In an email to a community member that she later posted to a private Facebook group for residents on Oct. 24, Mayor Marina Khubesrian addressed current tensions in the community — at one point labeling hostile social-media posts aimed at herself and other city officials as a “rising mob mentality.”
But after hearing criticism of her comments, Khubesrian toned down her own original take on matters — editing the phrase to “group mentality.’’
“As your mayor and Councilmember, I work hard to make sure that we base our council decisions on facts and not emotions and to keep a civil and respectful tone toward one another,” Khubesrian wrote originally on the Facebook group “91030.”
“I am however becoming concerned about the rising mob mentality of looking for a scapegoat to blame when emotions and fears are stirred up. This type of discourse is dangerous and impacts the morale of city employees.”
The mayor’s comments led to several residents expressing gratitude and support, while others expressed disappointment or even outright anger at being referred to as a “mob.”
“I’m disappointed but not surprised that we appear to be a ‘mob,’ ’’ one respondent replied. “People do not respond well to information vacuums. They don’t respond any better to abuse, insults or condescension.’’
Numerous other residents shared a similar sense of outrage over the mayor’s comments — which came after an upswell of concern about the code-compliance inspection of Alison Smith’s Hanscom Drive property Oct. 18 possibly being retaliatory, a charge the city vehemently denies.
Smith had spoken to City Council in August asking for help on what she said was a city-owned pipe that clogged and spilled sewage in her backyard in 2018. She has filed suit against the city and has said the city’s inspection of her property was in retaliation for the suit.
As of Oct. 31, Khubesrian had edited her original post and changed “mob mentality” to “group mentality,” according to screenshots taken by the Review.
In a request by the Review for clarity on her comments, Khubesrian emailed back:
“In hindsight, ‘mob mentality’ was a poor choice of words on my part given the current ‘call out’ commentary culture. I was frustrated by escalating attacks and unkind comments on social media by some members of the community. I recognize and appreciate that differences of opinion are a healthy part of democracy; however I hope that moving forward those discussions can be conducted in a civil manner that focuses on the policies at hand, as opposed to personal and hurtful attacks. We’re all flawed and we’re all in this together. A little kindness goes a long way and it doesn’t cost a thing.”
In the Facebook posting, Khubesrian went on to note that “some members of the community have inappropriately lashed out when they don’t get special treatment or disagree with decisions,” and that city leadership was working hard to have the city government work for all. She shared concerns that the discourse would lead to instability at City Hall, with employees leaving for other jobs within a tight labor market.
“We can’t afford to and should not overwork or harass our staff in this environment or anytime really,” Khubesrian wrote. “I’m all for debates and questioning and pointing out mistakes because that’s how we learn and make better decisions. However, Democracy is based on ongoing dialogue and civility, especially at the local level. Our discourse deteriorates when people who lose the debate resort to personal attacks, insults, threats, conspiracy theories, and dismiss facts when it doesn’t suit their narrative. We need to position ourselves as a city and community that works together in good faith to take advantage of economic development opportunities that are ripe for the picking.”