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‘Lol f— you’: Vallejo council member lays into constituents

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 3 days ago By Rachel Swan
Vallejo City Council Member Hakeem Brown used his government-issued email address to lash out at constituents last month in the wake of a vote to block the creation of a sanctioned tent encampment, a proposal that Brown supported. © Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle 2019

Vallejo City Council Member Hakeem Brown used his government-issued email address to lash out at constituents last month in the wake of a vote to block the creation of a sanctioned tent encampment, a proposal that Brown supported.

Vallejo City Council Member Hakeem Brown used his government-issued email address to lash out at constituents last month after losing a vote to create a sanctioned tent encampment in a parking lot.

Brown sent the profanity-studded missives to at least three people who wrote to him separately, complaining about his conduct at city council meetings, about the proposed encampment and about comments Brown made on his personal Facebook page, where he described the encampment controversy as emblematic of racial divisions in Vallejo.

He called one Vallejo resident a “trick,” a colloquialism for someone who solicits sex workers, and taunted another: “Lol f— you,” according to messages obtained by The Chronicle.

“Lol I will not sit down,” Brown wrote in a third email. “Not for any of you Karens. Sincerely, Hakeem Brown.”

Reached by phone Friday, Brown declined to comment and hung up. He did not respond to further requests for comment.

“Some of my fellow councilmembers and some white citizens in the audience got tired of me bringing up race and the part that racism plays in not addressing homelessness and housing in our community,” Brown wrote on his Facebook page on Dec. 22, two days after the council voted 4-2 to reject encampment at 921 Amador St.

“According to them racism no longer exists in Vallejo and in how councilmembers make their decisions,” Brown wrote.

He argued that the criticism over the encampment stemmed from white neighbors who did not want to be near the unhoused population. “Instead council decided it would be better to put the encampment in a black neighborhood in South Vallejo on a piece of property that’s just dirt and no electricity,” he wrote on Facebook.

A spokesperson for the city said that although the nonprofit associated with Hope Village owns property in South Vallejo, the nonprofit never formally requested to put tents there. Instead, the council opted this month to fund hotel vouchers for people who would have lived in Hope Village.

Brown’s comments angered Annie Wheat, a resident who lives on the same block of the aborted Hope Village site. Wheat moved to Vallejo from Napa a year ago, and said she got involved in city politics for the first time in December, after hearing about the tent village.

After Wheat saw Brown’s Facebook posts, she emailed the mayor, vice mayor, staff and City Council, among others.

“Claiming an entire group of residents to be racist is bullying and utter nonsense,” Wheat wrote.

The email went on to accuse Brown of bias toward the project because he had posted its GoFundMe link on Facebook, and to denounce him for inappropriate behavior online and in council meetings. It also cited census demographics showing the neighborhood around 921 Amador St. Church Street is 30% Black and 37% white.

Diana Lang, a former campaign volunteer for Brown who was also on the thread, chimed in. She urged city officials to discipline or censure Brown for “his ridiculous outbursts” and for “going after taxpayers while they are speaking at the dais and running out of a meeting before a vote because he didn’t like the previous vote.”

Seventeen minutes after Lang sent the email, records show, Brown responded: “Lol f— you.” He then wrote to Wheat, saying he would not sit down for any “Karens,” a term for a white woman who summons police or other authority figures to report perceived slights by people of color.

Gary Wettstein, a Vallejo resident who emailed Brown on Dec. 9 to voice concerns about the proposed encampment, received a reply from the council member within eight minutes.

“Lol is this the trick I saw coming out of a fake massage parlor? Stfu Gary. Stop bitching.”

Wettstein, who characterized himself as an armchair community advocate, said he’d cultivated a decent rapport with Brown shortly after the council member’s election in 2018.

The two had met to talk about community policing, Wettstein said, and “it sounded like he had some great ideas and was interested in doing the right thing.”

Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell, who defeated Brown last year, did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday. During that election campaign, Brown acknowledged in an open letter to the community that he had been arrested multiple times in the past, saying the cases involved “drugs, possession of a firearm, and a scuffle with a domestic partner.” He said he served four years in jail.

While a city spokesperson was not immediately able to comment on Brown’s emails or Facebook posts, the city’s code of conduct requires appointed and elected officials to refrain from personal attacks, exercise self-control, listen to others respectfully and treat everyone courteously.

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: rswan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @rachelswan

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