Commissioner apologizes for Sicilian remarks

A Planning Commissioner apologized Thursday for making remarks about Sicilians and cash bribes, three days after drawing public condemnation from a city supervisor.

Planning Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya said in his apology that what he said “was not meant to be a disparaging comment,” but acknowledges that it was “very inappropriate” and “offensive to those with Italian heritage.”

“I apologize to you, to those who were in the audience at the time, and to others who have subsequently either heard about what I said, or have seen it on SFGTV,” Sugaya said in the letter of apology to Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.

Alioto-Pier, an Italian-American of Sicilian descent, spoke out against Sugaya’s comment during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting and introduced a resolution condemning the remarks. The board is scheduled to vote on the resolution next week.

The remarks “deeply offended members of the Italian-American community,” the resolution says.  “It is one of the stereotypes our community has worked so hard to reverse,” Alioto-Pier had said.

“I do not take my responsibilities as a city commissioner lightly, and am no stranger to discrimination and the derogatory words of others,” Sugaya said in the letter. “I truly regret making my comment and hope that you and the community will accept this apology.”

The comment at the center of this controversy was made during the Nov. 18 Planning Commission hearing on an application for a North Beach Italian Restaurant to have opera singing during dining hours. During this meeting, Sugaya said: “I’m supportive, but I was kind of waiting for my brown paper envelopes to come from the Sicilians. But I never got anything so, you know, I may vote against it.”

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