Council Votes Down Rana to HRC

The City Council voted by a 9-2 margin against Mayor Brian Arrigo’s appointment of Dimple Rana to the position of executive director of the Revere Human Rights Commission.

Councillor-at-Large Steven Morabito and Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky supported Rana’s appointment while the other nine councillors voted against her appointment.

The Council did unanimously approve a resolution offered by Council President Patrick Keefe, Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino, and Councillor-at-Large Gerry Visconti that the Council recognizes “the urgent and critical need for the re-establishment of the Revere Human Rights Commission. The resolution also seeks to have a civil rights attorney serve as the executive director of the Commssion.

 There was controversy aired about the process during the debate of the appointment which was held at the Appointments Sub-Committee meeting chaired by Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso.

After the councillors gave their comments about the appointment in the first hour of the meeting, Rana was allotted a 15-minute window in which she and her supporters could address the Council. Rana, who has earned much praise for her leadership efforts during Revere’s response to the coronavirus, declined to respond to the Council’s remarks with her pre-planned presentation, instead yielding her time to some of her many supporters (Rana’s full presentation appears on the Revere Journal’s Web site).

One of the key components in the opposition to Rana’s appointment was the research done by Councillor-at-Large Gerry Visconti, who commented that there are 21 Human Rights Commissions in the state and of the seven boards that have executive directors, six are attorneys.

Though she is not an attorney, Rana’s academic credentials and experience as an advocate and community for Revere made her a formidable candidate for the position. Rana holds an undergraduate degrees from Hofstra and a graduate degree from Tufts University’s urban policy and planning program. Rana is also a member of the state’s Asian-American Commission.

Rana disputed Visconti’s numbers, stating that in her own research she found that there are “32 Human Rights Commissions in the state and only two of them have executive directors that are lawyers. All the other Human Rights Commissions have chairs. They do not have executive directors and many of the chairs are not attorneys, either.”

Mayor Arrigo said the issue of this appointment and the re-establishment of the Human Rights Commission represented a significant moment in Revere’s history and that years from now people would be looking back at “this conversation.”  He said other communities were watching the city and how it proceeded with the appointment and the re-establishment of the Commission.

The mayor’s endorsement of Dimple Rana was very strong and highlighted all of her academic achievements, her qualifications for the position of executive director, her efforts on the city’s COVID-19 response team, and her outstanding work overall in the city.

“I have to say I’m incensed. I’m embarrassed and I’m disappointed by some of the things that I’ve read and I’ve heard in my conversations over the past weeks regarding my appointment of Dimple Rana,” said Arrigo.

The mayor further stated that as a result of those hurtful comments directed at Rana, “Today, more than ever, we need support for Dimple and support for the Human Rights Commission in the City of Revere

“I know some of you may say that you support re-establishing the HRC, but you don’t support Dimple – unfortunately that cannot be the case. You can’t let these comments linger and vote against her at the same time and say at the same time that human rights matter in our city,” said Arrigo.

Council President Patrick Keefe seemed to take exception with Arrigo’s remarks and the process in which only one candidate emerged for the position of executive director.

 “The [Human Rights] Commission was left dormant since approximately 1999,” said Keefe. “That’s 21 years and through three administrations   Now after almost 5 years in office and two affirmative council votes, our mayor wants to appoint an executive director.  Not a commission just an executive director.  It’s taken five years to find one candidate, not one other person was ever considered or interviewed.  That isn’t an appointment – that’s an ultimatum and that is a giant process failure – fully knowing we vote yes, or there is no commission established.”

Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna, as usual, came well prepared for the important discussion. McKenna praised Rana and her family, but ultimately the councillor’s remarks hit hard against Rana’s candidacy for the executive director’s position.

“I have known you for a long time, Dimple – you were my student and I had all of your siblings as students, your brother and your two sisters. I have met your hard-working parents on several occasions. I know you are very educated and have gone through some of the finest colleges. I also know the good things you have done for so many people in need, especially during the coronavirus.”

