Everett City Council ‘anti-bias’ finalist replaces disgraced councilman

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After Everett City Councilman Anthony DiPierro admitted to sharing a racist meme, Darren Costa was one of the residents who lined up at a town hall meeting in March to express their outrage. And then he turned his attention to the other advisors.

“Allowing this behavior from one of your elected colleagues is unacceptable. Remaining silent is tantamount to aiding and abetting racist behavior,” he said. “You cannot be prejudiced against the group of people you claim to defend.”

Now Costa joins that board to take over DiPierro’s seat. After calls from Attorney General Maura Healey to step down and facing pressure from rallies by Everett residents, DiPierro resigned at the end of May. Under city council rules, Costa, who ran against and came second to DiPierro in November, fills the vacant seat. He will be sworn in at Monday evening’s council meeting.

Costa represents a stark contrast to DiPierro. He calls himself an “anti-bias person” whose perspective has been shaped by his personal experience. White son of Portuguese immigrants, he is married to a Haitian. They have a biracial son and a daughter due in July.

“Having been with my wife for almost 20 years and watching her suffer from bad behavior, you know, I feel drawn to it. [anti-racism]. Not everyone does,” Costa said in an interview with GBH News.

But Costa, a CPA by training who works in corporate finance, also describes himself as an “analytical guy” who treads carefully as he takes on his new role. He said he had spent time studying the council’s rules of procedure and was giving his fellow councilors the benefit of the doubt.

“So there are a lot of people on this board, if not all of them, who are not racist and condemn racist behavior. But they don’t necessarily understand how it works from a systemic perspective,” Costa said.

Costa, who relies on data in his professional work, wants to bring a more data-driven approach to decision-making within the council to measure the impact of decisions on community members.

Resident Gerly Adrien, who during her tenure as Everett’s first black councilwoman had accused white colleagues of trying to push her off the council, said data-driven decision-making would be a welcome change.

“A lot of city council members make their decisions based on how they feel and who they know,” Adrien said. “I hope for Darren and all the new board members that they will be that light and…that [he] will stand up and examine the data and remove personal emotions from decisions.

Everett Mayor Carlo De Maria won a fifth term in 2021 by 200 votes in a city where the majority of residents are people of color and most city officials, including De Maria, are white. Costa said he plans to help the community understand the importance of voting.

“Not enough people are voting. So in my experience, people who vote tend to be able to drive change in government, where I want to be sure that I encourage the whole community to vote,” Costa said.

Other residents expressed cautious optimism. Paula Sterite, a 40-year Everett resident and outspoken critic of Everett city government, hopes Costa’s work experience in finance and personal history will be assets to the board.

Sterite called it a “positive sign”, but added: “We are not naive, we understand that it is only one vote among loyalist mayors. »

Everett still faces other potential fallout from racism allegations: A discrimination complaint against Mayor DeMaria by city school superintendent Priya Tahiliani is still pending. And US attorney Rachael Rollins recently launched an investigation into allegations of racism and possible civil rights abuses in city government. Asked about the Rollins investigation, Costa called it “encouraging to know that people are watching”.

In March, Everett resident Janice Lark, who is black, spoke emotionally at a March city council meeting about feeling betrayed by DiPierro, who represented her neighborhood. She now has a long list of things to do for Costa, including bringing transparency to bidding for municipal contracts and “working to make the current municipal government more like the people it represents.” But she’s keeping her expectations “low.”

“The DeMaria machine has been in control for so long, change will come very slowly. But it’s coming,” she said. expect council to listen more to us residents.”

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