Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Anguish and Necessity Over Chuck Turner

The punchline is that Charles A. Chuck Turner received a new distinction today — the first Boston City Councilor ever to be expelled from the body.

The process was intended to be dispassionate, but the peanut gallery of supporters would not allow that. From shortly after the pledge of allegiance, the call-and-response, catcalls and nasty insults tainted the already emotionally laden special meeting in Council chambers.

In the end, the numbers that counted were that more than the required eight Councilors voted for his expulsion following his four-count felony conviction of taking a $1,000 bribe and lying repeatedly to the FBI about doing so. Deemed by Council President Michael Ross on advice of Boston corporate counsel William Sinnott to have a vested interest in whether he kept his job and paycheck, Turner agreed he would speak but not otherwise act in the meeting. That meant he was disqualified from voting and the two-thirds majority to oust him would become eight of 12 instead of nine of 13. Also, he could not offer amendments to the order to leave the Council under consideration.

Visit from Don Quixote

The vote was 11 to one to expel Turner. Getting to the quick vote took about 100 minutes, largely thanks to Turner's speeches and as much to supporter Councilor Charles Yancey.

I found brief amusement when he first spoke right after Ross opened the proceedings. The humor came from Yancey playing Turner's frequent role of Don Quixote. This other Charles raced at the windmill of the expulsion order, using a limp parliamentary lance.

He did, in fact, sound much like Turner in threatening first Ross and subsequently the whole Council with legal liability, ignominy and, of course, likely loss in the next elections. He based these on two of the rules under which the Council operates — 33 and 47. The gist was that things the Council votes on can't be done the same day they first hear of the proposal.

To keep things kosher, this being the first day of Hanukkah after all, Ross ask lawyerly types, including Sinnott to confer in a brief recess to answer Yancey's drama. The response and subsequent expansion when Yancey iterated and reiterated his charges of bastardizing the laws, rules, Council's integrity, yadda, yadda, was that Council rule 40A had them well covered.

These developed when Turner was first under indictment, the Council realized they had no rule to deal with a felony conviction. As a body and unanimously, they developed 40A and approved it over two years ago. This rule calls for just the type of fitness/expulsion hearing held today and in effect enables what happened and was never needed before.

Yancey's windmill tilting will surely reappear and be repeated by Turner's supporters and conspiracy theorists. Yet repeating at increasing volume that the rules don't use the term "expel" anywhere doesn't change anything. In his expanded explanation, Sinnott was losing patience as he granted Yancey inclusion into the larger body of reasonable people who could understand that 40A covered the proceedings.

Sincerity v. Slander

Regardless, the most moving moments came from the two young Councilors who consider Turner a mentor. Felix Arroyo and Ayanna Pressley each read from carefully prepared remarks, in often quavering deliveries. They independently developed very similar speeches. The thrust of each was that they respected and loved Turner, that he had taught them to do what they knew was right and never to hid or run from a conflict. Each than said the vote to expel him was wrenching but necessary.

Turner supporters were at their most obnoxious during these poignant speeches. The overflow who moved into the nearby Curley room (named for the Boston alderman [pre-Council Councilor equivalent] and mayor who served time for corruption) could be heard bellowing for Yancey and Turner's remarks.

Several times, the sincere and decorous Ross called for order and was reduced to threatening to clear the room and finish the proceedings without an audience despite Turner's request for openness. He responded to the most loutish of the audience screaming about racism, electoral retribution and such repeatedly.

Arroyo was greeted not with compassion as he bared his torment, but with calls from two elderly black women behind me of Uncle Tomás (racist as well as muddled Spanish). Pressley got multiple interruptions of "Shame" and "2011" referring to the next election. Cruelly, the worst came as she faced Turner in the adjacent chair and spoke of her feelings for him and the torment of her decision.

Meanwhile, for both speeches, Turner was rapt and seemingly moved. He's a do-gooder, but also quite an egotist. He seemed to relish hearing of his virtues, even from protégés who intended to vote for his ouster. His seated and standing mob did not pick up on his equanimity.

Earlier Yancey had finally accepted that his parliamentary ploy would fail. He suggested fellow Councilors abstain in the vote, robbing the proposal of the necessary eight votes.

No other Councilor spoke, which itself said volumes. They did not try to justify anything. They made no excuses. No one, even Yancey, offered any amendments. Also, when the roll-call came, it was quick, stark and unequivocal. They went by seniority, starting with 27-year vet Yancey. His was the only no vote. The 11 yes votes came quickly and without comment.

Tomorrow, I'll collect a few quotes and beef up the coverage. Unfortunately, Turner's lengthy statements were not the stuff of oratorical legend. He spoke in mangled metaphors, this time, comparing himself to the Boston Irish-Americans, repressed by Yankees who used laws immorally to crush those they considered inferior.

Alas, this meeting was not Turner's finest moment. Yancey tried a lawyer's trick, even though the closest he has gotten to being one is an honorary law degree from Mount Ida. Turner fell into logical fallacies with his own version of if-the-glove-don't-fit summation with a vote-against-expulsion-unless-you're-sure-you're-more-moral-than-I tack. Both approaches were sure losers and convinced no one.

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Uncle said...

All along, the parallels with Curley in this case have fascinated me, so the overflow to the Curley Room is terribly apropos. The most important parallel may be overlooked. Curley at the end was the last of his kind, a relic of the era when corruption was truly the only way Irish in Boston could get ahead. At the end of his career, that was no longer true. As the Irish stood on their own feet, they had discovered they had no need of the Curleys. He had made himself irrelevant and embarrassing.

It will be interesting to see if the next act is real political theatre, or just more hot air.

Unknown said...

Exclusive Chuck Turner Council Vote Video:

01 December 2010

KingCast presents faces of consternation as the Boston Civil Rights Community vows: "We will keep Chuck Turner's fight for Justice and Equality alive!"

KingCast65 video regarding the expulsion vote, which was cast without any clear authority to do so, as will be duly noted shortly by the eloquent presentation of Councilor Yancey, the Councilor with more experience than anyone else in the entire room. If you want to start talking about expansion of plenary powers to take such a grand action then so be it, but Common Sense says that if the Charter intended for the Council to have such power it would be clearly enumerated.

And oh, yah Attorney Sullivan, have your day of Glory, you spent $30K of our money to trick a guy used to spending his own money on community projects to pick up $1,000.00. A guy with zero history of corruption or selfishness who worked for everyone in his community regardless of age, race, sex, orientation, religion or color. Even your own witness was disgusted by you and your racism and he openly said as much.

But here's the thing, Counselor: You just made Chuck Turner bigger than he already was, because the Community is going to begin and sustain a vigilant, directed missive toward the Goal of Justice, and I will be right there to document it. Thanks for lighting the Fire, you threw down the Gauntlet now we will pick it up and smote you right 'cross your noggin with it.