But McKenna said that Rana had called out two of her colleagues on the Council in a publicly aired video. McKenna felt Rana’s comments were not an accurate portrayal of what her colleagues had actually said.

“My question to you, Dimple, is: Do you have any regrets for the comments that you made in this video?”

McKenna sought a reply from Rana, but Guinasso interceded, “We’re not going to have a question-and-answer period.”

McKenna also raised a question about Rana’s actions “during a Farmer’s Market festival last year in which two Revere residents were reprimanded by you for wearing political shirts while they were working on a food truck.”

McKenna concluded in respect to the negativity in Revere over the past four weeks, “My wish is there is no more division in our city. That we come together as one, respect one another and stand united as a community, especially during these uncharted times.”

Ultimately the Appointments Subcommittee consisting of Councillors Jessica Giannino, Joanne McKenna, John Powers, Gerry Visconti, (Ex-Officio Member) Patrick Keefe, and (Chair) Arthur Guinasso voted 6-0 against Rana’s appointment in a recommendation to the full Council who met afterwards in its regularly scheduled meeting.

Speaking about the 9-2 vote against her appointment, Rana said, “They made their decision on personal reasons and their decisions were not unbiased. They didn’t take in to account a number of things.”

Rana added that the Council’s vote further delayed the re-establishment of the Human Rights Commission, “which our city is in need of – in the 20 years that it’s been dormant.”

“They’re just making it more difficult for the Human Rights Commission to be established – with or without me,” concluded Rana.

Dimple Rana’s Statement on the HRC Executive Director

First off thank you to Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselskly for voting yes for my appointment at the full council meeting.Thank you At-Large Councillor Steve Morabito for being the most rational and objective Councillor on Monday night. It is very apparent that the majority of Council voted for personal gain and pandered to a small but very outspoken group of naysayers instead of a large population of voters who witnessed why they should more than ever become involved in local government. The lack of respect for you Councillor, is a lack of respect towards our city in stalling yet again the Human Rights Commission which our city really needs.

Last night after the no vote for my appointment the City Council passed a resolution to have Civil Rights lawyer’s appointed as the Executive Director.

How many lawyers are on the city council – Zero.

How many lawyers are on the other Boards and Commissions?

Yes, the rejection is to not appoint me, but why use that as an excuse to not start the Human Rights Commission and instead the council passed a resolution to delay the reactivation of the commission. They want nominations of Civil Rights lawyers to do the work of the Executive Director for free? Are they confused about what the role of the Chair is? The Executive Director is a clerk position and doesn’t have any deciding powers, only the commission does.

What are they going to do when no one applies to do a free job they are overqualified for?

The same thing they have been doing for the past 20 years, nothing. Instead, they accused the Mayor that he hasn’t started it when it’s up to the city council to confirm appointments and also encourage people to apply which they haven’t done at all. Instead for the past 6 years, they have stalled on passing the ordinance to reinstate the HRC and last night made it even more difficult for it to be established.

It’s a stalling tactic. The Revere City Council does not want the HRC. 

I and the residents of Revere ask:

1. Councillor Giannino to be transparent and release and make public the results from the survey she administered

2. Councillor Visconti to be transparent and provide the list of HRC researched and identifying the 7 he mentioned which have Executive Director as lawyers. Upon my own research, I have identified 32 Human Rights Commissions in Massachusetts and only two which have Executive Directors who are Attorney’s, Boston, and Cambridge. The remainder of the commissions have Chairs, many who are attorneys who have voting powers.

3. Councillor Serino to be transparent and respond to constituents emails he has not answered over the past three weeks

4. All councilors to release the names of individuals and organizations that submitted emails and letters of support 

Statement from Councillor Serino

“I want to thank Councillor Visconti, Council President Keefe and the seven other colleagues who supported this resolution,” said Ward Six Councillor Richard Serino. “We wanted to show the community that yes, we resoundingly believe the Human Rights Commission needs to be reactivated as soon as possible, but that it must be done so in a way that unites our community instead of causing further division. We recognize that racism and discrimination exist in Revere, and we condemn it. When it comes to confirming a nomination, the Revere City Council as a legislative body has the right to scrutinize a mayoral appointment, and it is not only unfair, but undemocratic to back the Council into a corner and essentially demand that a nominee be confirmed. I have only been a councillor for six months, but I take these duties very seriously, and when I vote on these appointments, I want to know for sure that the person filling the role is the best possible candidate for that role … That is why I, along with Councillors Visconti and Keefe, filed this resolution, which I see as a very reasonable, level-headed compromise.”

