The Roseburg City Council on Monday is scheduled to discuss possible sanctions against Council President Bob Cotterell for comments he made about gender identity that have been called inappropriate and transphobic, and led to calls for his resignation.

The comments by Cotterell caused an uproar in the community and caused two city councilors and the mayor to publicly apologize. On Monday the council will decide what penalty, if any, Cotterell should face for his comments.

According to city code, a city councilor who does not “follow proper conduct or Council rules and procedures” may face several sanctions. Those include not being recognized to speak at meetings, being reprimanded or formally censured by the council, losing commission assignments and having official travel restricted.

Cotterell did not return an email or phone call seeking comment for this story.

City Councilor Brian Prawitz said the purpose of Monday’s discussion is to give members of the council an opportunity to talk about whether Cotterell should face some sort of sanction or other “official repercussions” from his comments.

Prawitz also said he didn’t want to telegraph his thoughts too much prior to the discussion.

“Just about all I am willing to say at this time is: I would like to see Bob recognize that his comments hurt some of the people he represents and apologize to them,” Prawitz said. “I would also like to hear him agree that he has some things to learn about the LGBT+ community. Honestly, it can be as simple as him saying, ‘I realize what I said was not appropriate.’ And asking ‘How can I make this better?’”

The controversy dates back to June 28, when Cotterell and other city officials were preparing for the bi-weekly City Council meeting, which was to be held via Zoom. One of the councilors had misspelled their name on a roster and another quipped that they had considered using a woman’s first name in jest.

“Well that’s fine, you’re in Oregon,” Cotterell said, according to others who heard it. “You can be a boy today and a girl tomorrow.”

Later, people began to take issue with Cotterell’s joke and criticized the rest of the City Council for not calling him on it.

Cotterell then doubled down, dismissing the criticism as an example of political correctness gone too far. He said his stance on gender identity is rooted in science and dismissed the notion that individuals should be allowed to self-identify their gender.

The criticism of Cotterell’s comments was swift and often emotional.

“The man needs to be removed because he does not represent the people of this town. If he thinks he does, he’s just delusional,” said Mark Lenihan, president of PFLAG Roseburg. “This is not appropriate for anybody, let alone for someone in a role of civic leadership.”

ONE COMMUNITY

At the July 26 City Council meeting, Mayor Larry Rich apologized for the remarks.

“On behalf of this City Council and as your mayor, I am deeply sorry for what has happened, for the pain that it has caused, and apologize to our community,” Rich read.

Following Rich’s statement, seven people from the audience spoke out against Cotterell and his comments, including one who said he should “step down and resign.”

Cotterell has been on the council since January 2011.

The last City Councilor to be sanctioned was Ashley Hicks, back in February 2020.

Hicks was sanctioned for comments said she made on social media in support of a homeless camp near the airport, which prompted protests from a nearby senior mobile home park.

The council determined that Hicks should be reprimanded for expressing her personal opinions about the potential shelter without first indicating the majority position of the council and clarifying her statements did not represent that of the council; suggesting people illegally trespass or camp on city-owned property; and creating an atmosphere of “tension and fear” by knowingly communicating false information.

The council took away her travel privileges on behalf of the city, most notably to the Oregon League of Cities convention, which Hicks regularly attended. The council also stripped Hicks of her newly appointed chairmanship of the Historic Resource Review Commission.

At the time, Cotterell was vocal and direct in his criticism of Hicks.

“Until she can learn to play nice with others she shouldn’t be leading one of our commissions,” he said.

Cotterell also questioned Hicks’ mental capacity.

“She is a vile, disgusting, rude person,” he said. “She’s not right. I’m 25 years a cop, and she’s not right.”

This time it’s Cotterell that finds himself on the hot seat, and Hicks voicing the criticism of his actions.

“It’s disgusting to see his blatant lack of respect for others,” Hicks said. “I’m not queer or non-binary or of ethnic diversity, but I am a woman who wants to ask questions, work towards solutions and be a helper in our community — I’ve felt the sting of being excluded.

“I believe the city council should punish Cotterell,” she said.

Hicks also said that a few years back she attended a conference on inclusion, equity and diversity, and suggested that Cotterell and other city officials get similar training.

“The mayor, city manager and entire City Council would benefit greatly from continuing education, and a strong grasp of reality,” she said. “We’re all one community.”

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com

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(22) comments

LoveThisPlace

Sanctioning Bob Cotterell for comments he made and his opinion regarding the state of gender identity in Oregon would set a dangerous precedent and open the City up to potential litigation.

