Tuesday, August 31, 2010

LITE Right Williams

The noble, highly useful busybodies at JP Progressives have been flogging their legislative forum series...and with good reason. I had noticed highlights of the 2nd Suffolk Senate District and finally dug into the 19 questions, plus 12 yes-or-no lightning round ones.

The geographically sprawling and diverse district includes the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roxbury, and the South End.

There's a PDF doc of the questionnaire and all Senate and House candidates in the series here.

It's no secret I have supported the incumbent Sonia Chang-Díaz and endorsed her from her first go at the office in 2006. She didn't make it that time, but did two years later. Dem challenger Hassan Williams would have to show some real stuff to change my mind. He doesn't have it.

I recently moved from the district. I still endorse Chang-Díaz. In fact, with her impressive accomplishments in her first term, she has already shown that being new at the job has not been a problem. I expect even better from her in future years.

You can compare their campaign approaches on their sites:
There's a strong contrast, some from the most obvious factors. She has a legislative record of bills introduced and some passed. He has never held office. She has a detailed platform. He has small, scattered ideas.

It would be glib to say his only record is one in the criminal justice system. His sites don't detail or stress earlier legal troubles long before he became a lawyer. In stump speeches tough, he says he can identify with youth and adults who come into bad habits and times. While was a leader in getting long-overdue CORI reform passed, she can't claim to have an arrest record.

His take on her legislative accomplishments has been unfortunate. In numerous public and press statements, he calls her work plagiarism and claims she only followed up on what previous Senator Dianne Wilkerson started. Unfortunately for his argument, Chang-Díaz actually got the work done, collaborated with other progressive sorts to get key bills that languished in bill stages and committees for many years. He has nothing comparable to suggest he could have done nearly as well much less better.

Keeping it too simple

To the JP Progressives, there's also two hot buttons for me as well as a similar contrast in the candidates' positions. Generally, he clearly hasn't noodled the issues too thoroughly. Where he does state positions, they tend to be much more literal and simple than would befit their complexity.

For example, on the environment, his three priorities would be:
  1. Wind and clean energy technology reducing demand for oil
  2. Reducing emissions, and
  3. Protecting our trees and air quality by planting as many new trees as possible.
She can be specific with references to stuff in her pot:
  1. I will continue to fight for bills like SB388, which I filed this session, that would help identify communities in Massachusetts that suffer disparate health outcomes due to environmental pollution and require certain projects to complete a health impact assessment before approval. Such a measure is a vital first step in ensuring environmental justice for all our communities.
  2. I will co-sponsor and advocate for the passage of expanded bottle bill legislation.
  3. I will continue to fight for improving the financial solvency, scope, accessibility, and environmental impact of public transportation, through revenue reforms including an increased gas tax.
In addition to these specific priorities, I will continue to
work on broader strategies to improve our environment,
increase economic justice and promote alternative energy
and green business, whether it be through alternative energy,
green building, or combinations of the two.
It was similar with the other big issues, like transportation and education. She had specifics and a vision. He was LITE with concepts or something simple. He wants respect for riders from the MBTA, a prettier Dudley station, and more traffic studies that, he claims, will lead to more on-time rides. She addresses improvements that would equalize service to areas of different income level.

Pushing buttons

A couple of rights questions got my attention as well. On a women's right to reproductive choice and same-sex marriage, Chang-Díaz is unequivocal. She strongly supports both. Williams looks reactionary on choice and avoids SSM.

The questions were:
Many states, including Massachusetts, have enacted or proposed barriers to women seeking to access an abortion—from waiting periods to mandatory ultrasounds. Would you oppose any additional legal barriers to women seeking abortion services in Massachusetts?

Do you support same sex marriage?
She replied to each YES. Note that the SSM one was a lightning round, requiring a yes/no answer.

He equivocated on both. For choice, he replied:
A woman has a right to choose whether or not to become pregnant. A child has a right not to be violated. Any conversation that disregards the right of either one is unconstitutional. It is not enough to respond that one is pro choice or not. The conversations must run deeper, looking at every unique situation. Every measure should be taken to honor the right of both whenever possible.
For SSM, his answer was:
Same sex marriage. I believe same sex marriage is well settled law in Massachusetts, and I will not do anything to change that status.
The first one seems suspect and reactionary to me. As an attorney, he should know that early stages of a fetus are not a child, whose rights might be violated. Equating the woman's rights is asinine. It smacks of a strong bias that he doesn't quite have the guts to proclaim.

Likewise on SSM, suggesting that he wouldn't try to undo it here is not the same as active support for existing rights. Together those answers sure look like a fundy hiding behind weasel words. If those are religious issues he can't get over, he ought to speak out on them.

I suggest reading through both candidates' responses. There's a progressive actually doing the work, ready to dive back in for another couple of years of it at least. Then there's the LITE and right guy who implies he could do better, even though he doesn't have a vision or a program.

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