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Bloomington Council Censures Carrillo For Post-Election Remarks

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The Bloomington City Council met Monday, April 19, 2021.

Jenn Carrillo was censured Monday by her fellow Bloomington City Council members over her public pledge to make “life a living hell” for two recently elected council members, whose candidacies she opposed.

In a special meeting, the council voted 6-3 to formally disapprove of Carrillo’s comments. 

Carrillo along with council members Julie Emig and Jeff Crabill voted against the resolution. 

The measure was drafted by Bloomington Mayor-elect Mboka Mwilambwe, who said that Carrillo’s comments, initially made on Facebook, “hinder an environment in which the council can work together to meet the challenges of the community.” 

Besides Mwilambwe, council members Mollie Ward, Jamie Mathy, Donna Boelen, Joni Painter and Kim Bray voted in favor of the resolution that also calls on city staff to draft a formal code of conduct for consideration by council members. 

In the April 6 Facebook post, Carrillo wrote that newly-elected council members Nick Becker and Sheila Montney were “dangerous authoritarians bought out by the police union.” Both candidates were endorsed by union that represents Bloomington police officers. 

“I have no interest in seeking unity with people who stand for everything I stand against,” she wrote. 

During the council discussion prior to Monday’s vote, Carrillo sought to contextualize her comments, saying that Becker and Montney centered their campaigns around the need for “unquestioning compliance towards police as authority figures.”

“And yes, that’s called authoritarianism,” she said.  

Carrillo, who has been a vocal proponent for police reform, said her role on council wasn’t to be liked, but to stick up for her constituents – many of whom are people of color, she said. 

“We know that Black people in Bloomington are disproportionately more likely to be stopped and frisked as pedestrians, to be pulled over, to be searched, to be canine sniffed, to be tased, to be pepper sprayed, to be beaten by police, to be threatened with a police dog, to be arrested, to be incarcerated,” she said. 

Carrillo argued that in accepting the endorsement of the police union, Becker and Montney had “effectively promised to make life a living hell for tens of thousands of people in my community -- especially Black and brown people.”

Mathy said it was important for the community to understand that Carrillo did not speak for the rest of the council, calling her comments “unacceptable and inappropriate.” 

Emig said that while she disagreed with Carrillo’s Facebook comments, she didn’t support a censure or the idea of a formal code of conduct.

Emig said council members should always strive for civil discourse. “But once we codify a policy about how to engage with one another, it will only become further entrenched as we debate and accuse one another about what constitutes a breach,” she said.

Crabill agreed that the censure hearing was unnecessary, saying, “It feels like a public flogging of a young queer woman of color.”  He also called the meeting “hypocritical,” saying that Carrillo’s “ethics and motivations have all been attacked by members of this council.”

He said that Carrillo has also been subjected to “malicious lies and threats” from the public.  “None of you have spoken out against this,” he said. 

But Ward said there was a fundamental difference between the actions of a private citizen and the actions of an elected official. 

She said Carrillo’s comments have distracted the council from the work that needs to be done, concluding her comments with a quote from Nelson Mandela:

“You cannot change someone else unless you first change yourself.”

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