Antioch Councilmember, public comments call for Commission Chair to resign or be removed over controversial coronavirus comments

Antioch Council Member Monica Wilson (top center) offers her comments on Turnage’s Facebook post during the April 28, 2020 meeting, as the mayor, other council members and city staff look on. Screenshot from city website.

“We would lose many elderly…loved ones as well…even myself but that is the way of the World!” – Antioch Planning Commission Chair Ken Turnage, II

“My ancestors already died for the sake of our economy through a marked period in our time called slavery.” – Council Member Monica Wilson

Ken Turnage IIAntioch Planning Commission Chair Ken Turnage, II. Herald file photo.

By Allen Payton

It appears the 2020 Antioch City Council campaign began earlier than normal, this year as Antioch Council Member Monica Wilson and three members of the public called for Planning Commission Chairman Ken Turnage, II to be removed or resign over controversial comments he made on Facebook about the coronavirus and shelter-in-place orders.

Wilson, as well as the mayor and other three council members are up for re-election in November, and Turnage has been rumored to be taking on Wilson in the race for District 4. Turnage, an Antioch general contractor and business owner, ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2016 placing fourth behind Council Members Lamar Thorpe, Wilson and former Mayor Mary Rocha.

In his Thursday, April 23 comment, using an argument similar to the Malthusian Theory of population control, Turnage wrote, “The shelter in place needs to end, we as a species need to move forward…We would have significant loss of life, we would lose many elderly, that would reduce burdens in our defunct Social Security System, health care cost (once the wave subsided), make jobs available for others and it would also free up housing in which we are in dire need of. We would lose a large portion of the people with immune and other health complications. I know it would be loved ones as well. But that would once again reduce our impact on medical, jobs and housing. Then we have our other sectors such as our homeless and other people who just defile themselves by either choice or mental issues. This would run rampant through them and yes i am sorry but this would fix what is a significant burden on our Society and resources that can be used. Of course we would lose many of the ‘Healthy’ maybe even myself but that is the way of the World!”

During the online Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday night, April 28, 2020, the three comments by members of the public called for Turnage’s removal from the commission and went so far as to label his comments racist and discriminatory.

Wilson, Council Member Thorpe and Mayor Sean Wright all denounced Turnage’s comments. Wilson also injected slavery into her response.

“I need to comment on this. I do want to take a moment to raise an issue that I believe undermines the great work that our city is doing to protect our citizens,” Wilson said. “Our Planning Commission Chair made some inappropriate comments on social media. He basically made the argument that it was totally OK to allow in our community, from the elderly to the homeless, to die a COVID-19 for the benefit of reopening our economy contrary to our shared values.”

“My ancestors already died for the sake of our economy through a marked period in our time called slavery,” she continued. “Let me be clear, he is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled to mine. However, as a member of our planning commission his words are merely not consistent of what we are doing and how we care for our citizens.”

“His words do not in any way reflect the values of the city council or city administration,” Wilson continued. “Personally, I find his words…disgusting, inappropriate and extremely reckless. We do not have any place in public discourse for that.”

“I’m also appalled to date none of us on council have responded to this reckless comment. It’s inexcusable,” she stated. “I am beyond disgusted by those remarks. I too am asking either he resigns or we as council need to deal with taking him off of that commission.”

Thorp said, “Councilwoman Wilson, I share your concern and disgust. I thought those comments were inexcusable and they have no place in city government, today. To your point, it’s contrary to the shared values we have as a community and I’m beyond disgusted. So, thank you for your remarks.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts added her comments on the matter.

“Monica, that was very passionate what you had to say,” she said. “My expectation is that council and staff and commissions all acknowledge their service to the community, and that they act with professionalism and that they take great care for all of the community members.”

“Our grandparents and our parents and generations have fought wars to preserve life,” Motts continued. “Honestly, it’s absurd to think that we would want to take one person’s life as more valuable than another. I thank you for your comments, I think they’re important. I know I am and this staff and this city council will do whatever we can to save as many lives as possible.”

