Here a Louis. There a Louis.
Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner explicitly compares himself to Rosa Parks, James Michael Curley (and generations of repressed Boston Irish Americans) and numerous martyrs. He implicitly invokes French King Louis XV.
Attributed to Le Roi was "Après moi, le déluge" — imprecisely, after I go, all hell will break loose.
For Turner and his supporters, the updated version is that any Councilor who voted to expel him from the body will at the very least lose the position in the next election. Moreover, his chum and sole Councilor who voted not to oust him, Charles Yancey, repeatedly warned President Mike Ross and Boston Corporate Attorney William Sinnott that they were acting illegally and would surely lose a certain-to-follow lawsuit.
That is a fascinating phenomenon. The most self-important and emotionally involved believe themselves to be both always right and absolutely essential.
It brings to mind the first meeting I attended as a new board member of a major downtown church. It was in terrific financial, membership and other trouble, which I knew when I ran for the position. I was not aware of how angry the very controlling and self-righteous church administrator was.
Rather than give her report at the meeting, she resigned...with great drama. The same person who required the sexton to come to her to unlock a closet containing toilet-paper rolls, came like a Disney-movie witch with portents of doom. The church would not be able to function without her. She regretted she had to leave and that the church would fold without her guidance and constant oversight, but she was out of there.
Well, as these things tend to happen, a bunch of us turned around that church, which has thrived. The administrator's egocentric passion for the position was at once admirable and pathetic. In the end, she was not holding the church together, was not essential, and was not larger than the whole works.
That was a heavy fingered lead-in to another light on the historic occurrence yesterday on the fifth floor of Boston's City Hall, in the Council chamber. That would be the first expulsion of a Council member since the body replaced the Board of Alderman as the city's regulatory body in 1909.
That tack led nowhere. Keeping an eye on the attentive but inexpressive Councilors, I saw neither sympathy nor outrage. To me, and apparently from their vote to them, Turner was stretching way too far to portray himself as the natural extension of Curley and the Boston Irish.
The true oddment here is that courageous and necessary actions by Ross are the catalyst here.
Rule 40A. Pursuant to the city charter and in accordance with the open meeting law, the council president may refer a matter to the council upon his/her determination that any member has engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the Boston City Council or may be unqualified to sit on the body. A member may be unqualified by violating federal or state law, or any conditions imposed by the city’s charter, which includes violating any provisions of the three oaths of office.
The council president shall automatically refer a matter to the council upon a felony conviction of any member by any state or federal court.
Any action by the council taken in response to any referral shall require a two-thirds (2/3) majority roll call vote and will be in accordance with local, state and federal law.
In addition to his painstaking refutation of Yancey's parliamentary gambit, Ross strove to give the voting public some fresh proof that the Council and city government at large had a respect for rule of law.
In 13-page preparatory packet to inform the Councilors of the issues and options on Turner, Ross concluded one section with "We are not above the law and none of us is above the rules we have established as a body. If we act as if we are, this body loses its credibility, its integrity and the trust of the people we serve. Many are cynical of government as it is, we cannot add to their mistrust."
It is a pity that Yancey gave Turner's supporters fodder for feeding a beast of conspiracy and victimhood. The idea that Ross in particular and the Council more widely acted illegally is absurd and Yancey surely knows that.
That's irrelevant though. Yancey's arrow long left his bow. The question now is how accurate are the curses of Turner's opponents and his own allusions that voters will as a body rise up and punish the 11 of 12 Councilors to a man and woman come the next two elections?
I say chicken lips!
Turner will be a jailed felon shortly, as will state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, caught in the same odious federal sting operation. Nearly everyone I know joins me is disrespecting the type of sting operation of manufactured temptation that netted Turner. Yet whether through disregard of known laws, sloppy inattention and accounting or simple arrogance, Turner was nabbed and convicted. As his protégé Felix Arroyo said in his emotional remarks at the hearing, "In the end, we cannot escape our mistakes. We cannot escape our deeds."
Even before yesterday's meeting, Turner had grandiose descriptions of how he'd organize prisoners if he ended up in jail. It is unlikely that a short-timer in a federal prison would have any meaningful impact, but it's a good pre-mythology. Turn is forever editing the book of his life.
Instead, it is likely that another strong advocate of the poor and middle-class people of color who comprise most of District 7 will take over Turner's seat in a special election. My bet is for the charismatic Tito Jackson. He lacks Turner's capacity for B.S. but not his clarity of purpose or worthy goals.
Given those developments, there is little immediacy or even need to consider replacing any of the 11. The greatest impetus would be in Turner's district, where the voters will already have made their choice. The chance of driving out anyone else is slim indeed.
Turner's other dire prophesy goes to his often repeated claim that 90% of politicians, including fellow Councilors, are dirty and take money. He also claims to be the most honest and moral of the lot.
Yet so far, our Speakers of the House (three of the last four) are driven out and/or convicted of corruption, but not so Boston Councilors. Turner's fantasy that they all will earn and fail scrutiny was very unlikely before and given the infamy of his slow, endless fall over the past three years, any Councilor would be a total ass to take any risks.
In fact, his disgrace may be the greatest insurance we have had of political integrity. Don't be that guy.
Tags: massmarrier, Yancey, Chuck Turner, Mike Ross, Boston, City Council, conviction, hearing, explusion, felony, Arroyo, Pressley