It is not my intention here today to criticize Councilwoman Elisa Chan for the comments she and her staff made during a secretly taped closed-door meeting last May.
The conversation concerned a proposed ordinance that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s long-standing anti-discrimination ordinance.
Chan has received plenty of criticism, locally and nationally, for those comments.
I’m here to criticize her for something else.
I’m here to criticize her for the quality of the team she hired and for her appalling lack of skill at running a productive meeting.
At a press conference Tuesday, Chan referred to the session in her office as a brainstorming session.
I invite you to listen to the audio.
As Chan and her staff sluggishly trod the well-worn path of anti-gay prejudice, it feels more like slow-rising sludge than an electrical event.
I’ve been in Irish pubs at closing time that featured more logical, disciplined conversations.
At her press conference, Chan criticizes the ex-aide who gave the tape to the Express-News.
"It was a confidential meeting set in the privacy of my office where none of us are supposed to worry about what we say. These meetings are, and have always been, a free speech zone."Chan is apparently better at talking about free speech than encouraging it.
In the room were her chief of constituency, chief of communications and chief of policy.
Not a single one of these chiefs ventured a word that didn’t play to Chan’s notions.
One of them, policy chief Jeff Bazan, now works for Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who says he will vote in favor of the anti-discrimination amendments.
“I have spoken with Jeff, and he has apologized for those statements, which he says do not reflect his personal feelings,” Nirenberg told the Express-News.
Bazan may be telling Nirenberg what he thinks he wants him to hear or he may have been telling Chan what he thought she wanted to hear.
That would include this:
“You get the most political points by standing up for traditional values with this one.”
It hardly takes a brainstorm to come up with that pandering notion.
The only person in the room to offer any argument was Chan’s secretary.
Here’s a brief excerpt from her resistance to the notion that the anti-discrimination policy would be another step on the slippery slope to legalizing incest, bestiality and pedophilia.
Jeff: The road that, the road that we're going, Jackie, incest and being able to marry animals, that's all gonna happen.
Jackie: It's not.
Jeff: Yes, yes!
Jeff: Yes, yes.
Jackie: No, church boy.
This “Yes it will!” “No it won’t!” argument goes on considerably longer at that intellectual level.
Your tax dollars at work.
Chan called her office a free speech zone.
It’s not clear whether Chan only hires staffers who agree with her or at least say they do, or whether she makes it clear in her free speech zone that she doesn’t want serious argument.
At her press conference, for which her staff recruited a crowd of supporters, Chan read from a prepared statement:
“I stand strong in my First Amendment right to freedom of speech and our right to privacy. As an immigrant, I consider this the greatest privilege of being a U.S. citizen.”
It’s a common play-the-martyr tactic.
Suggest that people who are appalled by your utterings are violating your rights by trying to shut you up.
But here’s a history question for Councilwoman Chan: When the founding fathers, having thrown off the yoke of British tyranny, wrote the first amendment, do you think it was mainly to protect the speech rights of government officials, or of the citizens who seek to criticize them?