I delayed writing about this for a day. I wanted to gain some reflection. I wanted to see how things played out. I spoke to other reporters about the propriety of reporting such a personal encounter and asked what they would do. But mostly I watched the response of the community and whether Councilmember Sue Greenwald would step up and take responsibility for her actions on Tuesday.
Sadly in my view she has not. She told the Enterprise:
“I definitely sympathize if she has constitutional problems that make it difficult for her to deal with policy conflicts, but I think she owes me an apology.”
That seems an extremely insensitive remark.
“I like Ruth and I certainly hope that she feels better today. I felt very shaken after the meeting as well. That aside, it is particularly important not to misrepresent the motions of fellow councilmembers during closed sessions.”
And therein lies the problem, she repeatedly brought the issue back to the dispute on the floor rather than own up to her own personal conflict. Her sympathy rings hollow in light of her conduct that suggests the very opposite.
And after much soul searching, I feel the community needs to know what happened. At the onset here, to me this is not about the issues. I agree with Sue Greenwald on this issue. I think she has been a strong advocate for the citizens of Davis on this issue, far more than the council majority. But I also think too many people have allowed the fact that they agree with her on the issue and the fact that she fights for their issues, color their views and temper their criticisms of the downside of Sue Greenwald, her personal conduct and singular lack of empathy for others.
People wanted to know why I did not write this yesterday, I did not want to have to do it. I do not like to have to do it. Despite all of this, I think Sue Greenwald is a good councilmember who stands up and fights for a lot of issues I strongly support. Unfortunately she would be much more effective if she had a modicum of respect for her colleagues and the process.
The story begins as Councilmember Lamar Heystek was beginning his comments on a critical issue facing Davis, that we have discussed time and again regarding the MOU process. But quickly he realized that something was wrong in the vestibule. An off-duty firefighter was administering medical attention to Mayor Ruth Asmundson outside. Realizing the potential severity of the situation, Councilmember Heystek paused his comments and Mayor Pro Tem Don Saylor called a recess.
I gathered up my seven week old foster daughter and was about to head out to see how the Mayor was doing and if I could lend assistance. Councilmember Greenwald bolted straight for me, and I told her I didn’t want to hear it. She wanted to carry on about the discussion and I was not interested in doing so. She attempted to appeal to me, but I told her that her conduct up there was appalling, she was hurting our cause, and when she persisted, I told her she looked like an idiot up there. She turned to a stranger to appeal to him and I made my way outside.
Outside of the council chambers while a firefighter was administering assistance to the Mayor, Councilmember Greenwald continued to try to argue the issues that had been argued at the dais. People told her this was not the time to carry on this discussion.
At one point she attempted to continue a discussion with the Mayor while the Mayor was receiving medical attention.
She earlier made a comment suggesting that the Mayor was feigning illness. I directly heard her say mockingly that she felt like fainting, someone better call the fire department.
She said: “Perhaps I should pretend to faint and I will get just as much attention”
The low point of the evening came as they made the decision to move the Mayor into the side conference room. Councilmember Greenwald continued to try to appeal to City Manager Emlen. The City Manager told her this was not the appropriate time to have this discussion, but the Councilmember could not take the hint. She then made a final comment ending it with a very derisive “boy.” The last comment incensed Bill Emlen and he angrily lunged out of the conference room and straight towards Sue Greenwald, getting up into her face.
Not knowing what was about to ensue, I stepped into the middle of it and physically separated the two with one hand as I held the sleeping baby in the other hand.
The Councilmember spun away and went towards Mayor Pro Tem Saylor and began to instigate conflict there, after heated words, I attempted to pull her away from the Mayor Pro Tem.
To me the most appalling aspect of all of it was the apparent lack of concern by Councilmember Sue Greenwald for the health and well-being of the Mayor. There is a time to argue the issues and a time to let them go. Surely this was a time to let them go.
She continued to attempt to appeal her case to me and eventually I told her that I found it remarkable that it was everyone’s fault–the Mayor, Emlen, Saylor, even Lamar Heystek for not coming to her defense stronger, but her own.
I have to tell the public here how shaken this incident left me. As I left the building, after Mayor Pro Tem Saylor adjourned the meeting I met my wife Cecilia in the parking lot. She had come to pick up the baby on the way home from work. I had to stand outside for a half-hour to calm down.
The public was clearly appalled by what they saw on the YouTube video, but unfortunately that paled in comparison with what happened outside. I really wish I did not have to write this piece, but I feel I have a responsibility to the public to tell them what happened on Tuesday night at the Davis City Council meeting and we shall let the chips fall where they may.
I am most angry because I find myself writing about this rather than admonishing the Council Majority for again spinning the numbers on another bargaining contract. That’s what we should be talking about. I have another article on the substance today, but guess which article will be read more?
—David M. Greenwald reporting