Bombshell letter calls out Alds. Kemble, Presty
Black council chief of staff tired of abuse, is quitting
City employee surveys cite alders’ bullying
Labor Day weekend letter from Madison Common Council president
is just coming to light
I apologize in advance for sending this email right before a holiday weekend. Still, with all the letters and emails going back and forth, I decided to address you all directly in a mature manner, rather than go public and embarrass anyone.
Let me start by saying that in the joint statement that I issued with the Mayor; I in no way equated the vile misogynistic word that was said during the council meeting with any other recent or past actions of any alders. However, while acknowledging the shock, outrage, and disappointment in what was spoken and heard during the September 1, 2020 Council meeting; the Mayor and I felt a need to issue an initial statement addressing the incident while ensuring the public that the outburst had been vetted legally to avoid any liabilities.
Secondly, as Council President, I felt it was not necessary to provide public details of other situations that caused pause and concerns among members and the public relating to civility and decorum.
I did not address other concerns by Alders like the social media post by Alder Prestigiacomo’s [ Progressive Dane ] personal Facebook page, which was profanity-laced and also incited violence and resulted in numerous calls from residents for his resignation as well as on Camera comments during a Council meeting by Alder Kemble [ Progressive Dane ] in which she was heard apparently calling those who voted a certain way as “Satya’s a$$-kissers/Satya got her a$$-kicked.”
All these actions have been coupled by results from City staff surveys accusing Alders of bullying behaviors. As Council President, I did feel the need to address all these concerns while speaking to an Alder’s alleged conduct in stating that we all need to conduct ourselves appropriately. I use the word “alleged” in order to avoid any liabilities.
When the joint statement was issued, not one of you called me to discuss how we can cure the issue and avoid incidents like this from happening in the future. Collectively, you decided to deflect from the root cause and explain it as sour grapes by a few members. Just because we are elected officials does not mean we cannot hold ourselves accountable as we seek to hold others accountable.
Respect goes both ways. As the first African American woman Council president, I have sat in meetings with fellow Black colleagues and listened to members of the public, who identify themselves as progressives and/or allies question our blackness and refer to us as “assimilationists” — based on what information?
Attempts to shut down a colleague?
I do not have a problem with the public voice being heard loud or soft — opposed or support as that is what democracy looks and sounds like. But the public can not be the only body with the luxury to be heard. When you shut down your colleagues’ voices you are shutting down part of the City’s voices as well. Do not be afraid of all the elements of democracy.
We talk about how “Black Lives Matter” and “Equity” in our community, but how many of you have reached out to support me as Council President? Still, some have expressed among themselves negative comments about me and yet has called on me to assist with their projects or concerns; while others have pushed a narrative of me as incompetent to lead regardless of my constituents, professional stakeholders, community, and others who see me as otherwise.
I have witnessed, and I am sure past Council presidents can attest to the lack of respect given to the first Council chief of staff who happens to be Black. I am sure he has been through a lot this year with all the violence being inflicted on and in our community, and I wonder how many of you have checked on his well-being or offered any kind of support instead he has been criticized as well and never to his face. I will take this opportunity to inform you all that our chief of staff will be accepting another position, and I have asked him to stay on, with the consent of his future employer, until we pass a 2021 budget.
I will end with this, we are all human and are not above wrongdoings, and when we are wrong, we should own up to it and work continuously to seek ways to better ourselves. While we are often quick to point fingers at others, we need to pause for some needed self-reflection – we all need to take a hard look in the mirror. I will reiterate that as elected officials, we are held to a higher standard and need to act accordingly. Some things are above politics and should involve common decency and civility. I am not accusing every single alder of wrongdoings, but I am challenging each of us to do better as we are charged with great responsibilities during these extremely challenging times.
I look forward to working with ALL of you in a collaborative and meaningful manner. Have a great weekend, Stay safe, and Happy Labor Day.
— Alder Sheri Carter