San Diego County Board Meeting Brings Attention to Public Unrest

The Board of Supervisors has meetings every Tuesday and Wednesday in the County Administration Center in San Diego. These meetings are open to the public, and comments and questions are encouraged. Recently, the environment during these meetings has become tense, more so than usual. With COVID-19 and the differing opinions on policies, added to misinformation, public meetings such as these have become a place where people are extremely rude and furiously and freely express their thoughts. However, racial and offensive comments made while discussing said topic during a meeting on Tuesday crossed a line.

On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors held their usual meeting. As they were talking about COVID-19 policy updates, which included information about vaccine mandates. As the meeting went on, a man in the meeting, Jason Robo, erupted in anger and severely insulted various members of the board, even going so far as to use a racial slur.

This is not Robo’s first time displaying disruptive behavior in public. He is a supposed stand-up comedian, and is known mostly locally in San Diego for hate speech and masking it as comedy or activism. He was blacklisted from Mad House, a comedy club in San Diego, for making racist remarks.

“You can call me fat all you want, but you are not allowed to say that to her,” supervisor Nora Vargas replied to Robo, after he called Dr. Wilma Wooten, the director of the county public health department and a black woman, a racist insult.

This shows just how out of line and disgusting the comments made were. Not only did Robo body shame Vargas and make “jokes” about her health, he also felt the need to call Dr. Wooten, a racial slur. In addition, he also wished death upon three other county supervisors. After finishing his rant, some people at the meeting cheered him on and laughed at what was blatant hate speech.

Unfortunately, events such as these have become commonplace, not only in San Diego, but all over the United States and in varying types of public meetings. They are allowed to happen because of the First Amendment, since board meetings are public, and there seems to be nothing that can be done to prevent them from happening.

As the board chair Nathan Fletcher said to Robo, “The reality is, you can stand up here and say whatever you want, that’s your First Amendment right, but it’s disgusting, it’s vile, and it contributes nothing to what we’re doing here.”

Comments such as the ones made are not only outrageous and unacceptable, but they also hinder the effectiveness and efficiency of the meetings. With an increasingly polarized society, it seems that the public has lost the ability to discuss and debate topics in a civilized manner. How can any work get done when people are focused on attacking the other side instead of actually discussing and compromising?

Poway Unified School District recognized this problem. As a solution, the school district decided to hold their next monthly meeting virtually because of safety concerns. In addition to various disruptions to the meetings, various trustees and their families received death threats. While this would allow for the protection of the participants and for less interruptions, it is not an effective long term solution.

There has to be a way to make these meetings more efficient. Otherwise, immoral, attention seeking people such as Jason Robo will keep popping up in the news and keep causing problems.