Today, Somerville will elect a new mayor for the first time in eighteen years.
We also choose four at-large city councilors, and in my precinct (Ward 5, Precinct 2) a city councilor to replace the retiring incumbent.
I’m writing this to observe that I’ve been put off by the very aggressive and, in my view, misleading (at best) tactics of several local organizations that self-identify as part of the “Defund” movement. So far as I can tell, these groups are the Democratic counterpart to the Tea Party movement that kicked off the GOP death-spiral into its current white supremacist dysfunction.
In the first round of campaigning last summer, it apparently became crystal clear that an overwhelmingly large portion of Somerville voters categorically rejected the “Defund the police” item that was explicitly highlighted as a top-level bullet in the first generation of campaign flyers. The response of nearly all candidates on “the slate” was to revise their literature and sloganeering to obscure their position — while remaining committed to the premise of that bullet.
Whatever may be true at a national level and in some cities and states, I see no evidence that the Somerville Police Department is guilty of any of the various behaviors that motivate the “Defund” movement. To the contrary, the Somerville Police Department is doing everything it can to be a model law enforcement agency. Current city councilors tell me that the largest discretionary item in the Police Department budget — and therefore at the top of the list to cut if demanded by the city council — is the Spanish Language translators program.
An immediate practical effect, in Somerville, of the “defund” agenda is to reduce Spanish Language translation resources in Somerville.
I’ve been discussing various matters like this with all the candidates this year — I think I’ve met with or spoken with every candidate at least once. The interactions I’ve had with candidates on the “slate” promoted by these groups remind me most strongly of discussions I’ve had with men and women pursuing ordination with the the Episcopal church. The various bullets are treated as articles of faith that each candidate “interprets” to fit themselves and their immediate audience. I find the entire experience creepy.
The candidates that I like, contributed to, and voted for spoke candidly, directly, and frankly about what can and cannot be done in Somerville right now by the city government we elect today. They spoke from first-hand experience with city council meetings and from familiarity with workings of city government. In my several decades of Massachusetts experience, I have watched skilled professional politicians make mincemeat of sincere, eager, and idealistic town meeting members who are unfamiliar with the nitty-gritty how cities and towns are actually run.
The election results from Somerville are more important to me than any of the several elections that will on the networks all night tonight.
I hope that the voters in Somerville reject the demagoguery of the several “defund” movements in favor of real people with real ideas and real experience. Oh — and by the way — of the six votes I cast today (one for Mayor, four for councilor-at-large, and one for Ward five councilor), five were for women.