Friday, May 30, 2008

Chelan Brown/ Three days of no blogging

Feels very strange, now, to go three days without posting-- three unusual days, Boston once, trip to the vets twice, not good news on the dog front, plus work, a meeting at Arise, and lots of emotionally charged contact with lots of people. I did get garden plants and I did (with my nephew's help) get four wheelbarrows of earth from my old garden to my new garden so I'll do some planting this weekend, rain or not.

In ways I can't completely explain, I've found myself deeply upset about the current controversy with State Rep candidate Chelan Brown ever since the news broke on Wednesday that her campaign website had (at that time) large chunks of text taken from state rep candidates from around the country!

I say the news broke and yet actually the first tip came from a poster on MassLive who recognized a graphic on Chelan's website as a picture of the state of Washington.. (her website had only been up since Sunday, but it was the first many of us knew of it.) Within two hours, other MassLive posters had researched text and found much of it not original . Fellow bloggers Bill Dusty, Heather Brandon and Greg Saulman at LocalBuzz have done an excellent job of following up on this story, but in a nutshell, by Thursday the website was down and replaced by a wait page that said: The site: Elect Chelan Brown for State Representative has been pulled due to unauthorized tempering. We will be back online soon!

Thursday afternoon, Chelan and her supporters held a press conference on City Hall steps. Chelan announced that someone had tampered with her website to make it appear she had plagiarized other websites. She also said that she hasn't filed any complaints yet because the Springfield police are too busy. Peter Goonan, Springfield Republican.

I must say that my heart sunk. If someone hacked into Chelan's site in an effort to discredit her, then it is absolutely essential that there be an investigation and that the truth come out. We simply can't afford to let the cynicism in this city deepen any further.

A poster on MassLive tonight said that Chelan is a forgiving person and that's why she's not pursuing a complaint. She can be forgiving all she wants, but we need the truth. If, for example, someone working against her hacked into her site, we need to know that to put doubts to rest. Another scenario: if someone on her campaign designed the website and borrowed text that seemed to represent what he/she thinks Chelan stands for, it was a terrible mistake, and Chelan could announce it as an unauthorized mistake and move on from there. But her solutions provides no answers to anybody, does us a disservice, and won't satisfy anybody except Chelan's core circle. In the most pragmatic terms, it is not a winning strategy.

For local readers, I want to say here that I decided some months ago that I was going to work on State Rep Ben Swan's re-election campaign. I lived in Ben's district for thirty years and had many opportunities to work with him. I had my cross moments with him last year when I wanted more help from him in pushing ward representation through the Legislature, but overall I couldn't be more satisfied. I also respect his long history as a civil rights activist. Again, another poster on MassLive pointed out all the connections between Ben Swan, his relatives and in-laws who work in various agencies, and funding he has helped secure for them and others . As I've written before about others, I don't think that is a bad thing per se-- it shows a whole family committed to public service-- but it does bear extra scrutiny on the part of the public and extra meticulousness on the part of the public official.

I didn't decide to support Ben because I dislike his opponents, Lorenzo Gaines and Chelan Brown. I've seen them both as up and coming Afican-American young people with the potential to contribute a great deal to Springfield. But Ben has incredible experience and if he has the energy and will to run again, then I support him. (I also think that for two young people who have never held elected office, starting at state rep is more the kind of thing you do to build recognition than to win. I'd prefer to see both of them prove their ability to serve in a smaller venue first.)

Lorenzo I don't know well yet but Chelan I've known since she first ran for mayor at 19. I wrote a story about her-- I think it was for the Advocate-- and passed out some of her literature. My organization, Arise for Social Justice, brought her in to some of our early work, including planning a major criminal justice conference and being a plaintiff in our first ward representation lawsuit. We promoted and supported her boycott of Eastfield Mall after she was arrested there for refusing to leave a food court. I admit it was a disappointment that after she started her own organization, AWAKE, she didn't follow up on other chances for our organizations to work together. But at no time have I ever wished her less than well.

I will say again: we in this city, even in our most cynical and despairing moments, do want to believe in change, do want to believe we can have leaders with integrity. (Otherwise we wouldn't be fooled so many times!) We deserve answers and I think the Chelan Brown campaign should do everything possible to make sure we get them.


Anonymous said...

We deserve answers and I think the Chelan Brown campaign should do everything possible to make sure we get them.

Don't hold your breath.

Michaelann Bewsee said...

Nope, I won't-- but I can still hope.