Pittsfield Resident Takes Councilor Kronick to Task Over Comments
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Pittsfield resident called Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick "the problem in this city" after he made transphobic comments last week and asserted that the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is not needed.
West Side resident Tonya Frazier called out the councilor during the open microphone portion of Tuesday's City Council meeting. Frazier has regularly spoken about the need for change in the community following the death of Miguel Estrella at the hands of police in late March.
"Councilor Kronick, you still are very blind and ignorant to the city's problems and you speak down to your colleagues and the residents in this city that you are supposed to be representing," Frazier said.
"Last Tuesday at the budget hearing in regards to challenging [Chief Diversity Officer Michael Obasohan's] position and the DEI ambassador you stated you didn't feel as though there needed to be a position like his to teach the city employees on how to address people, you said it was commonsense that people know what they are because they are born that way and that is against your religious beliefs.
"You insulted so many members of this community by saying such a bias statement, you clearly should take him up on the trainings that he's offering so that you can educate yourself so maybe one day you will think before you speak."
The council last week began reviewing the city's proposed $172 million budget and preliminarily passed nine departments' spending including the office of DEI.
Kronick, who took office this January, unsuccessfully motioned to reduce the department's spending twice and voted against it.
He began by questioning Obasohan's credentials after noting his salary of around $90,000. Council President Peter Marchetti cut off this questioning and called it inappropriate, reminding Kronick that the department has already been established.
Kronick then went on to question some of the initiatives within the department related to gender identity, citing his own religious beliefs.
"People want to know how to talk to everybody else, are you a 'he,' 'she,' or 'her,' my sister, she's a 'she' and 'her' she put it in her LinkedIn thing and I'm never confused when I talk to her," he said.
"I feel, and maybe it's just an opinion, but I don't think it's just an opinion, I think that this is sort of a commonsense sort of thing, you know what you are because we were told that when you were born. It is a religious principle of mine, I think that what we're talking about here is spending money on things that you can research on the side."
There was a noticeable reaction, as iBerkshires snapped a photo of Councilor at Large Earl Persip III putting his face in his hands during Kronick's testimony. Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey also suggested that Kronick's statements are why the office is needed.
At Tuesday's meeting, Frazier also spoke about his criticism of the Health Department's new social worker position pay, which he unsuccessfully motioned to reduce by $30,000, claiming it could be filled by an entry-level worker.
"This city doesn't need another person at an entry-level position to help solve the heavily rooted problems, we need someone who knows what they are doing to help establish new programs to help us," Frazier said. "You stated we are defining a solution without having identified the problem, no, we've identified the problem, where have you been? ...
"Kronick, you are the problem in this city, just another person wasting their voice and power on things that don't matter to the majority of the population, but you won't fight for what's right, you don't deserve to be out there to disrespect us like that."
Last week was not the first time that Kronick voiced opposition to the new diversity office — he pushed back in February when Obasohan, also a North Adams city councilor, was appointed as head of the office.
"I am not in favor of filling this position because this is a position that's going to do absolutely nothing for the city of Pittsfield but soak money from much-needed public projects and raise our taxes. It will do this by expanding and establishing a new bureaucracy in the city of Pittsfield and secondly, I want to say that the HR department is the proper area for dealing with issues that they are describing," he said at the February council meeting.
"Now we're talking about diversity, equity inclusion, as the reason for this position, there is actually a much simpler way to say this: 'fair hiring practice,' fair hiring practice is demanded by federal labor law."
Persip was taken aback by Kronick's remarks and spoke about how people of color navigate the city differently. Kronick told him not to be "sanctimonious" and said he has "lots of identities that he can pull out of his sock."
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