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HDTC chair reflects on recent resignations, future course

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee chair Amy Groves lamented the resignation of two key HDTC members last month and discussed how their departure will affect the organization moving forward.

Shahidul Mannan, the HDTC vice chair and former Select Board vice chair, resigned from the HDTC shortly after the May 21 Select Board meeting. At that meeting, one day after the Annual Town Election, he was passed over for both the Select Board chair and vice chair positions in a straw poll vote of 3-2 before the official 5-0 vote. Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere, voted in as the vice chair, cast the deciding vote in both circumstances.

“That was a difficult thing to have happen in front of everyone in town,” Groves said of the votes, which she witnessed in person at the meeting. “I wish that things had happened differently, at least in that respect.”

She added that she wishes the current Select Board “the best of luck.”

“As a constituent, a resident and a voter, I prefer to see members of committees working together in a collaborative and respectful manner,” Groves said. “I have some trepidation as I look at this Select Board right now.”

In addition to Mannan’s HDTC resignation, active member Nasiba Mannan, Shahidul’s wife and the vice chair of the Board of Health, also resigned May 21. Cultural Council chair and HDTC associate member Ilana Casady resigned the following day.

“Nothing makes up for the loss of Nasiba and Shahidul,” said Groves. “They have been dear friends of mine and of my spouse for many years. I feel that loss on a very personal level. I also feel that, at an institutional level, the HDTC is diminished by [the Mannans’] absence.”

Despite the three resignations, Groves said the HDTC membership base remains strong at about 60 members. [Editor’s note: This number has been corrected since the story was first posted.]

“We just added a new member, and we also had an inquiry from someone who wants to join,” Groves explained. “We also have an unusually large DTC membership compared to other towns. We’re known for being very involved and very energetic and for having a large group.”

Observations of racism emerge in Hopkinton

The resignation of the Mannans prompted Groves to examine the role of the HDTC moving forward and its mission of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in a town she perceives as becoming increasingly racist. She noted that part of the Democratic Party’s platform is to support DEI initiatives.

“The problem as I see it is an increase in racist incidents and in racism in general perceived by the Black and brown people in Hopkinton,” she stressed.

“I cannot speak for them,” she added. “But I have been approached by so many people who are persons of color who are telling me about the things that have happened to them. I cannot help but believe that these incidents are on the rise.”

She added that she has been seeking guidance from people of color in Hopkinton about how to proceed in addressing this issue.

“We will need to do some thinking and have some discussion about what our role is,” Groves said. “Advancing the party platform includes supporting DEI. And it includes making everyone feel welcome under the big blue tent and in our meetings.

“Nasiba and Shahidul do not feel safe, do not feel welcome,” she continued. “They do not feel the love. And that means that we have to make it a top priority to make sure that we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Groves noted that the HDTC had planned on focusing on DEI efforts after the election. But the Mannans’ resignation, as well as the accusations of racial discrimination made by Mannan and former Select Board member Irfan Nasrullah, pushed the issue to the forefront.

“I think we are going to have to start from further behind than we thought,” she shared. “I’ve seen in person and put in writing that some people don’t feel that Hopkinton is racist or that there is racism in Hopkinton.

“That’s telling,” Groves stressed. “I don’t usually hear Black or brown people in Hopkinton saying that. It seems to be a shared experience, from what I am told by others.”

The HDTC chair said another problem is that many citizens don’t understand the committee’s role.

“The HDTC is a political organization and not a government organization,” Groves said. “Our whole reason to exist is to advance the Democratic Party platform, which we believe is a positive platform that really will help everybody.”

The HDTC cannot advise members who are elected to office on how to vote, she added.

Groves said that Hopkinton’s growing diversity is supported by the Hopkinton Freedom Team and by cultural organizations such as the South Asian Circle of Hopkinton and the Hopkinton Chinese American Association. But the town does not have a celebration planned for the upcoming Juneteenth national holiday, she noted.

Said Groves: “Juneteenth is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to people who may feel beleaguered by recent events.”

She talked about starting up a social media page that would articulate the HDTC’s mission and educate the public about its initiatives.

“I want people to know that they have people who are listening to them,” Groves continued. “That someone in Hopkinton has their back and wants to support them. And that not everyone in Hopkinton is going to double down defensively and say there’s no racism here.”

