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Acrimony breaks out over alleged slights and 'barbs' on Human Relations Commission

Original post made on Jan 13, 2020

A Palo Alto Human Relations Commission deliberation to select a new chair and vice chair turned acrid on Jan. 9, with two members of the commission saying they felt they were being targeted.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 13, 2020, 5:54 PM

Comments (25)

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 13, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Kudos to commissioner Valerie Stinger for sidestepping that one or, as they say, 80 Percent of anything is not showing up.

Posted by PAProcess
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 13, 2020 at 8:42 pm

Please make Daryl Savage the chair. She sounds like the grown-up in the room.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2020 at 9:09 pm

It would be helpful to know the commissioners' positions on the issues.

Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jan 13, 2020 at 10:24 pm

Here is Steven Lee, defending his friend Rebecca Parker Mankey, who attacked and berated an old man for wearing a MAGA hat at Starbucks on Cal Ave. Lee makes sure to voice his politically correct platitudes.

Web Link

"Steven Lee, a member of Palo Alto’s Human Relations Commission, also spoke about the incident on Facebook.
Referring to Mankey as “one of our neighbors, beloved by many in our community for her progressive activism, myself included,” Lee wrote that Mankey “allowed herself to be pulled down into that muck.”

Although Lee agreed that the MAGA hat “at its best represents a distorted and inaccurate view of America, its history, and its place in the world,” he urged citizens to be “civil and vigilant.”

Appoint someone other than Steven Lee please.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:31 am

How disappointing to read about the problematic behavior that surfaced during the nomination of next years chair and vice chair of the Human Relations Commission. Such behavior does not reflect well on the participants, the city, or the council members who appointed them to the commission.

In a few weeks members of the Planning Commission will also be nominating their new chair and vice chair. I'm sure I speak for many members of the public when I express my hope that the members of this commission will not also find themselves embroiled in controversial and divisive nominations for these two positions.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2020 at 7:35 am

I watched online: strangely reminiscent of the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film post-caper bickering among Mr. White, Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink and Mr Nice.

Posted by Not Lee
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:25 pm

I have worked with Steven Lee on several different committees and groups, and would strongly urge the HRC to NOT nominate Lee as the next chair! Lee is self-serving and seeks one thing, higher office. I would not be surprised if he used becoming chair as a stepping stone to run for council. Lee is entitled, and presumes he should be chair because he, "is the senior-most member of the commission who hasn't been chair". I'm sorry, but seniority on a commission does not make you qualified to be its leader, nor are you deserving of anything simply because you "show up".

I hope the HRC is wise and nominates a commissioner who is worthy of the post. Daryl Savage should be the new chair.

Posted by Clay L
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 14, 2020 at 12:56 pm

This is today's most ridiculous thing. Get along for the good of us all. Try harder. Or do something else.

Posted by Daisy
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 14, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Steven Lee is an incredibly dedicated member of the HRC, and an asset to the city of Palo Alto. He has tirelessly discharged his duties with Grace, compassion, and intelligence and works hard for people in Palo Alto, even in the face of overwhelming adversity. Steven works hard to Ally every day, and constantly tries to improve. Steven Lee has the courage and strength to lead the HRC as chair into the next decade.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 14, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Steven Lee is incredibly proactive as a Human Relations Commissioner. He has moved many issues forward, seeking community input and then working on them with care and deliberation to actually move the needle rather than just talk. His work on behalf of parents of children with disabilities and their ability to access city programs is a fine example but not the only one. His genuine care matched with his determination to make a positive contribution to our community, especially for overlooked and vulnerable members of our community, make him an exemplary commissioner who is more than ready to lead the HRC.

Posted by a friend
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2020 at 4:03 pm

I worked with Steven Lee on a City Council campaign and found his dedication to the Palo Alto community impressive. He showed up time and again for community events.

Posted by Eyemax
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:13 pm

I have worked with both Lee and Smith. Neither is qualified to chair the HRC. Lee has antagonized his colleagues, staff and community partners. He has been repeatedly cautioned about his behavior and asked by one council member and several members of the public to resign. Smith does not show up to meetings, disrespects female colleagues and staff members, and has no understanding of the core business of the HRC. Daryl Savage is far and away the much better choice. Hopefully her colleagues will soon reach that same conclusion.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:29 pm

Several years ago i found city recreational facilities and services to be inaccessible to my child with a disability. Several emails to the city rec department from myself and others in the same situation went nowhere. It was only when Steven Lee heard about our issue that things have moved forward. He has reached out to our community, spent a lot of time listening to our ideas and worked on our behalf to push forward facilities accessible to all . I found him to be thoughtful, proactive and a good listener in moving forward the rights of a population that is largely ignored and very underserved in our community

