Los Altos to draft ordinance mandating safe storage of personally owned firearms

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY ALLISON HUANG

The City of Los Altos is set to draft an ordinance mandating lock boxes and trigger locks for all personally owned firearms, following a resolution made by Councilman Jonathan Weinberg at last week’s city council meeting. The exact timeline for the ordinance is unclear.

Under current law, an individual commits the crime of criminal storage of a firearm in the third degree if the individual leaves a firearm in a location where they “reasonably should know” that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm.

However, if an individual keeps their firearm in a “location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure,” the law does not apply to their situation.

Weinberg made the argument that the current state law is too vague as it does not define safe storage.

“The law does not define what ‘safe storage’ means when it mandates guns be stored safely,” Weinberg said at last week’s meeting. “This has led to deaths where a parent believed a gun may be safe in a closet or on top of a refrigerator, but in fact it was not safe.”

Weinberg’s resolution to draft an ordinance encouraged city staff to base the ordinance off of a similar model from Santa Clara County — which applies only to unincorporated territories. 

Under that model, residents are mandated to keep their firearms in a Department of Justice approved lockbox or trigger lock — a device that fits over the trigger of a firearm to prevent it from being shot — and would pay a $500 fine for a first-time offense, and a $1000 fine for a second time offense. 

However, it may ultimately be to the discretion of an officer who observes the violation whether to charge a fine or simply issue a warning.

“The goal is not to make money or make people hurt in the wallet,” Weinberg said in an interview. “The goal is to encourage people to use trigger locks and use them safely. I would be happy if officers used their discretion to only issue a warning, if that is what it takes for someone to comply with the ordinance.”

During the council meeting, Mayor Neysa Fligor pointed out questions that arose surrounding enforcement of the potential ordinance.

“This is a law that would not be enforced through aggressive police activity, it would be enforced through code enforcement,” Weinberg said. “More than anything else the ordinance establishes that this is the policy in the city, and the vast majority of people do their best to follow the law. Maybe that is enough to motivate them.”

While the majority of the council supported Weinberg’s resolution to draft a motion, Councilwoman Anita Enander was the sole dissenter, citing a lack of “applicable” arguments and a low number of local incidents of gun violence.

“I do not believe that in Los Altos we would be doing anything useful by passing this ordinance, beyond the responsibility that our citizens already take,” Enander said at the council meeting. “I do admire Councilmember Weinberg’s arguments but many of them I find not applicable. I do not believe that this ordinance will change tragedy and suicide in Los Altos one bit.”

Police Chief Andy Galea was also present at the meeting, and was unable to point to any recent case of a juvenile accessing a firearm in the last twelve years. He did, however, mention multiple cases of accidental discharge — which usually occurred while an individual was cleaning their firearm.

“A friend of mine had a teenager who tried to commit suicide with a bottle of pills,” Weinberg said. “If that teenager had had access to a gun, they would probably be dead. The teenager decided to live, but a gun would not have given that teenager an opportunity to change their mind.”

Los Altos Councilwoman Lee Eng denies falsely accusing activist Kenan Moos for first time publicly

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY ALLISON HUANG

Amid persistent calls for her resignation and a failed attempt at mediation, Los Altos Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng at a council meeting on April 27 denied allegations that she falsely claimed Los Altos activist Kenan Moos threatened her, addressing the allegations directly for the first time since the incident took place.

Lee Eng’s alleged false accusations came after she abstained from a police reform vote in November 2020. Following the vote, she claimed that she had received messages calling her racist from the social justice group Justice Vanguard, which Moos founded.

“I’m getting information or comments from members of Vanguard calling me racist now,” Lee Eng said after the vote. “I don’t appreciate it. I would like to state that I did it because I lacked information, and there were other reasons why I took the position that I have.”

“I voted the way I did, I am representing my concerns due to the lack of information,” she added. “That said, I just want to protect myself and protect my family.”

In the weeks following the incident, it became clear that the only messages sent were from Moos, expressing his disappointment.

