In a story that ran in today’s Boston Herald, Mayor Menino’s campaign trashed a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to provide voters with the resources they need for civic engagement. The organization, MassVote, works to increase voter education and turnout amongst communities of color, youth, the disabled and in ethnic communities where language is a barrier. Since its creation in 1999, MassVote has helped empower thousands of Massachusetts voters.
As part of their civic outreach, MassVote has scheduled three mayoral forums in advance of this year’s municipal elections – on September 3rd, September 17th, and October 17th, respectively. These forums will provide voters with the opportunity to engage with their elected officials and make an informed decision when heading to the ballot box. Three of the candidates – at large City Councilors Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty, as well as Kevin McCrea, have already agreed to participate in the forums. Mayor Menino – however – refuses to participate.
The mayor’s point-man on debates – an out-of-town, uninformed, corporate executive named Ed Fouhy – told the Boston Herald it was because MassVote “lacks the organizational capacity to sponsor a debate.” This is of course nonsense. In 2006, MassVote put on a candidate forum for gubernatorial candidates. Additionally, MassVote has registered and educated thousands of voters throughout the city. MassVote also produces publications, conducts registration drives and offers training seminars for other non-profit organizations in Boston. Clearly, they have the capabilities, resources and community presence to successfully host 3 mayoral forums. Despite what Menino’s hired-hand may be telling us – it’s really not that hard to do and MassVote are well able to do it.
Of course, Ed Fouhy doesn’t care about that – and neither does Tom Menino. Because instead of actually speaking directly to voters, they would rather attack an organization that is working to create positive change in Boston. Instead of participating in a forum sponsored by an organization whose purpose is to empower and enfranchise voters, Mayor Menino would rather undermine the credibility of the organization and ignore these voters.
This is de facto disenfranchisement and disempowerment. If Tom Menino will not participate in a debate over the future of our city, then less people are likely to turn out to vote. If Menino can keep the turnout down, he knows he can strong-arm his army of patronage workers to line up behind him. Now is the time to stand up to these tactics. We need to take a stand and call the mayor out on his refusal to truly represent the people of this city. Democracy thrives when more people are participating in the electoral process – not less.