On Friday, the Antioch City Council will likely vote to remove Antioch Planning Commissioner Ken Turnage II from his voluntary position. However, it does not excuse a blatant double standard going on which is also presenting a First Amendment challenge.
For full disclosure of this editorial, I am friends with Mr. Turnage. However, that does not mean I agree with how he presented his opinion and even have had conversations with him calling the post “stupid” while noting how he could have more carefully crafted his post to get his point across in a more sensitive way.
Clearly, his post was outrageous, but I will defend his right, or any one else’s right, to speak their opinion under the First Amendment. His opinion is his; we can all agree to disagree and move on. In speaking to Turnage, he says he was simply trying to point out that Sweden got it right while Mother Nature has her own course.
Turnage’s comments come days before New York Times Opinion Columnist Thomas L Friedman wrote “Is Sweden Doing it Right?”. He explains how Sweden has opted for the strategy of “herd immunity” through exposure. Clearly, Turnage is not as eloquent in his writing as Friedman—but it’s the same concept.
In fact, Thursday, it was reported that the World Health Organization applauded Sweden as a “model” for battling the coronavirus. Again, Turnage is not as well-spoken as Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, but it is the same idea.
Predictably and unfortunately, Antioch City Councilwoman Monica Wilson opted to make this a political issue knowing Mr. Turnage resides in her city council district and is planning to run against her for the seat. This is common knowledge with many Antioch residents. Knowing that, she took a politically motivated stance claiming racism—this is not the first time she has done this. Her calling for his removal, is what promoted media attention around a rather non-issue on a personal Facebook post which did not even reference the City of Antioch or his volunteer position.
It should be pointed out, Wilson failed to follow any type of process Tuesday which likely will result in a Brown Act Violation as her request was followed by responses by Mayor Sean Wright and councilmembers Lamar Thorpe and Joy Motts as the item was not on the agenda.
Ironically, this action comes four years after Thorpe was removed from the Economic Development Commission for a difference of opinion over a casino. At the time, Thorpe scolded the council for removing him because he did not share the same opinion as the council.
Today, Thorpe apparently has changed his tune now that he holds power and it politically benefits him to ensure Wilson is protected in the upcoming election as the two are known to be tied at the hip by voting a majority of the time together on various city issues.
Truth is, Turnage is being used as a scapegoat for using a poorly crafted opinion while the Council is giving Thorpe a pass on many of his own social media postings. All while building a huge divide between the city and the school district. He is on record as publicly blaming the school district for the problems of the city.
If the city council is going to claim Turnage does not represent the City of Antioch or its Council, then what does it say about Thorpe and some of his social media posting?
In the two photographs above, which he has since removed, Thorpe was clearly poking fun at the #MeToo Movement as well as human trafficking. One could also argue he was being bigot. Keep in mind, these posts are coming from the same man who is now the Executive Director at the Los Medanos Community Healthcare District. He is also working with Senator Steve Glazer.
Being the human trafficking advocate she is and a supporter of #MeToo, where is Wilson’s outrage on Thorpe’s posts? Why hasn’t she called for at the very least a censure?
Even worse, the council has called a special meeting in the middle of a pandemic just to remove a voluntary planning commissioner for a difference of opinion? The council is making people come to work, create an agenda, waste time and to hold a meeting?
If that is not political. I do not know what is.
The real question is who has free speech and who does not? An elected member of the City Council who is paid? Or a guy who volunteers at the pleasure of the council?
Publisher of ECT