Mayor Wright also denounced Turnage’s comments.

“I have stopped watching and looking at Facebook just because there is so much division. The comments were not brought to my attention until yesterday, through email,” Wright stated. “I think the comments were abhorrent, should not have been said and stated. But I will fight for the right to say things.”

“We do and need to hold ourselves to a higher standard as council members and as commissioners and those who represent the city,” he continued. “So, there is discussion to be had as far as that goes.”

Following are the comments by the three members of the public who emailed the council prior to the meeting:

“I feel compelled to write to you, today about a recent Facebook message by Ken Turnage serving on the Antioch Planning Commission,” wrote Debra Polk, a resident and a self-described “advocate for safe, healthy communities for children ages 0 to 5.” “We know that African Americans are more likely to die of this illness compared to other races. As a mature black woman, I have experienced many examples of blatant racism in my lifetime. Mr. Turnage’s comments are incredibly offensive and reflect an attitude of racist, white superiority. How can someone with those sentiments represent the interests of our city? How are people of color in the Antioch community represented when city sanctioned commission leaders express this type of prejudice and perspective? With such blatant bias I don’t believe this commissioner can represent us. Therefore, he must be removed from his position on the commission. I am requesting that the Antioch City Council take immediate action to resolve this issue. Facebook is often a place for different opinions. However, when you, as a city volunteer representative place your biases and hurtful comments on social media for all of us to see, then you don’t deserve to make decisions for me, other people of color or the elderly. I along with thousands of other Antioch residents deserve to be represented by my city commissioners and not subject to this type of discrimination.”

Rivertown district resident, Christine Clark wrote of “a recent, disturbing comment on Facebook made by Planning Commissioner Chair…I was flabbergasted and in disbelief…someone who represents my City of Antioch could find it in his heart to write such racist and discriminatory comments. His ideas describe the mentality of survival of the fittest. I am absolutely appalled with these comments.”

She mentioned “those disadvantaged by systemic racism and inequity are cast aside” and “hundreds of years of oppression and current injustices that make certain members of our society more susceptible to the drastic consequences of this virus.”

Clark also called for Turnage’s resignation.

Brendan Alasky also wrote about Turnage’s comments, labeling them “disgusting and unacceptable assertions that were reminiscent of eugenics arguments used to justify genocide and atrocities on marginalized people throughout the U.S. history.”

He called for Turnage to resign and apologize for his comments.

Following is Turnage’s complete comment posted on his personal Facebook page:

This opinion will not be popular and could easily anger some of you so if you are the type of person that only values your own opinion you may not want to read this. Before I start I just want to say I have been obeying the shelter in place orders. The shelter in place needs to end, we as a species need to move forward with our place on Earth and yes it appears our place is changing. The debate about this virus being man made or just happened due to eating a bat is past us (I believe it was eating the bat). This virus is like a human version of a forest fire, a forest fire will burn through and burn off all the dead trees, old tress, fallen brush and scrub shrub sucklings that drain the resources of the forest and causing it to be unhealthy. So what happens in a standard forest fire is all these portions of the forest are burned off turned into ash that fertilizes the ground. The strong trees survive and the forest replenishes itself and flourishes once again. Now when we stop the standard forest fires or natural burn off in forestry we set ourselves up for total devastation such as the recent fires in California they were in destruction in totality all because we were trying to “protect” we caused more harm.

If we look at our population as the forest you will see many similarities. We have our old, we have our weak and we have our drains on our resources. This virus is targeting those sectors of our population. If we were to live our lives, let nature run its course, yes we will all feel hardship, we will all feel loss. I am sure everyone of us would lose a person who we hold dear. But as species, for our Nation and as a Planet we would we would strengthen when this is all settled. We would have significant loss of life, we would lose many elderly, that would reduce burdens in our defunct Social Security System, health care cost (once the wave subsided), make jobs available for others and it would also free up housing in which we are in dire need of. We would lose a large portion of the people with immune and other health complications. I know it would be loved ones as well. But that would once again reduce our impact on medical, jobs and housing. Then we have our other sectors such as our homeless and other people who just defile themselves by either choice or mental issues. This would run rampant through them and yes i am sorry but this would fix what is a significant burden on our Society and resources that can be used. Of course we would lose many of the “Healthy” maybe even myself but that is the way of the World! With all this said now look at all the Worldly resources that would be able to replenish. We are hearing of many levels of Earth repair already happening just due to a lower impact of our Species so think what would happen with a significant population reduction.

