A resolution proclaiming the community to embrace diversity and equality was adopted during a May 9 special meeting of the Kingman City council. Mayor Monica Gates called the session after an uproar over a video that was widely circulated in preceding days.
Council member Travis Lingenfelter does not deny that he used language disparaging Hispanics during a joint custody child exchange with his ex-wife that was captured by a home security system more than 18 months ago. Lingenfelter told council members he used the racial slur when he felt protective of his son during a difficult and painful divorce.
“I used a mean term. It was wrong and I didn’t truly mean it. When we are deeply hurt and upset we have all said things that we do not mean. Anyone who says they haven’t at some difficult point in their life is lying. We’re all human,” Lingenfelter said.
He also rebuked critics who chose to use the video to further a planned campaign to attempt to recall him from office.
“I think it is absolutely vile to bring my family, my past divorce and pain into this recall effort. That’s certainly not what I signed up for,” Lingenfelter said. My question is, who is the city going to get to run for council next year because the message here to anyone considering it is don’t rock the boat. Don’t demand improvement or progress. Don’t challenge the status quo. Don’t have a sense of urgency. And that it doesn’t matter if you live up to your campaign promises because those that do will be personally targeted and crucified as a threat to the status quo and established power.”
Lingenfelter said those involved in civics and politics should attack ideas rather than people.
Vice Mayor Jen Miles read a statement into the record calling for respectful conduct within the framework of a divided council.
“We are not expected to agree on every course of action. However, given disagreement we should be held to a standard of civility as we move forward on contested issues,” Miles said. Debate and disagreement should be on the merits of the issue, not personal attacks, nor hyper-activity responding to emotional triggers or the social media item of the day.”
Miles said Kingman is a great community and that its city council should not have to have special meetings to approve resolutions and declarations expressing that point. She called for responsible engagement within ranks of dissent.
“As it appears a recall process may be undertaken, I would ask those who are working to sway opinion against any one of us to stay true to civility and ethics. It is very easy to fall into the trap of name-calling and character denigration. Let’s raise the bar,” Miles said. “The dissention reflected in our newspaper’s headlines only serves to show potential residents, employees and businesses an atmosphere that is really not the heart of our city.”
Council member Vickie Kress urged council members to carefully consider how they advocate on divisive issues.
“I believe we all need to look into ourselves and decide if we are harming the city or if we are helping the city because it was originally everyone’s intent I’m sure to help,” Kress said. “The very distinct division on this council is very concerning to me. I thought I’d be able to bring people together as many of year hear me say ‘I can bring people together.’”
Kress said the current council can come together if its members behave in a professional manner.