Interview #117: Boynton Beach, FL Vice Mayor Christina Romelus (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Christina Romelus is a first-term commissioner and current vice mayor who has experienced pirates in the commission chamber, commentaries on dog poop, and a vote to appoint a new commissioner. But one of the most difficult moments came in response to an idea she raised last year.

Q: On December 5, 2017, you proposed a sanctuary city policy, which basically said that local police will not be enforcing federal immigration law. We have covered sanctuary city debates in other councils. But in the case of Boynton Beach, you all easily had the most boisterous and most raucous public comment of anyplace I’ve seen. How did that make you feel?

A: It reminded me that the First Amendment is alive and well [chuckles]. One of the things that we as America pride ourselves on is being the land of the free and the home of the brave. We provide opportunities. People who come here trying to escape tyranny, they sometimes find worse treatment than they had back home. I’ve never robbed anybody. I’ve never beat up, murdered, stolen anything. Yet when people find out I’m an immigrant or hear the term “immigrant,” that’s what their mind gravitates to.

Q: Mmhmm.

A: The proposal that I was trying to have that night when it turned into a sanctuary city discussion–which is what I never intended for it to be–it was a fruition of the decree that President Trump was cancelling temporary protected status for individuals from countries like Haiti, Honduras, Venezuela, I believe. Those points of view never even got out of my mouth. The second “sanctuary cities” was blared out, it just became an all-out attack on me.

Q: We heard one man say you should be impeached or removed. That is new for me in a sanctuary city debate. What struck me was how personal it got in Boynton Beach. Why do you think that was the direction it took?

A: Half of the people in that room were not Boynton Beach residents. It literally almost became like a Trump rally in chambers. The entire chambers was filled with people with signs–“build the wall!”

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Boynton Beach, FL Vice Mayor Christina Romelus

Q: How surprised were you that all of your other commissioners and the mayor rejected your proposal on grounds of “law and order?”

A: Having you replay this is all raw for me all over again. That night was not an easy night for me. I believe in the Constitution. I took an oath as well to protect and defend the Constitution. And I do that. But we have a duty to protect those who can’t protect themselves. When a black person was considered three-fifths of a person, that was in the Constitution. Was it right to uphold that then? That’s political speak, I feel, for cowering away from the conversation. It was the most politically-savvy way to look like “I’m obligated, my hands are tied,” not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do.

Q: There was a recess after this topic and the commission meeting continued. I noticed you were not there for the remainder of the meeting. Why was that?

A: I could not remain in a room filled with that much hate aimed at me. I could not sit on a dais with people who did not even take the time to consider the reasons or to hear out the arguments why I brought up the conversation. I was not in the right state to continue with that meeting. I actually had somebody escort me home from our police department because that’s how unsafe I felt.


Follow Vice Mayor Christina Romelus on Twitter: @romelus_c

Interview #50: Tucson, AZ Vice Mayor Regina Romero (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

Regina Romero has been on the Tucson city council for nearly ten years, and things are a little different down near the border. This being Arizona, naturally we talked about guns. But Satanism also has been rearing its head at council meetings across the Grand Canyon State! Take a listen!

Q: I’m looking at this picture. What are these things?

A: Those are lock boxes for people’s guns. Arizona is an open-carry state and governments have the choice, at least for now, to not permit guns inside of their buildings. So city council has a rule of no guns inside of our buildings. As you enter, there’s boxes that people have to put their guns in, lock them up, and enter our meeting rooms.

Q: Uh…if I can’t bring my gun into a city council meeting, what’s the point of owning a gun?

A: [Laughs] Um, we’ve had incidents in Tucson. [Former Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords was shot. Also in Phoenix, an individual walked into a Board of Supervisors meeting and shot a former member of the Board in Maricopa County. To be honest, it’s been a contention: state legislature is a Republican-controlled body, so we have different views on guns.

Q: Do you ever carry a weapon to the council meetings?

A: No.

Q: I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the only way to stop a bad council member with a gun is a good council member with a gun. I don’t usually do this, but out of respect for the rules of Tucson, I will disassemble my rifle here. And I’ll take off the Glock in my side holster. And I’ll EVEN PUT AWAY the Colt .45 in my ankle holster.

A: Oh, my lord! Thank god we are Skyping for this interview.

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Tucson, AZ Vice Mayor Regina Romero

Q: In the past year, the Satanic Temple has been trying to get permission to do its own invocation at city council meetings in Arizona. When asked about whether they should be allowed to in Tucson, you said, “I believe in the Constitution 100 percent.” Simple question: why would your city council meetings benefit from the blessing of the Dark Lord, Lucifer?

A: Uh, I don’t think we’ve ever received any request from Satanists to speak. To be honest, it cuts both ways. I would much rather do away with the invocation at the beginning. I am a religious person and I understand why atheists and others would say we shouldn’t be doing that. I enjoy the invocation; not everybody does.

Q: Mmhmm.

A: So if you ask me, “do you want to hear a Satanist at your council meeting,” of course I would say no. If you ask me, “do they have the right to practice Satanism,” sure.

Q: Can you think of the weirdest thing you have seen at your city council meetings?

A: [Pause] Not off the bat. There’s been some rowdiness to the point of shouting by an individual, a citizen. The mayor has had to call police officers. That’s always kind of hard to watch. Other than that, things in all of the council chambers around the country are very simple, really!

Q: Okay, well once you let in the guns and let in the Satanists, please come back on the program and tell me how it goes.


Follow Vice Mayor Regina Romero on Twitter: @TucsonRomero

#42: Hampton, VA 8/10/16

Major–MAJOR–bombshell at the Hampton city council meeting.

