Intense Meeting: No Consensus, Infighting, In Vote for New Council President

The City Council membership convened Monday night for an intense meeting to try to find consensus on who would become president of the Council next year – and they closed with a stalemate that left Councillor Leo Robinson, the dean of the Council, holding the gavel for the time being.

Both Council President Damali Vidot and Councilor Calvin Brown were vying for the position, but ended up only getting five votes each. That left Robinson as the swing vote, and with both not having supported him in the past, he voted ‘Present.’

That, as it turned out, catapulted him into the Council President seat for the time being until the stalemate can be broken.

“If there isn’t a president elected and we can’t come to a decision, then the senior member will be acting president until a decision is made,” said Vidot. “In this case, that’s Leo Robinson. Leo would stay president until someone gets the votes.”

It was clear from the beginning that the outcome wasn’t going to be decided Monday night – as has been the custom for years and years prior to the Jan. 6 inauguration and officer vote.

There were two votes taken in succession, and both turned out the same way.

Those supporting Vidot were Councilors Judith Garcia, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez, and Giovanni Recupero.

Those supporting Brown were Councilors Roy Avellaneda, Naomi Zabot, Melinda Vega Maldonado and Todd Taylor.

Robinson, of course, voted present.

Afterward, Vidot said she looks forward to continuing the process of choosing a leader.

“I am grateful to my colleagues for their belief in me by supporting my leadership on the City Council,” she said. “Their decision to stand in solidarity with me speaks to our shared interests in continuing the work we’ve been able to accomplish these past couple of years. There is a shared excitement about building coalitions with the new members of the council to amplify the voice of the community at large at City Hall. I am looking forward to continue the process in selecting leadership for 2020 that’s reflective of our shared values.”

Robinson said he hasn’t been pleased with the leadership on the Council in 2019, and he hopes that excitement for Chelsea can return with a new leader.

“I hope we can agree on moving the city forward,” he said. “I think what we lost in all this about who is with whom and who is doing what, is two years ago everyone was talking about Chelsea. Now, no one is talking about Chelsea. We need to get back to having people talk about Chelsea.”

Behind the scenes, there was some discussion that Brown had secured the votes and had the commitment of Vidot. However, that changed at some point between the election and Monday night. Brown gave no names, but told the body Monday that some people had gone back on their commitments.

That left the deadlock, which some say is going to be remedied with the ascension of Councillor Avellaneda, who seems to have formed an alliance now with Robinson on the leadership.

Some are saying that come Jan. 6, Avellaneda might have secured that sixth swing vote and could land with gavel in hand for 2020.

•Councillor Judith Garcia got the necessary six votes to secure her position as the vice president of the Council for 2020. She had one against her and four voted present.

Those voting for Garcia were Vidot, Rodriguez, Lopez, Vega Maldonado, and Recupero.

Brown voted for Todd Taylor.

Meanwhile, Taylor, Avellaneda, Zabot and Robinson all voted ‘present.’

The School Committee delegate from the Council was the only unanimous vote of the night, with Vega Maldonado getting that spot in a 10-0 tally.

•In choosing the order of seating and the order of voting, one new Councillor, Naomi Zabot, got the undesirable position of first vote on the roll call. That means as a newcomer to the body, she’ll be the first signal on every major vote in 2020. The rest of the order is Garcia, Taylor, Recupero, Robinson, Brown, Vidot, Vega Maldonado, Rodriguez, Avellaneda, and Lopez.

In the seating order, there was one interesting wrinkle in that Brown will sit next to Garcia – with Brown being the lone vote Monday against Garcia becoming vice president.

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