[Summit] Marcus Mitchell

Robert Mathiesen rmath13 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 29 20:09:51 CDT 2014

I might have been content to vote for Jackson one last time, before the
term-limits rule ousted him from the City Council -- if only he hadn't
decided to co-chair Cianci's reelection campaign.  If even half of what is
said about Cianci in _The Prince of Providence_ is true, anyone who would
support him for another term as Mayor is not someone I feel at all
comfortable representing me on the City Council.  Other issues are
secondary to that one in my eyes, even questions of how progressive either
candidate really is.  Of course, your mileage may vary ...  Disensus is a
good thing to have in civic life.  --  Bob M

On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 9:00 PM, Coryndon Luxmoore <coryndon at luxmoore.com>

> At what point is Jackson responsible for the current state of the school
> system? He has been in office for almost 20 years (since 1995). --C
> On Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 7:24 PM, Andrew Nosal <andy at mapcenter.com> wrote:
>> 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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