Hear no racism, see no racism, refuse to acknowledge racism
Over the last couple months, people who desire that the topic of immigration would go away are trying to claim that Danbury doesn’t have a racial intolerance problem or that the problem has “toned down”.
As indicated by the most recent “reported” hate-crime that made front page news last week, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, the “reported” crime only vindicates those in the community who have long stated that racial hatred directed at the immigrant community is, for the most part, being ignored by elected-officials who refuse to acknowledge that the problem exist.
And when it comes to ignoring anti-immigrant xenophobia in the city, no one does it better than Danbury’s last honest man who occupies the corner office on the third floor of city hall.
As someone who has followed the assault on the immigrant community from its beginnings, Mayor Mark Boughton’s refusal to properly address the ever rising level of racism in the city (under his watch) has been well documented over the years.
One of the mayor’s most “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” moments happened at a forum on immigration that was held at the library back in February 2006.
In the following video clip, Boughton is confronted by a parent who was alarmed with the racial hatred and xenophobia she and her child experienced in their short time in the city. Boughton’s initial response to the mother’s concern spoke volumes that night and has served as a template for the way the mayor has addressed the topic of racism in his city ever since.
As a side note, look at the flippant reaction from anti-immigrant / hate-group leader Elise Marciano and her ilk (a.k.a., the people most responsible for xenophobia in the area that the parent is talking about). They’re marked in blue in the photo above…
PARENT: I’m a newcomer to the community and I moved here because of its diversity. I don’t want to raise my son in a racist community, and I’m deeply concerned at how this immigration debate has this racist overtones. I have worked for 10 years in many different diverse communities; all of them had similar demographics to Danbury. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered such racist remarks towards me and I think you can’t ignore this issue in your community. I think there needs to be some kind of procedure in place to address the racism that’s associated with this debate.
BOUGHTON: Let me thank you for the courage to make those comments, but there is a procedure, if someone makes hateful comments to you, we have hate-crime laws on the books that are clear, you can file a complaint with the police department, we certainly don’t condone that type of activity, but what you’re suggesting I disagree with in the sense of this. You’re suggesting that we can’t have this discussion because it just becomes racist.
PARENT: No I’m not sugg…
BOUGHTON: Okay, so if we start with that premise and say this discussion is not about racism, it’s not about ethnicity, it’s not about the way somebody looks, but it’s about a failed policy that does not work, then we should be able to, a progressive community, a rationale community, and a compassionate community, should be able to have this discussion.
PARENT: That’s what I’m concerned about. Of course you should be able to have a discussion on immigration, what I am concerned about is that the discussion on immigration has led to racist overtones in the community.
Instead of addressing the parent’s concern regarding the racial acts of intimidation she and her child experienced in their brief stay in Danbury, Boughton opts to ignore the point the parent raised as if the problem doesn’t exist.
As you saw in that video clip, the issue the parent raised had nothing to do with illegal immigration (which, the last time I checked, was FEDERAL problem) but rather the increased instances of racism members of the immigrant population are experiencing.
The mayor’s response to the parent’s concern speaks for itself and is just one example of people who would rather turn a blind eye and ignore the real problem of racial hatred towards the immigrant population in Danbury…or even worse, claim that the problem doesn’t exist.
From the most recent hate-crime committed in the city, and the lack of leadership in the days after the racist email scandal, to the quickly forgotten suggestion that a committee be established, which would examine racial tensions in the community (similar to what was done after the race riots in the 1970s), the problem, which Boughton and his political party routinely fail to acknowledge, is the rise in xenophobia among a segment of the population who are openly hostile towards the immigrant community.
One of many fliers from Derek Roy that were on the campus of Western Connecticut State University
Questions surrounding the campaign tactics of Derek Roy has led to a complaint filed against the Republican Common Council candidate.
Starting with angering military officials with the use of his uniform in a campaign video on YouTube, to angering fellow fire fighters who were alarmed over Derek’s use of his firefighters uniform (as well as filming in a firehouse) in another campaign video, it seems like controversy and accusations of questionable campaign tactics were nothing new for 5th ward candidate / college dormitory student ( see here, here).
That being said, in October, students at Western Connecticut State University were rather alarmed to see their midtown campus littered with Roy’s campaign material. As someone with a tad bit of knowledge about policy at Western, I questioned whether it was even legal for him to place campaign material all over the campus in the manner that he did.
Well, according the a recent article in campus newspaper, The ECHO, I’m not the only one who questioned Roy’s style of campaigning….