“Your name will be all over the papers,” Moos wrote to Lee Eng in the November text. “We know there are racists that supported you. You are trying to delay this. It has nothing to do with budget and you know this. You lied to me in our discussions that you were going to support racial matters. You said you were the only one in favor and it looks like you are the only one against them.” 

After Lee Eng publicly accused members of Justice Vanguard, Moos sent a message clarifying his position.

“I just want to be clear,” Moos wrote. “This is no way a threat of any kind. This is me expressing my disappointment.”

Many members of the public and council interpreted Lee Eng’s statement in the November meeting to mean that she felt threatened — Lee Eng denied that she implied that.

“I wanted to explain my vote in order to protect myself and my family after receiving text messages saying that my supporters were racist and promising that my name would be all over the papers,” Lee Eng said at this week’s council meeting. “I am the only female Asian ever elected to serve on the Los Altos City Council. Kenan Moos, his family and his supporters exploited the false narrative that I said he threatened me and that I considered texts he sent to me as threats because he is a young Black man. That is absolutely false.”

Moments after Lee Eng initially accused Moos of threatening her in November, the council immediately condemned it, and have not commented on the accusation or the threat itself since. 

Mayor Neysa Fligor ended that silence in a prepared statement at this week’s meeting, apologizing for the hurt the council may have done, and acknowledging that she thought Lee Eng implied a threat was made.

“Although she did not use the word threat, when we all heard her saying that she wanted to make a statement [in case] anything happened to her family, I [took it to mean] something very serious and scary was written in that text message,” Fligor said.

Fligor, echoed by councilmembers Jonathan Weinberg and Sally Meadows, expressed that she did not view the text messages as threatening.

“I did not see anything in the message that would make me believe that something would happen to Councilmember Lee Eng and her family,” Fligor said.

During the public comment section of the meeting, residents who empathized with Moos, as well as his family members spoke out against Lee Eng.

“All you are doing is denying. Denying, denying, denying, that is not what a great leader does, you can’t keep denying, you can’t keep escaping the truth,” said Kevin Moos, father of Kenan Moos after Lee Eng delivered her statement. “You waited five months, let everyone think [Kenan] sent threatening messages. For five months. You are cold hearted, you are a horrible example as a leader.”

Journalist, author, citizen scientist; Mary Ellen Hannibal to deliver talk at Los Altos History Museum

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTOS COURTESY MARY ELLEN HANNIBAL

When picking up a book titled “Evidence of Evolution,” one would hardly expect that the same author also wrote “Good Parenting Through Your Divorce.” But as a freelance author, and later a citizen scientist, Mary Ellen Hannibal just took the jobs she could get.

“When you’re a freelance writer, you kind of have to take all the jobs,” Hannibal said. “And so I wrote all kinds of things.” 

Hannibal began her career writing for various Bay Area nonprofits, creating newsletters, articles and books. While writing newsletters for the San Francisco Botanical Garden in the early 2000s, Hannibal discovered a love for botany, and all things science.

“I grew to really love the subject [at the Botanical Garden], and learning about the different plants, understanding their origins, and really learning about science,” Hannibal said. “Because science has its beginnings, in many ways, in botanical research.”

After spending nearly a decade with the Botanical Garden, Hannibal wrote her first scientific book. Published in 2009, Hannibal wrote “Evidence of Evolution” while she was researching for a separate project for the San Francisco Botanical Garden at the California Academy of Sciences in 2007.

Hannibal at the Pillar Point tide pools (courtesy Mary Ellen Hannibal)

“As I was researching this book about how life begins, [scientists at the academy] were telling me that we were in an extinction crisis, and that life was ending prematurely for a lot of species,” Hannibal said. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, what’s happening?’ I need to find out, I need to tell the story.”

After learning about the so-called “sixth extinction,” Hannibal knew that she needed to dig deep and speak out.

So in 2012, Hannibal published “The Spine of the Continent: The Race to Save America’s Last Best Wilderness.” This book focused on the emergence of conservation biology, a relatively new discipline focusing on the confluence of how nature works and how humanity can protect it.

