Springfield NAACP schedules public meeting on Easthampton City Councilor Donald Cykowski’s ‘Puerto Rican’ remark

December 28, 2011 By Lucila J. Santana, El Pueblo Latino

Easthampton City Councilor Donald L. Cykowski, left, is seen in this composite photo with Springfield NAACP president, the Rev. Talbert W. Swan II.

SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield branch of the NAACP has scheduled a public meeting Jan. 4 to discuss a recent comment by Easthampton city councilor Donald L. Cykowski that has been widely criticized as offensive to the Puerto Rican community.

Cykowski has since apologized for his statement, which was made at a Dec. 7 council meeting, but calls for further action continue inside and outside Easthampton.

Meanwhile, the outgoing president of the Easthampton City Council said he will file a resolution Tuesday reaffirming the council’s commitment to tolerance and against discrimination of any kind.

Leaders from the Latino community met Wednesday morning with the NAACP and its president, Rev. Talbert W. Swan II.

“I still believe that if Cykowski holds discriminatory views against the Puerto Rican community, he is not fit to represent the constituents, and that he should resign,” Swan said.

Cykowski made the comment during an Easthampton City Council meeting after a discussion about whether the council should name Councilor Ronald Chateauneuf to the Planning Board. Chateauneuf left the room, and when he was called back, he had trouble opening the door. Cykowski said, “Where’s a Puerto Rican when we need one?”

During a Council meeting Dec. 21, Cykowski said, “I made a statement. If I offended anyone, I apologize.”

Cykowski also has said he will not resign. “I thought my apology was enough,” he has said.

At the NAACP meeting Wednesday, Springfield resident Kevin Maxwell said letting such remarks pass would be a step back for his community. “This type of comment happened during the Civil Rights movements when things were just passed under the rug,” said Maxwell.

Calvin Feliciano, a resident of Springfield and member of the NAACP, said, “Further from this situation, it’s more important that we unite and that we can move forward. We need to let it be known that this type of conduct is not tolerable.”

As for the Easthampton resolution, “I don’t want to go into anything political,” said Easthampton City Council President Joseph McCoy. He said he just wants to “restate we do not tolerate or condone” discrimination of any kind.
The Republican | David Molnar
Easthampton City Council President Joseph McCoy at a 2011 candidate’s forum at the Municipal Building.

The Republican | David Molnar Easthampton City Council President Joseph McCoy at a 2011 candidate’s forum at the Municipal Building.

“One of the fundamental core values of the City of Easthampton is to treat all persons with respect and dignity,” according to the resolution, and “many ethnicities have contributed to the strength of character of the citizens of Easthampton.”

“An inappropriate and offensive comment” was made at the Dec. 7 meeting, the resolution reads.

“Now, therefore, be it hereby resolved, that the City of Easthampton and its representatives shall not condone or tolerate any form of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, age, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability or veteran status.”

McCoy said he felt like he had to do something because “it happened on my watch.”

McCoy expects no action on the resolution at the Tuesday meeting, which follows the swearing in of two new members and the mayor to another term. The council meets Wednesday night.

The council has limited authority over its members. It can issue a resolution of disapproval, said City Councilor Justin P. Cobb, but cannot ask for a resignation and neither can the mayor.

Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik wrote in an email that “censure is not within the scope of authority of my office and any effort to remove an elected official from office must be initiated through the formal recall process in our city.”

According to the charter, that requires 400 or more voters filing an affidavit with the board of registrars.

Cobb, who could become the next council president Tuesday, said he supports McCoy’s resolution, calling it “the limit of what we can do.”

He said those that know Cykowski felt his apology was sincere.

Swan said even though the resolution is a step forward, he will continue his course of action. “The resolution submitted by Mr. McCoy is commendable, but we still need to have dialogs regardless of what course of action the Easthampton City Council takes,” Swan said.

The NAACP meeting is scheduled Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Spring of Hope Church of God in Christ, 35 Alden St., Springfield.

Staff reporter Diane Lederman contributed to this story

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