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.
The Chelsea Black Community (CBC) has become a highly visible and active organization since its inception four years ago under the direction of President Joan Cromwell.
The CBC has drawn large crowds to its events and it has assumed a major leadership role in the city’s celebration of Black History Month in February.
Now Cromwell and the CBC are entering the election arena as the sponsor of a Candidates Forum to be held Weds., June 27, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Chelsea Senior Center. The five candidates for the Democratic nomination for Suffolk County District Attorney, EvandroCarvalho, Linda Champion, Gregory Henning, Shannon McAuliffe, and Rachael Rollins have all accepted the CBC’s invitation to participate in a panel discussion and question-and-answer forum with the audience.
Congressman Michael Capuano and Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley, candidate for the Seventh Congressional Seat, were invited to participate in the Congressional Candidates’ portion of the forum.
Cromwell stated that Pressley will participate, while Capuano informed the CBC that he will be in session in Washington and unable to attend the forum.
Sharon McAuliffe, associate dean at Bunker Hill Community College, will serve as moderator of the forum.
Cromwell said the CBC decided to hold the forum after some of the candidates for the DA position reached out to the organization. Sensing a heightened interest in the contest due to DA Dan Conley’s decision not to run for re-election, the CBC opted to invite all five candidates to the city.
“We wanted to be fair and unbiased, so we said, ‘why don’t we just host a candidates’ forum’ so they can all have equal time with the community to get their points across,” said Cromwell.
The CBC president, a member of a long-time and well-known Chelsea family, said there are many issues in the news including immigration, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, and substance abuse.
“There are so many things affecting our community that we felt it was important to educate and inform the voter that there are many candidates that are running for district attorney,” said Cromwell. “It’s a perfect opportunity for the people of Chelsea to have a conversation with the candidates, as well as to become knowledgeable about the election before they go in to the voting booth.”
Questions for the forum are being sent to the CBC by local organizations such as Roca, the Youth Commission, the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, and the Jordan Girls and Boys Club, among other groups.
Caulfield will have three questions for each of the candidates. The second half of the forum will be pre-selected questions from the audience.
If past CBC events are an indication, the Candidates Forum will be professionally done and well attended – and yes, Joan Cromwell said there will be great refreshments, something else for which the CBC has also become known.
“We need the public to be a part of the forum and meet the candidates,” said Cromwell. “We encourage the whole community to be there on June 27 at the Chelsea Senior Center.”
The Chelsea Record and Chelsea Collaborative joint Candidate Forum on Monday night was by all accounts a great success.
It was also the first of its kind in Chelsea where a private sector media company joined hands with a non-profit human services agency to promote better knowledge of the candidates up for election or re-election next week, and to enhance civic participation.
There were some skeptics, naturally, who felt neither the newspaper nor the Collaborative could host such a thing and be fair about it all.
From the beginning of the planning for this effort, this partnership sought to prove them wrong.
On Monday night, their fears should have been put to rest – both those who were there and those that chose not to come. Such partnerships in many different forms are just part of the dawning of an even newer Chelsea.
Things are not just changing at City Hall or in the development world or on Everett Avenue.
That said, the stars of the show were the candidates themselves – both from School Committee and from the City Council District and at-Large races.
The questions were tough and they were random and the candidates had no idea what to expect beforehand.
Virtually everyone who participated answered completely and with a good amount of thought and knowledge of the issues in Chelsea. This is one of the more impressive groups of candidates that a Chelsea election has fielded in quite a long time.
Civic participation is up, and that’s good to see after so many years of disinterest, lack of information or just low priorities. Certainly, it’s hard to be concerned about City politics when one has to figure out where their next meal will come from or how they’re going to make it through a freezing cold day in an apartment without any heat.
But times are changing and circumstances for people who have been in Chelsea for some time, in many cases, are improving. Now those folks, and the folks who always had a sense of civic responsibility, are getting involved.
The voters will have some careful thinking to do before they go to the polls next Tuesday, Nov. 3.
The choices will be tough, as evidenced by the thoughtful answers of all who participated in the forum on Monday.
If one missed the forum, there’s still a chance to see it on Chelsea Cable. Make sure to tune in before you cast your vote on Tuesday.
Beyond that, there is a debt of gratitude owed to the Chelsea Schools for allowing this partnership to use the Mary C. Burke Auditorium and to be so accommodating in setting up. Kudos go to Supt. Mary Bourque and David Ferraro of the Burke.
We also must thank Chelsea Cable Executive Director Robert “Duke” Bradley for filming and broadcasting the entire event.
The Chelsea Police were also kind enough to send an officer to monitor the event and the school grounds in case something were to happen – which it didn’t.
The information is out there.
Now it’s up to the voters.