Friday, 17 May 2024

Wiggins sharply criticized for comments at committee hearing

North Coast state Sen. Patricia Wiggins is under fire for a statement she made to a pastor during a recent state Senate committee hearing.


The incident that has garnered the Santa Rosa Democrat heavy criticism occurred during a joint hearing of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications and Assembly Natural Resources committees on Aug. 6.


Rev. Robert Jones, government affairs director for the Sacramento-based California Association of Black Pastors and pastor of Oak Park United Methodist Church, was giving testimony during a hearing to discuss global warming.


He asked the committee to consider input from members of ethnic and lower-income communities when addressing global warming and emissions standards. When new fees are implemented to address such issues, Jones said those communities suffer the most.


“Excuse me, but it think your arguments are bull****,” Wiggins said.


Committee Chair Sen. Christine Kehoe immediately interjected and began talking with Jones, keeping the hearing moving.


A clip of the hearing and Wiggins' comment were posted on YouTube, and has generated nearly 36,000 hits.


Since then, Wiggins has sustained harsh criticism for her words.


She's also attempted to apologize to Jones. In an Aug. 12 letter to Jones she wrote, “I did not intend to be aggressive, disrespectful or vulgar. Unfortunately, my directness and poor choice of words may have left the wrong impression and were, in hindsight, inappropriate for a legislative hearing. Nor did I mean to be insensitive to the important role of the California Association of Black Pastors.”


In the letter Wiggins asked Jones for a second chance and an opportunity to personally meet with him to apologize for the incident.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, said she immediately regretted her words and has attempted ever since the committee hearing to meet with Jones, to no avail.


Initially, Wiggins thought she had heard Jones say that he believed he was asking for minority-owned businesses to be exempt from the regulations, which Miller said she realized later wasn't what he said.


Wiggins at one point did have a meeting scheduled with Jones and some of his colleagues, but they didn't show up to the meeting or call to say they weren't coming, and have offered no response since, said Miller.


A call Lake County News placed to Jones' church was not returned.


Critics of the senator have seized on the opportunity to go after her. The California Republican Party reportedly sent out a news release with a link to the YouTube video.


Likewise, the Capitol Resource Institute launched a phone call and email campaign demanding Wiggins publicly apologize to Jones, saying she displayed “shocking contempt for the people she was elected to serve.”


“This type of behavior from an elected official is simply unacceptable,” Karen England, executive director for Capitol Resource Institute, said in a written statement.


Miller said he wouldn't offer an excuse for Wiggins' remark, which she herself feels is inexcusable.


It's an unfortunate situation, said Miller, considering Wiggins' strong belief in the kind of environmental justice Jones was seeking, that drafting environmental regulations should be an inclusive process.


Wiggins was elected to the state Senate in 2006. She previously represented the North Coast in the state Assembly.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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