Let me start by saying that what you are about to read are my thoughts and opinions and as always you have the choice to read, disagree, disregard, accept, believe what you want.
I’ve spent my 41.5 years calling Boston home. Politics/civics has been in my household since I was a child. I’ve worked for and with elected officials. I’ve worked with non-profit and service organizations across Boston as well as hundreds of people that make it all go. I’ve run for public office five times. I ran for Boston City Council District 7 seat in 2007 and 2009. I ran for State Representative for the 5th Suffolk District in 2010 in which I was elected. 2012, I ran successfully for re-election. And most recently for City Council in District 7 in 2017. I have in the period between 2007 and today, served in different capacity on campaigns ranging from Governor to Registrar of Deeds. I’ve been in and around politics in Boston and beyond.
In 2007, the only members of generation X that had run for office that looked like me at the time of my first run were Ego Ezedi and Emmanuel Bellengarde and former state rep and senator Linda Dorcena Forry. This was the beginning of seeing a generation begin to be more deeply involved as we reached our late 20s and early 30s. A trend seen all across the country. This trend led to political competition between generations as baby boomers, especially in communities lived in by people who identify as black. These communities traditionally were and are the most disconnected from political power and many of the electeds at the time were revered as “legends”. Some for their work, some for being the first to be able to win and hold positions deemed powerful that we (reads: black people) had never held before due to many reasons but mostly institutional racist practices, including but not limited to “gerrymandering”, which is in some ways what opened the seat for Linda Dorcena Forry’s election indirectly (she had nothing to do with the gerrymandering).
11 years later, the majority of elected seats in the city of Boston are held by members of generation X regardless of race or ethnicity. The City Council is younger. The Boston delegation at the State House is younger than it has been in the past.
Now new leaders continue to emerge.
I believe leaders are defined by their actions and you may not agree. I don’t believe all leaders are good, principled, fair, trustworthy, unbiased people. I don’t believe any being to be all those things all the time. For me, that is an ideal perspective that excludes reality. I just don’t operate in that space. Some leaders are elected, appointed, self anointed and this is in all fields that mingle with politics in Boston.
Lately, many of have witnessed some of the negative exchanges happening between activists at different levels around city politics.
I believe folks are entitled to feel however they feel. But feelings are not facts. They are not interchangeable with facts but at times I think that people blur the line. I’m going to walk that line.
I believe, if I and ten civically active friends, form a group and decide we are going to come up with relevant questions to ask candidates who campaign in our neighborhoods, so that we and those that follow our civic work can be better informed about the decision they make, I believe we are well within our rights as individuals.
If you receive that questionnaire as a candidate that has received over 12 others similar from other self formed civic groups to which you responded but this particular one you deem to be bullying, it raises concerns for me and makes me want to know why you feel that way. If supporters co-sign the campaign message adding slurs about the character of the people in that group and attach nefarious intentions without presenting any proof then I’m concerned and as part of civic groups like that, i’m bothered personally by baseless attacks. I’m bothered for a few reasons even as I am empathetic.
Allow me to digress, losing an election sucks. I’m 2-3*. I get it better than most I believe. You ask strangers for money, time, you give up almost 9 months if not more with friends and family in tow. But this is what it is. This is what you signed up to do and maybe no one told you, maybe you are not prepared for it, maybe it’s not for you, maybe you didn’t ask but criticism, opinions, losses, are all part of the risk of electoral politics.
I say that to say, if you are in local politics, there are personalities at work. Check your biases. You need to know that just because you are related to a candidate, that, by default , doesn’t make them the best candidate. Period. It’s the only the one you like best. You may believe they are the best but you’re biased. You would look funny if your aunt/uncle was running and you are campaigning for the other candidate. I get it. But if you push that bias towards others or me without even acknowledging your bias, don’t expect me to accept it without merit. I have friends who support candidates different from who I support. We respectfully disagree, work around each other and return without damaging each other because our friendship and the needs of our community are bigger than one person and their personality or those around them.
