Monday, April 30, 2007

Marilyn Devaney and the Curling Iron Caper

The most recent antics of Watertown town councilor and Governor's Councilor Marilyn Devaney have now made the front page of the Boston Globe. Most readers of this space will be familiar with the incident on April 13th where Councilor Devaney allegedly threw a curling iron at a beauty store clerk in Waltham after the clerk would not accept her check without a drivers license.

The Globe article is mostly a fair profile of Councilor Devaney, though it leaves out the details of some of her most recent capers -- like when she called the Watertown Tab's anonymous SpeakOut line to defend herself, got caught and flatly denied it. It divulges one of the secrets of her success, which is mainly that since she has no other job than politician, she has the time to show up everywhere, including nearly every wake in town. It also underestimates her personal income, however, leaving out the various pensions she receives (lovingly detailed by Howie Carr last week). One other thing I noticed is that the article seemed to imply that she's been on a downward spiral since her husband died in 2001. I've talked to a couple people in town who've also been concerned that her mental state has been deteriorating in recent years. I've only been in town for a few short years myself, but during that time, I've often wondered if there wasn't something more going on with her. I should say, however, that my personal interactions with Councilor Devaney have all been very pleasant, and she was very helpful during Deval Patrick's campaign for Governor.

Defenders of Marilyn have already started to come out of the woodwork saying that they clerks at the shop where the incident occurred are notoriously rude, and therefore they deserved to have things thrown at them, and if not they're probably lying anyhow. This is the sort of "No matter what happens, Nothing's Marilyn's Fault" line of reasoning that inspired Watertown Blogger Paul Day to start selling Marilyn-themed merchandise. My favorite is the wall clock that says "I am not late. Someone maliciously reset my clock" on it.

For better or for worse, it's that attitude that will likely be the reason Councilor Devaney weathers this latest storm. There's a sizable constituency in Watertown that believes that since she makes a lot of noise and ruffles people's feathers (particularly the Town Manager's) she is therefore "fighting for the people" -- no matter how effective she actually is. Councilor Devaney's friend and colleague on the Governor's Council, Mary-Ellen Manning hints at this at the end of the Globe article, noting how tough it is to be the "lone voice in the wilderness". Any criticism of the councilor can therefore be dismissed as the product of powerful interests trying to silence her -- the police chief, the town council president, or a publicity-hungry store clerk.