PORTERVILLE, CA – “Grow a pair”. That’s the advice the Mayor of this rural California community has for children who are victims of bullying. At the May 6th City Council meeting, former Mayor Virginia Gurrola suggested the City support a student-led program called “Safe Zones”.
Designed to provide safe places for children to go when they are being bullied, such locations would be designated with a sign or sticker. Mayor Hamilton was having none of that.
“I’m against bullying, but I’m getting damn tired of it being used as a mantra for everything, and the ills of the world. All most people just have to grow a pair, and stick up for them damn selves,” said Hamilton at the council meeting.
You may remember Porterville from previous Queerlandia stories. Last summer we reported on then Mayor Virginia Gurrola issuing a proclamation declaring June 2013 as LGBT Pride Month in Porterville. As we said then, all hell broke loose.
That proclamation got Mayor Gurrola unseated from the ceremonial seat, as well as the vice-mayor, and replaced by the current Mayor, Cameron Hamilton. That coup d’ état occurred after two other council members, Brian Ward and Greg Shelton, joined Hamilton and voted to rescind the LGBT Pride proclamation (both actions instigated by councilman Ward). After a Keystone-Kops-like display of ineptitude that had the council thinking they could vote away the proclamation at one meeting, the city attorney had to advise them they had so worded the agenda item that all they could do was put the actual vote on the NEXT meeting’s agenda. Once they got around to doing things correctly, they rescinded the Pride proclamation.
At the Council meeting, Virginia Gurrola requested the city consider supporting the “Safe Zone” project being started by students at local schools. With their trusty laptops in front of them, some of the council members did an immediate search on “Safe Zone”. As there are several programs with that name around the country, and many of them geared towards the LGBT community, a red flag (or more precisely, a rainbow flag) went up. Hamilton, Ward, and Shelton will do nothing that might support the LGBT community. They will allow bullying to go on, if attacking it means giving any shelter or support to gay kids in the city.
The local ABC affiliate, KFSN Channel 30 aired this report:
To see the entire section on the “Safe Zone” discussion, including public commentary afterwards, go to the iPorterville Vimeo channel. (45 minutes)
Expecting children to “grow a pair” and behave like adults is Hamilton’s solution to bullying, especially for gay kids. It shows a remarkable ignorance of bullying, children, and the need for adult leadership in the community. Children model what they see, and right now they see a City Council who does not respect their needs, and is unwilling to protect them.
Hamilton, Shelton, and Ward should be ashamed of themselves. But as bullies often do, they don’t see a problem. Hopefully the next election will change the makeup of the council, and Porterville can join the rest of California and the USA in protecting young people. We can only hope. (and Porterville citizens vote!)
City of Porterville’s web page.
Past Queerlandia articles about Porterville’s LGBT issues:
HATE IN A SMALL TOWN. (also published in the print edition of the Visalia Times Delta newspaper’s “We The People” section, September 21, 2013, and posted to the Alternating Currents blog on their website.)
Now another page opens, this one written by the hands of the bullies themselves. As the LGBT and straight ally community makes progress across the globe, Porterville remains stuck in the past, and determined to ignore anything that might even tangentially serve, recognize, or protect the LGBT youth in their city. Look out Porterville students, you’re fair game, and the city council is no safe harbor.