We represent organizations across Massachusetts, including communities that Stand for Children now claims to represent. When a well-financed group like Stand for Children, backed by out-of-state and corporate money, arrives with a plan to “fix” our schools, but fails to consult with any of us or solicit our input, it raises deep concerns.
At a time when many of our organizations are struggling to provide essential services, or even to remain afloat, Stand spent more than $250,000 to essentially buy its way onto the November ballot — at $3 per signature and still had enough money left to blanket the state with radio, television and newspaper ads.
We now learn that Stand is backed by corporate foundations connected to Walmart, Bain Capital and JP Morgan Chase, and that your ballot initiative would diminish community voice, strip teachers of their rights, all the while failing to deal with many of the real issues confronting our children.
Had you consulted with any of our organizations and community leaders, we would have told you what our children need: A fair and substantive opportunity to learn in a safe environment. This consists of a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music, theater programs, vocational and technological training — not just test prep; an end to discipline practices that push our kids into the school to prison pipeline; and better programs, services and supports for our English language learners and special-needs students that respond to their genuine needs.
Most of all, our communities need more and better jobs so that our kids believe that school actually leads to something. Your ballot initiative addresses none of these needs.
We need a “real” conversation in Massachusetts about the best way to improve our schools, an honest, collaborative exchange that includes parents, students, teachers and the community. What we don’t need are phony sound bite “solutions” backed by big corporate money.
Stand: please respect our communities and withdraw your ballot question today.
The comments offered by Eric Esteves in response to my essay “Growing diversity demands dramatic redistricting reform,” published in the Bay State banner on May 31, 2012 deserve feedback for a number of important reasons.
First, while the writer in one instance ascribes to my ideas “noble and pragmatic,” he at the same time calls my perspective “off-base and borderline dangerous.” All in the first sentence!
At the very outset, the writer confusingly contradicts the logic of his argument, which we soon realize is nothing more than an aggregated assortment of non sequitors, misdirection and misstatement. The writer would do well in future responses by relying more on clear thinking and gaining a firmer grasp on the issue at hand.
Second, the writer is dismissive of my call for a united Mattapan neighborhood into a single council district seemingly because it happens to agree with parts of a redistricting plan offered by Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey.
The disastrous and misguided assumption the writer makes here is this: Because the idea of uniting Mattapan into a single district is offered by Councillor Yancey then it must be wrong and, therefore, I am wrong, too.
At best, the thinking expressed by the writer is unkind because it presumes a conspiratorial self-interest on behalf of Councillor Yancey. The writer alternatively suggests that Councillor Yancey, a city councilor for almost 30 years, may not understand redistricting at all.
Third, the writer implies that the suggestion that Mattapan be included in District 4 means that “district packing” is being proposed, and that this is ill advised. Here, again, false logical assumptions cloud the writer’s perspective. I never suggested, for example, that including the entirety of Mattapan into District 4 would mean that the district could not be reconfigured in other ways for adjusting and corrective effects.
But even if the writer was assuming that packing District 4 was my desire, he would be incorrect in assuming that “packing” for the purposes of increasing greater representation for so-called minorities is inappropriate. If the writer were fully apprised of ameliorative redistricting practices of the past — locally and nationally — it would become clear that “packing” in order to help historically disenfranchised groups is in order and, more saliently, a desired outcome.
Finally, the writer myopically suggests that creating additional so-called “minority-majority” districts is “not feasible” given the current demographics of the city. That statement is dead wrong. Boston is comprised of a majority of people of color. Based upon this reality, districts should be designed so that so-called minority voices can be heard directly through representation. Again, we are confronted with an astounding fact: while people of color make-up more than 50 percent of the city’s population, they represent only 16 percent of the elected district councilors in Boston.
In terms of city redistricting, the current district map — along with a number of proposed maps — clearly reflect voter suppression of blacks, Latinos and Asians. Armed with this reality, the current demography of the city can be creatively used to reconstruct districts from the present citywide diversity that will allow for a Latino or an Asian to be elected at the district level. Well-meaning nonprofit organizations such as MassVote, The Boston NAACP, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law and Access Strategies in Cambridge should prepare to sue if the voting rights of Asians and Latinos are violated.
If we fail to produce a city redistricting plan that allows for the full voter expression of Latino or Asian voters, all other alternatives reflect either our intellectual obsolescence or our acquiescence to the status quo of race-based electoral bias in Boston.
Kevin C. Peterson
New Democracy Coalition