Added Groves: “We have a lot of work to do.”

Chilling effect on number of candidates seen

The passage of Article 2 at the 2023 Annual Town Meeting, which removed party designation from town election ballots and abolished the ability of caucuses to select candidates on the caucus floor, has had a chilling effect on the number of people willing to run, Groves said. The Select Board was the only contested race this year, with four candidates vying for two open seats.

“We had to work very, very hard trying to convince anyone to run for anything because the atmosphere is so toxic,” she explained. “That hurts the town because we have fewer contested races.”

Another fear she expressed is that future positions could be won by write-in candidates with only a handful of votes. Groves said other towns have experienced this issue.

A recent example is Bourne’s town election on May 21. Six town government positions had no candidates. There were 191 write-in candidates, five of whom won seats on various boards.

HRTC chair shares perspective

Jim Mirabile, the chair of the Hopkinton Republican Town Committee, shared his thoughts on the future of his party via an email interview.

“The recent resignations from the HDTC are between their members and their leadership,” he stated. “I do hope that as a town, we identify the behavior of particular individuals and do not associate other town committees, such as the HRTC, with their behavior. I also hope that we don’t allow those individuals to continue to force their viewpoints on our town leadership.

“As the chair of the HRTC over the last few years, I have made multiple statements about diversity of views in our town government.,” he continued. “The HRTC welcomes the discussion of all viewpoints, libertarian, conservative, liberal, progressive and any and all in between. We may not agree with all views, but all should have the right to have their opinions heard and considered and respectfully challenged.”

He added: “The HRTC has denounced any form of political bullying, whether in person at town events, via social media, or on town boards and committees.”

The HRTC has been quiet the last few years, but Mirabile expressed optimism moving forward.

“With this as a background for how the HRTC operates, we have seen our membership grow over the last two years and are open and welcome all citizens of Hopkinton who share our conservative values and policies on how to keep Hopkinton a great place to grow up, live, raise a family and retire,” he stressed.

4 Comments

  1. Brian

    I applaud Amy’s observation of the recent incidents of racism in our town to our Black and brown residents of color and further, those that have held positions in town government, only to be ousted by votes pressured to sway the status quo in one direction. DE&I should not be a ‘nice to have,’ it should be a necessity in our town organizations and groups highlighting the town’s ability to be open and objective to all walks of life and their ideas, thoughts and visions for a more inclusive community. The talk needs to cease and action needs to occur in promoting inclusion. Unfortunately, today’s divisiveness in our politics; anti-‘woke’ and ‘cancel culture’ makes it all but impossible for inclusion to really be seen and felt until acceptance of all people judged by their character and not their skin color and aligned mis-conception is eradicated.

    Reply
  2. Glen

    This “news article” reads more like a campaign flyer for the HDTC. Too bad the Indy and HDTC chair seem inclined to encourage more division in town, rather than accept the recent election results.

    Reply
  3. AF

    Is Ms. Groves asserting that Mr. Mannan resigned from the HDTC because of racism? Did Nasiba resign for the same reason? Ms. Groves made no mention of Iliana’s resignation, was that because it was due to the extremely deceptive and extremely poor leadership and lack of accountability within the HDTC?

    Is Ms. Groves also indicating that Article 2 is the reason residents are reluctant to run for elected positions, instead of the extremely toxic environment maintained by the HDTC over the years?

    What are Ms. Groves’ concerns regarding the current Select Board? It appears that she would advocate for what’s best for the town, and a variety of perspectives would help the community feel represented and acknowledged.

    I also don’t understand Ms. Groves’ comments about why it was so difficult for Mr. Mannan to lose his Chair seat so publicly. Others spoke in support of Mr. Herr that night. It seems strange and rather disappointing that Ms. Groves, as Chair of the HDTC, couldn’t put down her phone, get up, and speak in support of her friend and colleague for his Select Board chair position. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems this lack of support might be the real reason Mr. Mannan resigned from the HDTC. No one from that group supported him that night.

    Reply
    • BAM

      You realize that Herr n Clark approached Mary Jo 2 weeks before the election? It was a set up and an ugly one at that. Mr. Mannan I don’t believe has had an opportunity to be chair. Pretty sure Herr has. It was an open very public embarrassment. It was unnecessary.

      Reply

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