Following comments at a Feb. 3 Council Subcommittee meeting by Mayor Carlo DeMaria directed to Councilor Gerly Adrien about her “laughing” on camera being a distraction, Adrien has taken to the airwaves in Boston and to the print media in Boston to condemn the comments, while Mayor DeMaria is ready to go on GBH Radio this week to defend his comments.
Adrien published an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Feb. 8 regarding why, as a Black woman, she thought the mayor’s comments were inappropriate, and then appeared Feb. 9 on the Greater Boston TV show with Jim Braude on GBH. Since then she has appeared on other media outlets, and the mayor now is going to appear on the Margery Eagan and Jim Braude GBH Radio show this Wednesday, Feb. 17.
Mayor DeMaria has held his ground on the issue this week as it has exploded into a bigger issues about respect – whether respect for Adrien or respect for Mayor DeMaria.
“As demonstrated throughout my tenure as Mayor I invite open, honest, and robust conversation particularly when there are differing opinions,” he said. “On many occasions my colleagues and I have disagreed about policy, process, and problems that we face as a community. While we may not always agree on the issues and solutions, we must agree that everyone is entitled to a mutual showing of respect. This situation was not about differing opinions or disparate treatment but rather the lack of mutual respect and common courtesy while addressing important City business.”
Adrien said she doesn’t think there is any way to defend the comments, and that they really are about what she said was a “personal agenda” against her.
“I honestly think our mayor has a personal agenda against me,” she told the Independent. “He will not acknowledge my presence or my ideas. I think it goes back to his fear that the power and electorate have shifted in our City. Times have changed since he ran 14 years ago. I’m not afraid to call him out and I think a lot of his speeches are just words because there’s no action behind it.”
Last week, DeMaria did also present a statement to the Braude show on Feb. 9, saying he observed a fellow official being “disrespectful” towards him and “dismissive” to his position on the issue while he was speaking.
“I don’t consider it acceptable for such conduct to be directed at my fellow elected officials, but that also means it is not acceptable for those same individuals to direct that behavior towards me,” read the statement. “Discussions about important public issues require equal and mutual respect for our focus to remain on advancing the important work of improving the quality of life for the residents and businesses of Everett.”
Also during the Greater Boston show, Adrien said what upset her in particular were the double-standards applied to her and not her colleagues on the Council – many of whom have routinely been observed during meetings sleeping, watching television and driving in their cars.
“It seems like he just doesn’t understand and that’s the issue,” she told Braude. “I don’t matter on the City Council. It doesn’t matter what I do or say, I’m always a problem. I could not say a word during the Council meetings and it’s still wrong…I have colleagues that are falling asleep during meetings. I have colleagues that are driving around during meetings and they did not get anything. No one says anything.”
The heart of the matter came in what was just about 30 seconds of a nearly two hour meeting about Linkage Fees on Feb. 3 – a Council Committee of the Whole. In that meeting, Adrien can be seen smiling and at times laughing – at what it isn’t known. Perhaps she was disagreeing in a distracting way or perhaps she was simply presenting herself with a smile – which she said was the case. Maybe a little of both are true, but that cannot be determined from the video.
However, about one hour into the meeting, while Councilor Rosa DiFlorio was asking some questions of the mayor, the mayor indicated that he wished he could turn the pictures or videos of some members off because they were laughing too much and being distracting.
“I would love to be able to shut some pictures off of some people when I talk because sometimes I have a hard time when people are laughing and stuff…Yea, yea, this is a very serious matter,” he said, and then the meeting moved on.
Later, when Councilor Adrien was called on to speak, she first took umbrage with the comments.
“I find it very sad and very disrespectful that the leader of our City said he wished he could turn off the pictures and videos of people who are smiling and pointing that out to me…,” she said.
“Whoa, whoa, more laughing, laughing, just laughing,” interjected Mayor DeMaria.
“I find that very disrespectful and especially since I am a Black woman, you should not be talking to me in that manner…I can smile. There’s no rules about me not smiling,” said Adrien.
Then the meeting went on unimpeded, with Adrien asking a question about a Linkage Fee study done by the City in 2019, but not made public to the Council as of Feb. 3. Later, it was made public at the Feb. 8 Council meeting prior to a vote on the new Linkage Fee ordinance, which passed with only Adrien voting against it.
However, on the Greater Boston show, the finger was also pointed at some other members of the Council. As stated above, Adrien said there is inappropriate behavior frequently on Zoom from her other colleagues and nothing is said.
Braude toasted that with a clip of Council President Wayne Matewsky from a meeting last summer, where he says he doesn’t see racism happening at City Hall. In the clip, he eludes to being Polish-American and said he’s never had any pushback for his ethnicity.
This week, Matewsky said he had heard that he was top billing on the Greater Boston show, and he also said it isn’t the first time GBH has used the clip of him speaking about being Polish and not experiencing racism personally.
He said the clip was totally out of context, however, as it did not come from the Feb. 3 meeting. Rather, it came from a meeting last summer when he was trying to pass an ordinance that would limit construction on weekends, using the police to enforce the ordinance. Adrien had concerns that the measure could be unequally enforced and could be used to target minorities or immigrants.
That’s when Matewsky made his comment about not seeing it as a racial issue.
“It really had nothing to do with racism,” he said. “It was about people working on their home on the weekends late at night…I don’t know Mr. Braude but he seems to like to show that clip of me. My grandfather did come from Poland and he bought a house in Chelsea. He then bought the house I live in now and I’m proud to be Polish. I would never try to insult anybody. I get along with everyone…I’ve actually had a lot of support from the Black community in my career. Without the Haitian community’s support, I would not have won the state representative seat (in the past). We bonded and hit it off. I enjoy and respect the Haitian community a great deal, and they support me.”
Matewsky said he wasn’t even at the meeting on Feb. 3, as he was not required to be there as Council President. He said he wasn’t sure why Braude’s show dragged him into the fray.
“Hey, I’ll go on his show to talk more about it,” he said. “I’d be glad to.”
Mayor DeMaria was scheduled to appear on the Eagen and Braude GBH Radio show around 11:30 a.m. on Weds., Feb. 17.