On Wednesday, Mayor Annise Parker was prejudiced against folks not wearing red clothing.
I had not been to city hall in awhile so, I decided to attend Wednesday’s council meeting. I thought that I would slip in through the underground entrance since I expected a large crowd. I knew that Parker would stack the council chambers with her supporters and, if I did not get there early enough, I would be forced to sit in the overflow area located in the annex.
That morning, I spoke to Michael Kubosh, he gets up early like me, and he said that the festivities would start around 7:30 a.m. I told Michael that, while I would not be there at 7:30, I would arrive early enough to get a good seat.
As I approached City Hall around 8:30 that morning, I saw a lot of people wearing red. I quickly learned that the people in red were supporters of the equal rights ordinance. That morning, I was wearing my typical suit with a green bow tie. I like to wear bow ties because I think it confuses folks.
At City Hall, visitors are required to pass through the metal detectors and then show photo identification to obtain a visitor’s badge. Typically, I like to use my CHL; but, on this morning, I used my driver license. I really wanted to fit in because I did not want to go to the annex and sit with the overflow crowd.
As I moved through security, I noticed a large police presence near the back stairwell leading up to the council chambers. As I approached the stairs, a large police officer told me that the council chamber was now full and I must proceed to the annex. I stood there for a minute trying to process the situation. It was then that I noticed that, even though the officer announced that the chambers were now full and I was not allowed entry, people wearing red were repeatedly permitted to enter the chambers. Let me say that a different way, I was not allowed to enter the chambers and told they were full. Meanwhile, people wearing red were allowed to enter the chambers.
Trying to think quickly, I told the officer that I was meeting someone in the media office, which is positioned next to the council chambers. Again, I was denied entry and directed to the annex. On my walk to the annex, I decided to write this story. Of course, when the mayor arrived, she was wearing a bright red blazer, not the usual star trek blazer she normally wears, this one I had never seen before.
Over the years, I have discovered that, sometimes, council members invoke parliamentary procedure and move a speaker ahead of another speaker in the queue. This is a practice that has occurred for years at the city. To register as a speaker, anyone may call the city secretary’s office and place your name on a list. Anna Russell, the longtime city secretary, is very good about maintaining an accurate list.
On Wednesday, so many speakers registered that the public comment period lasted until 8 p.m. That morning, councilmember Mike Laster, a supporter of the ordinance, successfully made a motion to move a couple of people in red to the front of the line. I’m sure these were the same people permitted to enter the chambers when I was banished to the annex. Minutes later, councilmember Dwight Boykins, a critic of the ordinance, made the same motion. Boykins attempted to insert Pastor Willie Davis and Max Miller as speakers. This time, the motion was rejected. The other pastors in attendance then left the council chamber in protest.
While I certainly support non-discrimination and fair treatment of all, I believe that the mayor has been very disingenuous about the entire ordinance. She waited until her last term in office and surreptitiously organized a small group, composed of her closest supporters, to draft the ordnance. In the end, discrimination was used to stifle debate and ramrod the ordinance through the council. I don’t believe that good government includes placing more restrictions on private businesses. Unfortunately, any opposition had been banished to the annex.