The World has been introduced to a new phrase Herd Immunity which is a good one. In my opinion we need to adapt a Herd Mentality. A herd gathers it ranks, it allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature. With this the Herd is strengthened, and the Herd once again becomes symbiant with the planet!

If you unfriend me because of my opinion that is your choice and I wish you the best and stay safe!”

His post garnered mixed reactions in the comments by 584 others, most of them negative and some comparing his comment to those of Nazis and Hitler during World War II.

Dan Brown was the first to respond writing, “Speak the truth!!”

Seth Porter wrote in response, “I appreciate this opinion. I did notice you didn’t include a list of your relatives you’re willing to watch die though so it seems a little hollow.”

Dan Gross wrote, “Would not unfriend you!! Well written my friend.”

Richard D. Correa wrote, “The nazi’s did just what you described. They took people who they felt were taking up space, elderly, weak, mentally ill, poor, children, and of course, those who were not like them. If you feel that way, gather your family and take them all to a facility where people are infected, that way you can start the cleansing.”

George Wever responded, “99% of the population is forced to suffer and have financial hardships for the 1% fatality rate they have re evaluated the death rate to. Let God sort them out and time to move forward!!!”

Kim Motts Stadtlander wrote, “Wow, we heard and saw something similar in WWII. This virus has taken young people, marathon runners, previously healthy, and yes, the elderly and immune compromised. I doubt you’d feel this way if it came knocking on your door for your child, your spouse, or your parents. This virus is not a flu, it reacts differently than previously seen. I want the economy open just like you. I have 3 unemployed people in my house, but never ever at the expense of what you propose. It’s Hitleresque.”

Aisha Odom wrote “Good ole eugenics huh? Well as long as you are the very first in line.”

Jeremy Motts wrote, “It may not be as severe as the worst case scenario, but it also might be. It’s not okay to play Russian roulette with other people’s lives. I work in healthcare, please abide by the rules until we get this figured out please, for the sake of our families.”

Chris Burton Patterson wrote, “I agree with you on many points. Look at the stores that are open. Grocery, donuts stores, restaurants, home depo, hospitals. They are doing it responsibly. Why can’t others do this? There is no reason. And if you don’t want to, then don’t. Those with weaken immune systems, there are ways to strengthen them.. we can all be careful in our own way. It’s not an all or nothing situation” and “Why can’t the people of this great country do both. Go back to work and protect those most vulnerable?”

In a repost of Turnage’s comment Mitch Brockman wrote, “This is the absolute TRUTH! Ken Turnage II, Very well said sir!”

Efforts to reach Wilson asking her if she planned to place an item on the next council meeting agenda for the council to vote on Turnage’s removal from the commission were unsuccessful. Thorpe clarified his comment that he shared Wilson’s concern did not include a call for Turnage’s resignation or removal from the commission.

UPDATE: When reached for comment, Turnage responded to Wilson’s call for his removal with, “I’m not going to step down over a personal opinion that has nothing to do with the City or an opinion that has nothing to do with being a planning commissioner. My opinion isn’t liked, which is fine. But I do find very petty and disheartening that at every opportunity someone like Councilmember Wilson will try and use race! It’s a baiting tactic and is very petty.”

“I’m sorry that this country has the history it does but I don’t see how a virus has anything to do with race, slavery or oppression of any kind. It just shows a low level of mentality that the only thing in someone’s arsenal is the race card,” he added.

To view the council meeting and hear the comments by Wilson, click here and scroll to the 17-minute mark.

Please check back later for updates to this report.

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