“Before we begin, I’d like to deviate from our normal agenda,” Mayor Donnie Tuck abruptly announced. “Vice Mayor, would you please read?”

“A motion to deviate from the order of business to evaluate the benefits of moving the public comment,” read Vice Mayor Linda Curtis from her notes.

Move the public comment? To where, North Carolina?! Please explain, Your Honor!

“We’ve looked at how we’ve done our public comment section in the past. There’s been a time when it was before the meeting started, then it was moved to the end of the meeting.” The mayor folded his hands.

“What we’ve decided to do was to move it to a point in our meeting where we have our public hearings–following THAT we will have public comments.”

This is madness. Insanity. I’ve never felt more scared…AND MORE ALIVE.

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Mayor Tuck is SO BUZZED from moving the public comment.

Now the fun part: “Would the representatives of the Bay River Rumble 12-and-Under Grey Softball Team please come forward?” the mayor asked as the young athletes marched down the aisle.

“These ladies recently returned from Buffalo, where they won the NSA World Series Championship for girls fast-pitch softball.” He grinned from ear to ear. “We have some backpacks for you.”

After passing out the souvenirs, the mayor again broke into a smile so contagious that Olympic athletes aren’t allowed near it. “I hope my fellow council members will pardon my exuberance but I invited another group to come down”–a summer camp for English language learners.

“We had a wonderful time,” the camp’s director told the council, surrounded by her campers. “Mayor Tuck, I just want to thank you again for inviting us–” she looked to the dais, but His Honor was already sneaking up behind her. “Here you are!” she laughed as he ambushed them with more gift bags.

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Watch out! He’s behind you! BEHIND YOU!

Finally, time for high-risk, high-reward: public comment…IN THE MIDDLE.

Guinea pig #1 was an older man who slid on his glasses and opened a red folder. “I wanna congratulate Mayor Tuck on his sex–successful election,” the commenter complimented the new mayor–and the mayor’s wife, apparently.

He took aim at, surprisingly, the public comment period itself. “I feel speakers should be heard at the beginning of the meeting. Also, they should be allowed five minutes to speak because at times you have got more to say and three minutes is not enough.” Ironically, this was not one of those times–he finished in well under three minutes.

Next up was a beefy guy who skipped congratulating the mayor for his sex and went for the jugular. “I’m in agreement with the public comments back to the beginning and I’ll tell you why. You got families with kids, you got elderly people, and you have handicapped people. To put them through two or three hours to save them for the end is just wrong. It’s ‘we the people,’ not ‘we the Hampton city council.'”

(It’s true. I’ve read the Constitution and nowhere does it mention the Hampton city council.)

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“Peekaboo.”

This Sage of Southeast Virginia left the council with a final deep thought: “the bricks out front, you need to regrout ’em.”

Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to anybody who pays attention to the grout at their city hall.

#17: Brush!, CO 5/9/16

I sh*t you not, the name of this city is “Brush!” With punctuation.

From the Brush! website: “The exclamation point after our name dates back to 1978 when the Brush Area Chamber of Commerce and the City Council began placing the exclamation point after Brush to emphasize a ‘can do attitude’.”

Well, okily-dokily. I actually have no problem with the exclamation point because I am excited–namely because the Brush! city council meeting was only 27 less-than-a-pizza-delivery minutes long!

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The Brush! city logo also doubles as good advice from your dentist

City Attorney Robert Chapin asked the council to muster their can-do attitudes to send a letter to the governor. If Hizzoner doesn’t veto a particular bill, Brush! will have to pay for court-appointed lawyers. And that, Chapin fretted, would be awful.

“That’s gonna involve some additional administrative chores,” he wrung his hands. “It’s going to create some problems for us that we have not had to deal with in the past.”

But Councilor Jeanine Anderson wasn’t letting him pee on her leg and tell her it’s raining. “I think, you know, with the Constitution of this country, you don’t just jail people without the right to an attorney.”

“The city would have to pick up the entire cost,” Chapin protested.

“Maybe,” mused Councilor Anderson, “we could look at the ordinances where there is jail time and-”

“We could eliminate that. That’s correct,” the attorney concurred.

Mayor Chuck Schonberger butted in. “Do you know how often we have sentenced someone to jail?”

“Very seldom,” Chapin responded.

No jail time in Brush!? What kind of hippie commune are they running here?! But don’t go knock over the Shell station just yet: the council voted for the veto, with Councilor Anderson the only “nay.”

Speaking of the po-po, April 30 was Brush!’s drug take-back. “In the four hour span, we collected 168 pounds of pharmaceuticals,” the interim chief reported. “We’re just about double what we were in previous years.”

Jesus. Talk about a can-do-a-lot-of-drugs attitude. Maybe if they sold all that Oxy, Brush! could pay for a lawyer for the one guy they send to jail each year.

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Where were all the citizens? Definitely NOT stockpiling drugs. Nooope.

“Was there any report form the council outreach on May 2?” Mayor Schonberger asked the room?

After a moment, Councilor Kimberly Dykes murmured, “we had no visitors.”

“That’s what I heard,” the mayor sighed, staring out at the empty council chambers. But then he brightened. “I noticed new tables out here.”

“Long tables,” the city clerk whispered excitedly.

Or,  as they are known in Brush!: “Long! Tables!”

Final thoughts: The only thing I love more than a speedy council meeting is a 168-pound motherlode of prescription narcotics. And the Brush! city council certainly had both. I give this meeting 11 out of 10 stars.