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2020 at 6:37 pm

I do this a lot, so maybe it takes training. I look at art and see if it gives me insight into what is happening in policy.
So I do recommend that beyond this article, go watch about an hour's worth of the bickering and then watch a couple clips of, as i discuss above, "Reservoir Dogs".
Then, for fun and insight, try to match in your own imagination the Palo Alto HRC member with the corresponding character in the movie. For example:
Mr White: Gabe
Mr. Pink: Steven
Mr. Black: Kaloma
(The film actually stars: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi and Michael Madsen if that helps you get into the task...or provides insight into this instant subset of leadership)

If you do the math, you would know that there are about 50 ways to do this.
It sort of helps if you have seen the film.
And the film is definitely racist, homophobic, violent and despicable. They literally say "this is not City Council" and everybody laughs.

Or I am open to anybody's else's ideas on how to fix the HRC.

Posted by Meh
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 14, 2020 at 7:12 pm

IMHO, shut it down.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2020 at 7:19 pm

Apropos of and in accord with the poster above, number 4, I wrote to Mr. Lee in April of last year and characterized his views in defense of Parker Mankey as anti-Semitic and he did not respond to that criticism.

I think Council should toss the entire bunch here and pick randomly among the 50 or so most recent applicants for any board or commission to fil the seats and the new HRC.

In some ways we are beyond HRC and soft commissions like arts and parks can also be informed by the social justice values of the HRC.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2020 at 7:30 pm

My previous comment is a bit misleading. Here is the entire exchange (note: Todd Parker a Gunn classmate is not related to Parker Mankey):
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: mark weiss <[email protected]>
To: Steven D. Lee <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 09:05:55 AM PDT
Subject: Fw: Mankey

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: mark weiss <[email protected]>
To: mark weiss <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2019 9:02 AM
Subject: Re: Mankey

ok, if Donald Trump or Kellyanne conway were sitting at Starbucks minding their own business --even presidents deserve a wee bit of privacy or time out -- and you or Ms Mankey got in their face, that's one thing. But to approach VF (we have a mutual friend who told me his name) and provoke a scene -- and call him a Nazi -- is a sign that you are not fit to lead in palo alto. What views can you attribute to someone - or what characteristics - other than the fact he is wearing a red hat with four words or symbols?
I think you should consider resigning.
The essay below is evasive and bureacratic.
Who will people like you -- idealogues -- and Ms. Parker Mankey -- attack next?
mark weiss
to say you love this person probably means you don't really know her.
(I don't know her - unless she is Todd Parker's sister, in which case I literally just saw her Mom and wondered and waived to the mom -- lives in a condo downtown -- my mother's building -- but I would say at the least she should take some time off for counseling or medical consult)

and i repeat : the far left are becoming tools of the far right.
Metoo and BLM are being undermined by anti-semites.

From: mark weiss <[email protected]>
To: mark weiss <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2019 8:45 AM
Subject: Fw: Mankey

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Steven D. Lee <[email protected]>
To: mark weiss <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 3, 2019 1:47 PM
Subject: Re: Mankey

I'm not. if you read my full statement:

My full statement about this week's incident at a Palo Alto Starbucks:
The most impactful step we can take to ensure an inclusive America is to resist policies and actions of the current administration that are exclusionary, dangerous, and contrary to our country’s founding values. This is a resistance that, after three years, requires endurance. It is a resistance that calls for us to speak up even when our voice is raw from years of calling out. But most importantly, it is a resistance that demands empathy—the same empathy missing from the policies and actions we resist.
Michelle Obama said: “We’ve got to go high ― always and without exception. […] When someone’s trying to pull you down into the mud, it takes a lot less effort to give in and join them in the muck than to keep yourself upright, standing tall. If you allow yourself to play on their terms, they win.”
This week in Palo Alto, one of our neighbors, beloved by many in our community for her progressive activism, myself included, allowed herself to be pulled down into that muck when she encountered a man wearing a MAGA hat at a Palo Alto Starbucks and chased him out of the store.
Let me be clear. The MAGA hat at its best represents a distorted and inaccurate view of America, its history, and it place in the world, and, at its worst, is a symbol of hate and everything that is wrong with America today.
“Going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean you shy away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul — your whole value system...we don’t let them distract us from our purpose. We brush them off when we can, and we deal with them when we need to. But we never lose sight of our goal.”
We resist policies. We resist actions. We resist hate. We resist intolerance. But we do not resist people. We must resist sinking down to their level. We must hold out our hand and help pull them out of the muck.
We must resist by organizing, protesting, passing progressive and protective laws at the state and local levels and getting the vote out and electing true and pragmatic progressives who will move our country forward. We must be more engaged, not less, in the political process and with those who disagree with us. We must also be both vigilant and civil. That is the hardest, most courageous form of resistance—the Resistance of Ghandi, of Dr. King—a Resistance based in empathy and committed not to a duel between our lesser demons but rather a meeting of our better angels. That is the Resistance we must strive for and the one I know we have within us.
Note: The views expressed here are my own and are not necessarily those of the Human Relations Commission, City Council or the City of Palo Alto.