If you have a problem with a person, address it. If you have a problem with the process, address it. If you think someone is harming the community or people in it, address it. Just make sure you have something solid. For me to respect it, I need more than rhetoric or platitudes.
I have no problem with conflict. I believe conflict to be natural. I am writing to share what I think should be understood about these civic/political disagreements and the behavior that goes with it. So without belaboring the point, I’m going to name a few things I have personally witnessed in past and recent present that trouble me and I think trouble the community. I’m not claiming right or wrong. I’m talking about what’s problematic to me in no particular order. I share these with the hopes it will further a dialogue about things many of us speak about privately and have yet to resolve.
Pastors in politics – The clergy in black communities have historically been conveners. Churches being safe places and the center for civics when it was the only place black people could meet in groups. Those days are no more. But the clergy’s influence remains. I believe in many cases, they, whether intentionally or not, usurp authority from the black elected officials in the Boston. I believe they should encourage civic participation for their congregants. But, when I have witnessed pastors up to the dozens, endorse and support political candidates and campaigns, I think it can be damaging to the communities political power.
Not the mayor nor any other elected official in Boston can walk into a church and decide the best sermon to preach, which deacon should be promoted, what message to preach on Sunday and so on. But I’ve witnessed on numerous occasions, clergy without speaking to elected officials who represent the communities where the house of worship resides make those decisions. Does the clergy know policy better than the elected ? Does the clergy have a side by side working relationship around policy and/or budget ? Was there a process that they can point to in their selection ? Did their congregants participate ? I could go on but you get the point, hopefully. It is a conversation that I believe needs to be had. My belief is it needs to stop especially without cooperation or collaboration from the local elected leadership.
Another issue I’ve seen my father live through, that I live through and others I will share.
I watched my father serve his community giving to others even when it meant taking resources out of his own household creating real family stress. I remember the things some from the community said about him for working for Daniel Burke, a former member of the Boston School Committee. Similar things were said and whispered when I worked for Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty in 2005.
“He’s a sell out.” “He works for the white man.” “Can’t trust him.” “He ain’t as loud as he was before, his activism has changed” things like that. You’ve heard it before. These sentiments are being circulated now still. So let me be clear about my boundaries with my friends (both real and social media).
Sell outs exist, no doubt. But like I said, you have to have more than just calling someone a name. Speaking for self, if you think that my working for a non profit or administration or white person makes me a sell out, it’s best if we don’t speak and stay separate. If you believe that perceived “friends of your enemy” are your “enemy”, it’s probably best if we don’t speak and stay separate. I’m not sure when folks self selected themselves for moral authority but I do not accept it.
I will not accept that the tens of thousands of people who have worked in government and non profits and have spent their lives not only working but serving their community while they worked whether they are the chief of health and human services or a laborer at public works. I will not denigrate or diminish their work and slander their character by painting thousands with the same brush.
Is the activist the same when elected ? How bout as a parent ? How bout when sick ? No. Do you talk to your mother the same at 40 as you did at 14? No. Do you talk and move the same when children are around versus all adults ? No. – In activism, we are not all to act the same, but hopefully towards the same goal. But if you are telling me I have to do it the way you deem appropriate when you deem it appropriate or else you will diminish my work and reputation then you are operating on a different frequency than me and we cannot build together. And generally speaking I’m perfectly fine with that, for those that think we have to be “all together”.
I’m a mature adult black latino man with a history of service to my community and city at various levels. I expect those around me to engage me with maturity and intelligence. If you are unable to, one way or another we will separate. I do not believe in 100% unity around complex issues. So, to those who continue to engage in what I deem as destructive or non-constructive behavior, we will separate soon if we haven’t already.
If you are unable to acknowledge and check your biases. If you encourage this behavior you will notice the distance, or I may ask you directly why do you support that behavior if we are close enough to dialogue. No judgement, just dialogue and if deemed necessary, distance.
