Lewis Griswold: Porterville mayor's bully comment creates furor

The Fresno BeeMay 17, 2014 

Cam Hamilton

SPECIAL TO THE BEE

Porterville Mayor Cam Hamilton caused a controversy by saying that victims of bullying should "grow a pair" and defend themselves.

"I'm against bullying, but I'm getting damn tired of it being used as a mantra for everything, and the ills of the world," he said at the May 6 City Council meeting. "All most people have to do is grow a pair, and stick up for them damn selves."

Council Member Virginia Gurrola had a quick comeback.

"Well, it's hard to stand up and 'grow a pair' when you are maybe a 10-year-old little girl," Gurrola said with a smile.

"Then maybe the other 10-year-olds that think they want to stop bullying will stand up for her, instead of a safe zone and a placard and a bunch of training that goes on," Hamilton said.

The exchange occurred during a discussion about a proposal by Burton Middle School students that the city designate some buildings as "Safe Zones" where people could escape bullying and get help.

The council voted 4-1 to put the issue on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting, with Hamilton voting no. The concept needs more work at the staff level, he said.

ABC30 did a piece on Hamilton's "grow a pair" comment, which garnered a lot of social media attention.

Burton officials withdrew the student project.

Gurrola said what started out as a simple request by students got caught up in a controversy involving gay rights. "I didn't see this one coming," she said.

Porterville gay rights activist Melissa McMurrey said "Safe Zones" is perceived by some as a gay rights cause — a sensitive issue for council members.

Last year, a majority of council members overruled Gurrola when she issued a proclamation declaring LGBT Pride Month.

They also yanked her title as mayor.

Hamilton said gay activists made an issue out of his recent comments.

"I could have used less colorful language," he said.

He said in the back of his mind he was thinking about the book "Grow a Pair: How to Stop Being a Victim and Take Back Your Life, Your Business, and Your Sanity," by Larry Winget.

But he stands by his larger point that "we need to stand up — these bullies can't bully people unless we let them do so."

HANFORD YMCA: The Golden State YMCA is selling its building in Hanford.

It's aging and needs a roof and interior work, and the Y program there has been operating in the red for a long time, so the board of directors put it up for sale, board member Jody Graves said. The property is in escrow and is expected to close at month's end.

But The Y will keep active in Hanford. "We're leaving the building, not the community," he said. The Y plans to lease back the pool to offer aquatics.

HAGOPIAN: Richard Hagopian of Selma, a world-class oud player, performed last month in New York City.

The oud is a stringed instrument from the Middle East similar to the mandolin or lute.

The sold-out performance to an audience of 300 got a nice review in the New York Music Daily praising the "wild, otherworldly" sounds. Joining him on stage were his son, Harold, on violin, and two other musicians. Harold lives in New York, and the World Music Institute asked him to bring his dad to town.

 

Lewis Griswold covers the news of Tulare and Kings counties for The Bee. His column runs Sunday. He can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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