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Public demands for removal of 2 Parks & Beaches members continue; board drafts statement of values

La Jolla Parks & Beaches members attend their Dec. 7 meeting on Zoom.
(Courtesy)

Public calls for the removal of two La Jolla Parks & Beaches members continued at the board’s Dec. 7 meeting online in the wake of comments the pair made in September about Black Lives Matter and local chalk drawings created in support of the movement.

The board took no action toward removing the two members — Marie Hunrichs and Mary Ellen Morgan — following requests made during the meeting’s public comment period.

In September, after a community chalk art gathering during which messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were written on the Fay Avenue Bike Path, the city of San Diego said it would not dedicate staff to power-washing it off.

Drawings and messages written in chalk on the La Jolla Bike Path during the latest in a series of community events in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were defaced, and organizers of the events say they’re concerned about escalating opposition.

Morgan said during a meeting at the time that she found the city’s decision “very problematic” and asked: “If the city is going to allow unmitigated political expression, does that mean all political expression? … Why are you doing this for Black Lives Matter? This is political speech, and you can’t isolate for racial stuff.”

Hunrichs agreed, saying: “That makes me want to go out and scribble my opinion about other issues. ... To me, all lives matter, including the lives of Black people and Black children and White people. As far as BLM goes, I’ve looked into it and it’s a Marxist organization and I do not agree with it.”

Several members of the public called the comments offensive and hurtful and said the two should be removed, citing the LJP&B bylaws section that prohibits “discrimination.”

Hunrichs and Morgan gave statements at the board’s October meeting in which they said they hadn’t meant to offend anyone and were objecting to the drawings’ location in a public area. Morgan further apologized at a subsequent chalk drawing event.

Nevertheless, calls for the women’s removal from the board persisted.

At the Dec. 7 meeting, resident Catherine Cox said their statements “can’t just be swept under the rug.”

“I have yet to see any accountability, and it’s not OK to pretend these statements were never made, and that is what these board members are trying to do,” Cox said.

Hanne Manriquez, who was born and raised in La Jolla and graduated from La Jolla High School in 2016, said the “only way to fix institutionalized racism is to change the institution and change the people in it. … We need to have a staff of people on this board that is going to reflect the change in the community.”

LJP&B President Ann Dynes encouraged anyone who would like to join the board — an advisory group to the city — to continue to attend meetings and apply for a seat when one becomes available. “We are always looking for people who not only want to talk about change but work toward improving our parks and beaches,” she said.

The board drafted a “statement of mission and values” to provide a mechanism to remove members who do not follow it.

The draft document states the board affirms the “privilege to exercise First Amendment rights to freedom of speech” but that board members shall “serve with respect, concern and courtesy in their dealings with the public and one another.”

It adds that the board “supports efforts to advance social equity, inclusiveness and diversity” and upholds “the highest legal, ethical and moral standards in their roles as public board members.”

It states that members shall “treat all persons with respect and consideration, without regard to race, color, religion, creed, age, sex, national origin or ancestry, ethnicity, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, sexual identity or status as a qualified disabled or handicapped individual.”

However, because LJP&B’s bylaws are being revised and have not yet been ratified, the board didn’t find it appropriate to vote on approving additional documents. The matter will be revisited in the new year.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches next meets at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, online. Learn more at lajollaparksbeaches.org.