On Wed, Apr 3, 2019 at 1:34 PM mark weiss <[email protected]> wrote:
I don’t see how you can stand with Rebecca Mankey. Most people know nothing of her but this. A hat is just a hat.

Calling a Jewish person a Nazi is inexcusable —you should think harder about your superficial stance.

In a semi-related matter, is lakiba Pittman on the Ventura board?
I literally rang doorbells in that neighborhood until I found her, spoke to her for one hour, and feel she has a lot to contribute —she is the former chair of your commission. Do you know her?
Mark weiss

My understanding is Lakiba was named an alternate meaning she could come to the meetings or had to but could not vote.
When a left wing affiliated growth activist was named to planning commission recently she was supposed to have resigned her spot on the Ventura board and I assumed that meant lakiba was offered that job I never heard what happened.
These mostly young sometimes light brown activists on the left are really just tools of the far right.

Sent from my iPhone


Steven D. Lee
Palo Alto Human Relations Commissioner
Cell: (408) 234-XXXX (I edited it here)
[email protected]
Web Link

Posted by Community member
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:08 pm

I’ve never heard of the Human relations commission until. Steven Lee took office. He has been very visible in the community with promoting services for the homeless, mentally ill, physically handicapped, woman’s rights as well as all human rights. Ive been impressed with his commitment to the community through his actions. My mama always taught me to be kind and help those in need & I feel Steven is trying to do that. I hope everyone can work together & bring out the best in all of us.

Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 14, 2020 at 10:38 pm

I am a conservative and I have paid attention to what goes on locally and I think Stephen Lee would be an excellent choice.

I know that he was called out over the whole MAGA thing but he did discuss it civilly with anybody who cared to discuss it and clarified his statement. He was a lot more civil about that dreadful bully than I ever would be.

It's a timely reminder to a lot of candidates running for different positions in this city not everybody in Palo Alto is a flaming far left progressive. A lot of us are looking for moderate candidates who are willing to listen to the community and come up with workable solutions

Steven listens and more importantly, responds

Posted by Watchdog
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2020 at 9:35 am

I've been a Palo Alto resident for decades, and a frequent watcher of the HRC meetings. I have been watching Daryl Savage on the commission for years, and I have always been impressed by her thoughtful comments and leadership abilities. She is also, contrary to comments made during the meeting, the commissioner with the most experience having served on the HRC in the past before her current term. She should be the next chair.

I have been watching the current commission's meetings, and both Mr. Lee and Rev. Smith would be inappropriate choices for the commission. Rev. Smith has not shown he is committed to the commission through his frequent absences, and Mr. Lee has shown time and time again that he lacks the temperament and good judgment to lead the commission. I have seen Mr. Lee get into heated arguments with his colleagues, made a volunteer mediator break down and cry, and even heard he stormed out of a meeting when he did not get his way. Sure, Mr. Lee is a dedicated public servant, but we need true leadership on these commissions, and he simply doesn't have it.

We have seen what happens at the national level when we don't have an adult in the room leading our country, the HRC should nominate Ms. Savage to be the adult who can whip this commission back in shape.

Posted by Jill Asher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2020 at 12:22 pm

As one of the founders and executive director of Magical Bridge Playground and Foundation, I want to share how incredibly grateful we are for Steven Lee and and he is doing to improve the lives of people living with visible and invisible disabilities in our community.

Through his work on the commission, Steven has helped fund programming and support for our Kindness Ambassador Program, specifically to onboard our local teens with varying abilities. He is constantly out at the playground and promoting our work to give EVERYONE a place to play, and to be treated with respect and dignity.

He is what we call a MAGICAL man -- and we hope he continues to lead our community and make it a lot more welcoming for EVERYONE. He is kind, compassionate and fiercely cares about all. He is the type of leader our community desperately needs. And I am incredibly grateful for all he is doing.

Jill Asher
[email protected]

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2020 at 8:37 am

I think the work of the HRC could be incorporated into the missions of Public Arts, and Parks and Recs commissions: besides beauty, how does art enforce our highest sense of community? How can we use our open space and recreation areas for social justice and building of community, et cetera?

Note that Claude Ezran did exactly that in 2009 when he founded World Music Day.

