Report on District 7 Candidates Forum
by Jamarhl Crawford, Blackstonian Editor/Publisher
The forum was held at the Roxbury YMCA and was hosted by several sponsoring organizations; The New Democracy Coalition in conjunction with The Center for Church and Prison, Union of Minority Neighborhoods, The College for Public and Community Service, VoteCorps and The New Commonwealth Civic Forum.
All 6 Candidates who are on the ballot were invited to participate in this forum. The only candidate who did not show for the forum was Althea Garrison. Tito Jackson arrived late as he had another event scheduled at the same time. Haywood Fennell was also allowed to participate in the forum even though he is a write-in candidate and his name will not appear on the Feb. 15th Ballot.
From left to right the panel consisted of: Roy Owens, Danielle Renee Williams, Haywood Fennell, Cornell Mills, Natalie Carrithers and Tito Jackson.
The forum was well attended with approximately 125 people in attendance from all walks of life and various ages.
Officials in attendance were: State Rep. Carlos Henriquez, State Rep. Russell Holmes, Sen. Bill Owens, and Councillor Bruce Bolling.
Many in attendance were veteran Roxbury activists and organizers such as; Sarah Ann Shaw, Bruce Bickerstaff, Louis Elisa, Eddie Jenkins, Donovan Walker, Rev. Chris Womack and more.
The forum began with each panelist answering a 3 part question, which very early revealed the difficulty of getting folks to stay on message and answer the questions directly, rather than going off on tangents and offering anecdotal illustrations.
Rather than doing a blow by blow account, I will provide my own brief review of each candidates performance.
– Let me just say, I don’t like this man. I have seen Roy Owens for over 7yrs run each time a seat for City Council has opened. I have heard him spout erroneous statistics and flawed facts. Last night was no different. Roy Owens (NO relation to Sen. Bill Owens) stated that he is the only candidate who believes in God and is Anti-Abortion. That seemed to be his main platform as he referred to it for each subject. Owens spoke in fragmented sentences using broken English and seemed to have several incoherent thoughts. Several times he either misunderstood questions or chose to completely disregard and provide his own answers. The Blackstonian not only does not support Roy Owens, but views him as an example of one of the problems with American Democracy and that is the fact that anybody can run with not so much as a spelling test or for that matter a Rorschach test.
Danielle Renee Williams – Ms. Williams started off weakly but then seemed to perk up as the forum went on. Initially she had some difficulty expressing herself and stumbled over a few responses but her sincerity was evident. Overall Ms. Williams did not capture the crowd or present any ideas that inspired a great deal of confidence. She seemed soft-spoken and nervous which eroded her overall presence and made one question her ability.
Haywood Fennell – For anyone that knows Haywood, he was his usual self. Mr. Fennell spoke on his years of service to the community, his incarceration and subsequent life change, his military service and his writing of both books and plays to enhance culture in the community for our youth. Haywood got the crowd fired up on several occasions with impassioned statements using both humor and colloquialisms to make his point. Haywood focused on organizing the community to face issues. As a write-in candidate who did not make the proper deadline for 191 signatures it could cause some to question his organizational capabilities.
Cornell Mills – By admission I am an unabashed Cornell Mills supporter. All I will say here is that it was my opinion, and the opinion of many others in the room, that Mills outperformed his counterparts in presentation, experience and in concrete plans for the community.
Natalie Carrithers – Ms. Carrithers was very animated and displayed a very outgoing personality. Ms. Carrithers engaged the crowd during several exchanges and at the appropriate times solicited responses from the crowd of laughter, head nodding and I think I even heard an “Amen” and a “You Go Girl” in there.
Tito Jackson – I will focus slightly more on Tito Jackson here because I know him and have supported him in the past for his bid at an At-Large Council seat and because he was called the front runner by media and early on dubbed the appointed “successor” by Chuck Turner.
Tito did reasonably well. His performance was not the best I have seen from him as he stumbled through a few statements and faced a few tough questions from the audience. Jackson focused on his work with Gov. Deval Patrick and spoke of relationships and sitting at the table. His overall personality as the affable, often self-deprecating “nice guy” was on display throughout the night drawing laughs from the crowd as he spoke of his Jackson 5 Point Plan and talked about not being related to Michael. The Blackstonian has 2 concerns about Tito 1) Does his personality make it difficult for people to take him seriously? 2) Will the enemies of the community respect and fear him as a champion of the people and does he have a hard side to deal with them?
Rated by performance and crowd response
1. Cornell Mills
2. Natalie Carrithers
3. Haywood Fennell
4. Tito Jackson
5. Danielle Renee Williams
Major themes all candidates spoke on: Crime/Violence, Education, Employment/Job Creation, Housing
Secondary Themes: Youth, Elderly, Veterans, Mentoring
All candidates were continually asked how they would deal with and confront Mayor Menino on issues where the City comes into conflict with the community.
Fact Checks —————————————
Roy Owens stated that he created DSNI in his bedroom – This is a lie that he has been stating for the past several years and no one has finally put this to rest. Owens continually stated that he is the only candidate who “Believes in God and is against Abortion” I wonder how he knows that.
Natalie Carrithers stated she would put “Elected vs. Appointed” School Committee on the ballot. City Councillors don’t just put things on a ballot that is done by referendum. It is quite a process actually to have either a binding or non binding question added to the ballot, it would need to go through City Council (entire body vot
e) then the Mayor’s Office then to the State Legislature. A question can be initiated by the public with 10 signers then it would need to go through City Council then the Mayor’s Office… if either the Council or Mayor do not approve then the group would need to get a few signatures on a petition. 30,000 signatures to be exact.
Tito Jackson stated that he created “2500 jobs” during his tenure with Gov. Deval Patrick. When working for a Governor is it fair to say that you created or you were working a job which had you administer jobs that were created?
In another statement Tito referred to the legacy of his Father Herb “Kwaku” Jackson and alluded that he would “Shut Down” work sites that were not compliant with Minority, Women & Resident guidelines. I would like to see if in fact Tito Jackson would conduct activism to disrupt business for the sake of community. If this is in fact the case I would think that it would have been exhibited by now. The issues that Kwaku championed have not gone away, rather in his absence they have been exacerbated.