Councilwoman apologizes for racist remark

Daily Post Staff Writer

Los Altos Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins apologized on Thursday for making a racist comment at a public meeting.

The council convened over the telephone on May 20 to decide whether to mandate masks in the city because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Councilwoman Neysa Fligor, who was born in Jamaica and is the city’s first black councilwoman, said she wanted to require masks. She said a city ordinance would help clarify county rules for people.

Bruins responded that she thought another ordinance on top of county and state orders would confuse people.

“This whole hierarchy of orders … anybody who thinks that is adding clarity, I think you are out of your cotton-picking mind,” she said.

The original comment drew backlash online over the past few weeks after it was first reported in the Post. The term is considered offensive because “cotton-picking” is associated with slaves being forced to pick cotton in the American South. Merriam Webster says “cotton-picking” is used for emphasis but is “old-fashioned.”

Yesterday Bruins and Fligor released a joint statement saying Bruins had apologized and Fligor had accepted.

“Based on her years of friendship with Council Member Bruins, (Fligor) knows the words did not come from a place of malice, hatred or racism,” reads the statement. “Bruins also apologizes to all who heard her words and especially to those who were offended or hurt. There is no excuse for making that statement.”

Petition drive started

A petition calling for Bruins to apologize had 2,025 names last night.

The push back came at the same time as discussions of racism have inflamed the nation after the police murder of George Floyd.

Ryan Lion said on Twitter that he was proud of his hometown for electing an all-female council but was disgusted to hear of Bruins’ remark.

In 2018, former Trump campaign official David Bossie had to apologize to a black panelist on Fox and Friends after telling the panelist he was out of his cotton-picking mind, according to Politico.


  1. I don’t think Jeannie is a racist, but she suffers from foot-in-mouth disease, for which there is no ADA cure. Months ago, a developer wanted to subdivide a property. When neighbors protested, she accused them of being racist. She’s getting a taste of her own medicine. Is it bitter, Jeannie?

  2. One part of the discussion that is missing is that masks would allow everyone to be covered in the same way. It is a solidarity issue to wear masks. I am not a fan of them but some people are and some of the people are African American people and we can support them by wearing our masks. The masks, which is where this statement was directed, represent a tiny way we as white people cab help to level the playing field for all people of color and the rest of us.

    • Ms Bruins I hope you do the right thing and step down. The comment you made is offensive period. Change will not happen without accountability and you are not representative of the residents of Los Altos.

  3. This isn’t the first time Jeannie Bruins has “misspoken” and I’m sure it won’t be the last. She is not fit to hold any public office in an elected or appointed role. Please Jeannie—for once do the right thing and resign. Most likely this isn’t going to fade away by your backpedaling and apologies.

  4. I agree with “Lost”. There ought to be a public announcement when a term is considered off-limits. I’ve heard the term cotton-picking for years and never heard that it was offensive. This is new to me too. The liberals who want to control our speech should put out a list every year giving us all the words or phrases we can no longer use. I’ll do my best to avoid those words. This controversy just feel like a set up.

    • Don’t let liberals control what you say. Say exactly what you want so that it reflects how you were raised, the quality of your education, how you see the world and how you think. Then based on the response you get, you can continue to live here or move to Alabama.

  5. According to a Mercury News article, Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper stated she would “prefer not to get engaged on this.” As also the CEO of a company (Peninsula Clean Energy), I’m sure Jan knows that in any company, school, public agency, government, etc. racist comments are a firing offense. Why isn’t she taking action or as she says, “not engaging?” This isn’t acceptable. The Los Altos City Council has their twice monthly meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, June 9).
    It will be interesting to see if our Council also “chooses not to engage on this important topic.”
    Email your comments to Council in advance of the meeting: [email protected]
    Or call the City (650) 947-2720 To voice your concerns.

    If you wish to attend the Council meeting: here are the instructions from the City website.

    Members of the Public may join the Council meeting at Members of the public who wish to provide public comments will need to join the meeting using the above link. Members of the Public may only comment during times allotted for public comments. Text your name and ask to speak during “public comment on items not on the agenda” to 650-823-6911.

  6. When she and I were growing up in the 1960s, “cotton picking” was a common expression used by our parents and grandparents. It was not even remotely racist. Still most of us grew out of using corny old-school expressions like that. She did not, and this is the sad result. A shame.

  7. As of 11am 6/8, there are 4500 petitions for removing her from the post. I called City Council weeks ago, leaving my concerns to all council members, but no one took this seriously.
    What happened during the meeting? Did any other member even try to stop her or correct her? If not, they are just as bad. If anyone did, I shall of course take this back. I am challenging all members to reply to this question.

  8. The petition to remove Jeannie Bruins is now at 4,960, 40 votes shy of 5,000 (Which it will no doubt reach later today). Los Alto City Council—will you listen to the community or “not engage” as Mayor Jan Pepper stated? Bruins is on the MTC and ABAG boards—will they ignore this racist comment as well?

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