Sunday, July 08, 2007

Councilor McDermott Receives Annual "Muzzle Award"

MediaNation commentator Dan Kennedy has published his annual "Muzzle Awards" highlighting "outrages against free speech and civil liberties in New England." It appears in the current issue of the Boston Phoenix.

While Mitt Romney lead the list again this year (for the second year in a row) -- this time for refusing to provide state security for the former Iranian President who was giving a speech at Harvard University -- a local pol made the list, too.

After Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made negative remarks about U.S. President George Walker Bush at the United Nations in September, Allston-Brighton District City Councilor Jerry McDermott called for the Citgo sign near Fenway Park to be taken down.  Writes Kennedy:
Jerry McDermott
Boston city councilor aims at Chávez, hits Citgo sign

If there’s an iconic piece of pop kitsch that defines the Boston skyline, it’s surely the giant Citgo sign in Kenmore Square. Lovingly restored in 2005, its burned-out neon tubes replaced with bright LEDs, the 60-by-60-foot sign can been seen from several miles away and is as much a part of the Fenway Park experience as David Ortiz walk-offs and steamed hot dogs in damp, squishy buns.

But the sign came under fire in September after Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez took the podium at the United Nations and issued an offensive — and, let’s be honest, hilarious — attack on President Bush. “The devil came here yesterday,” Chávez said. “And it smells of sulfur still today.”

It turned out that Citgo, based in Houston, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company. Enter Boston city councilor Jerry McDermott, who introduced a resolution demanding that the Citgo sign be taken down in retaliation for Chávez’s words. “Given the hatred of the United States displayed by dictator Hugo Chávez,” said McDermott, “it would be more fitting to see an American flag when you drive through Kenmore Square.”

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, including that of Mayor Tom Menino, who rightly called the sign a “landmark.” But given McDermott’s predilection for heavy-handed governmental authority (he also spoke out against supposedly objectionable material on Boston’s local-access cable channel, and called for voters to produce photo IDs at the polls), the best news to come out of his office all year was his announcement that he will not seek re-election to his Allston-Brighton seat this fall.

While the Citgo sign might be iconic, it ain't no landmark, at least in my mind. I would be surprised if removal of the sign, for example, would require approval of the Boston Landmarks Commission, for example.  But removal of the sign is definitely an unnecessary step in protesting Chavez's remarks.  How about writing an Op-Ed about why you think he's a bad guy?

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