“Even Yosemite or Yellowstone, they were only protected because they were beautiful,” Hannibal said. “At the time nobody was really understanding that we need to have healthy interactions going on in nature, even if it’s not in our own backyards, in order to create a living biosphere for all lifeforms.”

During her research for “Spine of the Continent,” Hannibal first got exposed to the world of citizen science, when she noticed that a common factor among many successful scientific research projects is the involvement of the general public collaborating with professional scientists, hence the name “citizen” science.

One of the first times Hannibal observed citizen science in action was with a group tracking jaguar movements through Arizona and Mexico. The jaguar, being an endangered species, was entitled to a protected habitat space provided by the government. 

“You have to provide critical habitat so those species have a place to live, but where should that be?” Hannibal said. “In Arizona, there are many mountain ranges that have appropriate habitat, so which one should we choose? So we asked, well, where do the jaguars want to go?”

The answer was found through a network of citizen scientists, who learned how to track jaguar prints, and were able to provide data to show where a critical habitat should be located. 

Similarly, citizen scientists all across the United States are contributing animal movement data to ongoing projects to find appropriate locations for highway overpasses and underpasses.

“In order to understand where the animals want to go, we need a lot of data,” Hannibal said. “And really the only way to get that data is to have help from a lot of people. So that’s where citizen science comes in.”

Just a decade or two ago, decentralized data collection required citizen scientists to do extensive research and independently collect and corroborate data. But today, with the advent of digital tools, anyone can be a citizen scientist by just snapping a photo with a cell phone.

“Before, you would have gone out to the field with a little GPS machine and a camera and you [wrote] down where you saw something,” Hannibal said. “Now you just take a picture with your phone and upload it and people can confirm what is in the photo and now it is available to be used by scientists everywhere.”

The largest app that is used for citizen science today is called iNaturalist. The app allows users to upload a photo, at which point software will identify its contents and after it is confirmed by other users, that data point can be used in national biological studies.

“Academic science has tended to be very much old white men, very exclusive and dismissive,” Hannibal said. “But that is really changing. Science today matters less on one individual genius coming up with a great idea, and much more on collaboration.”

Hannibal will be delivering a virtual talk at the Los Altos History Museum on Thursday, April 22 about the history of citizen science and its impact on monarch butterflies, as well as climate change. Register for the free event here.

More drama: Mediation between Los Altos Councilwoman Lee Eng and activist Kenan Moos terminated

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

Following five months of controversy surrounding comments made by Los Altos Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng about activist Kenan Moos, an attempt at mediation — something which many hoped would bring peace to the issue — was terminated by the mediator, whose identity is currently confidential.

At a council meeting in November, Lee Eng falsely accused Moos of threatening her family, following a vote on police reform measures

Since then, Moos has called for Lee Eng’s resignation, and his calls have been joined by dozens of other Los Altos residents at recent council meetings.

“The city was informed yesterday that the agreed upon mediator had terminated the process,” said Mayor Neysa Fligor at a city council meeting this week. “The reason for termination was not disclosed to the city. Although we are very disappointed in this particular process, we are still hopeful that both parties can resolve this matter.”

Moos said that his relationship with Lee Eng was amicable prior to that November meeting. Lee Eng even claimed to have attended a Black Lives Matter march organized by Moos last June, but he said he has no recollection of meeting her there.

“This is not the first time someone has criminalized me,”  Moos said in an interview. “All the stuff I do has been diminished because she applies the label of a ‘scary black man.’ I literally have to humanize myself to others now.”

Although the events that occurred during mediation are confidential, it is unusual for a mediation between two parties to be terminated. If a mediation is terminated by a mediator, it is often due to a perception that one party involved is not there in good faith, or that the mediation can not be productive.

“One person has been very open on speaking this whole time, and has stood on the policy of conversation, and that’s me,” Moos said. “I have said let’s talk. It’s been five months, and not a single word has been said. I’m not saying who necessarily ended it, because technically it was ended by the mediator. But there are few reasons mediation gets terminated. Just look at everything that’s happened.”

