Andy Vidal Mcnair, who is running for the Ward 1 seat, is playing part of his ward against the other in a most opportunistic and disturbing manner. His ward encompasses most of the subsidized housing in the area,in area 1A, and most of the residents of this low income housing do not vote, often being too wrapped in the struggle of simply living to pay attention to civic politics, so he is utilizing the worst classist and racist impulses of the other half of his ward--1a-- to win his seat. He has stated that the low income housing seeks out destructive residents from Holyoke when there are more "deserving poor" here in Northampton--now, since Holyoke has a predominantly Puerto Rican population, the racist undertones in this statement are clear. He has also stated that there are a disproportionate amount of police calls to the housing projects, which is simply a false statement. His more progressive views on education, the landfill, and other hot button topics obscure his hostile attitudes towards the most powerless among us. I fear for the residents of Meadow Brooks and other housing projects in Ward 1 should Mcnair be elected.
The omission of any discussion of the topic on his campaign website is telling. But when questioned about these issues, Mcnair's true colors shine brightly and garishly. The one thing on the site that does point to his beliefs about the residents of subsidized housing in his ward is his refusal to criticize the fire departments' response to the fire at the Meadowbrooks project. If the fire had occurred in a more affluent part of the ward, we'd be hearing a very different answer from Mr. Mcnair.
Not a lot of attention is paid to the candidates for councilor seats, and I'm afraid that many people vote for these seats based on the most superficial reasoning. Mcnair is an out, partnered gay man, and in a city which has a sizable queer community, that carries a lot of currency. Mcnair is a gay man, but so is Andrew Sullivan--sexual orientation is no guarantee of progressive beliefs, and Mcnair's marginalization as a gay man, in a tolerant environment like this one, does not lead to true understanding of the marginalization of the poor. Also, it is only a fool that votes for anyone except the incumbent because of a desire for change. Change does not always come for the better. Ms Maureen Carney, the incumbent, is a woman with a proven track record as a *true* progressive, a labor organizer who was one of the councilors staunchly on the side of the homeless from the beginning during the debate to de facto criminalize panhandling, who has also been on the side of the poor on many other issues. Just one look at her voting record can tell you who she is--a person who is the furthest thing from a classist or a racist. Sadly, her paying job as an organizer does not allow her to spend as much time on her campaign as she needs to--but don't forget who she is as Mr. Mcnair places himself firmly in the spotlight.
Two other supposedly progressive challengers for seats on the city council deserve a long, critical look. Angela Plassman, running for the Ward 3 seat, endorses more drug enforcement in Northampton at a time when the nation as a whole is reconsidering the war on drugs, looking at prison overcrowding, the abuse of human rights within the prison industrial complex, and the lack of deterrent these barbaric tactics have proven to be. But rather than endorsing more options for treatment or focusing solely on diverting resources to fight violent rather than nonviolent crime, Ms. Plassman prefers a "tough on crime" platform, whether it makes sense as a position or not. I don't want to stand still and wait for Ms. Plassman begin a large push to imprison nonviolent drug offenders when the city deserves less reactionary policies rather than a repetition of the same excesses in the War on Drugs that have proven to be ineffective and often abusive throughout the rest of the nation.
(At least Ms. Plassman is honest enough to state this campaign goal on her website.)
I acknowledge that Bob Reckman, the current incumbent, has had a mixed record, but he has not displayed the reactionary impulses of his challenger, and in this case, I feel it is for the good of the city to stick to the proverbial devil we know.
Ms. Plassman also objects to the development exit 19, which in private conversation with many of the challengers, has been connected to the impulse to keep Northampton something of a gated community, to fear of taint from the outside--the outside being those of a different race, those who are less rich, those who are not Northamptonites.
In the next entry, tomorrow, I will discuss Kathy Silva credentials as a faux progressive, and reveal more about the two candidates I've discussed above.