Did San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio insult Italians? Anthony Napoli thinks so. Sunday night at the downtown University Club, the District 5 representative was guest speaker at a black-tie dinner for the local chapter of UNICO, an Italian-American service association.
Napoli is a Little Italy-based real estate agent and a UNICO board member. He said DeMaio was talking about the groundbreaking of a church and stated, in essence: “The two most important parts of my life are the Catholic Church and the Mafia.”
Napoli said he and others were offended at the implication that an Italian- American audience would be stereotyped as all being associated with the underground crime organization.
One mission of UNICO, according to its Web page is: “…to provide scholarships to worthy students and to give strength and force in fighting the discrimination against Italian-Americans which is a deeply ingrained facet of our American Society.”
“We were looking for clarification from him, but he left right after he spoke,” said Napoli. “Even if he was joking, it wasn’t appropriate…. It looks like we have another Mike Aguirre in training.” (Aguirre was the very outspoken former city attorney for San Diego.)
DeMaio’s press representative said the councilmember was in session Monday and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Not everyone at the dinner was offended by DeMaio’s remarks. San Diego UNICO president Janelle Riella said the comment “was a non-issue, taken out of context. It was low-key. Some people laughed.”
Riella said the real story from the event was the $8,000 the association awarded to four college-bound students.
Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com and a contributing editor to sandiego.com. His Web site (sandiegoDTOWN.com) is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.