On Tuesday, after nearly a 3-hour discussion on whether or not to move forward with a Fourth of July Parade, the Brentwood City Council agreed in a 5-0 vote to move forward.
During the contentious debate, accusations were made of the mayor and “blogger” publicly stirring the pot, complaints of Brown Act Violations, and community crossing the line in name calling while members of the council cross examined County Health Services over COVID-19 guidelines.
In the end, the council agreed to a 1-hour event beginning at 9:30 am with a route starting at Birch Street and ending at the city hall near the library—with a few rights and lefts along the way. It is anticipated between 1,000 to 1,100 people will be in attendance.
Stacey Dempsy, recreational supervisor, presented to the council with options for an alternate parade route options along with the impacts of each option (see options/preview article for details)
Councilmember Susannah Meyer asked about possibly streaming the parade online to help limit people who may come downtown while expressed concerns about crowd control in neighborhoods were residents might invite people onto their own property and there is nothing they could do about social distancing. She also asked about a plan for those who are downtown eating at the time of the parade and if they become “floaters”—staff said they would ask them to move along.
Councilwoman Jovita Mendoza wanted to ensure priority spots for Brentwood because she was concerned about people from outside the area coming to Brentwood and taking over.
Councilwoman Karen Rarey had concerns about crowd control and people not following the rules as they come from out of the area.
Captain Doug Silva said it was a valid question, but the situation will remain fluid where they hope for the best and plan for the worst but hope the behavior is civil and encourage voluntary compliance. He said police will adapt as it plays out and will anticipate variables. He stated historically this event has not created a lot of
“I can see this getting out of hand very quickly,” stated Rarey.
Silva stated the event has historically not created a lot of calls for services.
“Ya, but we have a blogger who published it, a Mayor who has incited it by telling them their cars will be impounded which is an absolute lie and so they have them riled up,” stated Rarey. “Its not a matter of just a parade, we have outside people who are really becoming instigators and making it into something we have ever had before… with the instigators on social media, I am fearful to what this turns into.”
Meyer also had concerns of people stating they would have their own event or others would have different events at the same time.
“The keyboard warriors are not helping keep things calm and feasible, but I do think its something that will require extra attention. I am concerned about these marches and other events people allude to without details,” stated Meyer.
Mayor Joel Bryant highlighted numerous groups have stated their intent to come to Brentwood but also bring sideshows and wanted to confirm Brentwood Police have impounded vehicles.
Bryant asked staff if the parade follows the science from the county and the state guidelines.
Randy Sawyer, Deputy Director for Health Services, stated that next Tuesday, the guidance will be lifted and while mega events will have rules (10,000+), those who are fully vaccinated will be safe outdoors while those not vaccinated will continue to need to wear masks and social distance.
Rarey pushed back on teens now having highest numbers and if its something seen in Contra Costa County.
Sawyer replied that was because that group has not been vaccinated yet.
Mendoza asked if there was a risk of students not going back to school –Saywer explained comments made by Ori Tzviel of health services Tuesday morning during the Board of Supervisor meeting that they and the 9 bay area counties support kids going back to school in the fall.
“I hope if we do this, everyone does mask up,” said Mendoza.
Meyer asked if East Contra costa County has caused the rest of the county not to move up tiers due to low vaccination rates. Sawyer said they have seen more cases and hospitalizations in East County.
Sawyer said those who are not vaccinated, should not attend. If vaccinated, they can do this very safely.
Rarey kicked off discussion by issuing clarifying comments by stating the farmers market was an essential business and a decision made by the state to remain open. The event is put on by the Pacific Association while car shows were unsanctioned. She also stated the CDC listed parades as one of the most unsafe events for unvaccinated people.
She continued by stating people who are fully vaccinated are still getting COVID-19.
“CDC recommended safest way to celebrate this year, they recommend celebrating virtually, with people who live with you or small gatherings or drive-thru events,” explained Rarey. “That’s what they said on May 28, that is the science I am using. I am not making it up.”
Meyer stated she appreciated all the outreach of the community stating their opinion and appreciated the thoughts regardless of position.
“We don’t have to all agree,” stated Meyer. “This social media outcry has been brutal. For anyone to assume I am unpatriotic or unamerican just it is super upsetting… over the years I have spent hours volunteering at veterans’ events, singing the national anthem, veterans are really important to me. The work I did at meals on wheels I spent hours supporting veterans. For people to say I am not a patriot, that is one of the harder insults. During this whole thing, I have been called idiot, control freak, Marxist, socialist and a lot of other horrifying things. But the question of my patriotism was the hardest thing.”