Where do we go from here ? This is the question asked when you are lost or have a decision to make. You took a wrong turn or have been impacted in a way that caused you to lose your sense of direction.
There’s no smart phone with a global positioning system. It’s just you or you and those in your traveling party. You don’t ask the person who was asleep during most of the trip. You don’t ask the person in a panic who thinks you’re all going to die now. The faithful may look to the sky and ask for a sign which may or may not come. So what do you do? Secure your position, inventory your provisions and then think about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen. See what worked and isolate where you went wrong.
The universe’s favorite shape is the circle. Pay attention to circles. We all have them. I focus on 2 in particular.
My circle of concern: since Quincy Jones put all my favorite singers in the room in 1985, my circle of concern grew to a global size at the age of 9. As time passed, it included apartheid, human rights, etc…I quickly found that I could only influence these things in small ways. Not buying gas at Shell until they divested. Making a small donation of my allowance to the Salvation Army during the holidays. It bothered me that I couldn’t do more. It wasn’t until I was introduced to community organizing that I got a new circle…
My circle of influence: I learned I could influence teens, my peers, my neighbors. I could influence what party we went to, what that vacant lot should be, how to get a park cleaned, etc. I could see the results of my work in almost real-time. It got good to me. I wanted more. I organized more. Fast forward to 2005 I took a job with a city councilor. Learned local city politics. Organized more. Ran afterschool programs in the community for youth. Learned about their needs and development. Organized more. Ran for city council, lost, organized more. Ran again, lost again, you guessed it…organized more. Each endeavor taught me more. Each effort grew my circle of influence. 3rd time running was a charm. Let the smile in the picture be evidence of that. I found myself making changes where it mattered most. Locally. My circle of influence was growing and I could now have greater impact on my circle of concern. I could organize better. I could advocate for youth development and for those most needing support. I could motivate peers, teens, neighbors to believe that their local action made a difference. Hell, I won that primary by 41 votes, no electoral college, just every vote counting.
4 years later, I found myself lost. Falsely accused, wrong fully convicted and illegally and unconstitutionally expelled from the 5th Suffolk State Representative seat. Lost, wondering what mistakes I made. Should I have expected a woman to set me up ? Could my outspokenness on certain issues made me a target ? Was I being used as a distraction from larger, systemic legal issues playing out in the State House ? I was lost. My circle I had worked so hard to build with so many involved was shrinking again. My influence diminished. My reputation, tarnished. Lost. For the first time in my life wondering how I would find work, what kind of work it would be.
So many thoughts and concerns, my circles were crossed and I was lost. I had to retrace my steps. I had to shut out those who were asleep for the journey. I had to ignore the rubberneckers who slowed down enough to watch the wreck but not get out and help. I spoke to those who were with me riding shotgun. Those who showed love when my influence was just what party we went to as kids. I got my bearings. Figured out where I was on the road and started doing what I knew. Organizing. Growing my circle of influence. Continuing the commitment I made to my community.
So as i watch members of my community for months fight each other over national party candidates and even local ballot questions, as I watch people share their sadness about the realities of our country and our political system, I ask that you check your circles. Separate concern from influence. Start local, organize, grow until influence begins to gain on concern. And when you’re lost. Stop, assess things, secure yourself and provisions and check in with those that have been on the same journey for directions.
Lost, wondering where do we go from here ? Local. Start organizing. Want to learn more about how ? I consult for free for community members: Los@stillreppin.com
ps. 2017 is a campaign year, locally (Mayor and Boston City Council)
Allow me to get my political pundit on…
We’ll start at the top of the pyramid. The presidency. About 50% of Americans vote. 2 candidates then campaign for the majority of those ballots = the popular vote. Then there is the electors aka electoral college. But by the time you reached college age whether you attended or not you forgot, ignored or didn’t know at all that the electoral college has been in place basically since the beginning of this country. It probably didn’t matter to you as long as things went your way.