Lets begin with considering that there is more then one way to look at this issue. From a purely biological standpoint, I don’t see that there is any science showing a male that has given birth to a child or been able to breast feed a child. Are there cases of sexual ambiguity? Research would suggest that this phenomenon occurs in roughly 1% of newborn babies. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=disorders-of-sex-development-90-P03079 Medical intervention is able to help a family that chooses to, surgically assist the development of the baby towards a physical presentation of the matching chromosome makeup of the baby. Even here though, medicine is not able to create an egg producing male for instance. A second way to look at it is from a mental standpoint. Can a person with a male body have more female urges, yes. What I am seeing be demanded here is that Bob (and society in general) combine these two truth’s into one “gender”. The problem is, Bob is not wrong, neither are those who disagree with him.

None of this is the real issue as I see it though. The real issue is should the City Council silence a fellow Councilor because they express a position on this? When does this become a violation of the first amendment? When does this eliminate true diversity in the Council?

Maybe some day down the road there will be a common way of looking at this issue, but for now there is a lot of uncertainty around the matter. Silencing, canceling and similar tactics are dangerous and do not seem to me to be in anyone’s best interest. Our 1st amendment states that government does not get to interfere with freedom of speech. The right way for this to proceed is to let the voters decide Bob’s fate at the next election.

One last thought. It is being said that Bobs comments are dangerous because they offend certain people. Decisions, especially at this kind of leadership level are going to have consequences. One of those consequences is that people are going to disagree with and and even be offended by the decision. This is true for each side depending on which way the decision goes. I am going to be offended, am frequently impacted in financial, safety, educational ways and more depending on the decision being made. In order to be a leader this is a requirement of the job. You ARE going to offend someone and at times it can get very emotional or even dangerous for those affected. This can’t be avoided. What we all can do is show a little more empathy, and give some room for perspectives other than your own. In the end we are all human and all fall across a wide and diverse spectrum of lived experiences. Lets quit finding reasons to tear each other down, lets create more space within ourselves for people to live their own life.

mworden

I'm old enough to remember when allegedly respectable people opposed civil rights because they didn't want to deal with Black people getting uppity. I remember when it was considered a great joke to tell men to keep their wives at home barefoot and pregnant instead of allowing them to go to work. If a man grew a beard or a woman wore a pants suit they could be fired from their jobs. You could be arrested for illegal cohabitation if you lived with partner before marriage. Women had to pay estate taxes if their husbands died, but men didn't if their wives died. You could get ten years in prison for possessing the same amount of marijuana that you can legally buy now at your local dispensary.

Bob Cotterell is an intelligent person who has done good works within our community. He says he'll never change his mind about trans people.

Amazingly, people have changed their minds about a lot of things over the years. I still have hope for Bob and for the posters in this thread -- many of whom probably look at sex entertainment that could have gotten them life in prison in previous decades.

People can learn and grow and change. I hope that happens here.

CitizenJoe

mworden: well said. Kind, compassionate, and empathetic.

And hopeful.

Speaking hope: It's not a bird, it's a sewer rat.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/8/7/2044219/-Hope-is-not-a-bird-Emily-It-s-a-Sewer-Rat-Saturday-s-GNR

YankeeLiberty

But one of these things is different from the others.

P&Z

Sorry, I can't say I like Mr. Cotterell but what he said was what most of us think. I am serious when I say I am so confused as to what pronoun to use nowadays that I find it frustrating enough to cause angst and anger! Did he have to say it while sitting in an official chair? No, he didn't. It wasn't funny. It was a reminder of the frustration of those of us who try to get it right the first time but dang, give us frigging hint what to call someone: her, him, it? What? *pulling my hair out* And now with this entanglement of confusion and over reaching opinions, we get to be versed on how who what when and why to say what we say when we say what we say. Enough! Let him go and lets move on! We have city business to tend to... Get back to work! Everyone.

CitizenJoe

P&Z: I share your discomfort with pronouns; I'm an old guy with baggage that dates back the Truman era (and I have socks that are only a bit newer).

That said, I think you have no reason to feel "angst and anger"; in my experience, at least, people who identify as non-binary will let others know their preferred pronouns (I gotta say, though, I never met an "it"!), and are very, very forgiving when I mess up--which is far more frequent than not--because, I think, they know that I mean well, and they probably cut some slack for the old dude, too.

Regarding "he said was what most of us think": I hope that "most of us" know that sexuality is complicated, and that simple binary thinking is most often wrong. I mean, Manichaean thinking often ends badly.

In this case, denying that some people exist is dangerous, because it's all too easy for a young person (especially) to hear that their group does not exist, and then go on to believing that *they ought not exist*, and act on that.

All too many do.

