Hundreds ask mayor to remove councilwoman who made racist remark

Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins

Daily Post Staff Writer

Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper said last night (June 9) that hundreds of residents have sent her emails asking for the removal of Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins over a racist comment she made at a council meeting.

But Pepper said state election law does not let a mayor or a council remove an elected official.

Bruins is under fire using the phrase “cotton picking,” which is offensive to African Americans. An online petition drive calling for action against Bruins has collected 5,200 signatures as of Tuesday night.

Bruins used the phrase on May 20 when council was trying to decide whether it would require the public to wear masks outdoors in most instances in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Councilwoman Neysa Fligor, the city’s first black councilwoman, said she wanted to require masks. She said a city ordinance would help clarify county rules for people. The county was only advising that people wear masks, not requiring it.

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 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.

Pepper said there is no place for racist speech in Los Altos, especially from elected officials. She said the council will discuss forming a committee to address racial issues and policing at their June 23 meeting.

Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng suggested the city obtain implicit bias training for police officers and city officials.

Bruins also apologized at last night’s meeting. She said the comment was inappropriate and she is asking herself how she can make a meaningful difference moving forward. Bruins said she has asked one of the organizers of Los Altos’ Black Lives Matter protest to sit down with the council and give them suggestions on racial blindspots.


  1. Los Altos has less than 1% black representation among its residents according to the 2017 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    The Los Altos City Council needs to prioritize this important issue and formulate actionable items for increasing black residential representation. Perhaps this is why certain people, like Bruins, are so far removed from what is and what isn’t ok to say.

    How about incentivizing small black business owners to open up shops in town. How about increasing affordable housing options along the El Camino Corridor where developers are currently building like there’s no tomorrow.

    What Los Altos (and Los Altos Hills 1% black residents, Mountain View 2% black residents) shouldn’t do is accept the status quo.

  2. Did Mayor Pepper and Vice Mayor Fligor ask Council Member Bruins to resign? If not, why not?
    Council Member Bruins was forced to apologize, which not a real apology. Thousand have signed the petition and sent letters asking for her resignation. Why is she not doing what the LA residents want?

  3. Council is just going to ride this out and let the public protests blow over. Jennie is leaving council at the end of the year due to term limits. Typical Los Altos scandal, brush it under the rug and hope it goes away. I’m glad the Daily Post is here to report things like this because the Crier won’t, it’s just the handmaiden of Council. They won’t report anything that’s critical of a city official. They’re not really a newspaper, more like a city-sponsored newsletter.

  4. Not sure what the fuss is about. Neysa isn’t from the south where the “cotton picking” term would have any significance. I understand that she’s from Jamaica. You might want to verify that. This seems like a reach to me.

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