By Erin Adler Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dozens of women, Mayor Jenny Halverson among them, spoke for nearly two hours at a St. Paul city council meeting, alleging a pattern of sexism by the council.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
More than 150 West St. Paul residents flooded a City Council meeting Monday night to protest what they say is ongoing sexism by several male council members -- and they arrived carrying boxes of maxi pads and tampons to underscore their point.
Dozens of women, Mayor Jenny Halverson among them, spoke for nearly two hours at the meeting, alleging a pattern of sexism by the council.
"This is not political. It is about sexism," Halverson said as the meeting began. "It is about the ugliness that permeates the entire environment."
Halverson, the city's first female mayor, said her experiences as mayor and a council member have extended beyond sexism to outright harassment.
People have driven past her house or followed her places over the years, she said, among other intimidation tactics.
The incident that ignited the current controversy was just the tip of the iceberg, Halverson said. The firestorm began at the April 23 City Council meeting when the council rejected one of three female planning commission candidates Halverson had appointed.
Council member Jay Bellows said he objected to resident Samantha Green's appointment when there was an existing commission member, a man, who wanted reappointment. He suggested gender had influenced Halverson's appointments.
Halverson said she picked them because they were qualified and noted that Bellows had championed the mayor's right to appoint commission members three years ago when the mayor had been male, but now that she had the role, they had voted down her appointment.
After the April 23 meeting, Halverson and Green received Kleenex and a box of maxi pads on their doorsteps, an apparent dig at their gender.
In solidarity with the two women, residents vowed to bring tampons and maxi pads to Monday night's meeting for eventual donation to needy women.
As the feminine products piled up Monday night, a stream of women voiced support for Halverson and said they didn't feel represented by the council.
Some said they would attend every remaining city meeting in Halverson's term to support her, while others called for Bellows' or several council members' resignation. One resident said she plans to run for City Council. City Council members responded to the drama in various ways.
Bellows said he condemned the harassment of Halverson and Green and denied that sexism had influenced his April 23 vote.
The night had been filled with guilt by association along with some "statements that just didn't have any basis in fact," Bellows said.
"I've been accused of a lot of things tonight," Bellows said. "The fact of the matter is, people don't know a hell of a lot about me or my background."