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April 1, 2014  issue
© An African American POV
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COME ON ALL YOU CYNICS. LET’S ADMIT IT! Mayor Domenic Sarno made a good decision for  police commissioner; economic development in  Springfield is heating up big time; manufacturing  might well be on the way back to Springfield by  way of China; gambling ain’t so bad; and the “new’  Republican newspaper looks real good! SPRINGFIELD’S NEW POLICE COMMISSIONER To the relief of many, Springfield’s new police  commissioner is not Robert McFarlin, a fact for  which Mayor Domenic J. Sarno should be  commended since McFarlin’s history with some  members of the Black community has been far too  testy. The new Commissioner, who will replace  current Commissioner William Fitchet, who is  retiring in June, is Springfield resident John  Barbieri, a 25-year veteran of Springfield’s police  department who Mayor Sarno said was selected  because he “is a progressive and innovative leader who has the command and respect of the  department. More importantly he understands and  respects the mosaic and fabric of the people of  Springfield.” We’ll give him a chance. CALL IT THE O.J. SIMPSON FACTOR “Eric Miller got drunk on a bottle of vodka, stole a  pickup truck at a convenience store, then plowed  into a car, killing the driver. Almost ten years later,  Ethan Couch, also 16, packed several friends into  his father’s pickup, stole two cases of beer from a  Walmart, and proceeded to scream down a local  thoroughfare until he collided with a disabled  vehicle, killing its driver and three passersby….   Miller’s grandfather, with whom he lived, had  wanted to hire a private lawyer but couldn’t afford  the expense, and so the court appointed one  instead. The lawyer advised Miller to plead not  guilty and take the case to trial, where he was  convicted of murder and handed a 20-year  sentence…. Couch’s parents hired two prominent  local defense attorneys who advised him to plead  guilty and wallow in contrition before the judge.  Most famously, they enlisted a psychologist to  testify that Couch suffered from an obscure  malady known as “affluenza,” in which wealthy  parents render their children blameless by failing  to discipline them. Prosecutors had asked for 20  years; the judge – the same one who sentenced  Miller – set Couch free. The only catch was that  the teenager would have to spend part of his  probation in a California rehab facility with a half-  million dollar annual tab. The judge did not explain  why a lack of impulse control excuses the wealthy  but not the poor.” (Noam Scheiber, The New  Republic, February 17, 2014)  Scheiber goes on to argue for equal justice through an equalization  process that would have each person pay no more  than a set amount for a trial with the government  subsidizing those who could not afford the amount.  O.J. Simpson and other rich folks who avoided an  unhappy justice simply because they had the  riches wouldn’t like that.  KELO V. CITY OF NEW LONDON You might recall when the U.S. Supreme Court  ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that the City of  New London was within its 5th Amendment rights  to take the property in the Fort Trumbull  neighborhood of New London for use of a private  developer. Before Kelo, the law had always held  that a city could take private property by way of its  eminent domain powers only for public use. Some  residents of Springfield, Massachusetts may recall  a Superior Court decision that castigated former  Mayor Michael Albano for trying to confiscate  private property in the North End so that private  developers could construct a minor league  baseball field. Unfortunately for Albano, Kelo had  not yet been decided. Otherwise, Springfield would  be in the minor league baseball business. That  being said, Kelo is a horrible decision that leaves  all of us private property owners subject to the  whims of municipal authority as the families who  lost their property because of the Kelo decision  can attest. Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that  wanted the Fort Trumbull property, convinced the  city to take the homes with a promise that it would  expand its presence in the area by building a new  headquarters that they said would attract other  world class development. Nine years later, long  
after the residents had been forced out and their  houses bulldozed, all that remains of the property  is a vast, weed-covered, empty lot because Pfizer  changed its mind about building its new  headquarters in the neighborhood and moved out entirely, which further confirmed the folly of Kelo,  which has left private property owners open to the whims of municipal authorities as well as the  private developers they so often cater to. (See  “Eminent Disaster,” Jeff Jacoby, The Boston  Globe, March 12, 2014) WE ARE ALL IRISH! Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena  Forry became the first Black American to host  what may be the largest St. Patrick’s Day  breakfast outside of Ireland when she hosted  Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast,  which has always been hosted by a White Irish-  American politician out of South Boston. It has not  been without controversy, however. One  prominent White South Boston Irishman spent St.  Patrick’s Day in Ireland rather than be present at  the historical transition that mirrored the transition  taking place in his old neighborhood. But most  took the change in stride and praised what was  considered a great performance by Dorcena  Forry. Dorcena Forry ran for Senator in the 1st  Suffolk senatorial district which historically has  been a South Boston seat occupied by such  notables as Billy Bulger, who helped prep her for  the breakfast. She won because the district has  become increasingly Black and the Irish vote was  divided when two South Boston Irishmen ran.  Good for Boston! WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?         I have always had difficulty distinguishing  between a democrat and a republican, a liberal  and a conservative, a libertarian or tea partier and any of the above. And it’s not because I’m dumb.  It’s because most people I meet who live by those  labels are so iffy and shifty. And what is going on  with the new mayors of New York and Boston  makes my point precisely. Both mayors are  supposed to be such dyed-in-the-wool liberals  and both are rolling back the tide on charter  schools to the detriment of the many students  who are benefiting from them or who are trying to  get into them. Those charter schools are helping  the poor and downtrodden who want a better  chance in life and other students who just want  the good education traditional schools are not  providing. These two mayors appear to prefer to  fight the students and their parents rather than  confront the power of the unions and the teachers who are threatened by charter school innovation  and success. There is something wrong with this  picture. YOU ARE A PRESIDENT WHO IS BLACK AND IT’S ABOUT TIME YOU DECLARED YOURSELF! Most of us are not so unsophisticated as to not  understand why Obama spent much of his first  term muting his Blackness. Many of us were not  happy about it and many of us blamed Obama  himself for it although most of us understood that  the President was stuck between a rock and a  hard place when it came to adopting a Black  agenda in an America that laid in wait to jump on  him with all kinds of distracting accusations that  would have little to do with reality but much to do  with White privilege. We were pleased that he  finally spoke out as a concerned Black man and  initiated the $200 million “My Brother’s Keeper”  program, a private initiative designed to involve  private businesses and foundations in the effort to reverse the condition of America’s Black male  population that has a 25% unemployment rate  and six out of every ten in prison. The statistics  go on and on. It should go without saying that  “The plight of black men is rooted in decades of  racial discrimination. Poverty, low academic  achievement and incarceration all play into their  difficulties.”  (Kevin C. Peterson, Boston Herald,  March 1, 2014)  But it is not something that just  happened yesterday. It has been ignored for  decades. And a lot of Black folks, who voted for  him twice, appreciate Obama’s outreach to  support beleaguered Black men as belated as it  is. But the whole country needs to hear more.  ■ 
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