National politics is like religion and racism which un-ironically both play a major part in the founding and continuance of power in this country and this election cycle. Most of us are born into it. Most of us say we chose/choose but that’s arguable. You more than likely share the belief system of your parents. You are a democrat or republican because your parents are. You are a Baptist, protestant, or catholic because your parents raised you to be. You are most likely Jewish or Muslim because you were raised to be. Not in all cases but most. You’re a bigoted sexist because your grandfather, father and mother are/were as were their parents. This is how most belief systems are formed. Many don’t have the insight nor guts to challenge their belief systems so they either double down and subscribe to them or develop cognitive dissonance.
This was on full display this election cycle, especially exhibited similarly with those supporting Trump and Hillary. I know that stung a little.
On the one hand, “the deplorables” were seen exhibiting behavior that has been present in America since it’s inception. Race based attacks, religious intolerance, sexist behavior.
On the other hand “the moderates” were exhibiting the denial of these very same behaviors existing in our country until Trump’s popularity soared, while at times exhibiting behavior that have also been present and persistent throughout our history. We are not and have never been “post-racial”and if the only time your are this emotional about it is when you have skin in the game, then human rights might not really be your thing.
Most Trump supporters can only quote sound bites that have nothing to do with the policy or work of a president-elect Trump. They didn’t care that while suffering poverty for generations that the man promising to bring jobs back to America sends most of his to Mexico and China and represents the ruling wealthy class that does so also. As long as he spoke to their belief system which has been shaped since the English arrived in Virginia.
Most Clinton supporters could overlook a past that fought against civil rights as a college student. A FLOTUS position that called their children super predators and policy support that further tore apart the families in the very communities they live. The financial benefit from human tragedy in Haiti, the close ties to Wall Street and military action the world over including the assassination of heads of sovereign states which in America would be called terrorism. As long as she spoke to their belief system that she was “progress” and the “lesser of two evils”.
Affirmation is much easier to accept than to have your belief system challenged. Especially if affirmation is your love language. And as Facebook has shown us, affirmation is a very popular love language. But my love is conditional and I cannot overlook certain behaviors and not see them for what they are.
When “progressives” are berating Bernie Sanders and 3rd party supporters for wasting votes. Calling them stupid, traitors, etc. That is intolerance. When folks are looking to blame another individual or group for them losing the fight, it is because those folks confidently stood opposed to their beliefs. They didn’t sit down and make a heartfelt case for Clinton, they took on the position of privilege and behaviors of the oppressor.
I was raised a democrat. I am registered as a democrat. I have served as a state legislator as a democrat. I have also shared many beliefs with republicans while in office and in my personal life. I don’t default democrat. I have listened to Malcolm X’s speech “Ballot or the Bullet” over a dozen times. I had to then challenge my belief system. (I am more independent than democrat.) And I’ve seen it in practice. In recent history, people of color and “progressives” default democrat. And because they do, it lowers the value of their political power reducing them to “political chumps” as Malcolm X put it. It also weakens the party. As a state representative, I have sat in meetings with candidates for US Congress and Senate who have almost no presence in my community ask colleagues and I to endorse them and ask our constituents to do the same. They pay $12 an hour for residents whom they’ve never spoken to and will never again to hold signs and wear t-shirts. For almost nothing in the way of political favor in return. It is this behavior that cost Martha Coakley her race to Scott Brown and it is what cost Hillary Clinton her race against Donald Trump. People get tired of being chumps. I know I did. To assume I will vote for you because of my party, because the black president asked me to, because my favorite rapper asked me to, to make history is insulting to me. I didn’t support the practice as a public official and I won’t as a private citizen.
I didn’t vote for Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein, Harambee or Hennessy. I blanked the presidential ballot. 1. Because I couldn’t in good faith over look the harm they have done or would do to me and my community. 2. They didn’t speak to me, or my love language, or even my community in a genuine way. 3. I understand that Massachusetts is not a swing state, that it will go democrat and my ballot will not swing the electoral college vote. If I lived in Florida or Ohio, I may have considered a different action but I don’t.
