PHOTO ESSAY: Choice & Consequence

EMOTIONS ON DISPLAY: For more than three years, Monica Villa has been making regular appearances at the podium to address the Merced City Council during the public comment period of regular meetings. Dressed in flamboyant clothing she literally finds on the street or through giveaways, she always takes the full five minutes granted for speaking. She shares her feelings – sometimes incoherently – on a variety of topics including: homelessness, public safety, community events, suicide and the death of her son. Her intense emotions can be jarring for audience members as they run the gamut of joy, regret, sorrow, anger, excitement. She’s also known for saying, ‘I’m a beautiful, intelligent, talented, charming, human being.’ The statement, she revealed to a Times reporter, is actually meant as an acronym for the type of attitude she develops when she experiences a lack of dignity and respect for the city’s most vulnerable residents. (TIMES PHOTOS BY JONATHAN WHITAKER)

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