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Long shortchanged, voters now get real choices

Long shortchanged, voters now get real choices

By Joe Fitzgerald  |   Monday, February 14, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Columnists

When the six candidates vying to replace banished city councilor Chuck Turner met last week in what was billed as a “speed dating” forum, much was made of the format that had them table-hopping among attendees, providing maximum interaction with the voting public.

What a terrific idea. Nothing helps the political process more than an informed electorate.

Not much was said about the site, however, which was too bad, because if the walls of old Hibernian Hall could have spoken, what stories they would have told about a time in this city’s history when “power to the people” had real meaning.

Those flats, row houses and triple-deckers now comprising much of District 7 were once home to a disenfranchised Irish population, until James Michael Curley led flocks of cleaning ladies and day laborers to the polls where their votes eventually changed the face of City Hall.

A decade ago when Eddie Jenkins, a dynamic Roxbury lawyer, ran for Suffolk District Attorney and lost to Dan Conley, his disappointed staff contended Eddie fell short because he “needed an extra 40,000 white votes.” No mention was made of the 100,000 dormant votes that languished in the barren wards of Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester where window posters, lawn signs and bumper stickers were virtually non-existent.

It wasn’t racism that cost Eddie a shot at that office; it was apathy.

A year later veteran District 4 city councilor Charles Yancey, the only colleague to oppose Turner’s well-deserved expulsion, was challenged by newcomer Ego Ezedi, an associate pastor at Mattapan’s Morning Star Baptist Church. Yancey denounced him as the white man’s candidate, which was scurrilous as well as ridiculous, given that Ezedi was the son of Nigerian parents.

What Yancey was implying was that a black incumbent shouldn’t be challenged by another black.

“That black-against-black thing bothered me,” Ezedi admitted. “But it was Pastor (John) Borders who finally convinced me. He said, ‘Why would you turn away from the district rather than run against another black man? In South Boston they do this all the time. McGillicuddy takes on Murphy, each one putting his message out, and whichever one wins, the community comes out stronger. That’s why they have such great participation over there. Why shouldn’t we have that here, too?’ ”

Tomorrow District 7 will have exactly that, with Tito Jackson, Cornell Mills, Roy Owens, Althea Garrison, Danielle Williams, and Natalie Carithers offering clear and exciting choices to voters who’ve been shortchanged too long.

May it be the dawning of a new and mighty day.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1316517

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