[Summit] Marcus Mitchell

Mark E. Santow msantow at umassd.edu
Wed Oct 29 16:24:23 CDT 2014


Thanks neighbors, for this thoughtful and wide-ranging conversation on urban public schools, the mayor's race, and Ward 3. And sorry for the long email that follows! 


I have to confess that while I am certain about how I will vote in the mayor's race (Elorza), I'm still very much torn about the Ward 3 contest. I'm leaning toward Marcus, and I've told him more than once that I intend to speak out through social media in favor of his campaign. But I haven't yet done so, because I'm still not entirely sold yet. This discussion here hasn't moved me in one direction or the other; rather, it has helped to clarify the reasons for my hesitancy (for what that's worth). 


I don't know Kevin Jackson -- only met him once -- but I acknowledge that on a lot of key issues, public education in particular, I find myself in agreement with him. In matters of policy, at least, he strikes me as a solid liberal Democrat (which is a positive for me, if not for all of you). Unlike some on the Council, he also has a good record of attendance at committee meetings, which tells me he takes his responsibilities seriously, at least in that limited sense. 


On the flip side, I don't think he's very good at constituency relations, and his behavior tells me that he's become a bit too comfortable in his seat. As historian Robert Caro once said of NYC highway maven Robert Moses, he originally sought power because of the things it would enable him to do; later, he did things because of the power it would bring him. A strong electoral challenge would thus be good for Ward 3, and probably good for Jackson too. 


As I've already argued here previously, I have a big problem with Jackson's leadership in the Cianci campaign. That, in combination with his legal and ethical issues with regard to campaign finance laws, raises huge red flags for me. 


Surely we have enough smart, dedicated, personable people in the Third Ward who are honest, transparent, and committed to social justice, that we don't have to settle for someone like Jackson as our Council representative? This policy v. honesty tension isn't inherent; its easily solved, by electing someone who fights the good fight while using power in a responsible way. We're about to send one -- Aaron Regunberg -- to the State House, for example. A more just and sustainable Providence will ultimately come from political leaders who emerge out of -- and welcome the work of -- grassroots movements. 


The question is whether Marcus Mitchell is that person. While I can't claim to 'know' Marcus, I have talked with him quite a bit over the past few weeks. We share some personal experiences, having to do with family and health, and I know he has answered the call to run at considerable personal sacrifice. Having lived in Philadelphia for a decade before moving here in 2003, I'm also pretty familiar with where he's from, with what black politics in Philly are like, and where at least some of his commitments and sensibilities come from. I have found Marcus to be a decent, thoughtful person, a good listener, with an empathetic sensibility that aims toward inclusion, civility, and moderation. I believe his commitment to the public good is genuine and deeply-felt, and that he would seek to build on the movement that puts him into office, rather than abandoning it once safely on the Council. I think he has the desire and the ability to bridge differences of race and class in our neighborhood. People I respect, including many people on this list, feel strongly about his candidacy. That goes a long way with me. Your friends and allies say a lot about you. 


Where my hesitation lies is this: I'm a policy person. I study, research and teach about cities and politics for a living. My vote, in the end, is earned by candidates that take policy seriously, and take positions on the key issues which I agree with. And I remain unclear about just what Marcus's policy positions are. His work with Santorum on community development issues is both reassuring (he has a pretty good sense of the major issues facing older cities) and disturbing (on virtually every major issue of urban and social policy, Santorum was and is on the wrong side; Santorum is an ideologue, so its hard for me to imagine him hiring anyone in such a position that didn't agree with him, unless Marcus's role was solely to bring booty to black neighborhoods, for electoral purposes). 


One of the downsides of a write-in campaign is that it is very much last minute, and doesn't allow for the vetting process that months of back-and-forth with opponents, press, and voters tends to involve. What is Marcus's position on the problems of public schooling in Providence? What role, if any, does he think charter schools should play? What is his position on raising the minimum wage? On directing the city's economic and community development efforts so that tax breaks and incentives create living wage jobs, with businesses that are locally-based and ecologically sustainable? What are his thoughts about redirecting development away from big real estate land games, and toward more affordable housing? 


I agree with Andrew on the public schools/charter schools issue, that one comes pretty close to a litmus test as far as I'm concerned. 


The problems of urban schools, in Providence and elsewhere, are rooted in 4 interrelated historical and institutional developments: 
1) jurisdictional fragmentation, which separates urban districts off from suburban districts; 
2) racial and economic segregation of our metropolitan areas, sustained by #1 as well as by exclusionary zoning (and, in the past, by federal housing policies which encouraged racial segregation); 
3) How we finance public schools, which reinforces (and is reinforced by) #1 and #2; 
4) Geographically concentrated poverty (child poverty in particular), focused in our older cities, created and sustained by all of the above. 


Charter schools address none of these things. Weakening teacher's unions addresses none of these things. Treating individual schools like businesses, turning teachers into at-will employees, and encouraging them to 'compete' with one another, addresses none of these things. Indeed, the core structural problems of urban education are exacerbated by these 'reforms,' in part because they draw attention and resources away from things that might work, in favor of things that generally don't. 


Charter schools, as Al Shanker originally envisioned them, do have a place as lab schools, as places to experiment, for the purpose of improving practice in the public schools. My sense is that this is how Elorza sees them, which is why I'm OK with voting for him (though I am bothered by some of the outside money he's received on this issue). 


I don't know what Marcus's position on public schools is. I do know what Jackson's position is. And so we return to the beginning of this email: I'm torn. I want someone to convince me, on policy, to vote for Marcus, because that's what I really want to do. If I'm convinced, I'll stump for him. I want him to be Jackson without the baggage, and with all of the positive attributes I already see in him. But if he's not that, I'd just assume work with all of you to build something for 2018. 