MI Go Beav

Facts are not hate speech.

Scomo

👍👏

Huge bbfan

The fact that people have to blurt things out at weird times is a sign of the times. But the fact remains that Mr Cotterell didn't say anything that wasn't true 🤔.

And if the city council wants to violate someone's first amendment rights, well, that's on them.

Scomo

You are correct sir, and I would add that, from my reading, Mr. Cotterell did not direct his quip at anyone in particular, it was a harmless statement of his observation of the current political climate in Oregon. If he is sanctioned, I hope he sues the City for sullying his good name and violating his First Amendment rights.

CitizenJoe

Sanctions must be imposed.

A simple apology ab initio could have been sufficient, but his doubling down proved his ignorance and bias.

Scomo

Oh Joey! Are you offended by Nr. Cotterell’s statement of fact? As the article contended, all of the responses (like your) have been emotional, that means logic and rational were thrown to the roadside. In fact, the stupid state govt will allow one to be a boy today and a girl tomorrow. This is technically considered to be insanity which is afflicting roughly 1/3 of Americans. I know Bob Cotterell, he’s complete sane and rational and a disabled Vietnam Vet who has faithfully served his community for decades. He’s an honest, decent man and I hope he tells the imbecilic City Council to stick the complaint where the sun doesn’t shine.

Concerned Property Owner

Your StraightPhobic comment proves someone is ignorant and bias!

Scomo

👍

Mike

[thumbup] Yes Joe.

CitizenJoe

Mike, thanks. I regard Cotterell's doubling-down statement as overly simplistic, and beyond. His "innie/outie" remarks are to what's known about human sexuality as "twinkle little star" is to astronomy. I mean, we all observe that stars twinkle--except, of course, they don't. They *appear* to twinkle.

The simpleton arguments here, by Scomo, umpquabob, et al., remind me of

Wolfgang Pauli: "Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!" ("That is not only not right, it is not even wrong!")

“”That statement's not even ignorant. That statement is like ignorance resin. Like, if you just take all of the stupid and just cook it down, and then scrape just the pure ignorance. Like crystal "duh." It's like crystal "duh."

—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

Scomo

Only Joey would quote the “great sage of modern times”, John Stewart. Really Joe, is that the best you can do? I’ll bet more than half of America no longer knows who John Stewart is nor do they care. He’s not noted as a fountain of wisdom. So, is he truly the extent of your experience with philosophers?

On a more salient note, Bob Cotterell has sacrificed for his country and community, he’s twice the man you’ll ever be. What have you given to your country or community other than some vapid responses to articles and letters that appear in a broken down, third rate newspaper that struggles for circulation?

CitizenJoe

Scomo: You ask: "What have you given to your country or community other than some vapid responses to articles...?"

OK, then.

More than three decades in the U.S. Army (this is where you say, "Thank you for your service.") including over twenty-five years on active duty on three continents. Teaching in several medical schools, training interns, residents and fellows in multiple medical specialties, including anatomic and clinical pathology and family medicine, in which which specialties I was board-certified. Directing two residency training programs and a fellowship program. A teeny- tiny bit of vaccine research; a fair amount of other medical publication; command of the 196th Station Hospital, at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe; personal physician to several SACEURs. A couple of elective offices and appointed positions, as a civilian.

All of which, and more, are readily available on the google-machine. I'm readily identifiable here and in the broader cyberspace--though it's never polite to dox people. Heck, some of the information I just listed is on the pages of the News-Review.

Thanks for asking, Scomo.

Scomo

Thank you for your service and I assume you’ll thank Bob for his as well.

Mike

Scomo,

Since you brought it up, "What have you given to your country or community?"

Scomo

Mikey,

Since you asked me to bare my soul and recount my contributions to society, I must say that I have no compunction to do so. I posed that request to Joey who proceeded to provide us with the detail of his impressive resume of personal accomplishments and I applauded his achievements. However, I didn’t make a similar request of you, so there’s no reason for me to respond to your request. Also, I’m perfectly comfortable with my contributions to society and I have no reason to pat myself on the back for my modest achievements. Thanks again Joey for what you did, and I’m shuah you and Mikey will seek out Bob Cotterell to thank him for his years of unselfish service to his country and community. I doubt you will try to deprive him of his 1st A rights in expressing his personal opinions.

Umpquabob

Apologize for what? Because someone "woke" up at a city council meeting? Are you offended Joe? Did you get "woked up". I think there has been many, many times Joe should have apologized to the people who built Douglas County and made it a great place to live for comments made in this forum. Councilor Bob is our local version of President Joe. They both are known for less than perfect commentary.

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