The series of windows at the new Wilmington Brew Works separated two very different sounds Monday night.
Inside the windows? The excitement of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley introducing County Executive Matt Meyer to a packed house as Meyer begins what he hopes will be the path to a second term in the office.
Outside those walls, screams of “Meyer’s a liar,” and other chants as could be heard members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, representing the New Castle County Police, demonstrated in their ongoing battle for a new contract.
Meyer was asked how he felt about the chant, which he claimed he didn’t hear, as he entered the Wilmington Brew Works property.
“My name rhymes with liar, what do you want me to do, change it to Mayer [said like mayor]? It’s sad that in this day and age, you can call anyone any name. The issue is the facts, the issue is supporting police and their families, and making sure we can offer a contract we can sustain for years to come.”
Jonathon Yard is the president of F.O.P. Lodge 5, and said an op-ed written by Meyer this week wasn’t truthful.
“Some of the things he’s putting out in regards to salary, and what some of the members of the executive board are trying to achieve separate from our members, it’s all false. They’re all lies. We’re all sworn police officers. There’s no way that someone from the executive board can earn something different than the rest of the people.”
Meyer countered by emphasizing that he was fine with the demonstration.
“I think we live in an extraordinary country where people have a right to express their point of view freely and peacefully. I think it’s great they're expressing their right to free speech. I wrote a piece [Monday] that will appear on-line this week that shows the facts of the issues. We want to get our county police the largest raise they’ve had in over 10 years. We’re working hard to do that both in the interest of our officers and their families, but also for our taxpayers.”
Yard said if the officers believed some of the things Meyer wrote, it might have been a different scene Monday night.
“Absolutely not, not right now. He put out [Monday] that officers will receive $70,000 as an annual salary. If that were the case, F.O.P. Lodge might be out here supporting him rather than demonstrating against him.”
Back inside the windows at Wilmington Brew Works, Meyer told a crowd that included Senator Tom Carper that it's clear things have changed from his campaign announcement his 2016, when he said he cancelled after only three people were planning to attend.
“Three years ago, no one knew who I was. When I ran for office, it was ‘Matt, who?’ I was this teacher and lawyer that no one was familiar with. We ran a grassroots campaign because we believe that county government can serve people--not politics. We’ve done that in our first three years, and we believe we can continue that for the next four years. That world is changing pretty dramatically. We’re had to take steps to control what goes on in our county, and repel divisiveness and craziness going on in Washington. We’re going to continue to move forward to create jobs in all corners of this county.”
Meyer said his proudest moment from his first three years in office came in a part of the county that has dealt with high-crime rates.
“We went into the community of Edgemoor Gardens, where they had an open space and alleyway that had been misused for years. It was a source of blight and crime. We listened to the community who for a decade had wanted that green space to be a park. We turned it into a park, the first county park in over 15 years. It’s now a source of pride, not only for that community, but for the entire county, and the state.”
Meyer said he wants to use the next four years, if he wins, to try to build on programs, especially one that would benefit many of the police officers who were demonstrating against him.
“It’s very important we continue to infuse our policing with the latest, greatest technologies. Just a couple of weeks ago, we formed the first behavioral police unit in any police agency in Delaware, and one of the [first] few in the country. You have mental health and substance abuse counselors going out with uniformed police on patrol to diffuse and address the root causes of crime. We need to expand on that, we need to continue that, it makes our communities safer, it makes our communities stronger.”
It’s a group that FOP. President Yard said continues to be frustrated.
“From the get-go, we’ve tried to get a fair and equitable contract across the board. The county has continued to go against us with the sentiment that it’s ‘take it or leave it.’ We’re not going to accept that.”
At this point it isn’t clear whether incumbent Meyer will face a primary challenger. Meyer beat incumbent Tom Gordon in 2016.