Hanford planning commissioner Jim Morgenthal uttered an insensitive remark at a public meeting, which is why he is now an ex-planning commissioner.
Morgenthal said he was just joking around, like he always does, and didn’t know anyone was offended until the mayor summoned him to a face-to-face meeting.
Mayor Sue Sorensen requested his resignation.
At the Dec. 6 meeting of the Hanford City Council, the day before Pearl Harbor Day, Morgenthal took a turn at the microphone during the public comment period.
Covering the meeting was Hanford Sentinel reporter Eiji Yamashita, a native of Japan.
“Merry Christmas,” Morgenthal said, according to a Sentinel story filed last week by another reporter. “Tomorrow is Pearl Harbor Day. I’ve already informed Eiji he has to be on the lookout. I just wanted to give you some insights (chuckling) — I’ve been an insurance agent for 40 years and (chuckling again) — we don’t have any other minorities here, so he’s the one.”
Yamashita came to the United States in 1997, majored in journalism at California State University, Fresno, and has been at the Sentinel since 2001.
When he heard Morgenthal’s remarks, Yamashita’s thought was, “No doubt, he was only kidding.”
Reporters prefer to write stories, not get involved in one, and Yamashita didn’t complain about it. The most he would say was that Morgenthal’s comment was “unprofessional and inappropriate” because it was made in public by a public official.
It’s the sort of remark that Japanese-Americans, or anyone who looks Asian, sometimes get accosted with, said Floyd Mori, national executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League.
“It conjures up old feelings, old misunderstandings. It’s not healthy,” Mori said. “It’s bad for history and bad for the Asian-American community. These kinds of comments bring a negative attitude to Asians in general and Asian-Americans in the United States.”
Sorensen said although Morgenthal spoke publicly, she could not clearly hear what was said because he had turned away from the microphone toward Yamashita, but others told her they were offended.
Morgenthal didn’t express remorse when she met with him, so she asked him to resign, she said.
Morgenthal, 65 and a Vietnam-era veteran, said serving on the commission was just a volunteer job anyway. Furthermore, he is known for making joking remarks.
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