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A WILD NIGHT AT CITY HALL

Ups and Downs, Twists and Turns, and an Anti-Climax

By Josh Resnek

There is an old saying that when your uncle puts $5 million on the table and tells you to take it, you take it and run.

Monday’s City Council meeting attracted an overflow crowd of students, parents, and educators. The portion of the meeting dealing with the school department’s budget lasted approximately three hours. Below, Superintendent of Schools Frederick F. Foresteire talks to reporters.

That’s what happened finally after three hours of endless wrangling, passionate testimonies, city council jockeying and mayoral oversight.

When 10:30 p.m. arrived, the city council finally voted for the $5 million the school department needed to stave off more than 100 layoffs – and even though the layoffs have not been averted permanently, the vast majority of them have been put off…until the next crisis, that is, when the money runs out again.

Bottom line, it was a long, frustrating evening in Everett city hall where more than 350 people packed the city council chamber to watch what went down.

What went down was this – an ambush by the mayor of School Superintendent Frederick Foresteire, the city clerk seemingly befuddled over exactly what to do and running about here and there trying to figure it out, a city council somewhat at odds with itself trying to have a vote that seemed never to come, and one city councilor with his “translator” not making it any easier for everyone else to understand exactly what was being said or offered up.

In all, the budget hearing and final appropriation of the $5 million brought out some of the best and worst of Everett city government with the worst part of all of this, that the council had to remain to discuss 38 items on the agenda after the budget measure was completed at 10:30 p.m.

The mayor’s ambush of Foresteire saw the mayor tell Foresteire and everyone in the chamber that he, the mayor, is friends with Foresteire.

“And to show you what a great friend of the superintendent I am,” he might have said, “here’s what I’m going to do for him.”

The mayor then went down the line and described the creation of two blue ribbon panels to discuss economies of scale and imperatives as well as a operational audit of the school department.

This was tantamount to announcing a friendship that required Foresteire’s arms, legs and upper body to be tied up with ropes and to hang him from a tree upside down by his legs.

I presume that this bit of fascinatingly Byzantine style strategy aimed at cementing the mayor’s deep friendship for Foresteire was developed by the mayor’s highly paid public voice, Tom Philbin, not to be confused with the prominent family from Everett bearing that last name and active in the city today.

To add to this bit of humor is the announcement by the mayor that Omar Easy, newly ensconced mayor’s aid at about $100,000 a year and presumably his secretary (brought over from the school department to form a team of sorts) would be leading the charge and acting as the general for the blue ribbon panels and the operational audit.

We are all left to wonder how a city with 42,000 people has a mayoral spokesperson, another highly paid mayoral aid doing special ops, a mayoral chief of staff and two or three secretaries.

Members of the Everett Teachers Association and the Massachusetts Teachers Association were joined by students and parents in front of City Hall Monday night as they urged the City Council to appropriate money to the Everett Public Schools.

When the mayor was talking about the school department saving money, perhaps he should have started with his own office to set the example.

City Clerk Sergio Cornelio, sans tie and appearing as though he was judging a dance contest at a vacation resort, was constantly flustered and jumping about throughout the three hour ordeal – which was as much an ordeal for him as it was for all of us.

Two or three city officials were heard to say, “Where is Mike M. when we need him!”

But Cornelio finally got the job done, and the vote was taken and he recorded it and the ordeal was at an end – for now.

This was a topsy- turvy moment in the long history of the Everett City Council.

Most of the councilors apprised themselves well.

Councilor Mike McLaughlin came out of the meeting a new born star, quite to the utter and complete amazement of most of his colleagues.

McLaughlin’s passion and intensity was unmatched, although his recommendations were paid no attention to.

Councilor Fred Capone was not so boisterous but seemed to make good points. He speaks with a lawyer’s confidence and flair. Again, his suggestions were not paid any attention and at one point, he apologized three times to Councilor Wayne Matewsky for not allowing Matewsky to speak.

Perhaps the luckiest councilor in the room wasn’t in the room at all.

That was Councilor Peter Napolitano who recused himself because his two sons work for the School Department.

Foresteire played his part as expected, attempting to persuade the politicians inside the room that the shortage is not a shortage, that if the city paid the schools what they are owed, that the evening could have been averted.

There was and is a great deal of truth to this but I’m not sure who exactly was listening except for the crowd.

When the cheering stopped and the night was done, all the folks that packed the chamber gathered their things and went home, and the city council was left to the agony of going through 38 items on its agenda.

And you think being a city councilor is easy!

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