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Beedy refuses to honor King's birthday



Long known for her criticism of Martin Luther King Jr., El Paso County Commissioner Betty Beedy recently refused to sign a proclamation honoring the civil rights hero's birthday.

All four other county commissioners signed the proclamation, indicating they were 'pleased to express our support for the [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] activities.' The document also praised the holiday committee 'for their continuing efforts to pay tribute to the philosophy and ideals of this great leader.'

The proclamation read: 'Dr. King faced great adversities as he pursued his dream, standing strong in the face of those adversities and doing so peacefully, without violence.' King's holiday was officially celebrated Jan. 17.

Beedy did not return phone calls seeking comment. But her position on King has been clear since March 1998, when, in a separate episode, she cast the lone dissenting vote against naming a two-mile stretch of Highway 24 the Martin Luther King Jr. Bypass.

At the time, Beedy argued that she read in the book When Walls Came Tumbling Down that King engaged in extramarital affairs. The following month, more than two dozen church pastors denounced Beedy as 'offensive, insensitive, mean-spirited and racially divisive.'

'We told her those reports [about King's alleged affairs] were completely uncorroborated, but she was totally unreceptive,' James McMearn, pastor of the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, said at the time. 'She refused to give an apology or retract her statement.'

Holiday goodwill

Commission Chairman Ed Jones said Beedy indicated in December that she not only would not sign the document, but that she wanted her name to be completely left off of the resolution. Jones, who is black, delivered the opening remarks at the King festivities.

"I wanted to leave [Beedy's] name in there, and just leave it blank (unsigned)" Jones said. "But she typed up a note to me saying, 'Let's have goodwill at the holidays.'

Commissioner Duncan Bremer, who often sides with Beedy in county votes, then threatened to remove his name from the resolution if Beedy's request was not honored, Jones said. So he left her name off.

"I don't want it to seem this is a fractious board on the Martin Luther King issue," Jones said.

The resolution was one of dozens that the city and county governments sign each year honoring various causes, including National Day of Prayer and Domestic Abuse Awareness Month.

Adoption also rejected

In addition to the King holiday resolution, Jones said Beedy, who has recently accused the Department of Human Services of wrongly removing children from their homes, also recently refused to honor National Adoption Month.

Jones said it was the first time in his six years on the board that an elected official has refused to sign a resolution.

"Everyone always says, you know, 'She speaks her mind,' " Jones said. "I always say, 'Well, Adolf Hitler did, too.'"

However, neither Jones nor Jim Sauls, who was on the King-holiday organizing committee, said they were particularly surprised -- or bothered -- by Beedy's stance. Sauls said this year's MLK celebration, in which 1,600 children participated, was "excellent, as always."

"This is America, and everyone gets to have an opinion," Sauls said. Of his own opinion, Sauls called Beedy "misled."

"I won't say she's racist, but her attitude and politics are racist," he said. "The best thing I can do is help vote her out of office."

Beedy is up for re-election in November, and at least four opponents have announced their intent to oppose her. Included in the lineup are dentist Tom Huffman, planner Kit Roup, horse breeder Jimmie Brewer and Catherine Rodriguez, who led an unsuccessful recall effort against Beedy in 1998.

All aboard

This month, Beedy also voted against naming Jones the chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. Beedy did not state the reason for her objection. However, for the past year, the five-member board has been rife with split votes and fractious tension, with Commissioners Jones, Chuck Brown and Jeri Howells typically leading the majority and Bremer and Beedy voting in opposition.

This week, Jones said he no longer cares about trying to advance a more conciliatory board. "I'm not Commissioner Beedy's boss -- her boss is the 100,000 people in her district."

"Each one of these folks are grown people," he said of Bremer and Beedy. "The train has already left the station, and if they want to stay on board and ride with us into the 21st century, then fine. If not, that's fine, too, because 3 to 2 still wins."

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