I think inherent to HRC is you get people with chips on their shoulders arguing that their chip is more significant than another's.

You say tomato, I say tomato, let's call the whole thing off.

Or leave it to the church to promote church values: as is we push against the No Establishment Clause.

Also: if you pay attention, you see that the entire commissions and board process is going out of balance.

Mark Weiss
2x candidate for that board, 5x candidate for other boards, 3x candidate for Council, 2009-2018
plus 25 years enacting these values and more in private sector as Earthwise Productions, which is in some ways a spin-off of Bay Area Action

Whether Steven or Kaloma emerge from this tempest in a teapot, they've done huge harm to the idea of civic engagement and or the values purportedly represented when this commission bylaw was written a long time ago, pre-Obama certainly. And that's nice that a woman named Jill Asher signed her name to a pro-Steven Lee post - but it makes my point that a group of self-selected NGO or 501c3 created that playground, not a city commission, and not HRC per se. Never underestimate what a group can do...

Also: I noted that in my epistolary of sorts with Mr. Lee Lakiba Pittman, who I noticed apropos of the community debate or lack thereof about Ventura -- a historically black community here that is the target of developers now -- but Sue D of the PAW brought her up with skeletons in the closet of her purported homophobia from 2004 -- so has Lakiba reconciled her Christianity with her love of all of us or is she now blacklisted by the Social Justice Left? I think it was a cheap show for Sue to bring this up. Maybe she has changed or grown in the ensuing 15 years...

How many of those (even anonymous) posters who support Steven Lee were solicited by him? He seems, from my observation, to be the type of guy who would ask people to post here. (Hint: maybe next time, ask them to use their names, like Jill Asher did, or better let chips fall where they may).

This brouhaha is more of a press contrivance than real on some level: I don't think council is seriously considering any action in response to this. (And I know that posting here rather than lobbying actual leaders or speaking for the record at meetings and hearings or letters to City Clerk/Council is just letting off steam and not actual political efficacy - that plus half my shit gets edited out by the arbitrary powers that be in the fake news editorial board at 450 Cammie - and I'm an advertiser!

We could do better. Or I know 100 people who could do better -- their names are a public document. I'm saying: draw five random names from the last 100 people who applied for commission and ask them on behalf of the rest of us to take over the HRC agenda -- I bet we'd get better results than what the current process evolved or devolved to. Five for fighting!

Or come find me in a cafe and berate me for my views: I'm wearing today a cap that says: well, it is gray with a blue logo with a shark's fin and when I bought it a professional hockey team gave $5 to breast cancer. But berate me if you think I eat too much fish and you think killing fish for food is a sin, or berate me for being a capitalistic predator who prays on smaller fish, or berate me -- as my wife, the former arts commissioner Terry Acebo Davis does - for the fact that that shade of gray on my cap does not match the blue of my shirt, aesthetically. Or berate my dear friend and colleague Tim Gray for cybersquatting a URL that people might thing belongs to a competing political faction.

Further: if you dredge thru the HRC video archive, you see me speaking my 3 minutes in a meeting and suggesting a comedy event that I claimed would further the goals of the HRC. I suggested a specific comic I had met and was following who had a unique ethnic background or mix. But when I called another potential participant in my proposed comedy event he said "that comic is not funny" and soon I realized it was a stupid idea to book a comic just because of his ethnicity. It's one thing - and I've been producing similar events for years, in fact I have five music shows on sale right now - -to include diversity in cultural offerings. But its another thing to ram it down people's throats.

Bottom line: a little "human relations" as policy goes a long way. Or as Paracelsus once said: the difference between a potiion and a poison is the dose.

I'm here all week. Try the fish.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2020 at 8:51 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Yael
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 16, 2020 at 9:46 am

A few years ago myself and other concerned parents of disabled children approached the city rec department due to discrimination and inaccessibility in city owned/ run facilities- nothing was done about a long term problem. I am unfamiliar with the other HRC reps, so wont comment on their suitability - but It was only when Steven Lee heard about this issue that anything started moving forward. He has spent a lot of time researching, discussing and advocating for an issue that has been ignored for far too long and advocating on multiple fronts with dedication, kindness and empathy for the disability community

Posted by Eyemax
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 16, 2020 at 7:17 pm

Thank you, Jill Asher and Yael, for sharing your charming stories about how Steven Lee has worked so hard for disabled children. Let me tell you a different story. During the HRC's meeting to decide funding recommendations for underprivileged children, Lee attempted to hijack the subcommittee's recommendations and reduce funding to agencies such as Abilities United and Vista Center for the Blind that provide rehabilitation services for disabled children and adults. He also attempted to defund agencies that provide medical care, counseling and other services for low-income kids and their families. [Portion removed.]

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