I blanked president. I blanked congressman. (I like Capuano’s politics but want to send a message that he’s not speaking to my community). I blanked Governor’s council. Register of Deeds. (because they didn’t speak to my community which I find disrespectful). I voted for Sheriff, all 5 ballot questions and wrote my name in for State Representative in the 5th Suffolk because I’m Stillreppin.
I’m not here calling the play by play, just giving you my color commentary !
Half a block away from the City of Boston’s 1010 Mass Ave location and Boston’s Public Health Commission sits Clifford Park.
Clifford Park is a wonderful expanse of land. On it sits 2 tot lots, 2 baseball diamonds, a tennis court, basketball court and practice football field. This field is used by many area residents and is also the home practice field for Roxbury’s own pop warner football team the Bengals.
For too long however, this park has been left unnattended by the city and as it now sits in what is known as the “methadone mile” has become a dangerous haven for open drug and alcohol abuse.
Coaches, parents, residents and most important the children, have seen too much of this for too long.
Today on October 12, 2016, over two dozen residents placed calls/issues with the city’s neighborhood services through 617-635-4500 / 311 / or the app BOS311. The reception of these calls ranged from “good” to “they seemed annoyed” to “rude”. Case numbers were assigned many prior to 1:30p. By 4:30p, some of these cases were being closed out due to “no findings”. This is very concerning because other residents and I visited Clifford Park today after 2:00p and found all of the things listed in complaints within 10 minutes of just walking through the park at different times. For a video of the walk, click here and here.
To me this says,
- a. no one was sent
- b. whoever was sent doesn’t/didn’t do their job
- c. poor communication between city and residents
- d. a mix of the above
Heroin needles, caps, baggies, human feces, alcohol bottles, broken glass, addicts actively sticking needles in their arm all easily seen in broad day light at 3:45pm today.
I have sent a letter to the the Office of Neighborhood services requesting an immediate and sustained plan of resolution that includes a full cleaning of the park, regular maintenance and increased policing.
Im interested in how long it takes them to respond and how efficient the response will be.
I thank the dozens of concerned residents who took swift action when made aware of the issue. You’re sustained engagement will make a difference in our community.
Let me say it again. Winner gets no guarantees like Joe and Chico DeBarge. Once again, the inactivity of some powerful politicians has allowed private interests to position them as fight promoters while putting their money on fighters in local elections in Roxbury, Cambridge, on TV during NFL football, radio, everywhere but in the classrooms.
The fight around question 2 is just shy of an exercise in futility. Now, I could get Neil Degrasse Tyson on you but I’m going to keep it simple because so many experts complicate it. A few facts.
The current formula that helps fund charter schools takes dollars from the BPS budget.
Most charter schools open in poor communities of color where schools are under performing and have been under performing.
Not enough has been done to keep the schools from under performing. See 1980s, 90s, 2000s, to today. Put that on whoever you like, politicians, teachers unions, parents, the case can be made. I’m not saying it’s right, but one can be made. You’ve heard them all.
Charters have been cleverly marketed as an alternative equalling quality schools.
Charters schools do not guarantee quality, even as they brag about how there is a waiting list. Sometimes there’s a line at McDonald’s but that doesn’t mean it’s for the high quality they are serving right ? Just hungry customers.
So, parents want what’s best for their children. Or at least what they believe to be best. So when staring at the choices of a lottery pick that will win their child a seat in a long time under performing school or the idea of a charter school that might give them 1 more shot at quality for their child, it may look appealing. How could it not ?
The catch. The charter school pays teachers less. You might see that as good or bad depending on your perspective. Their suspension rates in inner city areas and communities of color are definitely something to question. They do not do much to serve children with special needs. But they seem to be receiving alot of money from large corporate donors. You be the judge.
Full disclosure: as a Rep, I voted in 2011/12 to allow more (limited) charter schools with the idea to add some choice while we leveled the field with funding.
