It isn’t often that one comes across comments so incredibly bigoted and uniformed, one has to reread it to make sure it’s real. But there is no mistaking it. Everett, Massachusetts City Councilor Stephen Simonelli’s written words reveal him to be the most dangerous kind of elected official—a bigot interested in representing only certain residents to the detriment of others. It’s disgraceful and his fellow city councilors need to be on record about him.
Back in December, the Everett City Council went on record with a resolution supporting residents covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs. It was a strong albeit symbolic show of support. City Councilor Simonelli disagreed. He voted against the resolution, offering a short statement before the vote that read, “We have to take care of our own first,” and said that he’d like to see “Everett keep Everett people first.” His comments were stunning. And I said so.
Fast forward to Thursday when I had a very telling exchange with City Councilor Simonelli on his Facebook page. You can see the entire exchange here.
The ignorance is disturbing, the bigotry is stunning. Kids covered under DACA and persons covered by TPS cannot “take the test” as the councilor suggests. He also refers to my forefathers. I had four grandparents who came to America from Ireland. (One grandfather settled in Somerville.) Unless Simonelli is Native American, his forefathers came here as immigrants too. I hope his family wasn’t treated like he treats today’s immigrants.
Just what do Simonelli’s colleagues on the city council think of his comments? Good question. I emailed each and every one of them and asked them. Two of the email addresses provided on the city of Everett website are inactive (a problem in and of itself—how are constituents supposed to contact them like, I don’t know, during a snow storm?).
The one councilor who I thought had the most to explain is the one councilor who responded immediately. City Councilor Anthony DiPierro was the only incumbent to formally endorse Simonelli in the last election. In that endorsement, DiPierro, who was council president at the time, said, “Stephen and I stand side-by-side on so many core values that make Everett the great community it is today…[I have] great respect for him never being afraid to stand true to his convictions.”
In what I see as a stand-up-guy response, DiPierro distanced himself from Simonelli on the issue of DACA, TPS and the councilor’s views on the sizable portion of Everett inhabited by “our new neighbors,” to use Simonelli’s words.
“I do not agree with councilor Simonelli’s comments,” DiPierro said. “As an elected official, I’m proud Everett is a diverse and welcoming city. Diversity is our strength. I believe…Councilor [Simonelli] needs more education on DACA and TPS.”
When I pressed him on if he regretted the endorsement, DiPierro said, “Steve is a friend and no one agrees on every issue. While this issue is of a much larger magnitude – it’s his opinion and one I disagree with strongly. I’m not in the business of [losiong] friends over politics,” he said. Ok, I guess. But if this issue isn’t big enough to withdraw an endorsement over, then what is?
Another city councilor to have the courage to respond was Michael McLaughlin. “I fully respect Councilor Simonelli and every person has the right to [their] own feelings. This being said, I strongly disagree with Councilor Simonelli’s comments. I am proud of my vote for DACA and TPS. I strongly feel I am a City Councilor for all of Everett not just parts of it…I am looking forward to working with so many friends in the Everett immigrant Community going forward to continue to help put measurements in place to protect all residents in the City of Everett. I think Councilor Simonelli with all due respect was misinformed on what DACA and TPS truly stands for,” he said.
My view is bigoted comments and the person spouting them are due no respect whatsoever. I’m left with the questions, where is the outrage among Simonelli’s colleagues on the council? Where are the full-throated condemnations of Simonelli’s statement that immigrants “should stop crying at our council meetings?”
It is said that local elections are the most important because they impact our day-to-day lives most directly. I agree with that and I am appalled someone with the views of Stephen Simonelli is on the Everett City Council.