During nearly all public comments calling on Lee Eng to apologize or resign over the past five months, many have accused her of failing to look up at her computer screen on Zoom — something which they say shows that she’s not listening.

“It has proven to be a very difficult year for him, and this has made it even more so,” said Toni Moos, mother of Kenan Moos, failing to hold back tears during the meeting. “Lynette, please look at the camera. It is time to apologize for making my son a target, for allowing the hatred that he is encountering. Look up Lynette! Please!”

Lee Eng did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

Los Altos aims to build 2000 affordable housing units by 2031

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

Los Altos is aiming to build 2000 affordable housing units by 2031, in accordance with new state housing requirements and legislation.

In the state of California, each municipality is given a regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) number, which sets out affordable housing requirements. The housing element, which is sent to the state, indicates where and how land will be zoned for affordable housing.

RHNA requirements are given to most cities by the state every eight years, with this cycle finishing in 2023, at which point they will receive a new number. Some cities — including Los Altos — sometimes receive unfeasible housing numbers, so they appeal the numbers, hoping to receive a finalized set of more feasible ones from the state.

Municipalities are required to send the state a housing element at the end of each cycle, indicating how they plan to implement the RHNA numbers they receive. 

“What we are looking at now is the housing element that is due in January 2023,” said Los Altos Councilwoman Sally Meadows. “Los Altos is viewed as somewhat rural, but to deliver the numbers we need, we will build 2000 affordable units between 2023 through 2031.”

Those 2000 affordable units will likely take the form of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — an additional unit on a lot that already has a main structure — and duplexes. Although ADUs can often cost upwards of $2,500 a month to rent, they qualify as “moderate” below market rate (BMR) housing. 

Furthermore, building a BMR unit can sometimes cost developers the same or more than a market rate unit, due to high construction and real estate costs, according to Meadows, making it even less likely for developers to construct affordable units.

One of the largest hurdles to affordable housing in Los Altos is the limited quantity of bare land, along with current municipal restrictions on the number of structures that can be put onto a single lot.

Senate Bill 9, which was introduced earlier this month, looks to address this issue by forcing  cities to accept proposed developments for two units on a single family lot, assuming other requirements are met — something which was previously left to the discretion of local municipalities.

Those requirements include, but are not limited to, not requiring demolition of an existing structure and the development not being classified as a historic landmark. 

While it is unclear how Los Altos will be able to facilitate the construction of those units — especially considering the high costs and limited quantity of bare land in the city — lot subdivision and ADU construction seem to be the most likely avenue for increased housing, which will be made easier by SB-9.

“There is an argument that SB-9 doesn’t specify that these units have to be BMR, and that’s true,” Meadows said. “What the state is looking for is not just to create affordable housing, but simply to create housing.”

Los Altos Library opens to 50% occupancy, continues expanded contactless pick up

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

Following the county’s drop to the orange tier of coronavirus restrictions, the Los Altos Library will continue to expand its in-person services after first opening for lobby service in March.

Effective April 19, all libraries in the Santa Clara County Library District — which includes the Los Altos Library — will be able to host up to 50% occupancy in their buildings, which includes indoor browsing. 

The Woodland Branch Library will open later than other district libraries, due to “its own challenges which are being tackled,” according to Pierre Bedard, chair of the Los Altos Library Commission.

“It is exciting to welcome patrons back into our library spaces,” said County Librarian Jennifer Weeks in a recent press release. “Due to the hard work and flexibility of our staff, the District has provided a wide variety of in-person and virtual library services that evolved along with the changing COVID-19 guidelines.”

Libraries will continue to provide computer and printing services, and patrons will be able to access computers with a variety of installed software including programs from the Adobe Creative Cloud and Microsoft Office. 

“This is wonderful news for Santa Clara County Library District patrons!” said Mike Wasserman, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and chair of the Library Joint Powers Authority Board. “It’s encouraging to see more businesses, schools and our libraries able to welcome residents back.”

For the time being, library events will remain virtual. Residents may still make appointments for contactless curbside pickup at this link.

Wednesday, April 7: The Woodland Branch Library was previously listed as opening on the 19th. The Woodland Library will open at a later date.