Now, 4 years later it is a ballot question. Because funding wasn’t fixed on Beacon Hill. Instead parents take time out of their day to fight other parents for the best shot at a chance for a high quality education for their child/ren. They either want to protect their child’s chances in BPS, especially if their child has special needs. Maybe even protect the majority of students which will remain at BPS as they are already short on resources, crowded classrooms and under performing.
Or maybe they want to protect their most valuable possession by getting more choice for their child/ren by supporting the expansion of charter schools. Maybe they’ve had enough of the BPS shortcomings and are unwilling to risk it but can look the other way about the funding and other issues. Because let’s face it. Parents love their children like no others. Understandable.
In the end it’s parent vs. parent all for neither getting the guarantee of a high quality education for their offspring. As if parents don’t have enough to deal with in this city. On November 9th, the day after, maybe we will get back to improving the schools (BPS & charter) that children are already attending.
Everyone else has skin in the game, teachers and their unions, corporations, elected officials funded by these corporate interest groups, elected officials funded by unions, advocates, but the parents, parents are all in ! They deserve better. And so do their children.
The question was: What’s the inside scoop on galvanizing fellow legislators to push bills and pass legislation. What’s the low down on what you are not able to actually vote on. How much stuff from inner city legislators get kiboshed in committees? Why are some politicians in positions for decades and very rarely co/sponsor legislation (no *shade)
In 2006/7 separately I asked Mel King, Chuck Turner and Dianne Wilkerson about the “Black Political Task Force” because I heard about it growing up. I liked the idea of power in numbers. Their responses varied. Councilor Turner gave me an answer but he didn’t want to throw *shade, so he kept it light. Senator Wilkerson smiled and said, I’m paraphrasing…it’s harder than it looks to keep that group together. Representative King’s response is the most memorable. It’s 2007, I’m running against his mentee, Councilor Turner. I’m trying to impress upon him my goals and why I am in it. I’m not looking for an endorsement just to build so he knows I’m serious about our people and the struggle. On the park bench on Columbus Ave between his home and Tent City we sat. When I told him I’m looking to revive that kind of body and power to our community he said, “when you wake up in the morning what’s the very first thing you do to get up?” I said “put my feet on the floor.” He said “do that first and then work on the rest”. It would be years before I pulled that idea out of the parking lot again. But he was absolutely right.
2011, I enter the Massachusetts House of Representatives. I enter with freshman Representative Russell Holmes of the 6th Suffolk District (parts of Mattapan, Roslindale, Dorchester). We had spent some time as Reps-elect and built on this idea and the energy we would bring to the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. The caucus members are Black or Latino, sometimes Black and Latino. They represent districts where the majority of residents identify as the same. It included the Senate also. At the time, lone Senator Chang Diaz. 8-10 of us tops in the House out of 160. 1 of 40 in the Senate. After we would choose a small handful of bills out of the 20 or more we each believed to be important, proposed by us as individual legislators, we would have maybe 5-8 bills, “most critical”. Hold that. I’ll go deeper on another post. And it ain’t hopeless, just hard.
To pass a bill into law: file the bill. bill gets assigned to a committee. bill may or may not come before the committee for a hearing. that is determined by committee chair who is on the “leadership” team which means they were appointed by the Speaker of the House. So either the Speaker or Chairperson decides to have it heard or not, have testimony and hold a vote to decide if it makes it to House floor or if it gets sent to study. “study” = maybe next year kid. Or it could get voted down by colleagues on that committee = maybe next year. The mechanics of getting your bill through committee are deeply political and I would have to charge you to reveal them all.
Then the committee on 3rd reading. All bills stop here before the House floor. It’s like quality control. Checks for errors, defects, effects, etc. Powerful committee. Many bills stop here for ever.
