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Response to Recent Newspaper Articles

Reflections from Behind the Wall

Dear Supporters,

I know that you just received a reflection from me that said at the end that I wouldn’t be sending any articles until after June 13th. However, I have recently become aware through the newspapers of four issues that I think would be appropriate to speak to briefly.

1) Globe Article on My “Directives” to Councilor Jackson:

I was surprised to learn that the Globe did an article on my sending reflections to you through Support Chuck Turner.com. While I haven’t seen it, the implication seems to be that there is a problem with my discussing with you what actions I believe Councilor Jackson needs to consider given my work over the last 11 years. I did not see them as directives but rather information pieces not only for Councilor Jackson’s benefit, but also yours. From my perspective, I was elected to a two year term and despite the Council’s action and Judge’s action, I think it is appropriate that I continue to share my thoughts. While I hope to influence Councilor Jackson’s thinking on the issues I’m discussing, I did not see the reflections as “directives” since he is cleary free to accept or reject any of my advice. In closing, let me respond to a rumor that I hear is circulating. I have no intention of running for the D7 seat after I return. I tried to make clear when I ran in 2009 that 2011 would be my last time I would run to be the D7 Councilor. To challenge Councilor Jackson or anyone else who may be the D7 Councilor when I come out of prison would, I believe, be unfair and inappropriate.

2) Herald Article on My “Blunder”.

On May 6th, the Herald did a story on Senator Brown’s error in identifying a fake photo graph of Ben Laden’s dead body as the real photograph. I was shocked to see a photo of the press conference that Sadiki Kambon and i held in 2004 regarding photo graphs of alleged sexual attacks by US soldiers on Iraqi women. The headline was “Before Scott, Chuck didn’t get the picture.” Their purpose was unclear. Perhaps, they are gearing up their slander machine for my exit from here. I started to write a letter pointing out that they were wrong. That is, I did cosponsor the press conference at City Hall on the issue of the potographs. However, my position was that I could not say that the pictures were real or fake. Nevertheless, I suggested that they ask the Defense Department whether these were part of the photographs that then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said had not been released detailing the abuse of prisoners.

I decided against sending a letter to the editor for two reasons. First, they probably wouldn’t run it. The second and more important reason was that I felt i would be trivializing an issue that needs to be explored not trivialized. The reality is whether those pictures were real or fake, there is a problem with US service men abusing not only women from countries where they are stationed but also femaie soldiers in the United States military. During the last few years there have been numerous reports of US service women returning and reporting serious emotional difficulties from their experiences with sexual abuse and harrassment from their fellow soldiers. Recently, I saw an article saying that there were concerns now surfacing about our soldiers sexually abusing their fellow male soldiers.

While the men have to take responsibility for their behavior, as citizens we need to acknowledge the role of our government. We take men from a sexist country where women are still viewed as objects: train them to be effective and efficient killers: send them to other countries: and then turn our heads at inappropriate as well as criminal behavior. There are no simple solutions. However, at the very least our government needs:

a) To acknowledge the problem. At the very least Congress needs to conduct hearings on the issue;
b) To enact and enforce strong codes of regarding sexual abuse of anyone, including criminal prosecution where appropriate; and
c) To provide support for those subjected to abuse by our service men.

Also, media needs to do a much better job on covering this critically important issue. For example, with all denial regarding the Iraqi pictures, there has been virtually no coverage on discussion of attacks on US service women.

3) Mayor Menino Announced Agreement with Charter Schools:

Based on his announcement, I have sent the following letters to the Mayor and to the Chairperson of the School Committee, Rev. Gregory Groover:

Dear Mayor Menino,

I appreciate your initiative to open up dialogue with the charter schools in Boston. While i have fears about the effect of charter school funding on our ability to maintain an effective public school system in Boston, I think working with those in existence is a positive approach to a major problem.

I think you are right to encourage them to take children from the neighborhoods in which they are located as well as special needs children. I didn’t see any mention of English language learners in the article that I read. If they are not part of the compact, they need to be included in the agreement. Similarly, I think it is appropriate to consider leasing vacant school buildings to those charter schools that are willing to cooperate with the neighborhood admission policy as well as the emphazing special needs and English language learners.

Given the funding crisis we have regarding the repair and rehabilitation of our school buildings, i urge you to set up a school building repair fund for the receipt of all funds from schools leased to charter schools, or leased to other organizations, or sold. I know there are many other educational needs that we have. However, i believe that providing safe, healthy environments for the education of our children is the highest priority.

