A group of protestors continued to mount a resistance against Councilor Steve Simonelli on Monday, showing up to the City Council meeting to call for more action from the Council and also to discuss mounting a recall campaign under a City Charter process.
Not as many protestors showed up as two weeks ago following the Facebook comment fracas, but a healthy group gathered at City Hall prior to the meeting with signs and participated in a standout. Later, several from the group appeared in the Council chambers to speak at the meeting.
The group in protesting the comments, which were disparaging to Haitian residents, expressed their dissatisfaction with the handling of the elected official’s remarks at a meeting two weeks ago.
Prior to last week’s meeting, Councilor Steve Simonelli issued an apology which was shared on his social media account and presented during the Council meeting. Reactions have been torn, with some residents accepting the apology while others demand Simonelli take further action by stepping down from his role as City Councilor.
Family and loved ones of Simonelli sat in the front row of the Council Chambers throughout the meeting to show their support for him, while protesters grouped together behind them in solidarity. During the public speaking portion of the meeting, a few residents shared their concerns regarding the way the Everett City Council addressed the issue last week.
“I’m here tonight because I don’t think the issue at hand from the last meeting was properly addressed,” said Rev. Renee Solano, who read a very disparaging comment from Facebook that preceded Simonelli’s response.
Everett High junior Destiny DePaulo said that the City Council should take action and be on the right side of history.
“I was shocked to hear the statement,” she said. “I was even more shocked to learn it wasn’t the first time and there have been no consequences for him. This is not the Everett I know…Everett needs to stand on the right side of history and stand against these statements…The young people will take action. We’ll not tolerate even a pinch of racism in our city.”
However, according to City Solicitor Colleen Mejia, doing something about such comments on social media or in any other forum isn’t so easy because elected officials have broad 1st Amendment privileges. While employees in the public and private sector are typically bound by social media usage policies, an elected official is not bound by that due to their 1st Amendment freedoms as legislators.
Mejia said in the case of Simonelli, no rule or regulation had been broken.
“There was no rule, law, regulation or code violated,” she said. “No law or no rule or no ethics code you determine has the right to infringe on people’s free speech.”
President Peter Napolitano said many in the public believe that the Council isn’t doing anything. However, he said there isn’t much the body can do that isn’t unconstitutional. Simonelli does have the right to his free speech, and the Council cannot infringe on it.
He said he has been working on a set of rules, a code of conduct and a social media policy since January, but it isn’t yet in place because it covers so much territory.
“We don’t want it to appear to the public that this isn’t important on the Council’s part,” he said. “We began a set of rules from A to Z in January. I identified early this year it was a priority. Now this situation comes up and we don’t have a rule…The idea we’re doing nothing isn’t correct. We pro-actively sent these rules to committee to be worked on. For this situation, whether the question is should he have said it or shouldn’t he have said it, the bottom line is it is within his rights to say it…On this matter the City Council is done. The City Council has no guidance on this. If the residents feel this needs to be taken further, there is a process. The City Council though can’t take any type of action now. Trust me, we do not take this lightly.”
The process within the charter is a recall petition, and many in the group of protestors have indicated they are beginning the process of gathering signatures to have such a recall – though they didn’t confirm they would go through with it.
To get the process started, a group of residents needs to get 250 signatures of registered voters.
- The Boston Freightliner company on Lower Broadway was before the Council to get new licenses for the sale of trucks and for auto body repair. The company will soon be moving from Lower Broadway to near Seven Acre Park, where Wynn Boston Harbor has built them a brand-new facility in a relocation effort.
Both licenses were approved. The Lower Broadway facility is to be demolished in July.
- MEAN STREETS: Councilor Wayne Matewsky called up City Engineer Greg St. Louis for a discussion of the absolute deterioration of Bow, Cabot, Revere, Second and Winthrop Streets.
“Bow Street – poor Bow Street – it’s going to see a renaissance with the casino, but it’s in really bad shape now,” he said.
Councilor John Hanlon said Second Street could be the worst he’s seen.
“This is the worst street I’ve seen,” he said. “The traffic is at a standstill and terrible because the trucks have to go so slow. The holes are too big for them to drive over.”
St. Louis said the City has hired a consultant recently to investigate every street in the city and rank them according to condition. He said the study is done, but the final report is still in the works.