St George • An LGBTQ group is calling on St. George’s elected officials to crack down on council member Michelle Tanner for her “polarizing rhetoric” about the drag community and her media manager’s rude remarks at last Thursday’s city council meeting.
Pride of Southern Utah is urging community members to write to Mayor Michele Randall and city council members asking them what they are doing to counter Tanner’s “reckless lack of judgment” by allowing her media manager, Steve Brazell, to read profanity aloud in letters and Social media posts from last week’s gathering with members of a Boy Scout troop and children in attendance.
Hundreds of messages have already reached the city council, a council member told The Salt Lake Tribune.
“I was absolutely shocked,” said Micah Barrick, executive director of Pride of Southern Utah, who watched the gathering online. “I just don’t think that’s very appropriate or professional language in this environment.”
Tanner has been a vocal opponent of drag events in St. George, including a segment of the HBO drag series We’re Here, which filmed in Town Square Park last June and subsequently led to the forced ouster of city manager Adam Lenhard not revoke the exhibition permit. During a screening of the HBO segment in December, one of the show’s creators and executive producers, Stephen Warren, called the show “a love letter” to St. George.
At the meeting last week, Brazell, a St. George media and brand strategist hired by Tanner, attempted to counter Warren’s narrative that the drag community is all about love by reading out profanity-laden hate letters that his client had received. After listening to multiple emails and social media posts peppered with “F” bombs and “C” words, Mayor Randall urged him to stop the swear words.
Members of the queer community were quick to berate Tanner and Brazell for hypocrisy.
“In the presence of several young children, Boy Scouts and countless other families tuning in to the live stream from remote locations, he used the most profane language I have ever heard in a public forum,” Pride officials said in an online form Letter they drafted for parishioners to express their outrage towards parish officials.
“I am shocked and appalled that Councilor Tanner, whose number one talking point is protecting children from adult content, finds this type of language appropriate in a public city council meeting,” the form letter continues. “I find it incredibly hypocritical that she is constantly targeting family friendly drag events for all ages while saying absolutely nothing as her employed media manager repeatedly uses the ‘F word’ and the ‘C word’ in the presence of small children. ”
Brazell, the founder of the New York City-based media marketing company Hitman Inc., describes himself on his website as an accomplished reputation crisis manager for embattled politicians and business people.
“No, you don’t always have to pay for your mistakes — you just have to be good at them,” Brazell says on his website. “We help celebrities and high net worth individuals maintain and increase brand equity by navigating challenging situations that could damage their reputations and bank accounts.”
One of the residents who was stunned by Brazell’s use of inappropriate language — especially from someone said to be adept at media strategy and relations — was Katheryne Knight, who was at the meeting and was a vocal critic of Tanner.
“The message that Brazell wanted to convey did not match the delivery,” said the St. George resident and LGBTQ advocate. “He could have left that out [profanity] in the posts he read but I don’t think that was what he wanted.
Brazell could not be reached for comment.
In text responses to questions from The Tribune, Tanner said she does not support the use of profanity in front of children.
“I had no confirmation as to whether Mr. Brazell would even be present at the meeting, or the exact words he would say,” she said. “At the time he spoke I saw no children in the council chambers. However, I was then made aware that Boy Scouts were in the overflow room.
“I would not wish for anyone to hear the vile, threatening and profane words addressed to me by members of the LGBTQ community,” she continued. Tanner added that she was “grateful to see the community uniting against underage obscenity during the filming of We’re Here, including the new concerns of those who have not expressed concern about the same words spoken in front of children.” became”.
Barrick said it was disingenuous to confuse reading profane letters in a public gathering with what happened on the drag show We’re Here, which HBO was filming in Town Square Park.
“During HBO filming, an ‘F-word’ was said, and it was a slip of the tongue by a cast member,” she said, adding that what Brazell did was on purpose. “If it was [at Tanner’s insistence] or the media manager took it upon himself, this was the deliberate reading of swear words because he knew children were right there.
Brazell’s comments preceded council members voting to renew the city’s support for the downtown Farmers Market for six months. Tanner wanted to drop the sponsorship due to co-owner Kat Puzey’s decision to allow a drag Christmas photo booth at her own private store Mofaco over Thanksgiving Day weekend, which was separate from the market.
St. George’s sponsorship waives park rental and other fees, which helps Puzey and market co-owner Ashley Tiller run their weekly event at Vernon Worthen Park and keep stall prices low for vendors. Among other things, Tanner argued that the waivers made the market a taxpayer-backed event and accused Puzey of abusing the sponsorship to promote inappropriate drag events.
Tanner’s focus on drag and other divisive issues has endeared her to some on the political right and outraged others, who argue she’s more interested in fomenting the culture wars than dealing with traffic, public safety and other bread-and-butter -to address problems facing St. George.
“Rather than bringing people together, she seems intent on tearing them apart and encouraging strife and division…” said Owen Johnson of St. George, who would like to see Tanner removed from office.
Utah does not permit recall elections at the state and local levels.
Justin Lee, former state elections commissioner, says there is no way to remove politicians other than defeating them in the next election.
“Apart from the person resigning, there really isn’t much you can do,” said Lee, now director of government relations for the Utah League of Cities and Towns. “There’s no real recourse here to get rid of a troubled elected official.”
Councilor Dannielle Larkin said she has tons of mail from LGBTQ supporters expressing concern about Tanner and wanting city officials to do something about her rhetoric.
“Many of them use the template provided by Pride of Southern Utah and many of them write their own letters,” she said. “They are frustrated by the hypocrisy and the talk [to Tanner]“You protect kids and then have someone read swear word messages out of the microphone at a city council meeting, knowing that kids – whether Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts – always come with their parents or watch it on YouTube. ‘”
“We have received hundreds of emails supporting the farmers market and asking for truth and decency at our city council meetings and from each of our council members,” Larkin added. “It’s so frustrating because we live in such a cool place and we can do so many amazing things. But look at how much time was wasted in this meeting arguing about what shouldn’t even be a conversation.”
Councilor Jimmie Hughes also wants more courtesy at meetings.
“Things seem to happen in the meetings that sometimes get out of control,” he said. “Frankly, the whole situation has been inflated disproportionately.”
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https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/01/16/lgbtq-groups-want-st-george/ LGBTQ groups want St George’s leaders to crack down on Councilor Michelle Tanner’s “reckless lack of judgement”.