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Ukiah City Council tables ceasefire resolution

A pinkish building with a courtyard and a sign above an arched doorway, reading, "Ukiah Civic Center."
Ukiah Civic Center.

Just before 10:00 on Wednesday night, the Ukiah City Council voted by a bare majority to table a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The Council received over thirty letters on both sides of the question. Many supporters of the ceasefire resolution stated that they are Jewish, before citing their dismay over the Israeli bombing Gaza. But opponents advised the local governing body not to weigh in on international issues by passing a non-binding resolution. One questioned why the council was delving into foreign affairs when people are hungry and homeless in Ukiah.

Randy Petersen doesn’t think it’s a unifying issue. “It’s already the community,” he told the council. “I just think it wouldn’t be good. It’s just going to open Pandora’s Box.”

Andy Coren is a member of the Kol Ha’Emek Schul, the Jewish community in Redwood Valley and former Mendocino County public health officer who opposed tabling the resolution.

“You are our elected representatives,” he reminded the Council. “You speak for us. And this is a horrible thing going on…All of these people have come out because it’s so important to us. So to table it would be such an insult to all these people. And, in my opinion, it would not be doing your jobs as elected representatives.”

Brenda Heady-Stacy read from a letter that included the signatures of two Calvary Baptist Church pastors. “This resolution does not represent me or many others in the Ukiah Valley,” she said. “To think that this Council thinks that by taking a side on one side of this war, that it does not exclude the other side, is naive…I am not in support of any ceasefire resolution as they are nonbinding and I think local politics should not weigh in on international policies.” She added that she does not think the proposed resolution goes far enough to condemn Hamas for its war crimes and its refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist.

While comments in the room remained civil and on topic, remote comments quickly devolved into racism and anti-Semitism, replete with slurs directed at Council member Susan Sher, who drafted the ceasefire resolution, death threats, and Holocaust denial.

Sher said she feared that was the type of speech that silences others. “I am well aware that this issue of Israeli Palestinian relations is very divisive among Jews, even in our little Ukiah Jewish community,” she said. “It’s been that way for decades, but it seems like it’s especially intense now.” She stated that some of her fellow Jewish Ukiah residents had asked her to remove the item from the agenda. “But this divisiveness already existed,” she emphasized. “Keeping it quiet will not address the problem.”

Vice Mayor Doug Crane stuck to his assertion that it is not the City Council’s job to craft a position on international affairs, saying, “Just because someone throws you a ball doesn’t mean you have to catch it. And this is a ball we shouldn’t have caught…If the real goal is a ceasefire, that’s pretty easy to write. Does it have any more or any less effect on the outcome? My sense is that we could spend days, weeks and months dealing with this particular issue, craft something that was acceptable to the majority, send it off, and it might make it past the wastebasket. The people who are driving the bus are probably not listening to us at all. So what we do is commit many hours of our lives to a diversion from what our real work is supposed to be.”

Council member Mari Rodin agreed, adding that Council had already been in the chambers for six hours, starting with a special meeting about the city budget. “I think the argument about opening a can of worms is also a really legitimate issue,” she said. “When are we going to say no to international issues? We’ve been here since 4:00 in the afternoon, and we haven’t even gotten to our agenda. And I honestly don’t think our resolution is going to make an iota of difference in this war.”

Council member Juan Orozco voted with Sher not to table the resolution, asking, “We all want this to stop, don’t we? We don’t want any more atrocities happening on one side or the other. We see people out there suffering on both sides. We want that to stop. That’s what I believe the people are here to say. They want this to stop. And I do, too.”

Mayor Josefina Duenas considered abstaining, but, seeing that her vote would break the tie, she reflected that the council has no power over national matters. She agreed with Crane and Rodin to table the resolution. That means it has not been voted down, and it can be brought back before the Council again at a future meeting.

As for Wednesday night, Crane said he thought the Council should continue its current meeting, “with the other things we have before us, until we are exhausted, and then call it a night.”

Local News
Sarah Reith came to Mendocino County in 2008 and worked as a reporter and freelancer, joining KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. She became the KZYX News Director in March, 2023.