Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert is facing increased scrutiny from community leaders and residents after comments she made during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Most recently, council members Annie Somerville and Nicole Brown called for Bashert’s resignation at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Downtown Ypsilanti on Saturday, June 20.
The comment was made as the council was voting on reappointing Ka'Ron Gaines to Ypsilanti’s Human Relations Commission, which advises the city council on issues of diversity and discrimination in the city.
"Since I will be crucified if I vote against any Black person on any commission, I'm going to vote 'yes,'" Bashert said while giving her vote on the motion to reappoint Gaines to the commission.
All other city council members voted not to reappoint Gaines; discussion of his appointment involved concerns about meeting attendance and whether he was still interested in the position.
Immediately after Bashert made the comment, several city council members were taken aback, saying the statement was false. "I think that is disrespectful, honestly, to our constituents and our community to say that you have to vote 'yes' because then, if not, you would be attacked because you didn't appoint another Black person," Council Member Nicole Brown said during the meeting.
Brown continued, “For you to make a comment like that was definitely out of order, and you owe the Black people in this community an apology and your fellow council members [an apology].”
The mayor first responded, “Thank you, I will consider your comments,” and immediately switched the topic.
Council Member Anthony Morgan then joined in on calling out the comment as inappropriate and asking the mayor to apologize.
A few minutes later, Council Member Annie Somerville spoke out during her turn to present council proposed business, calling the mayor’s comment out as offensive to the Black community and to the Black members of the city council.
"It's unfair for the three Black council members, the Black city manager and the Black chief of the fire department to have to sit through and continuously deal with comments made about race by the mayor, to be completely clear, during council meetings,"
Bashert continued to ignore the criticism directed towards her, saying after Somerville’s comment and a brief pause, “Alright, so I don’t have any comments tonight, but I do have a couple of pieces of business . . .”
The mayor then shifted conversation to staffing issues at the city’s Department of Public Services.
Bashert relented after Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson continued the criticism of the mayor’s comment and subsequent handling of the situation. The mayor admitted the comment was a mistake, urging people to judge her on her actions rather than her words.
In her apology, Bashert specifically apologized to the three Black council members, Nicole Brown, Anthony Morgan, and Lois Richardson, but did not apologize to City Manager Frances McMullan, who is also Black.
McMullan asked why she wasn’t included in the apology, and Bashert said she didn’t want to apologize to McMullan because of a disagreement between the two.
“You and I have a disagreement going on, and I don’t feel safe acknowledging you in many ways at this time, because until our issue is resolved, I just don’t feel like it’s a safe territory for me,” Bashert said in response to McMullan.
The next day, Bashert posted an apology on Facebook, saying her actions were racist and that she felt ashamed.
“I understand that none of the terrible feelings I am having at this time come close to the painful experiences Black and Brown people suffer due to racism,” Bashert said in the post. “I continue to take action to educate myself about racism. As a leader, I have helped raise the issue of race in local, state and national interviews and conversations."
Bashert also apologized to McMullan in the post, saying, “Last night, I was defensive and frustrated and caused harm as a result. I harmed my fellow council members, especially Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson, Nicole Brown, and Anthony Morgan. I harmed City Manager McMullan.”
Community member and EMU graduate, Sam Jones-Darling criticized her response in a virtual town hall on June 18.
“...I have seen the devaluing of Black lives under your administration as mayor of the city of Ypsilanti, and it’s not acceptable,” he said. “...It’s time that you held yourself accountable. Step up, understand that you are, indeed racist, and that step up can’t be a post on Facebook. You have to resign,” Jones-Darling said.
Survivors Speak, an Ypsilanti non-profit organization, has organized a protest asking Bashert to resign. The protest is planned for Monday from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m., and the protestors will meet in the parking lot behind Puffer Reds at 113 W. Michigan Ave. The group has said if Bashert does not resign, they will begin organizing a recall.
The full recording of the city council meeting can be found here.
- The mayor’s comment begins at timestamp 3:39:04
- Council Member Brown’s comments in response to the mayor begin at 4:13:00
- Council Member Somerville’s comments can be found at 4:25:30
- Mayor Pro-Tem Richardson’s comments begin at 4:31:25
- Mayor Bashert begins her apology at 4:32:52
- City Manager McMullin's question to the mayor is at 4:35:15