[Summit] Marcus Mitchell

Andrew Nosal andy at mapcenter.com
Wed Oct 29 18:24:26 CDT 2014


I started to try to answer Mona's "Who in your eyes have destroyed the public school system?"

Mark's summary of the urban school problem is exactly right.  Thanks.



On Oct 29, 2014, at 5:24 PM, Mark E. Santow wrote:

> 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
> 

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