Students at Western Connecticut State University may have noticed a large amount of campaign posters hanging around campus promoting the campaign of Derek B. Roy to be elected to the Common Council in Danbury’s 5th ward. Some students at WestConn expressed concern about these posters.
Student Sara Waterfall was particularly concerned with the posters and decided to send them to the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC). This means that the State of Connecticut will now begin an investigation into the issue of the posters at WestConn
In response here’s what Roy said.
…Roy went on to explain that from his understanding, the signs were hung by Danbury High School students. When asked if he thought it was appropriate for signs to be hung on campus, Roy replied, “I think it’s important to advertise, but you need to advertise correctly. The SEEC does have certain rules and regulations, I think it’s important that candidates use the law and follow the law and enforce it with their volunteers.
Roy, who again, is a student at Western, littered midtown campus with his campaign material for at least a month prior to the election, yet he’s attempting the blame the situation on “Danbury High School students?”
…and lets not forget the FACT that some of your campaign material clearly stated “ATTENTION WESTCONN STUDENTS” which means that the fliers were clearly intended to be seen by students at Western.
…Roy seemed annoyed that he was being reported to the SEEC at all. He was very insistent on the ideas that issues should come before politics. “It’s about the issues, it’s not about a sign, it’s not about tape.”
This is NOT about politics but rather about possible violations in terms of placing political material on the campus of a state institution to the annoyance of students…and apparently university officials as well.
With all the controversy surrounding the campaign posters on campus, The ECHO contacted Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Walter Bernstein. In an email statement, Berstein said “The University, or any other state agency, may not be used as a place for candidates to promote their candidacy. Because of this, we have asked Mr. Roy to take down any such signs that may be on campus.”
I had a chance to interview Western Connecticut State University Student Sara Watrerfall, the individual asked the State Elections Enforcement Commission to look into the activities of Roy’s campaign.
I saw Roy’s material on campus first-hand and the word “littered” is an understatement as it was all over the place (walls, doors, windows, etc). It will be interesting to see how this complaint develops and see the commission’s ruling in regards to what a candidate for municipal office can and can not do on a state campus.
Here’s a copy of the article as reported by The ECHO as well as his response to the article that was made as an insert in the paper.
This comment in the News-Times article regarding the passage of the charter revision best sums up my greatest concern with the changes to the city’s version of the U.S. constitution.
Lorinda Arconti, meanwhile, said she voted against the proposed changes.
“Mainly because of the bonding issue,” she said, referring to the increase to $3 million that city officials could bond without going to the voters. “I didn’t agree with it.”
Contrary to what you’ve heard from elected officials (many of whom rarely attended the charter revision meetings), as one of the few members of the public who either attended and viewed EVERY SINGLE charter revision meeting, without question, the issue of MOST concern was NOT the change in terms of elected service from 2 or 4 years, but rather an issue that was debated in great length during the numerous charter revision meetings, as well as the top issue in this past election.
BONDING(or specifically, the amount of bonding one administration can do without the approval of the residents).
When the topic of the charter revision changes was brought before the Common Council, it was suggested by the mayor and members of the council that the topics of most concern (i.e., terms of elected service, bonding) should be placed on the ballot as separate questions. That way, a majority of the other changes, which are mostly cosmetic, would not risk being struck down by the voters who voted against the changes because of a controversial item(s).
Ultimately (and thankfully), the topic of terms of service never made it’s way to the voters. As for separating the other contentious issue (bonding), that never happened…and thus my problem with the way the charter revision process was handled by the Common Council and mayor’s office.
Those on the Common Council who had a chance to speak out against the way the question was handled on the ballot dropped the ball. My concern with bonding had nothing to do with the limit the mayor could spend without the approval of the people. My issue stems from the way this mayor ignored the spirit of the charter (you could only bond up to 500,000 per year) and issuing five 500,000 bonds (or 2.5 MILLION dollars) without giving a chance for the voters to have their say back in 2008.
Here’s former Mayor Gene Eriquez commenting on what Boughton did back in 2008 (NOTE: Eriquez misspoke when he stated the section of the charter, he meant to say 7-10 and not 17-10):
The level of bonding should had stayed at 500,000 simply because WE THE PEOPLE should have more of the say in terms of how the city spends OUR money. By increasing the level of bonding without voter’s approval, you give ANY mayor more power without you having a say so.
When it comes to the issue of bonding, the charter revision commission should had been placed very definite wording that would prevent the situation we had back in 2008 when Boughton bonded over 2 million dollars without the resident’s blessing…that’s it.
