War of words in South Houston

June 23, 2009 5:59:34 PM PDT
A council member in the city of South Houston wants an apology after a harsh exchange with the city's mayor. It all stems from accusations and insults flung at a recent city council meeting. The woman on the receiving end calls the mayor's comments sexist and inappropriate.

For Maria Villarreal, the issue of politics has turned personal. As a member of South Houston's city council, she takes exception to remarks made by Mayor Joe Soto.

"It's an embarrassment to sit up there and for a man of our city to criticize my vote because of the way I look or where I live," said Villareal.

The remarks were made at last week's city council meeting by Mayor Soto. Mayor Soto admits he said the following in an open meeting about Councilmember Villareal.

    "Anyone in this room who voted for this woman is disappointed big time. I know she went out there with her pretty face and hair and got people to vote for her and now you know what kind of person she is. It's that simple.'
The remarks, say the mayor, were in response to a vote by Villarreal and other council members to remove a long time city employee from a supervisors position.

"The remark about the pretty face and hair, did you feel that was appropriate at the time?" we asked Mayor Soto.

"If I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn't," he answered. "But again, it was an emotional meeting.

Regardless of the issue provoking the remarks, Councilmember Villarreal believes personal remarks have no place at council.

"He does owe me an apology and if not, this just needs to stop," she said.

As for the mayor, he says has no immediate plans for an apology and says politics require tough skin.

"I really believe that if remarks like that are gonna hurt her, she's in the wrong business," he said.

As for the issue that prompted the outburst, it goes before council on July 7. We'll let you know what happens.

We brought you this story through our partnership with Houston Community Newspapers. You can read more about it in the Pasadena Citizen.

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