In what was a short and otherwise routine meeting of the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Gender Pay Equity Committee, the high point was during the public comment session.
The committee had two legislative matters: approving the appointment of Dennis Cook as a member of the Board of Park Commissioners; and approving a resolution re-affirming the city’s commitment to gender pay equity and its intent to join 100% Talent. Both items passed.
Gender pay equity is, of course, committee chair Godden’s signature issue, and it was a nice finishing touch for the last committee meeting of her term as a City Council member to be able to shepherd that through.
But the real fun of the meeting came during the public comment session, when Alex Tsimerman, who regularly appears at council meetings to demand his two minutes to excoriate the council members as “f*cking fascists,” today extended his remarks to let everyone know what he thinks of the gender pay equity (spoiler: not much).
The public comment sessions have an important role in our local representative democracy, and Council member Sawant frequently encourages her supporters to show up and use those session to let her colleagues on the Council (particularly the ones who disagree with her) know what they think. And the vast majority of the speakers are polite, respectful and on-target with their messages. But there are five “regulars” who have developed their own shtick: a homeless veteran, a conspiracy theorist, the “king” who rattles off the legal code, Queen Pearl who speaks for 30 seconds about racism and then rambles for a minute and a half, and Tsimerman, the self-proclaimed “President of StandUp America” who ran for local office last summer and claims he is running for the Senate next year.
Usually the Council members listen passively to the speakers and refrain from responding — a wise approach, given what would happen if they set the expectation that they should respond to each and every one. But today Godden broke that rule, perhaps recognizing that she only has about two weeks left in office and not much to lose. After Tsimerman’s f-bomb laden rant this morning, Godden said “Mr. Tsimerman, if my mother were here today, she would ask you to wash your mouth out with soap.” It was not the most politically damning statement, nor did it break new ground in discourse, but it was a refreshingly candid rebuke from a long-serving civil servant who no doubt has done her own mental math on the time she has been required to listen to Tsimerman over the years.
It’s worth noting that there can be value in using foul language in political discourse, especially when it is emanating from the oppressed as they demand change it’s too easy for the privileged to hide behind a shield of civility as a way to avoid addressing social justice issues. But Tsimerman is not one who can invoke that privilege: his tirades critique the city’s efforts to address racial equity, homelessness, housing, labor, and other societal issues. He refers to Seattle as a “new USSR: the United Seattle Soviet Republic” and decries strong-handed top-down government in all forms. In other words: he’s an angry white man who finds fault with the underprivileged and efforts to help them.
I am quite sure that Godden’s words will have no effect on Tsimerman; that of course is his right. He will continue to show up at council meetings and rant; that also is his right. But I’m glad took advantage of her last chance to tell him off before she walks off the podium.