Sincerely,

chuck

Dear Rev. Groover,

I am writing to you for two purposes. First, to let you know that i appreciate Mayor Menino’s initiative to reach out to the Boston charter school in order to achieve a reasonable level of cooperation given that both systems are dealings with our children, whose interests come first (See enclosed copy of letter to Mayor Menino).

My second reason is to request that you urge your fellow School Committee members to attach two amendment to the plan when the vote takes place. The first amendment relates to the fact that I did not see in the articles I read any mention of English language learners. That is, my understanding is that the Mayor asked for cooperation in particularly two areas–an emphasis on admitting children from the neighborhood in which the school is located and an emphasis on increasing the percentage of special needs children. Both of these are important criteria; however, if English language learners are not included, they certainly should be added by amendment.

My other concern relates to the leasing of schools to charter schools. Since, as usual, a preponderance of the vacant schools schools are located in District 4 and 7, I certainly think leasing them to charter schools makes more sense for the community than selling them to developers. This is particularly true if the charter schools are going to emphasize recruiting students from the local neighborhoods. Therefore, my concern rests not with the policy but with the question of how the funds obtained for leasing are used.

While the School Committee does not formally review or vote on the issue of the repair of your school buildings, I am sure you are aware of the fact that the City of Boston neither has enough funds to meet all of the school rehabilitation needs nor the upgrading necessary for our schools to stay competitive. Last year the estimate was that we that we needed $500 million dollars to do the necessary rehabilitation and upgrade. Yet during my eleven years on the Council, the highest amount invested out of the annual $100 million invested in capital repairs was $38
million.

During my tenure as chair of the Council’s Education Committee, I worked closely with the Mayor, School Superintendents Payzant and Contempasis, and the Healthy School Task Force to develop strategies to raise funds from federal or state sources. However, both efforts were to no avail. Since that time the state has cut back even more on its funding for school district infrastructure and the Obama administration put no money for school repair into the 800 billion stimulus package. Given the fact that the estimate is that over $230 billion is needed to put public schools across the country in good repair, there is no excuse for the lack of federal funding. But that is the reality.

I have gone into some detail to try to describe what I believe is a critically important educational issue that is never discussed by the School Committee. However, we all know that our children need a safe, healthy environment for their education.

Therefore, i am urging you to lead the effort to have the School Committee to attach an amendment to the Charter School Compact requiring that all funds obtained by the City from the leasing of charter schools be dedicated to the rehabilitation of our existing infrastructure.

In closing, I understand that this is not an area where the School Committee has focused in the past. However, given the crisis in funds for necessary school repair, i think that it is essential for the School Committee to establish a working relationship with the Council’s Education Committee on this issue so that both bodies can work with the Mayor to solve this critical problem that is virtually being ignored in terms of resolution.

Sincerely Yours,

chuck

4) Massachusetts School Building Authority Report on Under Utilization of School Classrooms:

In a recent report on the underutilzation of classrooms in school districts across the state, Ms. Katherine Craven, executive director of the Authority made the statement that she was proud of the fact that the number of schools across the state in poor condition had been reduced form 62 last year to 23 this year. Based on my concern that her statement was covering over the statewide problem in terms of school rehabilitation, I sent the following letter to Ms. Craven:

Dear Ms. Craven,

I read in a recent edition of the Boston Globe a summary of your report on the underutilizaiton of classrooms in schools across the state. While i appreciate the work of the Authority in terms of issuing such a report, I was very concerned with your statement that you were proud of the fact that the number of schools in poor condition was reduced from 62 last year to 23 this year. My question when I read that statement was and continues to be, “What criteria are you using to define poor condition”.

I raise that question since as i said to Rev. Groover, chair person of the School Committee, in the enclosed letter, the City of Boston needs at least a half a billion dollars to put all of our schools into good condition. My understanding is that across the country the figure is in the range of $230 billion. While i don’t have the school rehabilitation deficit figure across the state, my understanding is that it to is at crisis level.

I am sure that your numbers fit the criteria that you use in defining poor school. However, I am sure you will admit that there is a major problem in Massachusetts as well as across the nation in terms of our government not providing healthy environments for the education of our children. While I understand it is often difficutlt for elected officials to admit the problems, I urge you and the Governor to initiate a study that would not only focus on Boston’s inability but also on the inability of cities and towns across the state to make timely repairs to their school infrastructure.

Sincerely,

chuck

I will let you know if and when I get feedback to the letters.

A Luta Continua/The Struggle Continues

chuck 

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