Tony Collins was thrown off the Zoning Commission by a unanimous vote of the City Council at the meeting on Tuesday, April 20.
Collins was removed from the Zoning Commission – which is an unpaid volunteer job – for, according to the words of Councilmember Sharon Hightower, exhibiting “white privilege and entitlement.”
Hightower said, “To dress down an African-American female is unacceptable.”
The City Council watched a short clip of the Zoning Commission meeting on Monday, April 19, provided by Hightower.
Afterwards, Councilmember Goldie Wells said, “We really don’t know if it was just because she was black. Men have this superior role and they think they are in charge.”
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann, who appointed Collins, asked that she be allowed to have a conversation with Collins before the council voted, but the decision was made that removing Collins couldn’t wait to hear his side of the story.
Collins’ offense was calling Carrie Rosario, who is a doctor of public health in health education, “Mrs. Rosario.” (According to the Associated Press Stylebook, only an individual “who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor podiatric medicine or doctor of veterinary medicine” should be referred to as Dr. on the first reference in a news publication.)
Earlier in the meeting, Chairman of the Zoning Commission Hugh Holston had said, “Ms. Rosario, are you speaking in opposition?”
Rosario replied, “Yes.” But did not correct him.
Then Holston, who is an African-American male, said, “Ms. Rosario, please provide your name and address.”
Rosario said, “Dr. Carrie Rosario.”
After Rosario spoke about her concerns about the development at the corner of Trosper Road and Lake Brandt Road, Zoning Commissioner Zac Engle, who is a white male, said, “You know, Miss Rosario, the zoning is done.” He continued on in an attempt to explain what the Zoning Commission was doing, which was not rezoning land.
After Engle was finished speaking, Rosario said, “It’s Dr. Rosario, by the way.”
And Engle apologized.
Collins was the only person who Rosario interrupted and insisted that he use “Dr. Rosario,” and she interrupted Collins, who had the floor, repeatedly.
It was not a pleasant exchange. Collins, who was called on by Holston, started out by saying, “I think that we’ve kind of lost our way on what we are talking about here. We’re here to approve the standards that have been approved, and if Mrs. Rosario has something …”
Rosario interrupted and said, “It’s Dr. Rosario, thank you.”
Collins continued, “If Mrs. Rosario has …”
And Rosario interrupted again saying, “Dr. Rosario.”
Collins said, “Well, you know, I’m sorry, your name says on here ‘Carrie Rosario.’ Hey, Carrie.” Collins attempted to continue speaking.
And Rosario interrupted Collins once again saying, “It’s Dr. Rosario.”
Collins tried to speak again and Rosario interrupted him again saying, “I wouldn’t call you Tony, so please, sir, call me as I would like to be called. That’s how I identify myself.”
Collins said, “It doesn’t really matter, we’re here …”
Rosario interrupts again saying, “It matters to me and out of respect I would like you to call me by the name that I’m asking you to call me by, thank you.”
Collins said, “The screen says Carrie Rosario.”
Rosario interrupts again saying, “I’m verbalizing my name as Dr. Carrie Rosario and it really speaks very negatively of you as a commissioner to be disrespectful.
Collins said, “I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but you’re negotiating something that happened four years ago. We’ve taken on this function and this is not a zoning function. This is a planning function and, Mr. Chairman, I think that if there is something that she has, something specific in these standards, let’s hear what it is. Everything we’ve heard is general. If there is one of these standards that’s been presented, let’s hear what it is.”
It is worth noting that Collins was called on by the chairman and was repeatedly interrupted by Rosario, who should not have been speaking unless she was recognized by the chairman.
Collins was clearly irritated when he started speaking and did not respond well to being interrupted. But little if anything Rosario had been saying was relevant to the case before the Zoning Commission, which was not a rezoning. The property in question had been rezoned to Planned Unit Development (PUD) in 2017. All the Zoning Commission had to do was sign off on the Unified Development Plan (UDP) for the property to make certain that the UDP was in compliance with the PUD zoning.
The zoning and all the issues that Rosario was expressing concern about had already been determined and the Zoning Commission has no power to overrule the City Council and change them.
Collins could have avoided the whole mess by saying “Dr. Rosario,” but by the same token Rosario could have waited for Collins to finish, waited to be recognized by the chair and then informed Collins that she preferred to be called “Dr. Rosario,” like she did with Engle, or could have ignored it like she did with Holston.
The comments of city councilmembers made it clear that the what the City Council found so offensive in the exchange was that a white man had not shown proper respect to a black woman.
There are currently three black women on the City Council and no white men.