Meyer encouraged people to be respectful of one another going forward. She encouraged people to reach out and provide input rather than make assumptions.
Mendoza said she was elected to make the best decision for the community and asked Sawyer about the science.
Sawyer said the CDC has recommendations and guidelines allowed those who are vaccinated to go outdoors and that items coming back and California Department of Health next week can go about their business like before COVID-19—those without vaccine to wear masks and social distance.
“It depends how you look at the scene. CDC says its safe for people to be outdoors,” said Sawyer. “Unvaccinated she still continue precautions.”
Meyer confirmed with Sawyer that 44% of cases from the County has come from East Contra Costa County.
Mendoza stated she was disappointed in Mayor Joel Bryant for celebrating being a proud American in a Facebook post now taken down saying she was first generation and was proud to be an America and was offended by that.
“I think you played a divide in our community that was not necessary,” stated Mendoza. “Since taking the role, I have learned to refrain and have not put things like that out there. I have not said one thing to put you in danger… I hope it was a mistake and that was not your intention to say I am not an American and that I am not a proud American if I choose not to attend the parade.”
Mendoza, like Meyer, highlighted people were calling her names and it wasn’t about controlling people, but rather taking her job seriously. She called this a huge responsibility and was still on the fence of how to vote.
Bryant explained the response he put out there on social media was in response to one individual who was making very dangerous threats and was instigating potentially something that would put the community and people in danger.
“What I meant by American I had outlined the process that our community can reach the city council to have and participate in the constitutional process in voicing their opinion to the council,” stated Bryant. “I don’t or have ever questioned anyone’s patriotism or love for their country or community but was directing that to one specific person and I did it poorly because it’s been misunderstood.”
Bryant explained that being patriotic is not to circumvent the process and find a reasonable way of how councils and communities work—including public comments process. He did apologize to those who took it another way.
Vice Mayor Johnny Rodriquez stated he has also been attacked by those in the community on social media while integrity is questioned and understood where others were coming from.
“People followed the science and our businesses followed the rules and followed guidelines and did what was asked of them by CDC, State, and Contra Costa Health. Everybody followed the rules and changes are coming on June 15,” stated Rodriquez who said people could do more and always deferred back to the county. “I am going to do what is right for the community as well.”
Rodriquez stated they have had graduations, including someone who said 9,000 people were involved and people are downplaying the farmers market but people are down there enjoying the day—including 2,500 people on a weekly basis for the last year controlled or not. Car shows have happened we cant control.
“Our community has followed the rules, they are going to change. I didn’t change them. We are following the rules,” said Rodriquez who noted they were told Orinda parade wasn’t going to happen and it is. Antioch is hosting a parade through a non-profit. “We are trying to dictate what we want to do and not follow the rules.”
He said he has been in favor and support this as long as its after June 15.
“I have to believe in what the state has said, the county and I believe in our staff,” said Rodriquez and suggested staff should pick the best route.
Rarey accused the Bryant of playing down his part on his social media post. She then read it.
“If Brentwood isn’t going to host a 4th of July Parade this year, I say we make our own and shut down the streets downtown and lets see them stop us,” stated Rarey who continued Bryant said vehicles would not be impounded. “You were riling the crowd along with a blogger were trying to instigate the community up and getting crowds to come to this who are coming whether they make reservations or not.”
Rarey admitted staff did create a nice plan but what has happened from the post by the “blogger” and “mayor” has pushed this thing to become a bigger deal than what it had to be while less than 2% can attend.
Mendoza said she was vaccinated, but did not see the rest of the council talking about vaccination. At that point, Rarey and Meyer said they were vaccinated. She explained the city should take a larger role in pushing out vaccinations to bring their numbers up.
Mayor Bryant said those who are not vaccinated are aware of consequences at this point and encouraged those not vaccinated to not attend.
“One of the things that has been restated again is that there is a component of this that we haven’t talked about which is mental and emotional challenges and struggles we have gone through. They have been waiting to participate in something like this in a safe manner,” explained Bryant who liked the idea of expanding the route to make this done safely. “We can provide an opportunity to do this safely, the ones who are not vaccinated, they are responsible for their own safety.”
Rarey again accused a “blogger” and “mayor” for riling people up and making this bigger than they needed it to be with comments coming from as far as Hawaii and Virginia. She also stated staff should have come to council first versus releasing all the details to the public.
After more discussion, the council moved forward with a motion.
Rarey made the motion which included a parade route, Brentwood residents given priority registration and signups (by June 14th). Non-resident registration around June 28th. The parade would be approximately 1-hour.
The motion passed in a 5-0 vote.