A TOP CONTENDER for one of Boston’s four City Council at-large seats is drawing heat for stating Black Lives Matter set race relations back 50 years.
Bridget Nee-Walsh, a union ironworker from South Boston who is one of eight candidates running for the four seats, made the comments at a Dorchester forum on October 12 put together by members of the Caribbean-American community.
Asked to weigh in on the phrase Black Lives Matter, Nee-Walsh, who is White, said, “I think that whole thing came out of just a very racially divisive time that we had. We had Covid going on. We had things going on globally, across America. And it brought us back. It brought us back 50 years.”
She added: “It divided a lot of communities across the city, when everybody matters.”
The comments landed during a sleepy election season that features just the City Council races on the Boston ballot, and as the city prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of the federal court order to desegregate the Boston public schools. Racial tension roiled the city following the 1974 decision, which led to violent protests, particularly in South Boston, as students were bused to schools outside their neighborhoods.
Nee-Walsh’s comments drew a rebuke from City Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune, the first Haitian-American person to serve on the 13-member body. “It’s backwards thinking and it’s just tired,” Louijeune said.
She was not present at the forum when the remarks were made and expressed shock when the comments were relayed to her by a reporter. CommonWealth obtained an audio recording of Nee-Walsh’s remarks.
The decision by longtime Councilor Michael Flaherty not to seek reelection has opened up one of the four at-large seats. Nee-Walsh, along with Henry Santana, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and former Wu administration aide who is backed by the mayor, are considered top contenders for it.
“That is someone who is not interested in helping the city move forward,” Louijeune said, referring to Nee-Walsh.
Nee-Walsh stood by her comments on Tuesday. “I think it just really highly intensified and separated communities,” she said of Black Lives Matter.
On the campaign trail, Nee-Walsh has described herself as “right of center but open-minded.” When she isn’t casting for votes, she’s working on the tower going up above South Station.
Nee-Walsh previously ran for an at-large seat in 2021, and came in seventh place out of eight candidates. This time around, the South Boston-based ironworkers union formed a super PAC to support her candidacy. Super PACs are outside groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, but they are prohibited from coordinating with the candidate they support.
The election is November 7, but mail-in balloting is underway, and early in-person voting starts this weekend across the city.
Black Lives Matter hit the 10-year mark this year, having started after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old, in Florida and the acquittal of his shooter. The phrase and accompanying movement, as well as an organization of the same name, came into the spotlight in 2020 as part of protests following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
A Pew Research Center survey this year found 51 percent of US adults expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, down from 56 percent a year earlier.
Black Lives Matter, to Louijeune, is a “call to action to the many ways in which Black communities have been harmed and excluded by our policies and systems,” the incumbent at-large councilor said.
Fatima Ali-Salaam, who chairs the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council, a civic group, and is an executive committee member of the NAACP’s Boston branch, also pushed back on Nee-Walsh’s comments.
“It’s not against anyone,” Ali-Salaam said of the Black Lives Matter slogan. “You can be for your own rights and not taking away from anyone else. Just as being for the right for women to vote, that was never meant to take away from someone else.”
Fattmans sign settlement: Ryan and Stephanie Fattman, the Mass. GOP’s power couple, sign a settlement with Attorney General Andrea Campbell in which they pay the state $192,000 while admitting to no campaign finance wrongdoing.
– Sen. Fattman insists he and his wife, the register of probate in Worcester County, did nothing wrong when his campaign donated roughly $160,000 to the state Republican Party and the Sutton Republican Town Committee, which in turn made expenditures of the same size to support her reelection campaign in 2020. (State law bars campaign committees from donating more than $100 to other campaign committees.) The senator said other pols, including Gov. Maura Healey, do the same thing all the time.
– While a statement from Campbell makes it sound as if the settlement brought law breakers to justice, Sen. Fattman says just the opposite. “No one can say we broke the law,” he said. Read more.
Bus redesign late next year: With the hiring of drivers picking up, the MBTA’s plan to boost bus service is now scheduled to start at the end of next year. Read more.
GLX update: Work to widen the tracks on the Green Line extension will take 10 to 14 days with crews working overnights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and could start November 1. MBTA General Manager Phillip Eng said the rails are not up to construction specifications but safe at top speed. Read more.
New dental care standard: Dr. David Lustbader of South Shore Oral Surgery Associates says the gravy train for dental insurers is about to come to an end with a new rule requiring that 83 percent of premium money go for actual care. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan implores lawmakers to pass a law allowing municipalities to open legal drug consumption sites. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
Sarah Sherman-Stokes, a Boston University law professor, says increasing funding for Boston’s police intelligence center is a mistake. (WBUR)
Experts are once again urging the state to leave daylight saving time flip-flopping in the past, arguing it hurts health and the economy. (Worcester Telegram)
Massachusetts drug makers are playing catch-up in the booming market for weight-loss drugs. (Boston Globe)
The Boston Workers Circle, a progressive Jewish group that had been a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council, is leaving the group after drawing JCRC’s wrath for participating in a rally calling for de-escalation in the Israel-Hamas war. (Boston Herald)
Making good on the vow to turn away from New Hampshire as Democrats’ first presidential primary, President Biden’s campaign confirmed that he won’t file papers for the primary by Friday’s deadline, and the New Hampshire Democratic Party says his name won’t appear on the ballot. (Boston Globe)
Fourth time’s the charm? The US House is expected to vote today on whether to install Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as speaker after Tom Emmer became the third Republican the GOP caucus could not agree on to hold the gavel. (Washington Post)
The Boston Herald endorses incumbent Erin Murphy in the at-large Boston city council race.
Gillette is moving its razor-making operations out of its longtime South Boston headquarters, potentially leading to the redevelopment of 31 acres on the Fort Point Channel. While several hundred manufacturing workers are headed to a Gillette facility in Andover, the company’s corporate, research, and engineering workers will stay in Southie. (Boston Business Journal)
State Education Commissioner Jeff Riley raises alarm bells about the high rate of chronic absenteeism among students. “This level of absenteeism is something we’ve never seen before,” he said. (WBUR)
As the state nears its emergency shelter capacity, four families are assigned to the Knights Inn in Hadley. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
MBTA General manager Philip Eng says the Ashmont branch of the Red Line will open on Monday as scheduled. (Dorchester Reporter)
More than 300 people showed up to a Barnstable public meeting on offshore wind, with the town looking to collect as much input as possible from residents ahead of a meeting the Energy Facilities Siting Board is planning with Avangrid executives sometime next month. (Cape Cod Times)
Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox reversed an earlier internal affairs finding that Captain John Danilecki used excessive force in a 2019 encounter and instead concluded he committed a more minor violation and suspended him for three days. (Boston Globe)
Police Sgt. Daniel Dorgan, set to be Fairhaven’s next police chief, was suspended in 2020 for misconduct involving alcohol, according to a state database. (MetroWest Daily News)