Dixon is only a few miles down the road, but, as we see with the comments by Vice Mayor Ted Hickman in a recent independent newspaper column, it might as well be a million miles away.
We will see if the vice mayor can survive the furor around his column, in which he declared July 1 as the start of “Straight Pride American Month,” referring to gay men as “faries” (sic) and suggesting that gay people have an “inferior complex.”
“My point was, what’s the difference? They have their pride month, why can’t we have ours? … I support the First Amendment,” Mr. Hickman said. “This is not really legally anti anything; instead it’s pro-family; and proud to be a straight American, and me expressing a private opinion… So there!”
He defends his column as a tongue-in-cheek column, but the problem is that no one is laughing.
Mr. Hickman writes: “We ARE different from them. … We work, have families, (and babies we make) enjoy and love the company (and marriage) of the opposite sex and don’t flaunt our differences dressing up like faries and prancing by the thousands in a parade.”
In a phone interview with the Sacramento Bee, he defends his column, explaining to the paper that he is “entitled to express his opinion using humor.”
That point is not in question. The question is whether it is appropriate humor for an elected official to express in 2018.
He told the paper, “It was tongue-in-cheek and had nothing to do with my elected position.”
That sounds good, but, guess what, when you are an elected official, you don’t get to check your position at the door. That matters whether you are writing offensive columns or getting drunk at the local bar or acting obnoxiously to a restaurant worker.
Next the vice mayor takes the modern day “refuge of a scoundrel” by turning the issue against the offenders in stating that “thin-skinned people took offense” to his column.
The problem of course isn’t just that the vice mayor acted in a way to intentionally offend people, but it was the nature of the opinion itself. He doesn’t deny he is anti-gay.
For example, he told the Bee that “his beliefs do not affect his performance as a city official.” But again, that would be like someone spouting racist comments and then trying to argue that they have no impact over his performance as a public official. The fact of the matter is that, while he is entitled to his views, no matter how offensive they might be, he is representing the people of Dixon.
This is now of course a matter left to the people of Dixon to decide.
He wrote: “The positions of Councilman Hickman published in yesterday’s Independent Voice are deeply disturbing to me. I have known what kind of person he is for a long time, but have never garnered enough community or council support to take action. I hope that the other councilmen will see through the ideology of hate that they share with him, and do the right thing in coming weeks. There is no part of the community that is untouched by the venom that Councilman Hickman has spewed over the years, and that is the saddest part. A man of his age should know better, but perhaps even that is an excuse, because really a man of his age should BELIEVE better.”
The Bee also interviewed Wyatt Mince, 23, and his father, 64-year-old Ray Mince.
“It’s a different level of rhetoric that’s not befitting of public officials,” said Wyatt Mince. “People are entitled to their opinion, but he’s a public official and he needs to comport himself a certain way to serve the city.”
The Minces have been in Dixon for decades, and Mr. Hickman’s viewpoints “are well-known in the community” but still they were taken aback by his “outlandish, high rhetoric” used in the article.
“When I was a small child, he and my father played cribbage together and would get into heated discussion about politics,” said Ray Mince. Mr. Mince explained that after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision allowing gay marriage, Hickman “got on Facebook and started talking about that, and at that point I unfriended him.” The elder Mince agreed that Hickman is entitled to his own opinion, “although he is representing our city and that makes a difference.”
The question now is what’s going to happen. We know what would happen in Davis – this guy wouldn’t last long. In Dixon, there is a Facebook group titled “Recall Ted Hickman, Vice Mayor of Dixon, CA,” and right now it has over over 1200 followers.
They recently posted: “Ted Hickman, we want your resignation on Mayor Bogues desk by close of business Friday. Walk away.”
Mr. Hickman’s attitude is that citizens are welcome to take democratic action against him if they are unhappy with his performance in office.
“They’re gonna have a recall motion? Let them do it,” he said.
Beyond that, we’ll see what happens. Likely the external pressure is going to mount on Dixon, especially in these times. Stay tuned.
—David M. Greenwald reporting