Two resign from city board over council’s pro-Palestinian resolution
on November 6, 2023
Two members of the Richmond Design Review Board, Leah Marthinsen and David Plotkin, resigned Monday afternoon in response to the City Council’s resolution supporting the people of Gaza, passed in late October.
“The resolution clearly isolates and endangers the Jewish community in Richmond, which includes my family,” Plotkin wrote in his letter of resignation, which former Mayor Tom Butt included in his e-forum on Monday. “My children do not feel safe in their own home.”
Richmond made national news as it became the first reported city in the U.S. to condemn the Israeli government for “a campaign of ethnic cleansing and collective punishment” against the Palestinian people.
More than 10,000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the Health Ministry in Gaza has reported, and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The bombardment started after a Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 in which more than 1,000 Israelis were killed and 200 were kidnapped.
The resolution acknowledged the loss of life on both sides, while stating, “The City of Richmond stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza.”
“I am unable to continue to support an administration that chooses incendiary and divisive grandstanding over inclusiveness and the well-being of all our community members,” Marthinsen wrote in her resignation notice, which also was printed in the e-forum.
Plotkin did not respond to a call and Marthinsen did not respond to an email seeking their comments.
More than 300 people addressed the City Council the night the resolution passed by a vote of 5-1. Most of the speakers favored the action, while others feared it would divide the community.
Vice-Mayor Gayle McLaughlin defended the resolution Wednesday, saying, “We are at a critical place in history. If we put our heads in the sand to ongoing atrocities, we are complicit.”
She said she was sorry to hear of Plotkin and Marthinsen’s resignations, adding: “They will be missed. Others are applying.”
A week after Plotkin and Marthinsen resigned, Mayor Eduardo Martinez responded with a letter to them, dated Nov. 14. In it, Martinez says that although he appreciated their time and expertise and was open to “one-on-one” conversations, he stood by Richmond’s resolution.
He cited his vocal opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Iraq as examples of his ongoing support for civilian populations, adding, “if our government is going to use our tax money to pay for war crimes, we have a moral duty to say, ‘Not in our name.’”
Martinez did not ask the board members to reconsider their resignations.
The resignations mean the seven-member Design Review Board, which already was short one member, only has four remaining members, Butt pointed out in the e-forum. All four would have to be present for there to be a quorum needed to make decisions.
Last year, some members threatened to resign when the City Council rejected Butt’s appointments to the board on his way out of office.
The board is responsible for decisions concerning housing developments and changes to the exteriors of buildings.
(This story was updated with McLaughlin’s comment and later updated to add Martinez’s letter.)
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