On Tuesday, Healdsburg Mayor Leah Gold resigned over refusing to discuss police reform within the city and “denying” that racial issues between minorities and the police occurred within the city.
Comments by Mayor Gold turn into a call for resignation
The resignation stemmed from comments Mayor Gold made earlier this month regarding the addition of police reform discussions in a city council meeting. A City Council member had asked asked for the police chief to explain their use-of-force, with Mayor Gold denying it saying that it was a “solution looking for a problem.”
“Healdsburg has a very good police chief who is on top of these issues and trains his staff in appropriate conflict-resolution methods,” said Mayor Gold earlier this month.
Healdsburg resident Elena Halvorsen pressed the issue in an e-mail, saying that it needed explanation, adding that it was a “complete denial of an issue that many in our town encounter on a daily basis.” Halvorsen also noted that it was “white privilege” to deny such a questioning.
Mayor Gold responded to her e-mail and asked for calm.
“I really don’t know how to respond to your misplaced outrage and the hyperbolic tone of your letter. Perhaps after you have cooled down a bit we can arrange a civil phone conversation,” said Mayor Gold in the email.”
Despite more e-mails and a phone call with Gold, Halvorsen said she couldn’t get Gold to change her mind and started a petition calling for her resignation.
The petition quickly garnered nearly 2,000 signatures, almost one-fifth of the population of the Sonoma County town. Additional pressure from residents added fuel to the resignation movement. Subsequent statements by Gold acknowledging that her response wasn’t acceptable, supporting Black Lives Matter, and advocating police reform ultimately did not reduce calls for her to resign.
On Monday, demands grew more heated with a letter calling for her resignation said that Gold was “silencing of the underrepresented community in Healdsburg.”
Gold subsequently resigned on Tuesday in a statement to the city.
“The murder of George Floyd has shone a bright light on America’s systemic racism, and particularly on how some police officers routinely treat BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) people with bias, abuse, and violence,” began Gold. “There is tremendous momentum for substantive change, and I welcome it. I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and am eager to consider and adopt policies that advance its goals.”
“I’ve been listening to accounts of racism experienced in Healdsburg by our BIPOC residents. People of color face bias and discrimination daily in small and large ways, and often do not feel heard by their government and representatives. We clearly need to work on creating a more inclusive environment in Healdsburg. It is often lamented that although Latinx residents and other people of color comprise over 30% of our population, they are not represented on City Council. I would like to help change that.”
“Although I feel positively about my contributions and have many loyal supporters, I’m certain there are also many BIPOC members of our community who could serve our city well. As I’ve considered how I can help Healdsburg advance in racial justice during this critical juncture, I believe that one of the ways I can contribute is by creating a space for a person of color to join the City Council.”
“I have decided to step down from the Council. It is my assumption that the Council will choose to allow the electorate to decide who will complete the final two years of my term, by adding it to the ballot on the General Election November 3. It is my hope that one or more BIPOC resident will step forward as a candidate. It would be as a Councilmember, not as Mayor, as my mayoral term expires in December.”
“We seem to be living through a rare period of history where we have momentum to make significant gains towards justice and equality in the United States. I believe that if more diverse leadership is one of the things we accomplish in this moment, it will be an important step forward for our city.”
Mixed reaction in Healdsburg
Reaction in Healdsburg has been mixed.
“I’ve heard outrage and acceptance over this,” noted salesman Peter Sherman. “I have Hispanic friends who are glad she’s gone, and other friends of mine said that her comments had been appropriate and that it should have never escalated this much.”
Lawyer Andrea Ross, who has represented Healdsburg clients in court, also noted the split.
“A lot of people felt like the resignation has been over nothing, but after George Floyd, these are things that are happening. Many people are slighted right now, and not acknowledging problems with the police is something big for people.”
“I understand if people are shocked over this, or how it may seem like nothing, but I have to stress that these are the times right now, and not challenging or questioning the police on what they do is seen much more negatively. Gold, at least in the beginning, didn’t acknowledge it. She later said it was a ‘heat in the moment’ reaction, but the damage was done.”
“We’ll see what happens from here on in.”