Tuesday, July 23, 2024

State Rep. and Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo delivers remarks during a State House event in 2011. (Photo: KulbakoPhoto.com via Flickr)

A fairly rote resolution of thanks to the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for years of service went a surprising direction Monday, with only one-third of Cambridge city councillors voting yes.

In the 3-3-3 vote, another third opposed it, and a third simply voted “present.”

The inspiration for the resolution seems to be the news that Winthrop pol and speaker Robert A. DeLeo is exploring a job at Northeastern University; he’s served in state government since 1991 and as speaker since 2009.  The resolution was offered by councillor Tim Toomey, who worked alongside DeLeo while serving as a state representative for 24 years.

Not everyone’s a fan, though. 

Councillor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler explained Monday why he was in no mood to celebrate the Democrat’s reign.

“As speaker, DeLeo oversaw the use of dozens of nondisclosure agreements for sexual harassment, among other complaints. As Sen. [Diana] DiZoglio and others have pointed out, he pushed back when other legislators tried to end the practice. He voted to take away the right to vote from thousands of Massachusetts residents based on their incarceration status, including a disproportionate number of black and brown residents. And he’s also failed to allow really critical legislation to even come up for a vote, like the Safe Communities Act that protects immigrants, and the Jim Brooks Act, which would protect tenants,” Sobrinho-Wheeler said. “If individual councillors want to congratulate Robert DeLeo, I don’t have an issue with that. But we don’t have to as a council, given that his work doesn’t really line up with our values as a council or the values of the city that we represent.”

DeLeo has also stayed in office by eliminating the term limits he agreed to when taking the office, councillor Quinton Zondervan said. 

When it came time to vote, only Toomey, vice mayor Alanna Mallon and councillor Marc McGovern supported the resolution. Councillors Dennis Carlone, Patty Nolan and E. Denise Simmons voted present, with long hesitation on Simmons’ part. The no votes were from Sobrinho-Wheeler, Zondervan and Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, who hesitated even longer.