Mayor Closes Public Hearing, Tosses out Reporter and Has the Door Shut
By Josh Resnek
The monthly meeting of the School Finance Review Commission Thursday night in the mayor’s conference room at city hall highlighted some of the deep divisions that exist in Everett city government.
Also highlighted is the mayor’s inability to force Everett Public Schools (EPS) Superintendent Frederick F. Foresteire and the schools to do his bidding, something Foresteire absolutely refused to do.
by forcing me, Leader Herald editor Josh Resnek, to leave the room at 7:05, when he suddenly called an end to the open meeting that he was conducting.
“We’re going to have a private conversation,” the mayor said when he ended the meeting. “You’re out of here,” he said to me.
I walked out of the room. The city’s Chief Procurement Agent, Robert Moreschi, slammed the door behind me.
A private discussion ensued.
The meeting, which was to have highlighted the mayor’s desire to have the school department collect and disseminate information about its public school students, devolved into a series of harsh exchanges between the mayor and Foresteire.
Apparently, the mayor is attempting to accurately account the city’s population, which is estimated to be 50,000 while officially noted by the US Census Bureau to be 42,000 residents.
That 8,000 difference could mean an extra $12 million for the school department based on present federal standards for aid to cities with 50,000 or more residents.
Collecting census data is the responsibility of the Registrar of Voters, Maureen DiPierro. Further, rectifying a gap between what’s reported by the Census Bureau and the city’s “real” population is not the domain of the school department, EPS administrators maintain. “If a two-family home is housing three families, or four families, or ve families, then the matter must be taken up by Inspectional Services and the Fire Department. These are valid concerns, absolutely, but they’re far outside the purview of the school department.”
Still, the mayor was insistent in asking the school department to gather and to then hand over information about students. “We won’t do it,” Foresteire said repeatedly, jousting with the mayor who wouldn’t let go of the issue.
“Our lawyer tells us it is illegal and could lead to a lawsuit,” Foresteire said.
The mayor was circumspect about that. “Yeah. If you talk with ten lawyers you get
ten different opinions,” the mayor answered. (A person who attended the meeting asked, “Would the mayor say that to his City Solicitor if she gave him an opinion he didn’t agree with?”)
The mayor was unmoved by suggestions that the effort be spearheaded by Registrar DiPierro. “Why won’t you do this?” he asked Foresteire. “Because our lawyer told us we can’t and we won’t,” Foresteire answered.
Assistant superintendents Charles Obremski and Kevin Shaw both commented on the inability of the school department to do what the mayor is asking.
From Obremski and Shaw the Finance Committee learned that the school department lists 1,200 children out of 7,200 who have asked that their information not be handed over to anyone for fear of being deported or worse. It’s clear the EPS errs on the side of discretion and privacy.
Meanwhile, the person who’s in charge of the School Finance Review Committee — the city’s organizational and efficiency czar, Dr. Omar Easy — offered no guidance whatsoever during the proceedings.
In fact, the meeting got so out of hand that the mayor castigated the Leader Herald several times.
“Some newspapers are wrong 99% of the time. The Leader Herald is wrong 100% of the time,” said the mayor.
He said the Leader Herald was the cause of all the acrimony in political circles in the city.
He berated me for taking photographs at the start of the hearing and seemed a bit confused when he said: “What is this? Pictures at a public hearing?”
The mayor appeared to explode at 7:05 when he said: “The meeting is over. We’re going to have a private conversation,” while at the same time asking me to get out of the room and the door being closed.
“I don’t play politics,” the mayor said several times during the meeting.
“You know me. I don’t play politics,” he said.