Mark Santow 
Associate Professor and Chair, History 
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth 

Blog: http://www.chantsdemocratic.blogspot.com/ 
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/alinskylives 


" Dogma is the enemy of human freedom...The human spirit glows from that small inner doubt of whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world with cruelty, pain, and injustice." 


Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals, 1971 
----- Original Message -----

From: "KELLY TAYLOR" <ktaylor at ktid.net> 
To: "Jeffrey Cavanaugh" <jeff at cavanaugh.org> 
Cc: "Neighborhood Association" <Summit at sna.providence.ri.us> 
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 3:30:26 PM 
Subject: Re: [Summit] Marcus Mitchell 


Just to reiterate, Marcus worked for Santorum not because he agreed with his ideas—but because he didn’t. 


I think that is a really important point and speaks to the heart of how he operates. 


Cheers, 
Kelly 









KELLY TAYLOR , IIDA, LEED GA, NCIDQ #018910 


Kelly Taylor Interior Design 
460 Harris Avenue 
Unit 203 
Providence, RI 02909 
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c: 401-486-1132 


ktaylor at ktid.net 
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On Oct 29, 2014, at 3:06 PM, Jeffrey Cavanaugh < jeff at cavanaugh.org > wrote: 



I agree, the Cianci issue alone may not be enough to throw Jackson under the bus if you like him. I don't know him, and he hasn't paid his fine. I have a low tolerance for lawmakers and enforcers flaunting the law. Moreover, I know Marcus a little bit, and many who support him, and the fact that he worked for that guy in Philly does not make me worried. 


I think with Cianci it comes down to how much of the unproven stuff you believe. There is already a new one brewing with the recent Crossroads thing: 


http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20141027-two-men-collecting-mail-ballots-at-crossroads-were-police-officers-deputy-chief-confirms.ece 


I have a low tolerance for bullies, and he's been mayor TWICE. Also, I don't have the perspective that Providence was a "renaissance" city during his second tenure. In general, cities in America have done better in many ways since the 80's. I don't look at a politician's tenure as "did life get better", it's more, did it get as good as it could have, given what he inherited and what the economic and social climate and other larger forces were. As the longest serving mayor in the US, Cianci has no one to blame but himself. While waterfire is nice, it does not an economic base make. The tallest building in RI sits empty and this gradual loss of "anchor" businesses has gone on a long time. 






On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 2:55 PM, Andrew Nosal < andy at mapcenter.com > wrote: 

<blockquote>


You got me there. I am really wrestling with this. Cianci did some stupid things in the schools for his political benefit but at least the money stayed local. 


This all started with my putting in a good word for Jackson, which I do stand firmly by, regardless of his support for Cianci. 








On Oct 29, 2014, at 2:41 PM, Samuel Bell wrote: 

<blockquote>

Anyone who thinks Buddy Cianci is a supporter of public education knows nothing about the mess Cianci made of the schools when he was Mayor. 


I too have concerns about corporate charter schools and the privatization of public education, but remember that Buddy Cianci said on Newsmakers that he wants every school in Providence to be a charter school. Voting for Cianci out of concern for public education makes no sense. 


On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 2:35 PM, Jeffrey Cavanaugh < jeff at cavanaugh.org > wrote: 

<blockquote>


I wonder how public education is doing in Detroit? 


We will be like Detroit if we're not careful. Putting the crook who's legacy this is back in charge will not help the schools. 



On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 2:30 PM, Andrew Nosal < andy at mapcenter.com > wrote: 

<blockquote>


The enormity destroying public education makes some pretty serious offenses look kinda petty, I think. Possible Lt. Gov McKee is another enthusiatic privatizer of schools. 





On Oct 29, 2014, at 2:15 PM, Jeffrey Cavanaugh wrote: 

<blockquote>

And what do you mean by "petty crimes"? Isn't a felony, by definition, not a petty crime? How about 2? What about the ones he didn't get caught doing? 


On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 2:07 PM, Andrew Nosal < andy at mapcenter.com > wrote: 

<blockquote>

Education policy and opposition to corporate charter schools are what I can trust Kevin Jackson on. 


I have yet to decide which is worse, the myriad petty crookednesses of Cianci, or the brazen theft of an entire school system (makes no difference to me that it will be technically legal) that we can look forward to if the new First Husband and Elorza get their way. 



On Oct 29, 2014, at 1:43 PM, Karina Holyoak Wood wrote: 

<blockquote>

Being a progressive and being co-chair of Cianci's mayoral campaign are incompatible, in my opinion. 






On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 12:24 PM, Delgado, Mona Moller < mona_delgado at brown.edu > wrote: 

<blockquote>
Thanks Karen, these are important and valid points and good information. 

MOna 

On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 12:12 PM, Karen MCA < kbmcaninch at aol.com > wrote: 
> I have known and worked with both Kevin Jackson and Marcus Mitchell on many issues, particularly due to my position as the union representative for the Providence Community Libraries. 
> 
> Based on my experience, I have concerns about Marcus Mitchell's candidacy. 
> 
> In addition to his association with Rick Santorum, who holds repugnant views on any number of issues I hold near and dear, I also object to him taking credit for work preserving the branch libraries in Providence when in fact there were several of us who worked on this issue (with Kevin Jackson's support) long before Marcus got involved and who continued to do the lion's share of the effort. 
> 
> Although I share the frustration that Kevin is co-chairing Cianci's campaign and know that his responsiveness to constituents is a real issue, I believe he has a much stronger record of supporting progressive community issues. 
> 
> Thanks for listening. 
> 
> Karen McAninch, 22 Memorial Rd. 
> 
> Sent from my iPhone 
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