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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Friday, March 8, 2013

"I'm sorry, so sorry..."

When Councillor Sandy White said that she used the N-word for shock value, I took her at her word. In discussing it with others, I did wonder at why she used that particular derogatory word since her concern was about sexist, not racist, images on city buses. Still, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

But the events of the last 24 hours suggest a far more sinister explanation of her behaviour at council on Tuesday evening. 

She had had stated, in the lead up to her now infamous outburst, that someone on the London Transit Commission had said to her that children liked the ad she wanted removed from the buses.

Although I have heard from a number of people that they find that particular advertisement offensive and demeaning to women, I don’t happen to agree. It’s actually quite funny, a bit of a spoof. I can see myself as a ten year old giggling at it. Nevertheless, I can understand that not everyone would appreciate the humour. But making it an issue to stake your political career on? Really?

And more importantly, deciding to quit because your viewpoint didn’t win the day? If the issue had come to council and she hadn’t gotten her way, would she have resigned from that too?

At the time, she didn’t identify who on the commission made those remarks. But according to her, it was the last straw. “I’m done,” she quoted herself as saying. “They like a lot of things. They like drugs. They like alcohol. But do we put that on the side of a bus?”

But now it turns out that the person who said this to her, that kids like Katy Perry, was none other than Harold Usher, the only black member on city council. So when she continued, “But if I would’ve used words like nigger? Oh, then it would have made sense. Or if we would have put the man’s penis on the side of the bus, then it would have made sense.”

And indeed, it all makes sense to me now. She was getting even with Usher for not supporting her. No wonder Usher couldn’t trust himself to speak after the meeting.

This wasn’t a matter of standing on principle; it was a matter of getting her own way and no means of retaliation was off limits when anyone opposed her. The use of the N-word was deliberate, not just for its shock value but also to humiliate the person at whom it was directed.

I stand by my statement of yesterday; White is not a racist. But she is an opportunist. And as an opportunist she is prepared to use racial epithets against her colleagues and to deflect the blame for her behaviour to her daughter. Her beautiful black daughter, as she puts it.

On Thursday evening, she made a brief appearance in the Grand Theatre’s fundraising play, The 39 Steps. Her part was a small one, a political party functionary who was to introduce a campaigning politician. The emcee for the event announced, as part of the play, that White's character would say “a few choice words”. A ripple of laughter ran through the audience.

That was following her late afternoon press conference at which she had made yet another apology. With her she had an entourage of black males, one of whom announced that “Sandy” would read her statement but all questions would be directed to him.

He was Deeq Abdi, executive director of the African Community Council and chair of the London Multicultural Community Association, who has often come before city council to seek funds for various social enterprises—a homework club, a multicultural economic council,  an immigrant incubation centre. For the last of these, Abdi managed to obtain a $25,000 Trillium grant for a feasibility study but still turned up at city hall to ask for “matching funds” to complete the feasibility study. At the final budget meeting, White did her level best to get that for him but suggested that the money could be earmarked for  a “business plan” once the feasibility study is completed. That request, which received strong support from the mayor, was referred back to administration.

And now, here was Abdi, acting as White’s press agent and handler.

White began to read her prepared statement.

“First, let me apologize for the inappropriate use of a word at a recent council meeting that is considered to be derogatory and the misunderstanding that it has created. For that I am truly sorry.”

“Not acceptable,” someone yelled. White glared in his direction.

But he was right. “Inappropriate use”? Is the N-word ever appropriate? “Considered” to be derogatory? “Misunderstanding”? That’s an apology?

Still, if she had stopped at that point, perhaps no harm would have been done. Instead, she chose to continue with a justification. It hadn’t been directed at anyone, she continued, and furthermore, she had dedicated her life to social justice. Just ask anyone who knows her. It was her dedication to social justice and equal opportunity that led her to an overly passionate defence of her departure from the LTC.

“Young women deserve a city in which we respectfully emulate (sic) them in science and technology, in medicine, engineering and any trade…” she read. But instead we hoist pictures of scantily clad celebrities on the bus. She had meant well, had never intended to hurt anyone. She loved the city and her family. She held up a picture of her daughter to prove her point. She had just made a misstep.

“We politicians sometimes do that,” she acknowledged. She was just like anybody else.

That was the end of the statement.

Then came the questions. Despite Abdi’s attempt to control the conference, White could not contain her combativeness. When confronted with Usher’s assertion that her derogatory epithet had been hurled at him, White denied it but then burst out that Usher had single-handedly been responsible for approving the ad and, although she had apologized to him, he had never apologized for what he said to her “as a woman.”

She accused LTC General Manager Larry DuCharme of stating publicly that Usher was responsible for placing the ad. She had witnesses. Later, DuCharme denied the accusation. That’s an administrative responsibility. Commissioners don’t handle advertising.

About one-third of the LTC union members had also signed a petition of complaint about the ad. It is unclear if the union approached White or White approached the union about this issue. But there were concerns that White had been undercutting the LTC’s administration. That, however, was not discussed at the press conference.

The press conference was over. Amid repeated calls for her resignation, White left with her entourage in tow. It was the third or fourth public apology.

But it’s not the last. Londoners have at least one more apology in store from White when council meets again in a few weeks.

The mayor has replaced zero tax increase with zero tolerance.


Joey Bananas said...

Excellent synopsis, Gina.