HHS won’t use Moffett Field as detention center

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY SADIE HINE / SPECIAL TO THE MIDPENINSULA POST

The Department of Health and Human Services will not use Moffett Field as a temporary detention center for migrant children, according to a statement from U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (CA-18) on March 18.

HHS had been searching for a potential temporary detainment site in light of the rising border crisis, and was considering placing minors in NASA’s intern housing, which is currently not being used due to COVID-19.

Last week, activists gathered at Moffett to protest its potential use as a detention center.

Eshoo, who represents northern Santa Clara County, chairs the House Health Subcommittee which oversees HHS.

“As Chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee that oversees HHS, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure unaccompanied children arriving at our borders and in the care of HHS are treated humanely and with dignity,” said Eshoo in her statement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently seen a dramatic increase in the number of encounters on the southwestern border of the U.S., including a nearly 60% increase in the number of minors crossing the border.

At the moment, it is unclear what alternative options HHS may seek.

‘It’s about hope and action’: Partners of 34 years inspire change through art

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTOS COURTESY ROB BADGER AND NITA WINTER

After quitting his job in 1986, Rob Badger went to his local photo lab to develop a photography portfolio for potential clients. While waiting for his film to develop, Rob met Nita Winter, a fellow photographer, who would later become his wife.

“I was getting a print done last minute, and I came back at 9 o’clock that night and [the owner] hadn’t done my print yet so I had to wait,” Winter said. “But Rob knew [the owner] had printed photos of the earth from space, so he pulled them out and we started going through them. We realized we really just had something in common. What we tell people is ‘I was waiting for my prints and this prince showed up.’”

Over 34 years later, the married couple works on conservation nature photography projects together, often winning prestigious awards for their collections, including their most recent, “Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change,” which has since won 12 awards, including the Ansel Adams Award. 

The collection depicts the wildflowers of California, and the traveling version of the collection is on display at the Los Altos History Museum. The couple will also be delivering a talk at the Los Altos History, on March 18 at 5 p.m.

“CA Poppies and Gilia Wildflower Field.” (Courtesy Nita Winter and Rob Badger)

Badger, who grew up loving nature, decided to become a landscape photographer after quitting his day job to capture the destruction of public lands. Initially, Badger photographed mining operations on public lands and presented his work to different organizations to promote policy change. Apparently, he even presented to Bill Clinton during his presidency. 

“I also worked in the California desert to help support the California Desert Protection Act, which was maybe 20 years ago,” Badger said. “And then I was one of three photographers chosen [by a Russian nonprofit] to photograph Russian nature preserves in Siberia.”

Winter, like her husband, grew up loving the outdoors. But unlike her husband, it took a few different jobs before she discovered photography as a career. She took jobs as a wildfire firefighter, the first female to do so in her area, as well as a park ranger, before diving into photography.

“When I went to college I was a biology major, and thought I would work in that field, and then decided I didn’t want to get a master’s or Ph.D.,” Winter said. “I came back to San Francisco, and started working at the Women’s Building.”

Almost everywhere she went, Winter carried with her a camera to capture the world around her. So after leaving the Women’s Building, the somewhat obvious choice was to pursue photography, with her first project on the children of the Tenderloin in San Francisco.

“We had learned through the years that photographs are really powerful storytelling tools and really attract attention to an issue,” Winter said. “And then you can attract people to an issue and motivate them to make change.”

After spending years photographing the world around them, Badger and Winter discovered wildflower photography, almost by accident.

“I was in a lab processing my film in San Francisco, and I met a fellow photographer, and she told me about the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve — that it was having an exceptionally good year,” Badger said. “She said, ‘Well, you’re a landscape photographer and you haven’t been down to the poppy reserves? Well we gotta go.’ So she and a friend of ours went down, and it was just beautiful.”

Badger said he immediately called Winter after visiting the poppy fields. Hailing from New England, neither of them had been able to see wildflowers like they were able to in California.

