In their first public meeting since Salt Lake County Council member Dave Alvord posted a screed claiming that “the left” wanted a world where everyone has the same “light brown” skin color, has no males or females, and makes babies in labs, Democratic members of the council confronted him with a statement condemning his words.
“Those words do not reflect the traditional embrace of diversity by this council and this county government,” said member Arlyn Bradshaw, also speaking on behalf of Democrats Ann Granato and Jim Bradley, as the council’s regular meeting began Tuesday. “Among the many reasons I’ve been proud to serve as an elected official at Salt Lake County is the fact that regardless of our party labels, we are able to work together, advance our regional priorities and even forge friendships with those of a different perspective.”
Alvord, a Republican, was elected to represent District 2 in November and took office in January. Republicans now hold a 6-3 veto-proof majority on the council.
The new councilman, a former South Jordan mayor, shared a controversial Facebook post on March 3 bashing people with left-leaning politics, claiming they want everyone in “bi-sexual and in non-committed relationships” and that they wanted the world population to decline “to the equity of the spotted owl or the exotic salamander.” He also called the left “miserable” and wrote that it was best to “tune them out,” otherwise their “equity movement” would “ruin life for everyone.”
Alvord made the post visible only to friends shortly after The Salt Lake Tribune contacted him for comment.
He later issued statements acknowledging his comments were “hyperbole” and that he wasn’t referring to Democrats or any individuals in particular. But he stopped short of full contrition, instead apologizing to those “who misunderstood” his intentions.
Bradshaw continued to say at Tuesday’s meeting the he was proud to be associated with “the left” because “we on the left greatly value diversity.”
“When we speak of equity and equality it is within the spirit that our differences are not a hindrance to the same American dream for which we all strive,” Bradshaw said. “We further believe that the desire for these outcomes are shared by well-intentioned elected officials across the political spectrum, and that while we may have meaningful debate and varying policy perspectives on how best to achieve them, rhetoric that dismisses the pain and isolation of our marginalized community members ... further makes our residents believe that government doesn’t care about them.”
County Mayor Jenny Wilson, a Democrat, council Chair Steve DeBry, a Republican, and the Utah Democratic Party also previously issued statements rebuking Alvord’s comments.
Council members and staff appeared braced to receive several public comments about the controversy, but no one phoned in or spoke up at Tuesday’s meeting. About 35 county residents did submit written comments about Alvord’s Facebook post, with many calling his words “racist,” “bigoted,” “hateful,” “divisive” and “false.”
“Mr. Alvord is not some random, ranting social media fool, but rather an elected public official whose words take on meaning and instigate,” a Herriman resident wrote. “In this case his words perpetuate division in the community he represents, and are dangerous to those he maligns.”
Another Herriman resident took issue with the clarifying statement Alvord issued the day after his post became national news.
“I did not ‘misunderstand,’ Mr. Alvord told us exactly who he is,” the commenter wrote. “Mr. Alvord’s non-apology adds fuel to his gaslighting and adds insult to injury.”
A handful of commenters defended Alvord’s right to free speech and expression. One Sandy resident said she was “in complete agreement” with Alvord’s post.
“That said, I would be in support of his ability to speak freely even if in complete disagreement,” she wrote. “Why? Because I want to freely know what others are thinking. ... This affords me and my neighbors/community the opportunity to either support or counter whatever potential results come from same.”
Bradshaw concluded his thoughts by saying Alvord had extended council members personal apologies and shared a “willingness to engage in dialogue and education” after his post created blowback.
“We are hopeful the contention of the past few days is an anomaly and that we do not further strive to inject national dysfunction into our work here,” Bradshaw said. “This week has reminded all of us that we can do better in this regard, that as elected officials representing a large diverse community, our words have impact and have consequences.”
After the County Council’s brief discussion of the matter, Republican member Aimee Winder Newton said she appreciated Bradshaw’s statement.
“I think there’s been some great lessons learned,” she said. “But I’ve got to tell you, one of the things I love about working in Salt Lake County is that we do have friendships, even if we’re Republicans or Democrats.”