The biggest news out of what was to be a very eventful City Council meeting on Monday night was the fact that it was over before it started.
Major technical issues once-again at ECTV prevented the Council from pulling off an online meeting, frustrating members of the Council who said they are at the mercy of the leadership of ECTV and tired of looking foolish as they try unsuccessfully time and again to have online meetings.
This comes as virtually every other board in the City – from the Retirement Board to the Planning Board to the School Committee – routinely hold online meetings successfully and have done so for months. At the Council, though, getting an online meeting going has been elusive.
On Monday night, the Council started out roughly when a Committee of the Whole failed to draw a quorum, and there were also technical issues. They believed they had it straightened out, but in fact they did not.
When the meeting was supposed to start, technical issues with new equipment began to surface as IT professionals coordinating the meeting couldn’t retrieve the code to get through a new firewall – a firewall put in place to prevent meetings from being hacked and deleted as happened in October.
The Council attempted to stage the meeting, but it was choppy, with it being on fine for a few seconds, and then bumping off for a few seconds. Council President Rosa DiFlorio gave it maximum effort, but it wasn’t to be.
After three people spoke in the Public Speaking portion – with great frustration and harsh words, the Council adjourned without even scratching the surface of their agenda.
“The Administration accepts full responsibility for the inadequate sound quality and connectivity issues that occurred during the Dec. 14 Council meeting,” said Deanna Deveney, Communications Director. “Upon a preliminary review, the issues presented came from two different sources. The first being a result of a security upgrade in ECTV and the second a connectivity issue caused by the live feed inability to connect to the internet component of the server. We will continue to work to resolve these problems as quickly and diligently as possible.”
Council President Rosa DiFlorio said she was irate after the adjournment and got very angry with the situation. She said it’s time to fix the issues once and for all.
“We had technical issues again,” she said. “This is eight months now and I am frustrated to no end. This is over. I want ECTV to fix it. I don’t care if it’s this one’s fault or that one’s fault. If there’s a problem, let’s fix it. I don’t care if it’s ECTV. I don’t care if it’s technical problems. It’s eight months of (expletive deleted).”
DiFlorio said it’s time to invest some major money into the building and make sure it is up to 21st Century standards so they can have meetings. She said she plans on having Zoom meetings until June, and hopes they can completely renovate the Chambers during the summer.
“This is a problem,” she said. “I understand the building is old and our technology is old, but it’s time to spend the money to fix what we have to fix. There’s money in the Stabilization Fund. We need to be able to run our meetings. We have to fix this problem.”
Councilor Fred Capone said he was frustrated as well, particularly since there was a lot of heavy business on the agenda that needed to be addressed before the end of the year.
“It’s beyond comprehension to me that a City with a budget in excess of $200 million can’t figure out how to broadcast a City Council meeting,” he said. “It’s a very simple function.”
Councilor Gerly Adrien was frustrated because she had one piece of legislation on for the Committee of the Whole, which wasn’t held due to technical issues and also lack of a quorum. She said the failure to be able to have an open and online meeting shows a lack of leadership in the City.
“I am tired of the lack of leadership in Everett,” she said. “The technical issues that we continue to have show that Mayor DeMaria and Council President DiFlorio are not taking transparency and the ability to run a smooth City Council meeting seriously. This adds to the list where we need to improve what we are doing as a City because it is embarrassing.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he spent four years at Everett High School (EHS) in the television communications department, and offered to help in any way he could if it would mean having meetings like every other Board and Commission in the City.
“In times of crises it is easier to point fingers and blame one another,” he said. “At the end of the day, that gets no closer to a final resolution to the problem. I’d rather not talk about who did what or why. I’d rather talk about how working collaboratively together will ensure the people of Everett can engage in their City government and have access to understand the vital decisions we make bi-weekly to productively move our City forward.”
DiFlorio and City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said they would be dividing the meeting in half and holding two meetings, one on Wednesday and one on Monday.
The meeting on Weds., Dec. 16, will feature the matters of re-appointments and swearing in new Councilor Rich Dell Isola to finish the term of former Councilor Peter Napolitano. That will be a test run for the new equipment.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 21, the Council will take up that last half of the agenda, which has several contentious and important matters – such as potentially adding an 11th member to the School Committee.