Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Different platforms offer different results

This election season, I covered a rally in support of District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson in his bid to become the next mayor of Boston. The event was held at the Massachusetts Association Minority Law Enforcement Officers building in Dorchester.

When I told some of my family that I had to cover Jackson for a class assignment, they all said the same thing: “Michael’s brother?”

While funny the first few times, I was not looking to cover the former member of the Jackson Five, but rather a viable candidate for mayor who was not getting enough publicity. This is extremely evident by the fact that a lot of Bostonians still think of the singer when they hear the name Tito Jackson, not the person who ran to be their next mayor.

I was not too surprised by the low turnout for this event, given the percentage of the vote that Jackson got in the primary election. Incumbent Mayor Martin Walsh received 63 percent of the vote, while Jackson received just 29 percent. Part of this was due to the fact that Jackson just had a tougher time spreading his message to people in the city. People simply didn’t — and apparently still don’t — know who he is.

Not only does this not sound right, it is also pretty unconstitutional. While I was at the event, Jackson took a jab at the mayor for standing him up at their last scheduled debate, surely a strategic move by the current mayor. I think Walsh may have done this so Jackson did not have a platform to influence Walsh’s voters, people who had no idea who his challenger was. If this theory is correct, then the respect I have for the way the mayor ran his campaign would be all but out the window.

Another example of this comes in the video on the homepage of Mayor Walsh’s website. One of the men interviewed actually says, “I support him — we support him — because everyone is happy with him.” This doesn’t seem to be the best logic. Not only should voters always try to hear out both sides of different issues, but more generally, blindly following what other people are saying is a terrible way to go through life. Just because one way may be sustainable for now, it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be improved for the future. Residents of Boston should have given Jackson more of a chance this election season than they did.

For those who did give him a chance, though, I am sure it was refreshing to hear concrete plans to make the city better. Even though I was supposed to be at his campaign event as a member of the press, I saw myself aligning my views with some of what Jackson was saying to the people. He seemed to genuinely care about the well-being of children in Boston schools, especially those in often underfunded low-income areas.

One thing that really stuck out to me was the demographics of who was at this campaign rally. The majority of people in attendance were people of color, and it seemed like gentrification of the city was a hot button topic. As Jackson mentioned in his speech, Boston has recently become a majority-minority city. He took shots at the mayor for his handling of high-end condos being built in previously low-income areas — and rightfully so. I have lived in Boston for three years now, and have seen areas of this city put up high rises where they shouldn’t have. More affordable housing for low and mid-income families needs to be built, though our mayor doesn’t seem to care.

Jackson told one story that I really carried with me after the event was over. He tried to explain the inefficiencies of our current state of government, and I would be willing to bet that all the people in the room understood loud and clear. Jackson said that as a city councilor, he once had to go to two meetings in one night: one about building a public-funded helicopter pad for General Electric, and one to decide whether or not to shut down a school in Roxbury. Having those meetings on the same night seems like a cruel slap in the face to those who really care about Boston.

While Walsh may be looked at as a positive figure, I wish we would learn to give the underdog a chance. Walsh says that his policies are progressive, I’m sure we have all heard it. But I think his recent “D” rating from the NAACP tells more than his words do. This obviously does not bode well for the mayor, especially when the city you are in charge of has a majority of people of color.

Tito Jackson would have inspired low-income kids to be their best selves. He was born in Boston and served the city nobly as a councilor. Jackson was a nice, fresh surprise to politics and I hope to see more people like him in the years to come.

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