Tensions high at council meeting

There were tense exchanges involving City Manager John Nachbar and Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin at the City Council meeting on Monday, March 13, as fallout from a recent budget review continued.

On March 7, city staff reported that the Mobile Crisis Intervention Unit, “intended to deploy social workers, crisis counselors, and other trained unarmed staff to respond to calls for assistance to community members,” was approved in 2020 but it will be late 2024 before it is realized.

McMorrin asked Nachbar if that could be accelerated and he replied, I’m struggling to restrain my anger. I feel a lot of anger coming from you, a lot of the time.”

Vice Mayor McMorrin replied, “This is inappropriate. I am not angry all the time. Calling Black women angry is a common negative stereotype/microaggression. It is my objective to hold myself and staff accountable. It is not personal. I have a mandate to be here, give voice to folks who don’t have the privilege to be in this space. This project has been in the works since 2020. It is my role to ask questions about the pace of the work.”

Later, McMorrin released a statement which read, “At a time where women are under attack for existing, and Black women have been regarded as less than equal, I would expect more from our City Manager and leaders who help us represent our 40,000 Culver City residents. I respect the years of service Mr. Nachbar has provided for our city, and the struggle for all municipal staff not just here but across the county to provide services and resources to those in need. His comments, a series of unfortunate tropes lobbed at Black women, were disrespectful and unacceptable. I would have understood a simple statement such as, ‘We are unable to move up the timeline,’ and the meeting would have moved forward. If Mr. Nachbar cannot fulfill his duties to provide expedient and accurate details regarding city services that he is in charge of managing, he may want to consider stepping aside to allow someone to come in and do the job. I welcome his apology anytime, not just for myself, but for all the women he is sworn to lead. If his office requires more resources to implement City Council policies, I am more than happy to work with my colleagues to find ways to provide them what is needed, and I will continue to fight for the marginalized, center equity in policy decisions, and work toward a Culver City where everyone can thrive.”

McMorrin walked out of that March 7 meeting and remained absent for approximately three hours.

The CCN reached out to Nachbar for comment and he said that, “I will strive to do my absolute best to serve the City Council and the community. While doing so, I will do all I can to support the work of our outstanding and hard-working city staff.”

At the council meeting on Monday evening, public speakers stood up in support of both. Housing Programs Administrator Tevis Barnes, who happens to be a woman of color, said that Nachbar is fair and respected, and has the support of 100 percent of the staff. Other speakers accused McMorrin of race baiting.

Those in support of McMorrin, including former mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, agreed that the use of the “angry black woman” trope was inappropriate. 

Two items were agendized as a result: McMorrin called for annual reviews of city staff, and O’Brien called for diversity training.