted to re-elect Stringer in November, Mengarelli speculated that some voters may not have been aware of the earlier comments, or simply chose to vote along Republican party lines.
For himself, Mengarelli said Stringer’s November comments served as a “tipping point.” The day after the recorded comments were published by the Phoenix New Times on Nov. 30, Mengarelli released a statement condemning the comments, and council members put out the word on Saturday, Dec. 1, that they would be conducting a special council meeting on Dec. 4 to consider asking for Stringer’s resignation.
The council ultimately approved that statement by a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Phil Goode voting against it.
Although Mengarelli said the city had received many calls of support since the Tuesday action, he acknowledged that there is also a contingent of Prescott residents who agree with the legislator’s views.
“I don’t understand that position, but I do know it exists,” Mengarelli said.
Along with his request to meet with the NAACP, Mengarelli said city officials have discussed coming up with a community forum for addressing racial relations in Prescott.
Despite the move by the City Council, the city does not have the authority to make Stringer resign. And while the House of Representatives has stripped Stringer of his committee chairmanships, there has been no move toward expelling the legislator from office.
State Sen. Karen Fann, the incoming president of the Arizona Senate, released a statement Wednesday condemning Stringer’s comments and asking for his resignation, but she stressed on Thursday that as a member of the Senate, she has no authority to seek his expulsion from the House.
Stringer did not respond to a Daily Courier request for comment on the NAACP’s call for a boycott.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or email@example.com.