, was not meant to be disparaging to Muslims, San Juan Capistrano Councilman Derek Reeve said Tuesday.
In offering the first explanation of why he chose the name, said it was a decision made by his family in an exercise of free speech after teaching his children that in some parts of the world they could be sentenced to death for doing so.
Reeve mentioned his dogs' names Sept. 6 (the other is named America), as the council voted on in the Northwest Open Space.
Dogs are traditionally considered unclean in the Arab world—a perception that caused Councilman to ask the rest of the council to talk about proper decorum at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
"We are in a position of authority. It's important we choose our words wisely," Kramer said. "I hope the council will say this kind of speech is not OK."
Kramer asked the council to discuss its standards of conduct and to rewrite its rules on decorum—requests that went unfulfilled.
Reeve, commenting on the 45-minute discussion that ensued with comments from the public, said, "What's most offensive [to me] is that we're not talking about anything important. We're talking about my damned dog."
Some residents agreed. Several who spoke during a public hearing said they preferred to have the council focus on other, more "pressing" issues, such as the city's infrastructure, high water rates and finances.
Reeve at some points during his explanation got choked up. He said this week had been a difficult one, with a "terrorist organization" reprimanding him for his public declaration of his dog's name.
Mayor Sam Allevato also had harsh words for Reeve.
"You have to be really careful about what you say" from the dais, Allevato cautioned. "These types of comments are not acceptable" and could lead to what some could consider a hostile work environment for City Hall employees, he said.
Allevato said a Muslim in the audience during the last City Council meeting was offended by Reeve's remark. He also said allowing such comments to be made would be a "slippery slope."
But Karen Lugo, a Riverside attorney who specializes in free speech, said "council members are free to speak in their individual capacity as public leaders."
"There is just simply no authority" to regulate decorum, she said.
Although stories about Reeve's comment got picked up by local and national media, Reeve said he received 100 emails supporting him.
On Friday, the Greater Los Angeles area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked Reeve to apologize for his comment. In a press release, it said he showed "disrespect toward Islam’s revered prophet Muhammad by making [the] derisive public comment."
"I'm asking for decorum on the dais. Yet if we can't do that, all is lost," Kramer said, adding that this is "not a Muslim issue."
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the City Council:
- Because the meeting went until midnight, the council postponed to Oct. 4 its discussion about Reeve's .
- It voted 4-1 to—at a later date—rescind a 2009-open space agreement with the developers of a
- Gave city staffers the go-ahead to start making improvements to the lemon grove site in the Eastern Open Space. The project includes installing an irrigation system and park benches, planting 218 valencia orange trees and holding a public contest to rename the new park.
... stay tuned for further coverage of the council's actions.