^ door knocking, as she has been doing all campaign season : Mayor Kim Driscoll locked in a ferocious re-election campaign against challenger Paul Prevey

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Elections in the City of Salem may not rise to the importance of those in Boston, say; yet what has happened this year in Salem’s political annals reminds us that surfaces of calm and friendly conversation do not tell what is really going on.

Just as in the early 1990s the once united Yugoslavia erupted in violent division that descended rapidly into brutality and war, in which neighbors killed neighbors, so the placid, feel-good Salem of 2016, in which every sort of person proclaimed its love of every other sort, became, almost overnight, a city split in two. Here is what happened :

Early this year a City Councillor, David Eppley, proposed that Salem declare itself a Sanctuary City — a refuge for undocumented immigrants facing persecution by the Federal Immigration Police (ICE). The proposal genera5ed almost no pushback. Two years prior, Salem had adopted a similar ordinance, the “No Place for Hate” proclamation, in which Salem guaranteed to businesses and residents alike that there would be no discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, service, or facilities. This ordinance aroused no opposition, and an official ceremony hailing it was held in City Hall, featuring “Duchess Gigi,” the city’s now official drag queen. Very quickly, “Gigi” became a visible symbol of the city’s openness to all sorts of people and — just as significantly — a good place to do business.

“Gigi” went on to become one of Salem’s necessary spokespeople. She presided at all sorts of events, hosted others, and gathered a large following of Salemites who treasure the message her centrality in Salem life sends to all Salem visitors. It must have seemed to Eppley and his support group a no-brainer to now establish sanctuary City status. Yet no sooner had the Ci9ty Council begun debating the actual wording of the Sanctuary City act than opposition began to be heard from : the usual nay-sayers at first, but before on, all kinds of people who disliked the ordinance for a variety of reasons. When the much-reworked ordinance came up for a Council vote, 400 people showed up to speak in favor or against — about one third were opposed.

If you’ve read this far, you’re wondering, “when is the drama coming ? I want the drama !” And so it began.

The Council scheduled a hearing on the Sanctuary City ordinance. Hundreds of people showed. Much was said for and against. The Council voted 7 to 4 to approve it.

Within a week, opponents were gathering signatures to place the issue on this election year’s Salem ballot. They amassed over 5,000 signatures — almost a quarter of all voters.

With the issue put to the voters — whether Salem should welcome and shelter undocumented immigrants — all hell has broken loose. Charges and counter charges, plus every cliché argument against undocumenteds, from their being “illegal” to their supposed laziness, their alleged crime, etc. and etc. This would be all to say except that, in response, supporters of the ordinance — the “Yes On One”committee — have in turn attacked opponents as bigots, racists, and the like.

As the conflict heated to boiling, another, entirely separate issue stoked the mess : development. Salem has, in the past 12 years, seen major rebuilding of downtown as one old, beloved firetrap after another has met the demo team soon to e followed by the blandest sorts of five story box buildings a city has ever seen, much less liked. And the development boom continues, in many spots impacting long established residential neighborhoods and vulnerable small businesses run by local people Every development so proposed has generated ferocious conflict.

Did I forget to mention that the Mayor is up for re-election amidst all of this conflict ? As a determined supporter of development — and of the Sanctuary ordinance — Kim Driscoll, now seeking her third term, has had to fight several major battles at once. It is far from certain that shall can defeat her opponent, former Ward Six Councillor Paul Prevey.

Driscoll has campaigned hard from the start. She knew right away what was coming. Of late she has stepped up her campaign and now looks closer to victory than at the end of September. She is pulling out all the stops, using all the powers that a strong mayor city charter accords her. She hasn’t given an inch, either , of her two big commitments : to development and to the LGBT Q and immigrant peoples of Salem. One has to respect such fortitude. Few politicians have it.

She may be undermined, however, by her most fervent supporters. The “no Place for Hate:” committee have, in some quarters, become known as the anti-hate hate group. They themselves insist that the hate comes from their opponents, the “No On One” people. They may well be right: but it looks bad for a “No Place for Hate” team to throw verbal brickbats. The ground shakes beneath the missiles fired on social media by and opponents of the Sanctuary ordinance.

The “No Place for Hate” committee also seems to have an agenda of its won, liking the Mayor only in passing as it seeks to bend the Democratic party to the left on a host of issues. This is a familiar story in today’s America, and if Salem’s politics indicate anything, it’s that the impassioned, Trump-driven left turn of the most dedicated activists alienates a many voters as it wins.

Meanwhile, to the ordinary voters, none of this sounds much. Salem’s regular voters get up, eat breakfast, send the kids to school go to work, come home, eat, go to bed. They’ll vote, though. Whether the activists like it or not. The outcome will be what ? Impossible for me to predict right now.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ Harvey Weinstein. Until last week I had never heard of him, but in that short time he has become the icon of impulsive’s victory over due process in our once Constitutional democracy

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On two fronts, of late, I see people advocating stuff on social media that has no business in a Constitutional democracy. From the people now hounding one Harvey Weinstein, whoever he is, with judgment about what passed between him and women, to those who oppose gun regulation so that unauthorized citizens can go vigilante, I see explicit disregard for the basic laws that hold our society in peace. Not for them the Constitution that they are always  claiming to support. Not for them such essentials of due process as proof and trial, not accusation. They want their way and to hell with Constitutional precepts.

Constitutional obligations require effort. Outrage does not. Outrage is emotional pornography.

