Efforts to implement an anti-bullying policy at Boston City Council hit a delay Friday. Council President Ed Flynn postponed a working session, after an hour of meeting, due to concerns about low attendance and representation of councilors of color.

Councilors Liz Breadon, Sharon Durkan, Julia Mejia, Erin Murphy and Flynn showed up, marking just 5 of 13 members before several councilors face challengers in Tuesday’s preliminary elections.

They were invited to the Friday session to hammer out the enforcement details of a new policy that would encourage employees to report instances of bullying on the council to human resources. The Boston City Council has had a tumultuous couple of years between infighting, legal troubles and alleged ethical violations among members.

“Right now I’m the only woman of color in this space, and I was the last time,” Mejia said, referencing another working session that took place last week. “And I have some very specific questions around culture and climate and how we’re utilizing words.”

“We need to pause and really reflect on the harm that has been caused, because a piece of paper isn’t really going to change how we treat each other.”
Councilor Julia Mejia, on the proposed anti-bullying policy

Mejia said she felt uncomfortable being the only person of color making decisions about the policy. She also said the policy should not move forward until interpersonal relationships on the council have been healed.

She was referencing an explosive City Council meeting that took place a year ago — divided largely along political, racial and ethnic lines — and the ongoing tension between members that has continued since.

The council chamber has been the scene of multiple contentious exchanges in recent months, often tied to issues of race. They once again came to a head during the city’s tense redistricting process, which councilors had to go through twice after a federal judge threw out the first map.

“We need to pause and really reflect on the harm that has been caused, because a piece of paper isn’t really going to change how we treat each other,” Mejia told GBH News after the meeting.

Flynn was presiding over the working session and has been pushing for the policy for months. He adjourned the meeting, citing Mejia's concerns and low attendance. No progress was made on the policy. Mejia requested that the next meeting take place in City Council chambers where it can be televised.

Flynn told GBH News, “I understand people’s concerns and respect people’s opinions, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming working session and I value the input from my colleagues — and we move forward.”

Flynn said he will indeed have the next working session televised in the council chambers. Friday’s meeting was held in a conference room, the Curley Room at City Hall.