After offensive comments from Chicopee city councilor, Darlene Reina plans her own campaign, encourages more women and people of color to come forward
Darlene Reina had considered running for city councilor in Chicopee, but after responding to a current city councilor writing offensive statements about the sexual assault on Facebook, she knew her plans needed to be “rushed”.
His campaign isn’t really about him, in fact, Reina doesn’t even consider herself running against the current Ward 3 councilor. Lucjan Galecki. She is running for her parish, her neighbors and her representation, she said.
“This is to ensure that there is representation on our municipal council, where actions like hers would not have happened initially or if they had, there would have been censorship or resounding condemnation against those comments, ”Reina said.
In December, Galecki blamed victims of sexual assault in a commentary series shared on Facebook.
The comments first appeared in response to a Facebook post from Kaween Fernando, who ran against Galecki for the Ward 3 headquarters in 2019. The posts have since been deleted after Galecki deleted them “because neither of you read it carefully, you went through it.
“If they knew it was likely to happen and they were warned to stay away from these areas, but they went instead, it is completely their fault,” Galecki wrote in a comment. .
In response to a woman, he said, “If you put yourself in danger on purpose, don’t be surprised if something bad happens to you.
At one point, Galecki likens sexually assaulted women, especially in “sketchy nightclubs,” to a “hike through an area littered with hungry grizzly bears,” asking, “Would you be surprised if you were attacked? “
City leaders initially said MassLive that at the time, they had little recourse to request his dismissal, the city having no callback provision. Although Board Chairman Shane Brooks asked Galecki to to resign and kept him away from everything subcommittees.
Galecki said he has no plans to quit and will likely run again in November.
The comments sparked a demonstration earlier this month, protesters called on him to quit immediately.
“We want to have a community conversation because (Galecki) has really opened up a lot of injuries and done a lot of harm,” said organizer Jeannette Rivera. “If he’s not ready to quit, what is he ready to do to heal it?” “
City leaders are now looking for ways to change the city charter, including adding a callback provision.
But Reina, 28, who now works with Brooks to continue conversations about sexual assault, wanted to see more action from her town right away.
“These comments are made by a white man and we expect other white men to hold them responsible,” she said.
She said she even emailed Galecki and Brooks in July about updating the city’s charter – a request that was completely ignored, she said.
“If we have a code of ethics, but we can’t enforce it, or if we can’t hold someone to account to enforce it, then why do we have them?
The 13-member board has had no adviser since the resignation of Lucille Ouimette in 2005.
“Beating a starter is hard work,” said Laura McCarthy, who served as a counselor from 1996 to 1997, previously at The Republican. “You put yourself forward and you have to have a more sociable and sympathetic personality. “
She said she went door to door speaking to voters when she showed up, a plan similar to Reina’s.
“It’s going to involve some good old-fashioned knocking, which will hopefully be a lot safer in the summer with social distancing and vaccines,” Reina said. “But just get my face out there and hopefully reach the residents.”
Reina is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and an Information Technology Analyst at Greenfield Community College. She is very passionate about voter registration and has worked on the Adam Gomez campaign. She also lived in Chicopee for about four years, she said.
But beyond the representation as a woman, Reina is also Latina.
“I do a lot of bilingual community outreach to reach a lot of people in the community who come from a Spanish speaking household or whose mother tongue is Spanish,” she said. “I am really passionate about this.”
She said she believes there is something really powerful about being able to see yourself in local leadership. For example, Reina considers her mother’s English to be perfect. But she knows her mother can be intimidated into speaking to a native English speaker in a position of power.
“Twenty percent of our population is Latin American, over 50% of our population is made up of women, and none of these represent our city council,” she said.
But she doesn’t put all of her eggs in one basket, either. She actually encourages others to come forward against her.
“I plan to run but I will not be the only woman to vote,” she said. “It will be a local coalition of residents who just want to see more representation on city council.”
Nomination documents for the November election will be available on February 1, City Clerk Keith Rattell said. While not everyone has announced her candidacy, Reina is encouraging a number of others to join her.
“I hope there will be a whole list of people with different identities crossing into different areas to run for city council, so it’s not up to one person to be everything for everyone”, a- she declared.
Even if she is not elected in November, it will be about continuing to support others and “to involve our young people, to involve our young people, to involve our residents who have not been represented, and to organize them, talk to them ”.
Reina knows it, city councilor or not, by simply taking part in the conversation, she can make a difference.
“People see that someone like you is out there engaging the community, others will want to join,” Reina said. “And being open and transparent to ideas – I mean it’s a powerful thing, it’s making others feel heard and I really want to make sure I bring that to all levels.”
If you are a victim of sexual assault or rape, help is available.