“I had been doing so much environmental work seeing these negative scenes, with destruction and pollution,” Badger said. “It was really burning me out. I wanted to do something to show that there is still beauty left in our public lands.”

Rob Badger laying down to photograph a landscape scene. (Courtesy Nita Winter and Rob Badger)

Along with their museum exhibitions, the couple has also published a coffee table book, which includes photos, as well as nonfiction stories about wildlife, written by scientists, nature writers and environmental leaders.

“We wanted to inspire people to take action,” Winter said. “And the book is reaching people in many ways. For example, there’s a woman who works for the Smithsonian, and she received the book, and now she is going to take things that she learned from the book to her coworkers.”

After working together for over three decades, the couple had to find creative ways to keep their relationship strong.

“We eat together, play together, sleep together,” Badger said. “You learn patience, and understanding. We’ve come up with a thing where we feel the argument is getting frustrating. We ask one another, ‘Do you want a hug?’And you can’t say another word, you just have to hug for 20 seconds.”

The couple hopes that through their artwork, they can inspire the hearts and minds of individuals and help to affect real change fighting climate change and the destruction of public lands.

“It’s about hope and action,” Winter said. “We can create action that creates hope, positivity, or we can take actions that create destruction. If we lose hope, people don’t take action, so it’s really important there’s still a sense of hope.”

Los Altos Library opens for limited-capacity service, continues expanded online resources

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

Last week, the Los Altos Library opened its lobby service in limited capacity, allowing residents to partake in restricted browsing and book pickup.

The reopening follows Santa Clara County’s fall to the red tier of coronavirus restrictions, which allowed the library to begin operation at 25–50% lobby service occupancy as well as expanded computer use and printing. Residents may still participate in curbside pickup.

“The library will open more as the world opens more,” said Pierre Bedard, chair of the Los Altos Library commission. “There is limited browsing, but one thing they do that is cool is book bundles. I like non-fiction, so I’ll get a non fiction-bundle of six books curated by the librarians.”

The book bundles are part of a host of new and revamped services the library has offered since the beginning of the pandemic — other new services include online book checkouts, which have seen a 148% growth since the beginning of the pandemic, and virtual storytimes for children.

“As soon as the pandemic hit, the growth of e-book checkouts spiked,” Bedard said. “Purportedly there is a bilingual storytime in Mandarin, and it’s hugely popular.”

Visitors to the library must abide by local COVID restrictions, including wearing face coverings and sanitizing hands. However, the library also offers outdoor browsing through their partner Go Go Biblio and curbside pickup, which Bedard expects will remain in service after the pandemic.

“The Santa Clara County Library District has been able to quickly adapt and evolve with the changing health and safety protocols to offer exemplary services,” said Mike Wasserman, President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Library Joint Powers Authority Board, in a recent press release. “From computer and printing services, meal distribution and student resources, to book bundles and lobby service.”

Although the most recent reopening has generated excitement in the community, the library has continuously worked over the past year to expand and develop online experiences for residents including virtual homework pods, book delivery services for homebound residents and online events.

“There is a wealth of information that is available [for] free,” Bedard said. “There are databases available, homework help. I literally went into the library to check out a book, and it was so cool. Like — do that.”

To book a curbside pickup appointment at the Los Altos Library, click here.

Calls persist for Los Altos Council Member Lee Eng to resign

STORY AND PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Calls persist for Los Altos Council Member Lynette Lee Eng to resign over comments made at a Nov. 24 meeting, where she falsely accused Keenan Moos, a Black Los Altos resident, of threatening her and her family. 

During that November meeting, the previous council voted on findings from the police task force, which recommended eliminating school resource officers from the Los Altos High School campus and adding a third party intake portal to the police complaint process. 

The council voted unanimously to remove SROs, also approving the intake portal and creation of an online feedback form.

After being the sole vote abstaining over the third party intake portal, Lee Eng claimed to have received threatening text messages from Keenan Moos, a Los Altos High School graduate and founder of Justice Vanguard, which organized Black Lives Matter marches this summer.

