By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
PORTERVILLE -- The mayor of this quaint Central California town just west of the Sierra Nevada foothills has raised a ruckus -- but no calls for his ouster as of yet -- by coming down firmly of the side of a you're-on-your-own anti-bullying policy.
Porterville Mayor Cameron Hamilton stirred up widespread ire by declaring that bullying victims should toughen up and defend themselves. Especially angered were city officials and gay rights advocates.
At a recent City Council meeting, Hamilton said he opposes bullying but thinks it is too often blamed for the world's problems. Hamilton said some people need to "grow a pair" and learn to "just stick up for them damned selves."
The mayor was responding to a student program proposing safe zones around town with signs directing children to places where they could seek refuge from bullies. Porterville is a community of 55,000 residents 50 miles northeast of Bakersfield.
"I'm against bullying but I'm getting damn tired of it being used as a mantra for everything, and the ills of the world," Hamilton said.
Councilwoman Virginia Gurrola backs the safe zones and told the mayor, "It's hard to just 'grow a pair' when you're a 10-year-old girl."
Melissa McMurrey of Gay Porterville told a Fresno television station she felt attacked by the mayor's comments. She said bullies often target young gay people.
Hamilton cast the lone vote against further discussing the safety zones. He says he's not anti-gay, but he opposed the plan because it would be costly and expose the city to lawsuits if a safe zone turned dangerous.
"The message is, together we can all fight this thing," Hamilton said of bullying.
The proposal has been pulled from discussion at this week's council meeting.
Last year, the city was at the center of a flap when the council in a split vote replaced a proclamation declaring June as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride month with a resolution calling June a month of community charity and good will to all. Hamilton said he voted in favor of the change, wanting to include everybody.
Hamilton, who was elected mayor in 2008, would be up for reelection in 2016.
-- Staff and wire reports