Instead, the commission increased the level of bonding without voter’s approval to a whopping 5 million dollars. Add that with their suggestion to change the terms of elected service be changed to 4 years, then you have a scenario where a mayor can spend up to 20 million dollars without your approval.
That’s not the type of change I believe in.
Fortunately, the Common Council thought better and brought the level of bonding down to 3 million (per year cap). I say fortunately because the issue of bonding was not placed, as a separate question on the ballot and not for the council, the level of spending would be set at 5 million dollars per year.
Screwing around with the charter (which is the constitution of the city) should not be taken lightly…in fact, it should rarely happen at all. While most of the changes are cosmetic in nature, some are very serious which will have a lasting impact in terms of how things are handled in the city. That being said, whether it’s by holding town hall meetings in their respected wards or by mailing and calling their constituents, the members of the common council had an obligation to do everything in its power to properly inform the public about the changes made to the charter.
That didn’t happen.
The mayor and members of the council hardly lifted a finger in terms of informing the public about the charter revision process, which is evident when you see the number of people who attended the meetings on a regular basis. Again, I attended a majority of the meetings and I can name every person who was there with me (and they know who they are and are probably shaking their heads in agreement right now). Placing the changes to the charter on a website is hardly any way to inform the public about the what’s happening. As someone in the middle of politics in the city, I know about the changes because I deal with City Hall all the time BUT that’s not the case with most people in this commuter city.
Case in point, look at this quote…
Regina Ofiera, a moderator at Danbury High School during Tuesday’s election, said there were voters who didn’t answer the charter question.
“I think there were a lot of voters who didn’t know what it meant, so they just didn’t answer the question rather than making an uneducated vote,” she said.
While many didn’t vote for the changes due to a lack of knowledge, many DID vote for the changes having no knowledge of the changes and just trusting their elected representatives who vetted and approved the changes to the charter…and this is one of the most dangerous things we face in terms of dealing with a public that has no knowledge of how politics works in this city.
If given the chance, I strongly believe that the issue of increased bonding would had failed if the voters had a chance to deal with that charter revision change separate from the other changes. I say this because, in this day where people are facing economic hardships, the LAST thing you would want to do is to give government MORE money to spend without their blessing.
Instead what we had here was a case where all the changes to the charter were lumped together and THE PEOPLE were not given a choice on what changes they liked versus the ones they didn’t like.
Who gets blamed for this you ask?
Should we blame Mayor Boughton or the Republicans on the Council for not separating the question of bonding on the ballot?
Should we blame the minority party on the council for not taking action in making sure that the issue of bonding be listed on the ballot as a separate question?
Should we blame the candidates running for Common Council for not making the topic of the charter changes a part of their campaign platform?
Should we blame the Democratic Town Committee for not holding the mayor and council to their word when they said they would separate the question of bonding from the other charter changes on the ballot?
Should we blame the mayor’s office broadcasting more meetings on local access television.
Should we blame the media for not doing a better job in reporting on the charter revision meetings that took place over a 17 month period?
BLAME YOURSELVES for allowing the mayor and Common Council to go back on their word in terms of having separating the controversial charter revision questions on the ballot.
BLAME YOURSELVES for not telling the candidates running for Common Council about your concerns regarding some of the changes to the charter when they came by and knocked on your door.
BLAME YOURSELVES for not placing MORE pressure on City Hall to broadcast more meeting on the government access channel.
BLAME YOURSELVES for not speaking out when there is a chance to make a difference (as opposed to after the fact).
In short, when it comes to casting blame, take a look in the mirror.
10:30 AM: Well, that day has finally arrived but unlike 2007, I’ll be reporting on election day activities in both Danbury and Bethel.
If you have any voting stories, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it for everyone to read. Make sure to tell us the time you voted, whether you’re voting in Danbury or Bethel and which ward your reporting from. Also, if possible, tell us the number of the counter when you insert your voting ballot into the machine.
Here’s the first field report from a reader:
Voted at Danbury High School at 9:40 AM and forgot to look at the number when scanning my ballot but was 71st for my “street starting with location” … steady stream of people … did overhear one woman walking out saying, “I only voted for one Republican”
12:30 PM: I just finished voting at Broadview Middle School.
Turnout was pretty good for this time in the afternoon. I couple of people forgot that the ballot was two-sided (which is to be expected). Here’s a pic of the ballot before I filled it out.
Counter on the voting machine was at 1042 when I cast my ballot.
Here’s what the area looked like when I arrived.
