A majority of Medford’s seven member City Council were absent when publicly scheduled budget meetings were called to order this week, with just days before the submission deadline.
Rick Caraviello, Michael Marks, Adam Knight, and George Scarpelli seemingly boycotted the budget hearing sessions, which were broadcast on public television and accessible via telephone and online, with no public notice or explanation on Saturday, June 20th, Monday, June 22nd, and Tuesday, June 23.
The meetings could not make quorum with only three Councillors in attendance (John Falco, Zac Bears, and Nicole Morell). Although the meetings were crucial steps to addressing department funding for the year ahead, and were attended by the full Mayoral administration and dozens of residents, all three meetings were forced to be postponed to an undetermined date.
Although Medford is facing massive budget shortfalls due to the current health/economic crisis, there is more uncertainty than ever when it comes to the future of local government.
6/24/20, Medford, Massachusetts
The City of Medford has been struggling, like most communities, to present and pass a budget in the wake of our COVID-19 health crisis and subsequent economic loss. The Mayor’s office and City Hall departments presented a budget draft for public review on June 18th, with three City Council meetings planned for the following Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. At the written request of the city’s Director of Public Health and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget meetings were to be conducted via remote means and broadcast on television and accessible via telephone and Zoom. Despite this essential opportunity to ask questions on behalf of the people, a majority of the City Council – Rick Caraviello, Michael Marks, Adam Knight, and George Scarpelli – failed to attend any of them. This prevented the meeting from reaching quorum and will now need to be rescheduled at the last minute before the fiscal year ends on June 30th.
City Council President John Falco responded to local concerns saying, “I am very sad and discouraged that such division has forced us to cancel last Saturday’s meeting and potentially jeopardize upcoming budget meetings.” Mayor Lungo-Koehn stated, “If faced with the choice of meeting virtually and doing the work on behalf of the residents of Medford or not meeting, that choice is easy. And me and my team will keep showing up.”
Residents are reeling from the increased uncertainty and political gamesmanship in the face of an emergency situation. The four councillors’ decision to not show up at the budget hearings means community voices are stifled at a time when their involvement could not be more important. Many have voiced their outrage via email, telephone, and social media but have been left with mostly silence and obfuscation. As of this writing no public statement has been made by Councillors Caraviello, Marks, Knight, or Scarpelli.
Councillor Caraviello’s sole public comment appeared Tuesday morning when he shared a social media post from the president of the Medford Police Patrolmen’s Association denouncing the use of Zoom as a platform, thanking the four councillors for their absence, demanding in-person hearings, and indicating a fear of calls to cut the city budget police. The original post was removed from Facebook later on Tuesday.
At the Tuesday, June 23rd weekly regular meeting of the Council, with over 240 participants via Zoom, the absent 4 Councillors failed to resolve tensions. At the meeting, Councillor Scarpelli repeatedly pointed to “other groups” in Medford allegedly sowing dissent in the City Council but would not name the specific group(s) to which he referred.
Councillors Bears and Morell attempted to clarify the insinuations by asking directly whether the Our Revolution Medford group is the one to which Councillor Scarpelli referred. Councillor Scarpelli stated that he did not know the name of the group, and the public has received no reply or clarification as to these remarks. How this episode will end is unknown, but what seems to be certain is that talking, inaction, and public apologies will not be enough to excuse behavior that irresponsibly impacts residents. With a lot of emotion and little clarity, a small group of City leaders will determine the rescheduled meeting time, date, and details.
Meanwhile the turmoil surrounding Medford’s FY21 budget continues.
Press Contact: Matt Hughes
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