Political Notebook

Tulare council names new mayor after Facebook snark of city's sacred cow

Carlton Jones served as mayor of Tulare from 2016 until June 19, 2018 when a new mayor was named in the wake of a controversial Facebook post by Jones about agriculture.
Carlton Jones served as mayor of Tulare from 2016 until June 19, 2018 when a new mayor was named in the wake of a controversial Facebook post by Jones about agriculture. Submitted photo

Carlton Jones is out as Tulare's mayor after remarks critical of agriculture he posted on Facebook caused a firestorm in a city whose identity revolves around farming.

The Tulare City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to remove Jones from his mayoral post. In a nod to political reality, Jones seconded the motion to name a new mayor and voted yes.

As is common in smaller cities, the Tulare City Council appoints a council member to serve as mayor, a position that is largely honorific. Former Mayor David Macedo was named the city's new mayor. Jones remains a council member.

The controversy started when Jones, a firefighter at the Fresno Fire Department, posted on his personal Facebook page this comment in reply to another party:

"You're having a conversation with someone in your head," Jones wrote. "Ag strips the natural resources and contaminates our ground water and air. Ag causes asthma and Valley fever, cancer and kills bees. You can't educate me. You're trained. You can share with me what you've been trained to think. We can debate the difference between what you think and what I think."

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This post on Facebook by Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones caused controversy in a city where agriculture is the main industry.

The Facebook group My Job Depends on Ag, which has 81,000 members, posted a screenshot of the comments. It didn't take long for the group's followers to express their anger and call for his ouster.

Jones said his remarks were taken out of context and stated he isn't against production agriculture. Tulare County is one of the top agricultural producers in the state with a crop value of more than $6 billion in 2016, the latest year available.

It was too late to take back the comment and Jones found himself thrust into the spotlight. Hundreds attended a pro-agriculture rally at Tulare City Hall after his remarks were widely reported and made the rounds on social media.

Tuesday, residents crowded council chambers in support of naming a new mayor.

Jones stepped down from the council dais and addressed fellow council members from the public microphone. He said he had many conversations with local farmers about the substance of his remarks.

"None of them, not one person, said we disagree with anything you said," he said. "We disagree with the way you delivered it. And I apologized for that. I apologize for allowing myself…to engage in an argument online. I'm not going to apologize for the things that I said."

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold
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