Both Democratic (Barbara Carey, William Tanner) and Republican (Joe Cavo, Jack Knapp) candidates for Common Council (3rd ward) were on hand as well as poll standers for Warren Levy, Lori Kaback, Don Taylor (whose handmade signs are the WORSE I’ve ever seen). Democratic poll standers clearly outnumber Republicans at this point.
Remember to email me your voting experience. Make sure to include the time you voted, where you voted, and the counter number on the voting machine.
…more field reports later.
1:00 PM At Pembroke School (2nd Ward).
No sign of any Republican poll standers but Democratic poll standers are around including Common Council candidate Phil McAllister. The other Democratic candidate, Daniel Abrantes, has been non-existent throughout the entire campaign so not seeing him here (or a sign with his name) is not a surprise.
Machine counter is at 1009 as of 1:10 PM.
Found another hand-made sign from Don Taylor…laughable at best.
…what’s the deal with the Police?
1:15 PM At Danbury High School (1st ward).
Phil Curran, Shay Nagarsheth, Phil Colla, and members of the firefighter union are standing around for the Republicans while Barry Rickert, Frank Anders, poll standers for Lori Kaback, William Totten, and Warren Levy are standing for the Democrats.
Talked to Common Councilmen Duane Perkins and Fred Visconti who are in high spirits. Poll standers for the candidates as well as Warren Levy and Lori Kaback are all around. Standers for Derek Roy are also around.
Received MORE complaints about Derek Roy’s campaign tactics over the last 24 hours. The following picture is from a supporter for Visconti-Perkins who’s irritated to see that someone from the Roy campaign placed a lawn sign on the property. This is the kind of nonsense that’s been going on from Roy’s camp for some time.
2:30 PM Park Ave School (6th ward). Saw Democratic zoning candidate Al Pena, Common Councilman Ben Chianese, and poll standers for Lori Kaback and Warren Levy on hand. One stander for Mayor Boughton was on hand.
Went to get a picture inside but my camera died.
2:45 PM Talked to Democratic Town Committee chairman Joe DaSilva who reports that turnout has been low.
3:30 PM: Stopped by Democratic Headquarters to see what’s happening. As in any election, the get out the vote (GOTV) effort is critical. With people predicting that this year’s turnout will equal 2007′s, calling people to remind them to go to the polls is more critical than ever.
4:00 PM: Taking a small break before heading over to Bethel. In the meantime, here’s an interview Gary Goncalves did on local access television.
4:30: I find it laughable that someone like Elmer Palma is running on the Republican slate for the Zoning Commission. Click here to read my write-up on the Palma and the traffic nightmare he’s created with his irresponsible diner location.
5:00 PM Oh the hypocrisy!
Statement from The Tribuna (a family-owned newspaper) dated February 2008:
TRIBUNA WITHDRAWALS ITS SUPPORT FOR MAYOR BOUGHTON
Mayor’s Proposed Partnership with ICE is hurtful to the community and the local immigrant population
Danbury, CT – Since its creation in 2000, TRIBUNA NEWSPAPER has expressed its support to Danbury’s mayors. From Gene Eriquez to Mark Boughton, this multi-cultural publication has worked closely with local leaders covering stories and voicing concerns of the local immigrant community.
After announcing its plans to check the legal status of the city’s immigrants in 2005, TRIBUNA had several conversations with Mayor Mark Boughton expressing its opposition to his plan. Eventually, the mayor set the issue aside. TRIBUNA continued with its support for Boughton on the last election, endorsing him as the candidate with the best overall plans for the city.
TRIBUNA is a strong voice against Boughton’s proposal since it knows that the recent mayor’s plans of a partnership with ICE are a true harm to the community. It makes sense for authorities to expect that illegal immigrants who committed crimes to be deported. But TRIBUNA will no longer support a mayor who would pass a plan that would also deport immigrant workers, who came to this country legally and don’t have a green card because they are waiting for the conclusion of their legalization process. A plan that could take children away from good parents, divide families and close businesses owned by honest people who have contributed greatly to this city. TRIBUNA once again invites Mayor Mark Boughton to reconsider his support for this measure and its impact in this city.
As an immigrant, I disagree with the way Mayor Mark Boughton addressed the partnership agreement with ICE in 2008. As a member of the Danbury community, however, I cannot judge a mayoral candidate’s platform based only on the issue of immigration.
The reality is that during Boughton’s four terms, the city saw new schools, such as Western Connecticut AIS Magnet School and Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School (formerly Roberts Avenue), newly paved roads, the new Firefighter House Engine 26 on the west side, an upgraded athletic field in Rogers Park, and a modern Police Department. The new station revitalized a sector of the city considered challenging, and lifted the morale of the police officers that today are able to work in a safe, efficient facility. All of these improvements benefit the residents who are citizens, as well as the immigrants in Danbury.