As a result, during the next in-camera meeting of the Fontana 8 at Bill T's Tap & Grill (or wherever), I'll be putting forward the following motion:

"That Ward 3 Councillor Stephen Oser BE APPOINTED chair of the Rag, Bones & Bottles Steering Committee; that Ward 9 Councillor Dale G. Henderson BE APPOINTED chair of the Interplanetary Space Exploration Standing Committee and that Ward 14 Councillor Sandy White BE APPOINTED chair of the Drama Queen Plastic Pail & Shovel Sandbox Sub-Committee, it being noted their outstanding contributions to their respective fields of expertise."

The way I figure it, these prestigious appointments should keep them busy for the next 18 months leading up to the 2014 Municipal Election and out of everyone else's hair.

Do I get a seconder?

Anonymous said...

So sad, so sad and so pathetic. I think Sandy White should be asked to leave council before she embarrasses them and the city of London more, but then if Fontana asked her to leave he would be afraid of her unleashing her tantrums on him especially about what actually went on at Billy T's. This is most likely why she has not been asked to leave. So very Sad.

MF Arouet said...

Megan Walker reported that Fontana said "all women in London will want their new kitchens” at the same meeting White used n-word yet White wonders where Usher's apology is?
I agree Gina, for White this is not so much about women's issues as it is a personal vendetta against perceived enemies where almost any twisted defense is used. Very Sad.

Veteran Observer said...

Two Points:

Four years is much too long for municipal terms. Just one more brilliant decision by Dalton McGuinty.

Sandy White: please do the city a great service and just quietly go away.

Vicki Van Linden said...

There is so much work to do on city council and city committees; so many items of concern that require council attention, things that affect our city in so many ways. Yet, these items so often get referred back to staff repeatedly, and council decisions get delayed and delayed.

Some oouncillors often seem reluctant to do their own reading and research to become informed enough to make clear decisions, so "refer to staff" seems the favourite phrase.

Citizen concerns take years to move forward because council 'just does not have the time’ we are told again and again. We also hear there is not enough time to read all of the agendas, and it is clear that some councillors do not, but have arrived to meetings ill-prepared. So valuable meeting time is taken up with councillors dismissing or referring back items that they should be prepared to make a decision on at that time. There is “so much work, more than they can handle. They need more staff.”

Yet, there seems to be all the time in the world to deal with one's own personal feelings. If personal feelings are hurt, then that seems to be a matter for the entire city to take on.

I hope that Usher and White will meet in private with a mediator, get this settled and get back to the real work of council.

If not, then I propose that we hire a Reality Show TV judge, someone like Judge Judy, who will get some order restored and London can begin to present itself as a city to be proud of once again.

Anonymous said...

Think you nailed it Gina. There have been a variety of situations in which Sandy's insecurities have come out in attacks against those with the temerity to challenge her. Whether it was calling the boss of a staffer at an organization getting city funds, or against Usher for not supporting her, to those who supported other candidates who ran against her, Ms White has some real problems. I hope she gets help or realizes she is way over her head.

Why's woman said...


If we believe words are so powerful that we stop using them in the situations where it is right to use them - right because it shows their power and context, and because it illuminates another issue - then we will forget the words, forget the power, and forget the history and issues they represented. That would be a bad thing for our society.

I sure wish I didn't have to bring out that important point when the person who's caused a ruckus is Sandy White!

I guess we'll just have to wait and see if White is headed for a political fall, or a personal implosion and mental health problems.

Thanks for the comments and context, Gina.


Why's Woman

Carl Woodward said...

At 11:31 this morning (Mar. 8), Ward 14 Councillor Sandy White sent an e-mail to all local media outlets requesting they not include the name of her employer in articles about her.

"For Immediate and Urgent Attention: To All Media: Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of her work, it would be greatly appreciated if, when quoting Councillor Sandy White, that you kindly refrain from mentioning the name of her employer, ..."

This is from the same ward councillor who, in the past, contacted the employer of an online critic and also wanted city council to cease funding any non-profit organization whose employees criticized members of London city council.

The Insider said...

For those inquiring minds who want to know:

Da mayor and his six little friends spent $70 on lunch and left a $14 tip
at their secret meeting on Highbury Ave.

No report yet on what expense accounts were submitted at City Hall.

No report on expense accounts submitted yet,

Stay tuned.

doug rogers said...

The four year municipal politician term was implemented by Mike Harris, not Dalton McGuinty.

Veteran Observer said...

In response to Doug Rogers, the four year municipal term began in 2006 when Mr. McGuinty was Premier.

doug rogers said...

In response to Veteran Observer, the four year term was implemented by Mike Harris. Your criticism seems typically ahistorical. McGuinty serves a four year term, civic politicians serve a four year term. It was implemented by soundly defeated political idiots. Karma, Nemesis, whatever. The world doesn't begin when you want it to.

Anonymous said...

Doug, you are either a poor researcher or a shill. Here are the facts on the term of office for muni councils in Ont. Dalton was premier from 2003. Get your facts straight:

When are local elections held?

Elections for municipal government are held every four years on the fourth Monday of October*. Prior to the vote in 2006, the period between elections had been 3 years. For example, 2000, 2003 and 2006 were municipal election years.

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario legislation (Bill 81, Schedule H), passed in 2006, set the length of terms in office for all municipal elected officials at four years.