BLOOMINGTON — A resident called out Bloomington Ward 6 Alderwoman Jenn Carrillo at Monday's City Council meeting for advocating a boycott of a new downtown restaurant because she thought the name was racially offensive.
Two others who also spoke during public comment also took issue with Mayor Renner recently saying Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas does not behave “like someone who is African-American.”
One of the commenters, Scott McCoy, a former Pontiac mayor who moved to Bloomington about 4½ years ago, refused to accept a certificate from Renner Monday night for McCoy's completion of the Bloomington 101 course on city government because of the remark Renner made during the mayor's May 24 open house.
"People are going to misspeak and say something stupid. That happens. I've done it," said McCoy. "When it is this severe, and it's been constant, I would expect the council, at least a few of them or one of them, to step forward and go, 'We have to say 'no' to this. This is ridiculous and demand an apology.'
"The mayor didn't apologize. In fact, he kind of doubled down. He blamed it, his own words, on his political enemies. He's completely out of touch."
Before the meeting started, Carrillo placed a gay pride flag next to the American flag at her seat on the council dais, which drew criticism from some commenters on The Pantagraph's Facebook page during the meeting.
During the meeting Renner read a proclamation commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The June 28-July 1, 1969, uprising in New York served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement, and its anniversary led to June being designated annually as Gay Pride Month, Renner noted.
Ruben Granados, co-owner of the recently opened Bloomington Spice Works in downtown Bloomington, said he and other private business owners plan to meet with Carrillo on Tuesday night to discuss concerns that her actions "are setting up a dangerous precedent for the future of Bloomington and especially business in downtown Bloomington as a whole.
"Alderwoman Carrillo took it upon herself to begin an online harassment campaign against a freshly announced, new business venture in the downtown Bloomington area, which lies in her ward," he said.
The question at hand was the appropriateness of the business name.
"The establishment formerly known as 'The Gypsy Room' received a wonderful write-up in the Bloomington-Normal Restaurant Scene Facebook page. An online harassment campaign led by Alderwoman Carrillo with a hashtagged boycott of the establishment ensued,"Granados said.
The co-owners of the new restaurant planned for the former Satio location at Center and Jefferson streets apologized to Carrillo online and said they are changing the name.
"We would never want to offend anyone in our community or segregate anyone," said co-owner Chelsea Maple-Heffernan. "The thought behind the name was something much different than what is being discussed but we understand the concern and feedback."
Granados added: "In no way, shape or form are the small-business owners of Bloomington and in particular Ward 6 going to stand by and allow this behavior from their own representative.
"You are in public servitude now, Alderwoman Carrillo, and your activist past is no longer appropriate to bring into your position," he added in addressing the council. "You represent all of the people in your ward and frankly in the city as well and that includes the business owners, too.
"When you use a fist to convince people of your beliefs and ideas over an open hand, you will never succeed," he added. "All you will do is join the heap of aggressive individuals who always get taken down in the end."
Granados said the meeting hosted Tuesday by Jan Lancaster at The Bistro would not be open to the public, but he did extend an invitation to any council members who want to participate.
Carrillo said after the council meeting that she was looking forward to being able to speak directly to the business owners.
"For as much buzz as there has been going on about this, not a single person has reached out to speak directly to me about this," she told reporters after the meeting.
"I think it's unfortunate and very telling that the man who spoke was more upset with my use of 'boycott' than by a slur that was used to justify the genocide of over a half a million people in the Holocaust," she said, referring to the Roma, a community to which the pejorative term refers.
"I ran for office as myself and as a strong advocate against racism and xenophobia and I am going to continue to do that on the City Council."
After the meeting, Renner criticized McCoy and Leon Kaeb, who also criticized the mayor for his Thomas remark, as "politically motivated."
Renner made the comment about the justice after Citizens to Ensure Fair Transit and others in the community asked Renner, at his open house, to appoint riders who must rely on buses to bring more diversity to the Connect Transit board.
"I was trying to suggest that people who maybe have endured discrimination and hardship should take that to heart in making their public decisions," Renner said, adding he could have probably used a better choice of words in expressing that sentiment.
At the May 24 meeting, he said his point was that there are different kinds of diversity. "Just because you have someone who checks the box doesn't necessarily mean they are diverse. My personal favorite would be ... Clarence Thomas," he said.
In other action at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve the new three-year labor contracts for 53 city inspectors, parking enforcers and support staff who are represented by Laborers Local 362.
Contract terms are similar to those recently negotiated with American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 699, which represents about 100 zoo, public works, parks, recreation and cultural arts employees and 64 public library employees.