Congresswoman Jackie Speier told the country Tuesday that she’s not seeking re-election in 2022. I was shocked because she is a firm rock in our shaky and unstable American politics. I simply want to say “thank you” for her decadeslong commitment to the people of this country. A gun violence survivor, she has been a courageous leader representing the people of our county by fighting for what’s right — health care, women’s health care, infrastructure, immigration, transportation, human rights and gun violence prevention. A woman who has suffered great loss in her life did not let tragedy keep her down. Instead, the congresswoman has served us boldly and admirably. We will surely miss HER voice in the halls of Congress. Thank you, Jackie Speier. 

I hope all the eager white men looking to place ambition before representation and equity will take a back seat and let women and people of color rise to the occasion.    

***

For the past several weeks, my name has been printed repeatedly, not because of my weekly column, but because I have colleagues in this paper who seem to be intrigued by someone who has stepped into local politics and advocated for change. Mark Simon and Sue Lempert, the pinnacles of establishment and “good ol’ boy” politics, are struggling with someone younger and different from them. This doesn’t just affect me, but also women and people of color — their implicit bias flows in the words they write every week. 

Simon accuses me of being unethical in a recent column and makes this esteemed publication look like the National Enquirer. He wrote, “Suspicions were high that Espinoza Murray, whose plan passed by an 8-7 vote, had systematically helped his friends.” I ask Mark Simon, who are these “friends” that I’m helping? Mark, please lay out the evidence you discovered that establishes this conspiracy as a plausible hypothesis for the readers out there. 

It seems Simon actually believes I could draw a map that considers the will of the people, keeping communities of interest and cities together, AND somehow also manage to help these “friends.” Is it really that hard to assume good intentions and respect and recognize the merit of my work on such an important commission? 

Lempert, in her column this week, simply fails to get the facts right. She has my number and email, but instead of communicating, she chose to go with bias and assumptions. She makes her column look like the “burn book” from Mean Girls. When I reached out to let her know she got the facts wrong, her response to me was, “ ... don’t complain.” Apparently, her intentions were to write a “puff piece” about how great I was. Wow, I don’t want to know what a “hit piece” looks like! She, like Mark, also accuses me of being unethical and using the little power I have on an advisory redistricting committee to favor Steven Booker (whose name she misspelled). If she had paid any attention to the redistricting process, she would have known that the commission was set on keeping the coastside, where Booker resides, whole. She later goes on to say that she guesses I will run for city council because “Redwood City redistricting commission (which he chairs) is considering new minority districts which will be more favorable to his aspirations … .” Wrong, again. 

Sue, I have no desire to run for Redwood City Council. If I had those intentions, I would not have applied to be on the advisory redistricting committee for Redwood City, as that would be unethical. A quick phone call or email would have clarified it all.  

On a personal note, Simon and Lempert’s personal attacks are disappointing and demoralizing; however, they will not stop me in my quest to increase representation in our county. They should commit to writing the truth versus hearsay and conjecture. 

***

Onto something that really matters: county supervisor district lines. This week, the Board of Supervisors has decided to ignore the community outpour of public comment that we need a change in how county district lines are drawn currently. I heard supervisors blatantly ignore what their constituents repeatedly asked them to do: change the map. They had a map that kept communities of interest AND cities whole, but they chose to keep four cities split. No one speaking up said they wanted to keep the status quo, but what can we expect from people who don’t and won’t suffer the consequences of keeping it all the same? Did someone say “lawsuit?” 

Here’s the call to action for readers: vote for people who dare to listen and make bold decisions for a better San Mateo County.  

Rudy Espinoza Murray is a Redwood City resident and community organizer on housing, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ+, and LatinX issues. He is a co-founder and lead of the San Mateo County Farmworker Affairs Coalition.

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(11) comments

Ray Fowler

Hello, Rudy

We have exchanged differing opinions in this forum more than once... more than twice. The conversation has always been respectful, and there's no reason for that to change.

While I may hold a position that differs from a point of view expressed in one of your op-ed pieces, I have found your perspective to be thoughtful and well reasoned... until today.

Your comment, "I hope all the eager white men looking to place ambition before representation and equity will take a back seat and let women and people of color rise to the occasion," seems to say only women and people of color can bring representation and equity to our county. Yes, yes... I see where you said white men looking to place ambition ahead of service should step aside, but it appears to me those are just bridge words linking your position to an underlying belief that white males cannot understand or be interested in issues like equity, and that women and people of color cannot be blinded by ambition. Both assumptions are patently false.

We have been hearing from the left for quite some time that our country is systemically racist... a position articulated by our president several times. I have not been dismissive of the left's mantra, but I am certainly willing to argue against it. However, perhaps I should do some rethinking about the left's systemic racism claim. You know... there may be some substance behind that claim after all... especially when we see the left denigrating women and people of color who reject the left's agenda.

