The Chelsea Black Community (CBC), under the leadership of President Joan Cromwell, hosted a Candidates Forum on June 27 at the Chelsea Senior Center.
Four of the five candidates for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s position in the Sept. 4 Democratic Primary– Linda Champion, Rachael Rollins, Shannon McAuliffe, and Evandro Carvalho – participated in the forum. Cromwell announced that DA candidate Greg Henning was invited to the forum, but was unable to attend due to another commitment.
Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley, candidate for U.S. Congress, took part in the CBC’s Congressional Candidates Forum. Congressman Michael Capuano was unable to attend because Congress was in session in Washington, D.C.
The four DA candidates presented their qualifications for the position and stated how they would run the DA’s office if they were elected. There were some spirited remarks by the candidates while discussing issues such as immigration, sanctuary cities, criminal justice reform, the homeless, diversion programs, the opioid crisis, and the safety of residents in Suffolk County.
Rollins delivered the most eye-opening comments of the forum when she spoke about the lack of diversity in positions of leadership at ROCA, the Chelsea-based agency led by CEO Molly Baldwin. Rollins’ comments came after McAuliffe, a former director at Roca, had rebutted Rollins’ earlier statement that she [Rollins] had management experience at Massport, MassDOT, and the MBTA, which, Rollins noted, are much larger organizations than ROCA.
McAuliffe said, “We heard a little bit about Roca leading 17 people and I want to be really clear about this: The staff of Roca is 17 people, but it is an agency with over 200 young men who are the highest risk in the county, and helping to give them what they need to actually turn away from crime. I will let everybody leave their own opinions to themselves about the MBTA and Massport and what we’ve actually seen about those companies, but what I can say about Roca is that it is effective, it’s data-driven, it’s innovative, and it’s about leading radical change.”
Rollins responded vigorously to McAuliffe, saying, “I was fortunate enough after Shannon left Roca, to be offered the job of director of Roca, and what was disappointing to me is that I would have been the first person of color in the 30-year history of Roca to ever have that position. Roca has inserted itself into communities of color and its management is historically not people of color. And I am very, very tired, very candidly, of communities of color being led by people that don’t look like us, and we are not asked to sit at the table. So I am very proud of my history of hiring people of color, and women, at the MBTA, Massport, and MassDOT, and I hope ROCA works really hard to make sure that they get some more diversity in their leadership.”
Pressley, who received the most enthusiastic ovation of the night upon her introduction, said, “I am running for Seventh Congressional District because this is the most diverse district, and yet it is the most unequal. And if you need any evidence of that, you get on the No. 111 bus and just try to get to work on time, or you can get on the No. 1 bus in Harvard Square in Cambridge and ride it all the way to Dudley Square in Roxbury. And what you will see visually is a stark contrast of life experiences, median household income, and life expectancy drop by decades.
“My opponent has been a reliable vote – given these times, that is no longer good enough,” Pressley continued. “This district deserves and these times demand activist leadership, leaders that will vote the right way, that will lead, that will legislate, that will be bold – and I want to underscore the intention in legislating: to uplift families, to advance communities, and to reduce harm.”
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson, who represented Capuano at the forum, delivered a speech highlighting Capuano’s many accomplishments in office as Chelsea’s congressman.
Sharon Caulfield, associate dean of Bunker Hill Community College, did a masterful job as the moderator of the forum. Caulfield, whose husband, Michael, and daughter, Emily, looked on proudly in the audience, kept the program moving smoothly, was professional and courteous in her manner, and was impartial in her actions.
Joan Cromwell thanked Chelsea Community Cable Television and its executive director, Duke Bradley, for televising the forum and the Chelsea Record for its publicizing and coverage of the forum.
Cromwell said in concluding her remarks, “This [forum] was good.”
And all who participated in and attended the forum, agreed.