AFR Letter to Select Board

Letters to Town Leaders

Originally sent to the Arlington Select Board November 8, 2019

Dear Select Board Members: Joseph A. Curro, Jr., Stephen W. DeCourcey, Daniel J. Dunn, John V. Hurd, Diane M.Mahon, Chair

We are writing in reply to the Town Manager’s response to the petition at the Select Board meeting on October 28, 2019. Arlington Fights Racism (AFR) was surprised not to have been provided notice by the Town Manager or the Select Board that this would be an agenda item. As a result of this lack of clear communication, transparency and respect for our work, many of us were unable to be there to hear his words for ourselves. We would have liked to have had the opportunity to invite the over 1000 petition signers to participate or watch the live broadcast.  However, due to the lack of notification, that opportunity to participate in our town’s democracy was denied to us. This is a repeat of the same issue from the Select Board meeting on September 9th, 2019 when the Select Board put to a vote the agenda item, “Support of the Town Manager’s Open Letter to the Community Regarding Lt. Pedrini” without notifying community members who had been intimately involved in this issue. This continued lack of transparency and open communication has been interpreted as a preference for us not to show up.

We are gratified to finally have the Select Board’s full attention, to know that our many months of organizing and testifying before you have resulted in a more respectful interaction, a change in tone, and an acknowledgment that there have been missteps, and that there is much work to be done.  We appreciate the Town Manager’s clear labelling of Lt. Pedrini’s words as racist. However, we were extremely disappointed that he immediately countered this statement by clarifying that he was “not saying that Lt. Pedrini is a racist”. That unnecessary qualifying of the statement harms residents whose personal experience indicates otherwise, and lessens the impact of the town owning that the words are indeed racist.  As they say, one step forward, two steps back. The well worn trope of “this act was racist, but he’s not racist” or “I’m not racist” also exemplifies the core problem AFR has been signaling, which is a lack of cultural competency and a great need for education and training of our town leaders and employees by AFR vetted, diverse-led organizations.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you moving forward and appreciate your stated long term commitment for this work to “last as long as it needs to”.  We will continue to hold the Town Manager and the Select Board accountable for their promises of transparency. In that spirit we request that the lack of transparency in the following areas be immediately addressed;

In accordance with Open Meeting Law, we would like to be sure that our verbal and written testimonials are part of the public record. Therefore we ask that they be represented in more detail in your meeting minutes and that those testimonials we have submitted are accessible on line as part of the public record.  That is currently not the case.

We request an open, transparent conversation about Arlington Police Officers being deployed to Select Board and Human Rights Commission meetings to discourage dissent, an honored and protected part of our democracy.

We request that the misrepresentation to the public and to Town Meeting members regarding Lt. Pedrini’s past record be rectified.  The Town Manager continues to publicly state that a thorough investigation was done into Lt. Pedrini’s police record and that no evidence was found of “on-duty” misconduct.  Public records requested by the news publication DIG Boston and made available on the Arlington Fights Racism website clearly demonstrate this statement to be false. Community trust will continue to erode until the Town Manager publicly and transparently addresses this issue.

We expect to be notified well in advance of any changes to the work assignment of Lt. Rick Pedrini, or when anything related to this issue (such as assessing the APD for bias) is  placed on the Select Board Meeting agenda, so that we are afforded an opportunity to respond and participate.

Many community members who have been harmed by Pedrini’s words and by the Town’s failure to lead in this area have taken a great risk by coming forward and testifying in your chambers and on public TV. Several of you took the important step of acknowledging their bravery in your remarks.  In a gesture to rebuild trust, we ask that you contact them individually and thank them for their courage.

We are at the beginning of a long journey towards learning and healing.  Arlington Fights Racism will work with the Select Board, the APD and the Town Manager in a partnership based on respect, with clear communications and transparency.  We expect the same in return.

Respectfully,
Arlington Fights Racism