FOLSOM (CBS13) — The Folsom City Hall is facing scrutiny over a lack of racial diversity on the city council.
The council passed up an opportunity to fill an open council seat with an African American candidate, selecting a former longtime council member, who is white, instead. A comment by Folsom councilmember Kerri Howell during the discussion is also getting attention.
After councilmember Mike Kozlowski commented that the council could demonstrate diversity and support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Folsom by selecting an African American candidate to fill the seat, Howell responded, “We’ve had a Black person on the council in the past.”
The statement is now drawing backlash from Folsom African American advocate group ‘Folsom for Justice.’
“The comment made by councilwoman Howell that ‘we’ve had a black person in the council before,’ felt more dismissive more than anything,” Larishia Johnson said. “‘We’ve already done this before.'”
The last African American councilmember in Folsom served 20 years ago.
CBS13’s Steve Large asked councilmember Howell about her statement.
“You said, ‘there’s been a black person on the council in the past.’ What did you mean by that?” Large said.
“I’m not sure that councilmember Kozlowski knew that we had had a Black councilmember,” Howell said.
“In your mind, is that diversity?” Large said.
“No, but you have to keep in mind that no African Americans have run for city council,” Howell said.
Howell and the council ended up voting 3-1 in favor of former councilmember Andy Moran, who is white, to fill the council seat vacancy, citing his vast experience in the position.
Steve Heard is one of the African American candidates who was being considered. He says he supports the decision by council and Howell too.
“I think that it could have been worded differently from a public official, but I don’t think there is any ill-intent from Kerri there,” Heard said.
A debate over diversity at Folsom City Hall. And a moment in council chambers drawing attention from a movement for change.
“I was disappointed,” Johnson said. “I was discouraged.”
Moran will serve the final six months of this term. There will be elections for two new seats on the Folsom city council in November.