Councillor Keefe’s Speech

The Globe writes “Does Revere Need a Human Rights Commision? The City Council doesn’t think so”

The true answer to this is an Emphatic Yes, Yes we need to establish the HRC

But Lets get the facts straight on the Human Rights Commission and decide where the big stall is actually from.

The City Council has voted 3 times since 2014 in favor or reinstating this commission — 3 times.

The commission was left dormant since 1999.  Thats 21 years and through 3 administrations   Now after almost 5 years in office, 2 affirmative council votes our mayor wants to appoint an executive director.  Not a commission just and executive director.  Its taken 5 years to find one candidate, not one other person was ever considered or interviewed.  That isn’t an appointment that’s an ultimatum and that is a giant process failure.   Fully knowing we vote yes or there is no commission established.

So I ask again who is stalling the process?

Why is the hostility toward the council when 3 administrations did not feel this was important enough to take action.

How many times have those so engaged today written to him to get this going before this came a hot topic in late May?  How many times did you contact the Boston Globe to ask why your boss isn’t moving on this project?

I know myself, Councillor Morabito and others reminded him often as a matter of fact on his dry erase board in his office it says HRC, it has been there for 2 plus years.  Now I don’t blame him, he’s a busy man and has to prioritize so clearly he felt this was not as high on the list of priorities.  Clearly you all felt that this was ok to stay dormant for over 20 years.  Maybe the city isn’t so bad, now again I agree we need to get this commission going but we need to get it right and the lack of options is concerning to say the least.  

So now you say to the Globe, the City Council is not in favor of establishing the commission?  Is that truthful when the fact is we have initiated this process over and over again with no response?  Would you criticize your boss on this matter.  This is another example of unfairly characterizing the body.

Sound judgement, fairness, honesty and representing the facts is an integral piece of this commission in order to really fight for whats most needed.  The ability to work through the weeds and manage the grey is a vital role in leadership. 

Yes we should be okay with uncomfortable conversations it’s the only way we can really work on structural change.  But divisive and uncomfortable are far different.  This process is divisive.

We should not be creating and endorsing false narratives and crying wolf as it will dilute the times we truly need to help those who need us most.

This is the major disconnect.

It’s not personal but this entire process has taken that is into a dark place it does not belong.

Starting out on the wrong foot is an understatement between the initial concerns with what you would get in return via compensation and what your current work load is makes me really question what’s happening behind the scenes.  The Mayor only offered one appointee and you can argue this could be a politically motivated move as he might have oversight in directing the moves of the director.  Its certainly not out of the realm of concern.

The fact that this was tabled to be further discussed and then immediately we took to name calling, misrepresenting information and ultimately creating a large divide in our community is not the path we could have taken.  This was an epic Process failure and showed lack of judgement in understanding this is the first appointment to this commission in 21 years.  The council just wants to get it right, that is our job we are here to speak for the entire community, who clearly have concerns. 

Secondly, and most importantly instead of this process being about the actual commission you  [Dimple Rana] took advantage and made it about you which it is not.  No one person is greater then the commission and no one person should be the focal point.  I again feel this too has gone in the wrong direction.

To contradict the current narrative that the City Council be standing in front of the inception of this commission, I challenge the mayor to look inside his capable city, his cabinet, city staff, school administration and city council to assist in getting this commission off the ground.  Let’s get the actual commission appointed and work on beginning this process in a more inclusive way rather then this ultimatum we have in front of us right now.  Revere has always found ways to come together for the better good and this in my opinion can unite us rather then divide us.

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