Our View: Impact of Senum’s words extends far beyond Nevada City
Like much of our community, this week’s editorial board discussion drew mixed reaction on whether Nevada City Councilwoman Reinette Senum should resign her seat due to highly controversial comments she posted on Facebook, for which she has since apologized.
In fact, in the first “roll call” vote our board has held since its inception, the outcome was 8-7 among our 15 members on whether to call for her resignation.
But make no mistake, we are united in saying the statements made by Reinette Senum, a former member of The Union’s editorial board, were absolutely offensive, inaccurate, inconsiderate, irresponsible and have done damage to the reputation of Nevada City, as well as insulting law enforcement officers all across this country — including those sworn to protect our own community.
“This was completely incited by America’s police force,” Senum wrote in the post. “They have obviously been given directives to go out there and kill.
“It’s insane and it’s meant to create mayhem.
“And let me add to this: I’m pointing out that we can expect this when the police murder somebody. This is the oldest trick in the book…. it brings out more violence!!! It’s a terrible cycle that always escalates into something worse. Thus forcing us to ask ourselves, who is benefiting from this? THAT’s the answer I want to get to.”
Senum apologized on Facebook the following day, “In no way did I mean to offend our highly regarded officers with my comments …” and also for “using such a broad brush that our local officers felt they were included in my statement.”
Yet how could the officers not feel that way, when she referred to “America’s police force” as inciting the violence that resulted in five slain Dallas police officers? And, more to the point, how does removing members of the NCPD — or for that matter Grass Valley Police, Nevada County and Placer County sheriff’s offices — make her comments any less offensive?
Her words needed no interpretation. They were clear. They claimed police officers are being directed to kill people in order to create more mayhem, and that someone is benefiting from this. She wonders, who could that be?
Obviously, it’s not the police officers, who lost five of their brothers less than 24 hours before she shared those words, which were a vicious attack on all police officers across the country — intended or not.
In a second apology Senum made at Wednesday’s special meeting of the Nevada City Council, she said she hoped the community could come together and head in a different direction.
“Because right now the rhetoric I’m seeing in our nation is quite frankly absolutely scary,” she said.
Fair enough, but what rhetoric could be more frightening than suggesting — without a single shred of evidence — police officers are being directed to go out and kill citizens they’ve sworn to protect? Could this not make police officers targets of further violence?
Many calling for her resignation, including members of the Nevada City Police Officers Association, question whether Senum was sincerely sorry. In her initial apology, she pointed to a post by the Nevada County Scooper as somehow being responsible for the furious response that followed her post. On Sunday, while discussing her apology, she said the backlash was due to a political attack, an assertion she repeated as a “political hit job” or a “smear campaign” in Friday’s edition of The Union.
Apologizing for her words and then adding a “but …” has left many still seeking a sense of genuine contrition from the councilwoman.
Could it not be that her words were so offensive that those who read them offered immediate response in social media, whether on her own Facebook page or community groups, and the controversy grew from there? Sacramento TV stations picked up the story first among regional media, soon followed by print and digital agencies throughout the region and, eventually, across the country.
Whatever fanned the flames, it’s quite clear that the origin of the outrage — and why, as she said, it took on a “life its own” — was her own offending words and resulting condemnation of them across the country.
In seeking her resignation, Nevada City police officers point to the city council’s code of conduct, which they say Senum violated. Though she has said she was speaking as a private citizen, she is an elected official — one who represents all of Nevada City, and not just those who voted for her.
Mayor Evans Phelps said Thursday there is no plan to further agendize the matter by the city council whether for discussion, a reprimand, formal censure or other actions as outlined in the code of conduct. A recall effort would cost thousands of dollars in the form of a special election, in addition to many more months of the kind of divisive distraction that has consumed the community since the words were first published on her Facebook page.
Some suggest that doing the right thing for the city she professes to love would be to step down in order to end the debacle. Others have condemned her words, acknowledged her good work in the community, and encourage her to stay seated with the council. And some suggest she has done nothing wrong at all.
Ultimately the next steps reside with Reinette Senum, her fellow council members, those who still seek her resignation and, perhaps, the voters.
But the impact of those decisions, just as was the case with her outrageously offensive comments — like it or not — extends far beyond the city limits of Nevada City.
The weekly Our View column represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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