Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper and Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins Tuesday evening (June 9) addressed the writers of hundreds of emails sent to the city council in the past week on the Black Lives Matter movement and a historically racist phrase Bruins used May 20.
Two weeks after the incident – during which Bruins told black Councilwoman Neysa Fligor that anyone who took her stance on a proposed emergency ordinance was “out of their cotton-picking mind” – Pepper said she, too, was “enraged and engaged” over the deeply rooted racial prejudices that have led to the deaths of George Floyd and others nationwide at the hands of police.
“Racism has no place in this community and will not be tolerated,” Pepper read from a statement. “We must promote and continue to fight for freedom and justice.”
Many of the letters the council received demanded that Pepper remove Bruins from office. Pepper said City Attorney Jolie Houston confirmed that neither Pepper nor the council as a whole has the legal power to oust Bruins – an action more than 5,000 people called for on a Change.org page, created by an anonymous protester, as of Wednesday morning (June 10).
Residents also have requested that the city enact a series of police reforms, dubbed “8 Can’t Wait.” Pepper and Fligor committed to studying the reforms as leaders of an ad hoc committee. They plan to collaborate with Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea, city staff and other local residents to ensure that policies and practices “reflect the values of the (Los Altos) community,” Pepper said. The committee will return to the council at its June 23 meeting with specific goals and processes outlined in a resolution.
After Pepper’s statement, Bruins offered a public apology for the words she chose. She said she didn’t want to make any excuses.
In an effort to make a “meaningful difference” in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Bruins is moving forward by having conversations with residents like Los Altos High School graduate Kenan Moos, who led the peaceful protest through downtown Los Altos Friday (June 5). Bruins said Moos invited her to sit down and have an honest conversation after he called her out at the protest for not coming to the microphone and addressing her community. Moos plans to share with Bruins more about his experiences of being black in Los Altos and put forth solutions for dealing with the inequality in the community.
“We cannot make changes if we cannot see what needs to be changed,” Bruins said of meeting with Moos. “I encourage you to contact me to begin a conversation.”
Moos confirmed his offer to Bruins and explained that knowing the councilwoman is termed-out in November, he would rather spend the last few months of her tenure educating her and her colleagues and trying to effect real change. He and fellow activists are in the process of researching laws recently passed across the country to improve the lives of blacks in their respective communities.
“Her public statement that she and (Pepper) are committed to work with me to hold them accountable to make changes is what we really want,” Moos said.