I found Leonard Battaglia's disparaging comments toward Asians and African-Americans during this newspaper's Oct. 19 interview for an article addressing the compensation of special districts quite reprehensible and raises serious questions regarding his character as a public official.
His remark that African-Americans "think slower" is an insult to black people who have served in the U.S. armed forces with distinction and honor. His despicable racial slur insults African-Americans who have achieved the highest success in government, literature, science, theater, opera, sports, entertainment, business and education despite the exploitation, oppression and racial prejudice as spewed by Battaglia.
His derogatory comments glosses over racial inequality in income, wealth, education, housing, criminal justice employment and health as they affect African-Americans and nonwhite groups with particular severity.
It would appear that the board of directors of the West County Wastewater District have condoned and acquiesced to Battaglia's comments since there has not been one word of official condemnation on the part of the agency.
The silence on Battaglia's distasteful comments compromised the integrity of the board of directors and contributes to casting aspersions on public officials in general.
Battaglia insists that district constituents not be offended by his insulting racial myopia and that he is not prejudiced. Certainly, it is not left to those who make racial slurs to determine whether they are prejudiced.
While the majority of the agency's trustees (Battaglia, Granzella and Schmidt) benefit from self-aggrandizement, the board of directors has supported a 45 percent increase for ratepayers over the next five years.
While one can agree in one sense that it is necessary to replace aging infrastructure, the treatment of the waste water district employees under union contract should come under public scrutiny.
The board of directors opposed an across-the-board increase for employees, insisted on employees bearing an unfair burden for medical care through imposed contracts while it advocated for expanded management positions.
The district's board of directors appears to have less regard for the collective bargaining rights of unions as it does for Asians and African-Americans.
I am not prepared to accept Battaglia's ignorance plea concerning his compensation, recognizing that he has served on the West County Wastewater District board since 1975.
Members of the board of directors establish policy that includes their own compensation. Battaglia asserts that he does not need his waste water district compensation to live on. Yet he willingly accepts a level of hourly compensation that rivals a Fortune 1000 chief executive officer.
The civil rights movement contributed to the removal of most vestiges of blatant racial inequality, legally sanctioned segregation and explicit discrimination in U.S. society.
In today's society, explicit expressions of racial prejudice and notions of black inferiority are frowned upon. Nevertheless, racial stereotypes continue to manifest as a formidable framing device that can shape social and political behavior.
Prejudice matters in sustaining and perpetuating racial inequality. Perhaps in November 2014, a voter movement within the West County Wastewater District will remove a bigot who is "slow" to racial equality from the agency's board of directors and elect trustees who will reform the compensation level of the special district and establish a model that does not suggest greed.
Leonard McNeil is a professor of political science at Contra Costa College.