For these reasons, Tribuna is endorsing Mark Boughton for Mayor of the City of Danbury.
So lets see, in 2007, after being criticized by another newspaper for giving numerous campaign contributions to the Boughton administration between 2005 and 2007, the higher ups at The Tribuna comes out with a statement in which they withdrew their support for the mayor.
Okay, fine BUT…
In the time since their statement, the owners of the Tribuna have witnessed:
Threats made against organizations that support immigrants rights who were outspoken in their disapproval of the ICE ACCESS program,
People in the immigrant community talk about living in a state of fear in Danbury (due in large part to the tactics of the Boughton administration that goes largely unreported)
Yet, the people at the Tribuna can criticize Gary Goncalves because of the way he answered a immigration-related question, overlook the above matters that happened over the last two year in which the immigrant community were attacked by City Hall (to a point where people refuse to speak out against the mayor due to fear) to not only flip-flop on their word to withhold support for Boughton, but also sponsor the Mayor’s Ball (almost a year to the day in which Boughton and the council approved ICE ACCESS), and, as reported in Boughton’s July 2009 campaign finance statement, also attend one of his fundraiser and, in the case of a high ranking member of the paper, return to the habit of providing campaign contributions?!?
Now look, I know the people at the Tribuna as I’ve reported on the attacks form City Hall towards the immigrant community since late 2004-early 2005. Celia Bacelar and her family are good-hearted people who do care about Danbury. That being said, this editorial, and the fact that they completely went back on the word they gave their own community cannot go overlooked.
The fact that any editorial or senior ranking member of a newspaper giving campaign contributions to a candidate diminishes their editorial writings when it comes to endorsements (without, at the very least, disclosing the campaign contributions to the public), the fact that The Tribuna can, on one hand, criticize a candidate because he didn’t answer to a question regarding immigration to their satisfaction, while completely overlooking the tactics of a mayor who has attacked the very community their paper serves, while endorsing the mayor mainly based on paved roads and new buildings, reeks of hypocrisy.
Funny how time changes things huh?
6:00 PM: Time to switch gears and go to BETHEL!!!
Here’s a field report from a voter in Bethel.
Just voted at Berry School in Bethel (Dist. 5)….nobody there! No candidates, poll standers, or voters. But my machine had a count of 183, so people had voted earlier. Hopefully the after work hours crowd boosts turnout.
6:55 PM: Okay, a little more than a hour to go until the real fun begins and I can start providing post-election coverage. Hopefully at 8:01, the candidates will start pulling down their lawn signs and things around here can get back to normal.
REMEMBER: Please send your voting experience to email@example.com. When you send your email, make sure to tell me where you voted, the time when you voted, and the count on the voting machine.
8:05: Polls are now closed and I went to every polling place in Bethel. I’m now blogging from the Municipal Center (thank goodness for the iPhone). I’ll fill you in on what happened at each poll ASAP but from hitting all the polling places, the word I received regarding the turnout is that it’s VERY VERY high.
8:15 PM: RESULTS from BETHEL are coming in now…
Burke wins district 4, Knickerbocker sins district 2 (and I think 1). I’m running so I’ll update this info with the actual numbers soon.
8:45 PM Here’s better numbers…I’ll update this list as I get more info.
Knickerbocker/ Straiton: 195/195,
(not in yet as of 8:45 PM)
D5: (not in yet as of 8:45 PM)
District 6: Duane Perkins and Fred Visconti easily win re-election over Derek Roy and Linda J. Ossenfort
12:30 AM: Since I was not in Danbury for the results, I don’t have the official totals but here’s the latest.
Boughton easily wins re-election while picking up one seat on the common council.
Warren Levy loses Common Council seat.
Andrew Wittmore is OUT on Zoning.
Complaint is filed against Derek Roy for his campaign tactics.
Still waiting for results on the Board of Ed races.
I’ll update this site with my video coverage from the Bethel race (including my interview with First Selectman-Select Matt Knickerbocker tomorrow morning.
I’ll update this site with my reports from the rest of the wards in Bethel and Danbury, as well as my video coverage from the Bethel race (including my interview with First Selectman-Select Matt Knickerbocker tomorrow morning.
NOTE: Covering the race on the road is getting easier with the advent of 3-g mobile phone technology but it’s REALLY hard to be at all the places at the same time. I promise to fill in the gaps tomorrow morning.