What Mr. Weinstein is accused of is hardly new to Hollywood. The “casting couch” has ruled, so it seems, since the 1920s, when leggy young women became a hot movie item. Generations of movie moguls have been accused of the stuff that Mr. Weinstein is suddenly beyond the pale for doing. So easy it is, now, in 2017, to become high and mighty about stuff that barely yesterday we shrugged our shoulders about. This is the same sort of historical revisionism that we find elsewhere. Francis Sco0tt Key, who penned our national anthem, is suddenly no good because he owned slaves 205 years ago.

So easy it is to blindside those who lived long ago, when different standards ruled. And so our stirring national poem, which became the marching song of the Union Army in our Civil War, now becomes a no-no. Little wonder that our nation’s civic discourse hs descended from principle to poltroonery.

One would think that basic principles of societal order, such as due process, regulation of dangerous instruments, and respect for the equal civil rights of all would be unassailable, and that anyone who suggested ignoring them would find himself outcast. Now anyone who makes that assumption is wrong.

We can’t get serious gun regulation because a very well placed, if very small, subset of voters intimidates legislators by appropriating Constitutional precept for themselves. We  can’t secure due process in sexual harassment cases, the society’s most toxic : which is precisely the locus of Constitutional oversight.

We can’t secure for women the basic right to control her on body and birth.

We can’t secure presumption of innocence, rules of evidence, or objective analysis for those accused of  crimes — such as sexual harassment — that heat up the populace

We can’t guarantee voting rights to citizens who radical governments work to keep from voting,.

At Here and Sphere we reject these willful un-Americanisms. The Second Amendment grants no person an absolute right to carry weapons wherever he wants to. It talks about militias. Today those militias have been taken into the various National Guards.

We reject the notion that accusation of sexual harassment means los of profession. Accusation is not trial. It is not proof. It is not verdict. We try cases because we understand that accusation can arise from vengeance, from ignorance, from bigotry, or all three; or from assumption.

We dismiss the mind blindness that seeks to deny women to terminate a pregnancy

It is no legal business of anyone what another person does with her own body.

Accusation, even of sexual harassment, a wrong potentially criminal, cannot prejudice the rest of the evidence: letters, prior history, a back story, alternative theories — not if we are to remain a society at peace rather than a kettle of vengeance, a field of Bacchae.

Widespread gun ownership — enabling vigilante justice — puts paid to our Constitutional democracy. It’s the last thing that a civilized people should want or tolerate.

All of the above seems so utterly elementary to me that it marvels me to find myself saying them. Yet that is what we have come to in 2017, the 228th year of our Constitution. Impulse has replaced policy, vitriol over calm examination, religion zealotry over the civil rights of women. Lord knows where this torrent of self-centered griping will mislead us.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ “new leadership” in Boston : District One candidate Lydia Edwards (l) with her “cm” (campaign manager), Gabriela Coletta, a veteran of several successful local campaigns

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Upon seeing the September 26 vote, my former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein wrote that “women of color are leading the new era” in Boston politics. He has a point; but their leadership is much less about skin and much more about candidates who really know their stuff. Yes, Chyna Tyler, Linda Dorcena Forry, Michelle Wu, Ayanna Pressley, Andrea Campbell, and now Lydia Edwards, a District One candidate, are all “women of color.” But voters are not stupid, nor, in Boston, do they vote for skin. They vote for whom they perceive to be the best candidate.

Long connection does make a difference. The reason why a broad spectrum of “women of color” have only begun to break through in the past five years or so is because they are not connected to the old connections of Irish and Italian-descended voters whose connectivity as formed an habitual electoral winning streak. It takes time for new connections of this profoundly long-term kind tr,o become a bond, and of course the large exodus from Boston of the vast majority of old-connected Irish and Italian-descended voters factors large in the change that Bernstein writes about. The voter list in District One, for example, is barely 20 percent comprised of Irish and Italian-descended people.

Still, many of these voters embraced Lydia Edwards’s candidacy on September 26, just as Councillor at Large Ayanna Pressley has won the votes of West Roxbury and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry won many voters, in her 2013 campaign, who were not of color. District One has hardly any Black voters and not very many voters who are Latino nor Asian. Skin color clearly played very little part in her September 26 vote, a mere 77 short of the total amassed by the “traditional” candidate, Stephen Passacantilli.

The voters whose votes put Edwards within striking distance of a victory — she already won Charlestown, as “traditional” a neighborhood as any in Boston, and won it by carrying the “traditional” precincts; the new-Charlestown Precinct One, she lost — chose her f or her mastery of the issues, her embrace of several neighborhood wants, and her dogged hard work. She won votes from very conservative voters and from female civic activists, of which Charlestown has many more than a few. As she says, “it’s the coalition you build.”

Easier said than done — but one means of doing it is to be open to every sort of voter and to work hard and personally so those many sorts of voters see that (1) you are open t.o them and (2) willing to work hard to persuade them. This is what Dorcena Forry aimed to do, and did, and it is what Ayanna Pressley has worked for many years to do, and has done. Andrea Campbell’s and Chyna Tyler’s rises were somewhat different. Both ran, and won, in Districts where voters of color are a clear majority. Yet both won the majority of votes cast by Caucasian voters in their districts by being the better candidate, by effort committed and by mastery of the issues their voters care about.

If Lydia Edwards wins the final on November 7th — as right now she looks poised to do — it will not be because of her skin but because of her effort, mastery, and willingness to connect with all kinds of voters. Admittedly, the diminished numbers of long-connected Irish and Italian descended voters has given her that chance; but Stephen Passacantilli — whose family has been well respected in the District for 100 years —  did not fail to win a convincing primary vote because “traditional” voters have lost numbers. Edwards won plenty of such voters in what so far has been a much more broadly based, smarter primary campaign.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere