MISDEMEANORS TO THE FORE : THE HOUSE EXPELS CARLOS HENRIQUEZ

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^ “impaired judgment” ? the 5th Suffolk’s Carlos Henriquez addressing the Massachusetts house during debate on expelling him

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Not very often do you see a Legislature vote to expel a member. It hasn’t happened in Massachusetts since the late 1970s, when State Senator Joseph DiCarlo was booted for taking bribes. I well remember that day. DiCarlo was a boisterous, dominant presence, the Senate’s majority leader. His crime was a felony, a high crime by any legislature’s definition. Expelling him was a big deal, a giant of politics crashing and burning.

In contrast, yesterdays 146 to 5 vote — to accept the House Ethics Committee’s unanimous resolution to expel the 5th Suffolk District’s Carlos Henriquez — seemed like small potatoes. Yes, his conviction on two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery on a woman was serious. He should have resigned. Had he any concern for the well-being of his 40,000 constituents, many of them needing a full-time legislative voice, he WOULD have resigned. Of this affair he has made many statements. He is innocent, he says — again and again. Not once has he grasped that that isn’t the point ; that the point is his 40,000 constituents. Not once, in his “I am innocent” statement on the floor of the house yesterday did he address a bigger picture. Indeed, he had the temerity to say that domestic violence is a serious crime and cannot be tolerated !

Having delivered this message, he then walked out of the House, an insult to every member and, I suppose, intended as such.

Debate on the Ethics Resolution — H. 3894 — lasted more than an hour. Speaker DeLeo, on whose complaint the Ethics Committee was acting — seemed ready to let his members speak as long as they liked. Several did. Most supported the committee recommendation, some sadly, a few angrily. Over the top was Malden’s Chris Fallon, who shouted his disapproval of domestic violence, very much the candidate — as he is — seeking a state Senate seat, the one vacated by newly elected Congresswowman Katherine Clark.

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^ cogently arguing for censure, not expulsion : Russell Holmes of the 6th Suffolk District

Representative Russell Holmes, of the 6th Suffolk District bordering Henriquez’s 5th, offered an amendment to the Ethics Committee’s resolution. He asked that the House censure Henriquez, not expel him. Holmes’s amendment made two strong points : that with parole, Henriquez will be out of jail by mid April, well before a special election to replace him occurs; and that his crime did not explicitly violate the House Rules and thus could not warrant expulsion.

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^ “this is a sad day for us all, i don;t enjoy this task at all” : Ethics Committee Acting  Chairman David Nangle of Lowell

The Ethics Committee’s finding, that Henriquez had violated Rule 16A, which addresses a member’s impaired judgment, did seem strained. Arguing the point, Reps. Garrett Bradley and David Nangle (acting Ethics Chairman) asserted that, being convicted of a crime of domestic violence, Henriquez’s ability to judge domestic violence legislation was impaired. Really ? if anything, his judgment on such legislation has probably become more acute. As for Henriquez being free of jail by mid-April, Bradley and Nangle argued that that was not the point; that Henriquez is quite free to seek re-election to his seat and to be allowed to take his seat if elected.

They’re right on this. It has happened in other legislatures, including Congress.

Yet even if the Ethics Committee’s Rule 16A argument stretched things, there was a general sense in the House that Henriquez no longer had any credibility to address domestic violence matters and that, by his continued insistence on innocence and not resigning, Henriquez had impaired his own judgment on the matter. Representative Ted Speliotis of Danvers voiced the feelings of many when he noted that, by walking out before the end of debate, Henriquez had insulted the “institution.”

No one, not even Russell Holmes, argued with the Ethics Committee’s finding that domestic violence is a serious matter and cannot be taken lightly by the House. Accepting this argument, the House now deems expulsion no longer limited to felonies; that a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence is full grounds for expelling a member. As Representative Bradley said, “we’ve never faced this situation before, this is a case of first impression.”

But to return to Russell Holmes’s amendment : it was defeated with only 10 members voting “Yes.” Among the Yeas were Representatives Gloria Fox, Byron Rushing, Carl Sciortino, Denise Provost, Holmes himself, Benjamin Swan, John Rogers, and Angelo Scaccia.

Holmes himself said that Henriquez should have resigned. Little wonder that the actual expulsion vote was even more one sided. Voting not to expel were only Carl Sciortino, Denise Provost, Gloria Fox, Benjamin Swan and, after some hesitation, Holmes too.

A special election for the 5th Suffolk District has been called.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

A NIGHT OF DEFEAT : THE CHARLOTTE GOLAR RICHIE TALK

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie gives a talk : ‘all the isms are alive and well…racism, sexism…”

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The Mayor of Boston campaign of 2013 may be over, but evidently it’s not over. Last night Charlotte Golar-Richie, who finished third in the September Primary, was the key speaker at a conference hosted by University of Massachusetts’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy.

NOTE : If there were any doubt about the institutional colossi that encumber Boston politics, the very length of that host name — “University of Massachusetts Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy” — should set our heads nodding, But I digresss…

The topic for discussion was “Opening Doors : Women’s Political Leadership in Boston.” It seems a timely topic, given the prominence of several women in elected office within the City. One thinks of State Senators Sonia Chang-Diaz and Linda Dorcena-Forry (and of former State Senator Marian Walsh), of Councillors Ayanna Pressley and (newly) Michelle Wu, of State Representatives Gloria Fox and Liz Malia. One might also think of Abby Browne and Marian Ego, school committee members back in the day, and even of Elvira “Pixie” Palladino and Louise Day Hicks longer ago — but Palladino and Hicks were severely incorrect politically and thus not “women’ despite being women; and one could even mention the late, fishwife-mouthed Katherine Craven, a City Councillor, and State Representative Katherine Kane (who died about two weeks ago), both women in politics long before there needed be an educational institution hosting said discussion.

One could have mentioned all of the above; and mentioned the significant involvement of women in Boston politics well before that, from Abolitionist champions to Progressive era women of conscience to civil rights and civic leaders like Susan Story Lyman, Melnea Cass, Stella Trafford, Alice Hennessey, and my own mother. Mentioning all of these, one wonders what sort of “doors” still need to be “opened.’ Are they not already wide wide beckoning ? But no. Evidently the failure of one woman candidate to become Mayor of Boston trumps all of the successes that women in politics have had, are having, and, likely, will have in Boston.

In any case, the night being given over to defeat, it was quite appropriate for Charlotte Golar-Richie to trumpet the notes of defeat’s song :

“The isms are still alive and well in Boston…racism, sexism…along with that misogyny thing.’
“For women the stakes are high. Women of color, the stakes are higher.”

To which lament many Forum pundits added their oboe and bassoon :

Priti Rao : “I think there’s a lot of voter fatigue in this state.’
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling : “Charlotte lost because her base did not come out.”
Paul Watanabe ; “Globe’s editorial op-ed was devastating.”
The entire discussion panel : “EMILY’s list failed her.”

Golar-Richie then summed up this Sonata of Defeat by saying that she “opened the doors, someone else will have to walk through.”

As you have doubtless surmised, I shrug both my shoulders at Golar-Richie’s speech. Not once did she allow that perhaps she was not exactly an authoritative candidate. Not once did she acknowledge that in a field of twelve, whence eleven candidates ended up losing, she was hardly alone in being among the eleven. Why was Golar-Richie entitled — I use the verb on purpose — to a better result than the other ten losers ? Were John Barros, Dan Conley, Mike Ross, and Felix G. Arroyo not equally worthy candidates  ? Not to mention John Connolly.

Fact is that, in the 17,000-odd Forums that i attended at which Golar-Richie spoke, I found her performance wildly uneven ; strong one day, out of focus the next; vague sometimes, insightful at others. There was no such vaguery about Mike Ross, john Connolly, John Barros, Dan Conley, Marty Walsh, and even Charles Yancey and Rob Consalvo.

But in assessing Golar-Richie as a candidate there is no need to measure her performance at Forums. When her crunch time truly came, after the primary, and she had to decide, quickly, whether to endorse John Connolly or Marty Walsh, she flubbed the role. She delayed her decision, hemmed and hawed; when after some days she finally endorsed Marty Walsh, all of her support group went the other way, to John Connolly. Compare her handling to the focus and unity that Arroyo and Barros brought to their Walsh endorsements..

So, to respond to Charlotte : no, I do NOT think that “all the isms are in place.” Nor do I think that the bar is doubly high for women of color. Tell me how Michelle Wu’s finishing second out of eight, for City Council, on her first run ever for public office, demonstrates either of Golar-Richie’s assertions. Golar-Richie is simply WRONG. She did not fail to become Boston’s Mayor because she is a woman. She failed because she wasn’t a strong enough candidate.

And finally, Golar-Richie’s assertion that she lost because “all the isms are alive and well in Boston” disrespects Marty Walsh. Did he beat Golar-Richie because he is male, or because he simply had a stronger base of votes, as a sitting state representative and respected union leader ? Golar-Richie’s suggestion tells me what she really thinks of Walsh. It’s not pretty.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere