It was exactly years ago today — May 19, 2009 — that Newton Alderman (now City Councilor) Lenny Gentile delivered his most notorious City Hall floor speech.
If my memory serves me right, Gentile was upset on that day by suggestions that Newton could benefit from following some of Somerville’s best practices when it came to zero sum budgeting.
But Gentile’s disdain for Somerville, Everett and Chelsea — three communities with large numbers of blue collar and immigrant populations — touched a nerve in other ways. It felt elitist and snobbish, the implication being Newton was too smart to learn from these lesser communities.
Somerville, of course, has transformed itself, from its Slummerville days and has become regarded as a well-run, forward-thinking and hip pace to live. And ironically perhaps, Gentile has emerged as an advocate Newton’s blue collar residents of late, which of course was at the core, a big part of the image of the three communities he was dismissing on that day.
Meanwhile, Somerville is still used as a dog whistle in Newton’s housing debate (As in, “We don’t want Newton to become the next Somerville”) to flag concerns about about race, diversity and poor people moving to the Garden City.