If your bill makes it through committee and onto the floor, a few things could happen. I will explain it in laymen terms to not bore you. It can get debated and voted on in a formal session (it’s kind of a big deal) and voted up or down or sent to…you guessed it “study”. It can get bundled, put with other bills and passed on a vote or even a voice vote aka slipped through or voted down. And when I say slipped through, it’s not that no one sees it, just not all 160 Reps see it. It could be leadership of both parties and 20 Reps who took the time to go to an informal session. Big votes happen in formal session. I may have to charge for this post.
If it passes the House like the Check Cashing Bill that I sponsored with Alexandra Khaveci. Then all it has to do, is go through that whole process again in the Senate. Make it through that and it winds up on the Governor’s desk for the final John Hancock, if he chooses to sign it. Some bills start in the Senate and do the same process towards the House. The Check Cashing Bill has passed the House in a session. The Senate in the most recent. But not yet both in the same session.
10 reps galvanized moving policy amongst 200 who do not all share the same values or priority, it is hard to pass a law. The average is 6 years. Sound ridiculous? It probably is in some regard. Much of it gets the kibosh in committees. As a matter of fact:
At the end of this session in Aug 2016. 3-4 criminal justice reform bills that would address the issues we are seeing nationally with police were “sent to study” – We will come back to this. Did you know that ? Did your Rep or Senator tell you about that ? I heard Representative Russell Holmes mention it on WCVB during the #raceinBoston discussion.
So everything above this sentence is fact. Below it you will find my opinion mixed in.
In my opinion, more info needs to come from the Senators & Reps at the State House around bills and process in general but specifically these bills I just mentioned, much more. And more needs to be done in the community to bring these bills forward, but nothing moves there until January so we have time to build but not much.
Politicians are in positions for decades in short because the voters put them there and keep them there. I would say all sponsor/cosponsor legislation. I would say most of their constituents have no idea on what and that comment cuts both ways. As detailed above, it’s not easy to cross the goal line. However, in Congress and state levels in most cases seniority gets you rises in rank and influence, as in, you should be chairing committees. Representative Rushing has been in since ’83, he is the majority WHIP. He is on the Speaker’s leadership team, towards the top of that team. But that is not always the case. At the city level, chairs are chosen by council president and seniority is not a factor, it’s all politics there, that’ll be covered in “The Boston 5”.
I believe the majority of voters don’t know the details and intricacies of what I have detailed in this post. And there’s so much more. So, no tangible, measurable expectation is set. It becomes very subjective. Do they support your events, come to your cookout, are they in the paper, knocking your door, do you see them, gender, nationality, does pastor support them, what’s their last name, whose kid is that, did they speak to you, down to hair and clothes. And I’m not saying those things aren’t real but those shouldn’t supersede deliverables like proposing and passing legislation, increasing budgets, educating and organizing districts, changing policy and codes. . .So you get used to a name. They come to your event, they’re accessible, you like being on the winning team and knowing the winner, next thing you know 20 years have passed and a generation of political talent has left for the DMV or further or been disenfranchised.
“shade” is slang for saying something negative
“session” = a legislative session (Jan- Aug on election years) possibly 2 during non election years
Summary of the question posed was; why are many of the bills that are sometimes detrimental to our community written in such complicated legal language, which makes it hard to decipher.
It wasn’t until I became a state legislator did I gain a new respect/understanding for lawyers and law school. The saying, “the devil is in the details” is definitely applicable.
Law is written is a coded language that most untrained eyes struggle to decipher.
When you are writing a bill/law it must be very specific and defined to do its job and hold up in court.
However, all legislators get a summary of each bill. They can also do the often required work to dig deeper and learn the effects of these bills and communicate that summary to their constituents. Legislators in both the House and Senate have not only the clerk but a legal office at their disposal to go line by line to learn how each ammendment/bill works.
They can, as I did bring in constituents like Alex Khaveci who wrote the “Check cashing bill” which if passed would limit what you can be charged. Or Jamarhl Crawford who has been working on legislation for the rights of fathers. Together you can write, or learn the legal language of the bill.
In my opinion, this is not done enough. Not only is it not done enough but like I stated without then communicating it to those you represent, those impacted, you are not doing enough in my opinion.
