White Flight

Miller skips Board of Supes meeting as critics of her "white pride" comments blast her

A crowd showed up at Monday's Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting to tell Supervisor Ally Miller what they think of her latest controversy—announcing her white pride on Facebook just hours after a white supremacist mowed down a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman and injuring several dozen.

But constituents spoke to an empty chair.

Not only did Miller decline to show up to the meeting, but she also may have stayed away from the administration office for the entire week following her post, as other supervisors said they had not seen her or her car in the parking lot.

But on Friday, she did make a public records request to the county for all communications related to her controversial post.

She asked for "any and all copies of verbal and written communications, including but not limited to emails, social media accounts, phone calls and letters from anyone including members of the public, all county employees, county administrator, any and all elected officials, communications department employees, County Attorney Office employees, as well as each and every one of the Board of Supervisors members."

Her request seems to show a lack of understanding of how records requests—and verbal communication for that matter—work, given that "members of the public" are not subject to public records requests, unless they are in communication with a government official or entity.

She also asked for records going back to July 1 for reaction to an Aug. 12 Facebook post, which suggests her critics in county government would have to be very sage indeed to be predicting that she'd make a boneheaded comment five weeks before she actually did so.

The fishing expedition would also cover thousands of county employees' correspondences, and would require considerable time and expense to collect, which makes this a curious demand from an elected official who frequently complains about the waste of taxpayer dollars.

Among people who showed up at the board meeting to denounce her statements were well-known local activist and former Pima County public defender Isabel Garcia, as well as representative from Black Lives Matter Tucson and a number of other local leaders.

At the very least, Miller should issue a sincere apology, said Fred Yamashita, chair of the Pima Area Labor Federation, which represents thousands of working families throughout Southern Arizona.

"I was deeply disturbed by the comments made on social media by County Supervisor Ally Miller," he said during call to the audience. "Her post was insensitive and divisive and the citizens of this community expect and demand better."

Yamashita's comments echo some of the gentler criticism of Miller. The day after her comment, Supervisor Richard Elías put out a statement calling for her to apologize, saying "Instead of calling for unity after the deaths of three Americans, as Neo-Nazis and domestic terrorists marched on the streets of an American city, Supervisor Miller called for further division."

In an interview with the Tucson Weekly, he said he thinks she's in a difficult spot to continue as supervisor, given the comments she made.

"My sense is that if she were to apologize, she would probably get a certain amount of forgiveness from people," he said. "But should she resign? If she's created such a distraction around herself, then yeah, it's something she should consider on some level. It's hard enough to be a county supervisor without creating a lot of drama around yourself."

Elías received both support and criticism on Facebook for his statement. For example, one man wrote: "Richard Elias- I am calling on you to apologize to the people of Pima County for your horrible mischaracterization of Ms. Miler's (sic) statement and for forcing it into your narrative of identity politics. Shame on you."

Miller's controversial post, for those of you about to go google it, was posted under a Politico article about the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville, on one-time Tucson mayoral candidate Shaun McClusky's Facebook page

"I'm sick and tired of being hit for being white ... It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize," she wrote. "I am WHITE-and proud of it! No apologies necessary."

Elias told the Weekly that Miller didn't need to apologize for being white, but should apologize for seeing criticism of Nazis as a personal attack on herself.

"Saturday was a horrible day for the United States of America, filled with all kinds of sadness and all kinds of grief," Elías said. "And when you make comments like Supervisor Miller did, then you legitimize those voices that spread hate and that's really problematic for someone who's sworn to do her best for the people of Pima County."

Supervisor Sharon Bronson also put out a statement that received both positive and negative reactions on Facebook.

"People have First Amendment rights and they can say what they want, but it doesn't make it true," she said during an interview.

Bronson said in the context of what happened in Charlottesville, Miller's comments were insensitive, inappropriate and "sound eerily similar" to the Klu Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups. She while Miller is proud to be white, Bronson is proud to be a member of this community.

"I'm proud to stand with my brothers and sisters and represent diversity, against hate," she said.

In response to constituents asking the board to hold Miller accountable, Bronson asked the county attorney to look into what, if any, power the board has to reprimand or remove a fellow supervisor. A response from the county attorney is due at the supervisors' Sept. 5 meeting.

While many at Monday's meeting called for Miller's resignation, a few people that spoke seemed to speak in support of Miller. One woman said Elías and Bronson should apologize for being racist.

Lola Rainey, with BLM Tucson, said Miller shouldn't feel guilty about being white, but rather for not looking out for her constituents who live in low-income, mostly-minority neighborhoods. She doesn't want any apology, but she does want Miller gone.

"I'm asking all of you to hold her accountable, and I'm holding you accountable," she said to the board. "We should not be able to see that if you live in a predominantly white area of town, you go to better schools, that you have development there, that you have jobs there, and if you have to live on the south side of town, 22nd Street and on, that you don't have those things."

Garcia, founder of the human-rights group Derechos Humanos, almost didn't speak, saying she wanted to wait until Miller was present. But after requests from the audience to hear her, she addressed the board.

She said Miller and the entire community need to be educated on racist policies in our region's history.

"Inequality is everywhere," she said. "And Ally Miller, you need to know—in your empty chair—the history here, the history of this country. That's why there's division about confederate monuments."

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