“Your name will be all over the papers,” wrote Keenan Moos to Lee Eng, in a text, during the November meeting. “We know there are racists that supported you. You are trying to delay this. It has nothing to do with budget and you know this. You lied to me in our discussions that you were going to support racial matters. You said you were the only one in favor and it looks like you are the only one against them. I just want to be clear, this is no way a threat of any kind. This is me expressing my disappointment.”

Lee Eng then interrupted the meeting to tell the council about the allegedly threatening messages from Keenan Moos, defending her actions. 

“I voted the way I did, I am representing my concerns due to the lack of information,” Lee Eng said at the November meeting. “That said, I just want to protect myself and protect my family.”

Those text messages, the wording of which was unknown to the council at the time, drew quick censure from the rest of the council — however, it was later discovered that Lee Eng’s implication that she was threatened was baseless. 

After Keenan Moos posted the text messages online, residents began calling for Lee Eng to apologize for her misleading statements regarding the nature of the text messages, with over 25 calling for her resignation at the most recent council meeting.

“She may not have used the word ‘threatened,’ but that was the implication,” said Toni Moos, mother of Keenan Moos, at the Feb. 23 council meeting. “Words have consequence. In this case the words that Lynette Lee Eng used, gave the impression that Kenan called her racist and threatened her. I want to be clear, Lynette Lee Eng, it is time for you to retract your statements, apologize to Keenan, and step down from your office.”

After residents delivered public comments asking for Lee Eng to apologize or resign, many were disappointed in the results.

“The first thing I felt is that she doesn’t care,” Toni Moos said in an interview with the Post. “She never looked up, she never reacted, there was no eye contact made. It was almost as if it didn’t matter to her, which is very sad.”

After the public comment at the most recent council meeting, Council Members Sally Meadows, Jonathan Weinberg and Mayor Neysa Fligor all gave Lee Eng the opportunity to make a statement, but she remained silent.

“As a council, we are all accountable,” Meadows said. “The only one who can fix this is Council Member Lee Eng, she has a story to tell. This council needs to move forward, and as it is we will not be able to. I ask that Lee Eng be accountable to the community, and especially to Keenan and Justice Vanguard.”

In an interview following the meeting, Toni Moos detailed her experiences as a Black woman, one of only roughly 150 Black residents in a town of over 30,000 according to the most recent census data.

“Walking downtown, heads turn towards you,” Toni Moos said. “You feel people are watching you. I have seen people assume my husband is white, they’d ask if I was the nanny.”

After Lee Eng’s comments at the most recent city council meeting, Toni Moos said she felt lonely.

“Given how [Lee Eng] has behaved, she truly doesn’t [view us as her constituents],” she said. “Maybe she doesn’t view us as important, but we are people, and we are voters, and we are residents. The way she is portraying us, begs the question of whether or not she really views us as equally important.”

During the November meeting when Lee Eng accused Keenan Moos of threatening her, the Moos family stood in their kitchen watching the vote with apprehension. After having had many conversations with Lee Eng prior to the November meeting, Kenan Moos claimed to have been assured by Lee Eng that she would support changes.

“Lee Eng expressed her support and commitment to social and racial justice,” Keenan Moos said during the public comment section of last week’s meeting. “She went as far as to say that she was the only council member who’s an advocate for seeing change, so when [at] the Nov. 24 meeting, she was not voting for recommendations that would support racial and social justice, I was disappointed.”

After the events of that November meeting, Toni Moos spoke about how her fear for her son’s safety has grown.

“I feel like my stomach is always in knots, when Keenan leaves the house now, I say, ‘I only have one of you, so when you leave the house, you do whatever you can to stay safe,’” Toni Moos said. “Hopefully that will never come to pass, that he has interactions with the police here, I feel we are constantly living on edge.”

Toni Moos, however, has said the recent outcry of public support has been a source of hope for her family.

“We did not think that so many people would stand up with us, and that gives me hope, that people are willing to stand up with us,” she said. “When you remain silent, it feels to us as though you are condoning that behavior. Speaking up, speaking out to those who you may not have confronted before, really has an impact.”

Lee Eng declined multiple requests for comment.