Now, that’s not necessarily easy but I’ll come back to that. There are other resources available. Your local NAACP chapter has a legal committee hopefully staffed with lawyers who volunteer to read critical bills that impact communities of color. If you or a legislator has a good working relationship that is another good Avenue.
The habitual offender bill aka “3 strikes bill” followed a course like this. Plenty of legalese. I and others had worries of its impact to the residents in our districts as well as tax payers across Massachusetts. I learned the bill. I met with law office and other legal experts including a member of Boston NAACP legal committee. When explained in laymens terms, I clearly saw what I considered dangerous and harmful flaws.
The next steps were to work with community leaders, advocates and residents to inform, educate and organize changes to the bill. And in my opinion even that wasn’t enough. There are 160 Reps and 40 Senators. Most of them did not come from nor represent communities like mine. So after informing like minded, like district colleagues, I organized an info session for my colleagues in the House with legislators from South Carolina and Texas I believe, who had been down this road of criminal justice reform, former wardens, Rashaan Hall (ACLU at the time), Stephanie Soriano Mills (NAACP at the time) and others who could speak to the real impact of the bill as it stood.
Changes were made. Not enough. I still voted against it but the changes that were made, made the bill much less harmful than it would’ve been had those steps not been taken.
It is the job of your representative to make the legalese easy for you. If they are not…I recommend you check your representation.
A footnote: not all legislators have a law background some were teachers, salesperson, organizers, etc. Legislators with legal backgrounds don’t necessarily make good either. They may be law and order or may not understand what it means or takes to do the job. But either way. The tools are there, the job is theirs to do. The community must decide if they’re happy with what they are getting.
Earlier I said it wasn’t easy. As a Rep, I had one paid staff person full time. Interns were a bonus that you had to get and manage on your own if you saw fit. How you create capacity in your office, through colleagues, caucuses and community isn’t easy but in my opinion possible and a must. Or you’re just not reppin it right.
Those block captains aka bosses are who elected official seek out during campaigns.
Politics like many things is a game of numbers. In essence everyone is a politician of some sort. Whether its your family, friends, congregation, union, or supper club, you have a constituency. The larger your influence is over your group the more valuable electeds and other leaders will find you. In Boston’s communities of color, pastors for good or bad get involved in politics (favor, grants, power) aside. The reason they wield influence isn’t for their moral stewardship of the community or for their sage advice. They have a steady constituency. Each Sunday, a couple of hundred folks gather. This is influence. If I can get in front of your congregation and earn what sounds and feels like an endorsement from pastor but of course isn’t, because that would be in violation of their non profit status, that sways congregants.
In my time as an elected, I was uncomfortable with this particular trade off. First because I found it intrusive to those going to church for fellowship and the good word. I rather engage you on the sidewalk outside in the community streets. I told you I’m 10 toes down in these streets. Secondly, I think pastors in Boston’s communities of color usurp alot of influence from the electeds. But I’ll get to that at a later date. But I get it. Historically, in communities of color, church was the only sanctuary to meet so almost all community business was done there. Besides, where else can you find a couple of hundred folks gathered weekly in these same communities in fellowship ? No where else. Another topic for another time.
Unions endorse because you agree to support them and they agree to support you. They grade you, track you, lobby you, protest you if you go rogue. They wield their power publicly. You’ve been following the BPD union and their statements around body cameras and militarized equipment recently? The leaders speak for their membership.
Some pay tithes, some pay dues, some pay both.
My point was before I digressed was that the larger your constituency, the larger your influence on this group, the more desireable you are politically and the more influence you may wield for the benefit of your group, your community or even your own selfish sinister goals. I’m just keeping it 300 with you.
Unions have political influence because of organized numbers. Pastors have influence because of organized numbers. Civic leaders have influence because of organized numbers.
You want to get a leg up ? Get organized. Grow your numbers.
boston globe photo above
local 26 photo above