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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 30, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Councilmember Harrell caught uttering a vulgar word at disruptive activists

Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell was caught on microphone during public testimony earlier this week using a vulgar word to describe two Stand Up America activists who regularly insult and hurl obscenities at council members.

During testimony before the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee Jan. 28, Alex Zimmerman and Sam Bellomio, whose abusive language at council hearings prompted the council to revise its rules on testifying in December, attack committee chair Sally Bagshaw and Harrell, a committee member, for their personal wealth and for accepting council salaries of almost $120,000 a year.

At the conclusion of their testimony, (7:38) Harrell leans to Councilmember Kshama Sawant, seated next to him, and says “They’re a bunch of (expletive)” and then can be heard chuckling.

Harrell had plenty of provocation. Just minutes before (5:10), Bagshaw cuts Zimmerman off when he reaches his allotted two minutes for public testimony. When she refuses to give him 10 more seconds he can be heard calling her an expletive.

Zimmerman and Bellamio, who ran unsuccessfully against Bagshaw for her council seat in November, routinely call the council Nazis, communists and (expletive) idiots. They have repeatedly attacked members for not allowing more public testimony, for not holding meetings at night and in the community and for representing elite billionaires and not the working people.

Asked about the unguarded comment caught on the Seattle Channel recording of the committee meeting,  Harrell, in a statement released by his office, did not apologize.

“I have watched the Council passively observe these two men remain disruptive, mean spirited and make untrue assertions in Council Chambers with complete impunity. Their actions have created an unwelcoming environment for other speakers during public comment and have made a mockery of meaningful public debate…. While I will defend political speech fully and unconditionally, I will not defend any person’s right to be mean spirited and disrespectful solely as a means to provoke others and disrupt the public engagement process.”

The City Council changed its rules for public comment last month to give the presiding officer the right to remove a commenter for outbursts or repeated disruptions. But the rule change hasn’t discouraged the worst offenders.

Comments | More in Local government, Politics Northwest, Seattle City Council | Topics: Bruce Harrell, Stand Up America


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