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Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 12:15 AM
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Hutto mayor faces community backlash

Onnesha Williams, founder of Black Families of Hutto, asks mayor to resign. Source: City of Hutto
Onnesha Williams, founder of Black Families of Hutto, asks mayor to resign. Source: City of Hutto

HUTTO – A bunch of bananas set off a storm of anger against Hutto Mayor Mike Snyder, with community members calling for his resignation at Thursday’s council meeting.

Those bananas coming up, I can definitely see where it can be taken wrong,” the mayor said. “I am sorry about what happened up here, and the bananas came in and sat there. Looking back, had I known that it would be viewed or construed that way by other members of our community, then it’s an easy decision. Those staying there was not meant for it to be a slight on any person in our community, any group, anybody at all.”

The bananas were presented to the mayor by community activist Nicole Calderone, who used them as part of her public comment at the Aug. 31 meeting, saying, “I’m just one of the monkeys trying to get to the top.”

Terrence Owens, a community leader who also sits on the school district board of trustees, believes that nobody should criticize Calderone.

She has a First-Amendment right. She has, what she wanted to say … She has a story. She has a life ... But there’s also a second story. Those bananas sat up there for two hours. We could not even see the mayor’s face. When he spoke, we saw bananas,” Owens said.

Owens then called out council members who thought it was “OK” or felt they could not speak about the bananas on the dais.

You cannot tell me that after two hours of it, that the narrative hadn’t been changed,” Owens said. “We have to do better.”

Owens asked the council to create a line item in the budget for training, and to assign a liaison to the diversity and equity task force.

Chas Moore, an activist and executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, called for the council members to unite against the mayor.

When you sit up there, you don’t represent just one faction of folks, you represent them all ... I hope you not only reprimand the mayor and his heinous actions, I hope you take swift and just action to make sure everybody in Hutto is seen and heard,” he said. “This man can’t represent everybody because he clearly doesn’t care about everybody.”

Speakers also called out the disrespect the banana display showed to Black council members Brian Thompson and Dana Wilcott, Chief of Police Jeff Yarbrough and a Black city staff member present.

Thompson and Wilcott both spoke from the dais denouncing the mayor’s act of displaying the bananas.

I demand Mayor Snyder take immediate action to try and repair the trust this incident has eroded,” Thompson said.

The bananas were the catalyst to a powder keg of distrust at the meeting. Speakers also brought up a federal court ruling in March that put the city on the hook for $12.5 million in damages for racial discrimination and breech of contract, much of it hinging on Snyder’s actions according to court records.

The city has appealed the ruling and their request will be heard Oct. 5.

In what world do I live in where I can cost this city, as a black woman, $12.5 million for being discriminatory, and still keep my job? In what world could I say the things that you say, Mr. Mayor, and still keep my job?” asked Onnesha Williams. “If you’re a leader, you should be held accountable and you should hold yourself accountable. Please resign.”

Williams is founder of Black Families of Hutto, has been a member of the city’s charter review commission and is continually active in the community. She said she worries about her children’s safety walking down the street.

We have a systemic problem with racism in this town, We have a systemic problem of underrepresented people in this town. We are not represented on the dais, and we are not represented by our mayor,” she said.

Williams said that a recall effort has been discussed in the community since the $12.5 million guilty verdict in the Odis Jones trial, but nobody had yet stepped up to spearhead it. Recalling the mayor would require organizers to gather signatures of 20% of the voters in Hutto, a little under 6,000 signatures.

It’s clear that Mr. Snyder is not a leader of integrity. He has consistently violated civil rights laws against Black people and women and I think it’s clear he needs to forfeit his seat,” she said. “I’ve been harmed by his racism and misogyny. It’s a horrible feeling. You live in this town and have to keep living in this town pretending. Its kind of being a cancer in the place that you love.”

 


Terrence Owens talks about the image that the bananas on the dais at last week’s meeting portrayed, and calls for reform.   Source: City of Hutto

Terrence Owens talks about the image that the bananas on the dais at last week’s meeting portrayed, and calls for reform. Source: City of Hutto


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