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Santee City Council Calls Out Nathan Fletcher

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Nathan Fletcher, the chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, was chastised last week by members of the Santee City Council over his remarks about leaders of the movement to recall Governor Gavin Newsom.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The recall effort against governor Gavin Newsome and which organizations may be giving that effort aid and support. I've stoked a controversy in of all places. The Santee city council council members voted to ask San Diego County board of supervisors, chair, Nathan Fletcher, to step down after he suggested the recall effort was being led by those linked with white supremacists neo-Nazis and right wing militia groups, Santi, denounced that statement as hateful rhetoric, although reporting by the LA times has established some of those links. The controversy provoked by Fletcher's comments and the history of hateful rhetoric in Santee makes an odd juxtaposition for San Diego union Tribune, columnist, Michael Smolins, and he joins us now. Michael welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:49 Hi, Maureen. How are you today? The very

Speaker 1: 00:51 Well thank you for being here. Where did Nathan Fletcher make these comments in the first place?

Speaker 2: 00:57 Well, there was a June 12th remote news conference. It was the anti recall effort, uh, that defending Gavin Newsome and, uh, he joined, uh, Democrats democratic leaders and office holders across the state, including, uh, San Diego mayor, Todd, Gloria, uh, based sickly denouncing the recall effort. And the theme was twofold. One that there were extremist groups as Fletcher mentioned. And so did Gloria link to, uh, the recall effort, uh, and also they equated it with, uh, there was a lot of backlash initially, uh, particularly on the equating, the coup with people. Um, even like-minded Democrats saying, wait a minute, a recall is a totally legal process. A coup is not, but they were tying these people to the kinds of people, if not the exact same people that, that did the assault on the Capitol. Just six days earlier on January 6th.

Speaker 1: 01:49 Now the right wing links that Fletcher referenced in the recall effort that they were turned up and kind of confirmed by the LA times. Were they not? Yeah.

Speaker 2: 01:57 Yes, it was interesting because initially not only were the Democrats called out for, for, you know, making the comparison to a coup, but also not having any, uh, evidence that, of these links and not, not giving him any examples and so forth, uh, including an LA times editorial, oddly enough days later, their new staff looked into this and they found, uh, numerous links. It's hard to quantify how deeply involved these groups were, but clearly they were involved in, in signature gathering and signing petitions. And even in one case, the infamous problems, uh, provided security at one anti Newsome rally, which makes the Santee city council action a little more curious because their action came after this news had broken by the LA times. That's, uh, extremist were involved.

Speaker 1: 02:43 Did Santee city council members say they are joining these rebukes against Fletcher?

Speaker 2: 02:50 Um, it's hard to say why, uh, you know, I think that, that, that Santi figures that because of their history in recent times and over the decades with racist issues and racism, uh, they felt compelled to call out, well, wait a minute, you know, before being beaten up, not them personally, but their city, uh, we should be calling it out elsewhere.

Speaker 1: 03:09 Well, could you go into that a little bit more Santi has been the site of, of recent white supremacist incidents, hasn't it?

Speaker 2: 03:17 Yes. Uh, last year there were two unfortunate incidents within a matter of days of each other in may. Uh, one guy was wearing a KKK style hood in a grocery store and, and like five days later, a couple wearing, you know, pandemic facial masks that they had a Nazi insignia is on the mass that made national news. And that would be embarrassing for any community, but Santi has a history of, you know, issues with racism and white supremacists back in the sixties and seventies, there were KKK rallies and even cross burnings back there, uh, subsequently there was skinhead activity. And then there were some, you know, racially motivated violence that the city has tarred the city. So it really has its image took a beating and all that sort of came back up last year. And then frankly, again, because the city council decided to weigh in on this.

Speaker 1: 04:10 Now, why would Santi with its own history as you've been, just been speaking about with right wing extremists and white supremacists, why would it call out someone for criticizing the involvement of those very groups in a political recall?

Speaker 2: 04:26 Well, that's, that's a good question. Uh, as I wrote my call I'm, I mean, one thing that it was guaranteed to do was to rekindle the interest and the reflection on Santis history, uh, Santi has tried mightily, uh, including the same council to get past that they did a lot. They had community outreach, they expanded a community police board. In this regard, they put a banners saying Santi is a welcoming place and we support unity. So it is sort of curious, especially when as one council member of the one member who abstained from voting, uh, Ron hall, he said, I don't see this solves anything. And frankly it'll probably create some enemies. So while obviously their action was cheered by, uh, certain elements of the community and in the larger political world, it raised the question why they would get an official city action. Uh, in this case

Speaker 1: 05:20 What's been Nathan Fletcher's reaction to the controversy.

Speaker 2: 05:23 Well, he sort of dismissed it saying, you know, the city Santee has officially lost its mine. He hit back. They, they voted for, you know, to send him a letter, chastising him and calling on him to apologize and to step down as County board of supervisors, chairman, uh, he didn't do either of those things. And he did point out that there was this LA times article that basically substantiated what he was saying so that they had no basis in calling this hateful rhetoric because there were facts behind

Speaker 1: 05:55 It. Now, you know, it seems like even very local politics is getting uglier more polarized. Is the potential recall bringing that out in other places as well?

Speaker 2: 06:06 Well, you know, you say it's, it's, it's happening everywhere. Everybody wants unity and turn down the dial on the, the tone, but you know, it's become part of politics. And frankly, uh, you know, a lot of the Republican party has to deal with these elements. You know, these extremist elements because, you know, frankly, they become more involved in Republican politics. Uh, it is still the party of Trump, even though he's out of office and he has attracted these groups and given them standing quite frankly, if not overtly encouraging them, which some people believe he has certainly enabling them and, and sort of casting the stigma off them, uh, even calling them Patriots. This is going to be, I think, a problem in the recall campaign, assuming the recall qualifies, and there's a special recall election later this year, certainly you're going to see advertising along these lines, that point out extremist groups are involved. I, you know, are they going to be portrayed as the major part of the recall? Probably. Is that the reality? Probably not, but that's politics.

Speaker 1: 07:06 I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, columnist, Michael Smolins Michael. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 07:11 Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.