Removal of commissioner limits free speech in city

William Pan/Staff

Thank you for covering the removal of Cheryl Davila from the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission by her appointer, Councilmember Darryl Moore. Her removal has the appearance of an effort to stop any discussion of an Israeli divestment proposal before it even reaches the agenda. This is a disturbing message to send to any commission.

Moore is free to disagree with any proposal and share his views. He is free to vote against the proposal if it comes before him at the City Council level. But to remove a commissioner for refusing to withdraw the proposal is an effort to chill free discussion of an issue most community members think is important whether they support a divestment proposal or not. It also is an insult to the years of service Davila has given to our community on many commission issues.

Moore states that he simply wishes for a “heads up” regarding potentially controversial issues. But his ultimatum to Davila to withdraw the agenda item or be removed from the commission indicates that he knew about the agenda item before the meeting even convened and wanted to control the commission’s agenda if it did not suit him politically. Removing a commissioner for having an independent opinion reflects very poorly on his character.

The commission now has an opportunity to send a message to any City Council representative wishing to shut down community discussion on potentially controversial issues by making sure Davila’s proposal gets a thorough hearing. I hope it will simply pick up where Davila left off and honor the discussion she was willing to bring forward so that our community has the best chance of having lively, informative commission meetings where we can elevate, rather than squelch, community discussion about matters of critical import. Moore has done us the favor of clarifying that this particular issue is one of them.

Carol Denney is a Berkeley musician and the human rights editor of Street Spirit Newspaper. Contact the Opinion Desk at [email protected] and follow us on Twitter at @dailycalopinion.

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