Rudy E

Ray, I always respond to your comments because you're reasonable. I'll say to you what I've said to other folks on the subject. It's not that a white man cannot represent a group of people, it's about who can *better* represent a group of diverse people with diverse needs. Let's look at SMC for example- 62% people of color and over half are non-males. We have OVER representation of the interests of white men and their life experiences in office. We need more balance. I'm not saying no white man can run for anything. I'm saying for this role, for this specific moment, we need those that have experienced life more like the people they aim to represent. In this case, it happens that women and people of color represent the issues and life experiences that need the most attention. This assumes ceteris paribus in terms of qualifications. And qualifications being, life experience, leadership roles, and work experience.

We have plenty of white men in power and for representation and equity's sake, we need diversity.

Ray Fowler

Thanks, Rudy, for a reasoned response.

I'm a little troubled by too much reliance on numbers to help us in drawing conclusions about representation. You wrote, "Let's look at SMC..." I think that's a good idea. There are 20 cities and towns in our county with 104 elected local council members. The Census Bureau reports that our county's demographics include 50% women. Does that mean we should elect only 52 women to serve in our municipal governments? How many do we currently have in office? 47. Hmmm... does that mean our allotment of elected women officials will be capped when five more women are elected because they are best qualified to represent the 50% of persons in our county who are women? Of course not. If a candidate brings life and work experiences, education and other noteworthy qualities that makes them better suited to serve the public... shouldn't that candidate be elected regardless of gender?

The same could be said for electing Hispanic folks to city councils. There are about 16* persons of Hispanic heritage currently serving on councils in our county. The Census Bureau reports that 24% of our county's population is Hispanic. Does that mean we are about 7 Hispanic council members shy of making sure our county has the best qualified persons serving the "diverse needs" of Hispanics in San Mateo County? Once we see 23 Hispanic council members installed throughout the county will we reach our allotment of Hispanic representatives? The answer again is... of course not. There could be 23, 33, 43 or any number of Hispanic council members. And exactly what "diverse needs" would they be trying to meet for their constituents? Wouldn't they be immersed in making their cities a safe and great place to raise a family? Cities that support good schools, try to promote a healthy local economy and jobs, tackle transportation problems, and do their best to provide necessary services like health care. With the exception of a couple of exclusive zip codes in our county, aren't those the things most everyone in our county wants from local council members? Those are not diverse needs... those are things we all need.

One more example re: how an over reliance on numbers in this discussion can actually derail the conversation. Our county's African-American population is at the 3% mark, yet we have 8 elected council members in our county who are African-American. So, is there an over representation of African-Americans on local city councils? Should we discourage African-Americans from running for office until the numbers line up with the census report? Of course not. Those African-American folks ran for office and were successful in getting elected, and as long as they keep meeting the everyday needs of their constituents, they should remain in office.

Maybe I am connecting the dots in the wrong way... it's entirely possible. To me, it sounds like you want to see more persons of color elected to local government just because they are persons of color. If we use the census data you have provided, does that mean there would be a cap on how many persons of color could be elected to ensure other demographics would get their share of representation? I understand you are not advocating quotas, but if there is no upper limit (and there should not be a cap), should there be a minimum?

*16... I did a quick survey of the county's city and town websites to determine how many Hispanic council members are serving in the county. If my numbers are not accurate... I apologize. If there's a better way of tabulating such numbers, let me know.

willallen

This should be a DJ "guest" column.

Ray Fowler

Thanks, Will, for the compliment. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Terence Y

Ray, as for Mr. Murray’s response to your original post please refer to my people painting themselves into corners looking for a way out in another thread. Mr. Murray is doing a bit of back-tracking his assertions about white men and then having to define that he’s speaking about “this specific moment” without realizing that “this specific moment” appears to ignore all the future specific and general moments that people are elected to represent. I especially enjoyed your response as my response would have been among the same lines, but not nearly as tactful (who am I kidding, virtually zero chance of being as tactful). I am in agreement with WillAllen that your response would make a great guest column.

willallen

This is what i like about the DJ; it tries to hear all sides. However, the second graph about white men is racist and sexist. truly offensive.he should apologize.

Terence Y

Let’s all pop the popcorn, relax and enjoy the fight. The gauntlet has been thrown and it appears a bevy of –isms are in play: sexism, racism, and ageism. Your moves, Mr. Simon and Ms. Lempert.

Ray Fowler

Hi, Terence...

Hmmm... this might be a coin toss. There's probably a 50-50 chance we'll hear crickets from Mark and Sue.

Rudy E

Sue has reached out and we set up a meeting to talk. That's good in my book. :)

Ray Fowler

That is good. I have had mixed success in extending a conversation with Sue... none with Mark. Talk is also good.

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