Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Raucous Debate -- and an Unresponsive Candidate

For those who haven't heard, the debate on October 23, 2007 between Mark Ciommo and Greg Glennon, candidates for the Allston-Brighthon District 9 City Council seat, at times became highly charged. Both candidates interrupted each other repeatedly for a while in the middle of the event, thereby preventing each other from speaking according to the debate's format. This was most obvious during the "institutional expansion" topic (#6), which you can listen to on this previous post.

In a nutshell, Glennon repeatedly accused Ciommo of standing up for Harvard instead of the community, because Ciommo rose "in support of the proposal" at the BRA Board Meeting on Harvard's proposed science complex on October 3rd; Glennon rose during that meeting "in opposition to the proposal." Ciommo repeatedly accused Glennon of failing to attend certain community meetings and candidate forums, and for failing to submit public comments.

The Allston-Brighton TAB has run a story with their play-by-play:
The gloves came off during questions about the continuing encroachment of universities in Allston-Brighton. Glennon continued his stance that Ciommo couldn’t be trusted to stand up for the community because of his stance at the BRA meeting.

“Folks know this is a good and worthwhile project, and an agreement must be signed before permits are issued,” Ciommo responded. “I will stand with the community every time.”

Ciommo said Glennon didn’t attend a Harvard Allston Task Force meeting the previous night, causing Glennon to repeatedly interject.

“It’s absurd to suggest you have reservations when you stood in support of Harvard,” Glennon said in his rebuttal. “You had a chance to fight for the neighbors, and to say you did is misleading.”

Ciommo then asked Glennon why, after missing two forums and not submitting public comments on projects, should voters elect an unresponsive city councilor?

“A person who supported Harvard’s plan is unresponsive,” Glennon said. “Mark wants to have it both ways. He says he stood for the community, but he stood with city insiders.”

Ciommo responded, “We want Harvard to keep their word on all issues: noise, traffic, rodent control.”

Were the Candidates' Charges Factually Accurate?

While the heated arguments were at times not civil, most of the accusations were factually accurate.

Glennon failed to show up for the BAIA/ACA candidates forum on September 17, 2007 without notifying the organizers; he failed to answer organizers' phone calls, but eventually answered the phone the following day for an A-B TAB reporter. Glennon also failed to show up for another one on September 19, 2007, although I am told that he notified the organizers that night. During the debate, Glennon appears to have confirmed his absence from the community meeting about the proposed Lowe's store in Brighton. Glennon did not submit public comments to MEPA related to Harvard's request for a phase 1 waiver of review of their science complex, which can be confirmed by inspecting the list of those comments received at the end of the Draft Record of Decision written by Ian Bowles, State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

At the BRA Board Meeting on October 3, 2007 to consider waiving further review of Harvard's science complex, Ciommo did stand to deliver his public comments during the section for "those in favor of the proposal"; Glennon, on the other hand, did deliver his comments during the section for "those opposed to the proposal."

One accusation that was not correct was when Ciommo stated that Glennon had not submitted public comments to the BRA related to Harvard's DPIR on the science complex. In a previous post, I reported incorrectly that Glennon failed to submit those comments to the BRA, while I was accurate that he did not submit any to MEPA. Glennon did not provide a copy of his BRA comments to Harry Mattison (who posted all such comments on HarvardInAllston). Glennon also did not provide them to me when I made a direct request for them in an email dated September 12, 2007; several other candidates did respond to that request. The BRA only a week or so ago got back to me on my request for the whole package of public comments. In the interim, Harry Mattison obtained a copy of all those comments, and posted them at HarvardInAllston, where you can find Glennon's one-page letter to the BRA on p.82.

A Non-Responsive Candidate

Even though that one accusation by Ciommo may have been incorrect -- and was probably based on incorrect information provided here at Brighton Centered -- the incorrect information was the direct result of Glennon's failure to respond altogether to my legitimate media request. If Glennon thinks that the BRA provides such documents readily and quickly to journalists and community members -- as he implied in the feisty exchange with Ciommo -- then I think Glennon needs some education on how transparency in government actually works (or doesn't) in practice. The BRA has improved lately in responding to requests for public documents -- and they deserve credit for that -- but it is simply unreasonable that a candidate for public office should rely on an understaffed agency to provide copies of his public comment letters to voters and journalists.

Instead, Glennon should answer his email in a timely fashion. That's called constituent services.

I cannot once remember Glennon answering his home or cell phone when I have called, nor can I remember him returning a single call at a later time. And he has responded only twice to emails of mine (on 8/24/07 seven days after I wrote to him on 8/17/07; and on 9/10/07 when sending me his responses to the crowdsourced questionnaire). I know of a large number of people who have had similar problems getting through to Glennon on the phone and via email; I've even recommended to many of them to punch in "*67" before calling him in order to block their outgoing caller ID in hopes that he'll pick up if he doesn't know who it is calling. As Glennon is on record having said in the candidates forum on July 23, 2007:
"I will always be available. Every phone call will get returned, every email, every letter." [italics added]
On top of that his home phone number is unlisted. (I've tried looking it up in the hard copy of the white pages and online.) His campaign website doesn't list a phone number -- imagine that for a candidate for public office, not telling you how to call his campaign office!*** Once again from the 7/23/07 candidates forum he said:
"Even more, always being available, being in the community, always having a publicly listed home phone number anyone can call whenever they want to pick up the phone to call me." [italics added]
Glennon has therefore already made campaign promises to have a publicly listed home phone number and to return every phone call and email. Those campaign promises are waiting to be fulfilled. And there's fewer than twelve days before the polls close on November 6th.

*** EDIT [11/1/07]: The campaign website now lists a phone and FAX number for the campaign office.


joanie003 said...

Thank you for your excellent encapsulation of the debate exchange, which I attended. Regarding Glennon's lack of response, I felt disappointed by his lack of transparency about the abortion question. He would not answer this question. Ciommo, on the other hand, easily stated he was pro-choice.

johnath said...

Why would the abortion question come up? It does not fall under the power of the council. In fact the council has very little power.
John Thompson

Michael Pahre said...

The abortion question was submitted by the audience. If you listen to the audio, you will hear that both candidates spent very little time answering it, and we continued on to the next question.

That said, while the a City Councilor will probably never have reason to vote on an ordinance regarding the right-to-choose, it is quite possible that they have influence over the issue of access of their constituents to family planning counseling -- including abortion clinics.

Just across the District 9 border outside the Plannned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue, a daily interaction occurs regarding patient access to the clinic. Yvonne Abraham wrote a column in the Boston Globe a few months ago about it. The issue of extending the buffer zone between patients and protestors is being taken up by the State Legislature. Enforcement of the buffer zone (6 feet or 35 feet) falls to the local law enforcement authority -- and hence providing access to family planning / abortion clinics would be a relevant topic for City Councilors to address.

BrightonResident said...

First time poster here. Great blog.

If these councilmen REALLY want to be responsive and assessible, they would have offices at their communities (at certain hours every week) where they can meet their constituents face to face. We definitely don't want those who ONLY approach us when there is an election, and then disappear into thin air, or the City Hall, like the last one.

As an aside, when I first try to add a comment here, the comment page showed up in Portuguese. I have to change the language setting to post in English.