BOSTON (AP) – Boston’s leaders are scrambling to stem a series of political crises.
The deputy mayor has just sacked the new police commissioner. Two members of the school committee abruptly resigned after exchanging a series of racist text messages. The Boston Police Department is embroiled in an overtime fraud scandal. And on Beacon Hill, the governor is getting hot for hiring a veterans home administrator who has killed nearly 80 former military personnel from COVID-19 under his watch.
The whole drama plays out against a potentially historic mayoral race that will likely see Boston elect its first person of color or woman to head the city.
The challenges landed on the desk of the city’s black chief executive, Acting Mayor Kim Janey, also the city’s first woman to hold the post.
For Janey, the most recent development – the resignation of two Latino members of the Boston School Board – has proven to be one of the most difficult issues she has faced since taking office in March after the Former Mayor Marty Walsh has resigned to become President Biden. secretary.
The two resigned after texts obtained by the Boston Globe showed school committee chairwoman Alexandra Oliver-Davila and fellow committee member Lorna Rivera disparaging parents during a virtual hearing on a proposal for temporarily drop the requirement for the entrance test in city examination schools.
“Wait until the white racists start yelling at us,” Rivera wrote. “It doesn’t matter. They’re delusional,” Oliver-Davila wrote. “I hate WR,” she texted again Rivera, a reference to the West Roxbury area.
“Fed up with the Westie whites,” Rivera replied. “Me too. I really want to say that,” Oliver-Davila wrote.
In her resignation letter, Oliver-Davila said she regretted the texts, but also said she was “not ashamed of the feelings of the story that made me write these words”, referring to a personal story growing up in a town where she’s said to be ostracized, teased, and called racial slurs.
The texts put Janey in an awkward position, having also suffered racist attacks growing up in Boston.
In a written statement, Janey said the texts were “unhappy and unjustly disparaged members of the Boston public school community.”
But she was quick to praise the pair as “passionate advocates for Boston families” and said she could relate to their personal stories.
“As a black woman, I know racism hurts. The stones and racial slurs that were thrown at me as a child left a lasting impression, ”Janey wrote.
As the school committee texts revelation unfolded over the weekend, Janey was also deciding the fate of the Boston Police Commissioner after decades-old domestic violence charges came to light.
On Monday Janey fired the best cop.
Dennis White’s firing came four months after he was put on leave just days after taking office. White, who fought a fierce legal battle to retain his post, was appointed by Walsh, who later said he was unaware of the charges.
Janey said keeping White at work “would send a frightening message to victims of domestic violence in our town and strengthen a culture of fear and a blue wall of silence in our police department.”
White has denied ever engaging in domestic violence.
“I am a black man, who has been wrongly accused of crimes,” White said at his dismissal hearing, according to a statement provided by his lawyer.
White’s sacking isn’t the only police-related controversy the city faces.
As recently as last week, two other former Boston police officers pleaded guilty to federal charges as part of an overtime fraud investigation at the department’s evidence warehouse.
Twelve current and former officers have been charged in connection with the scheme. Prosecutors say more than $ 250,000 has been embezzled.
And in Beacon Hill, Gov. Charlie Baker is under close scrutiny over his handling of a COVID-19 crisis at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, with increasing calls for a legislative response to the outbreak that has killed 76 veterans last year.
The tragedy led to the withdrawal last year of Bennett Walsh, the former director of the 240-bed public facility.
Critics say investigations into the outbreak, including one led by a former federal prosecutor commissioned by Baker, have raised more questions, including over Baker’s decision to appoint Walsh as head of the household in 2016 despite the lack of support. experience in health care administration.
A legislative committee tasked with examining the tragedy found that “a leadership crisis in many ways” contributed to the deaths.
Baker said last week he was eager to work with the Legislature and that he and lawmakers were largely in agreement on the reforms needed. Baker signed a $ 400 million spending bill to fund the construction of a new home.
Boston, of course, is no stranger to crises.
Most notable in recent decades has come from the school bus turmoil of the 1970s that propelled Boston into the national limelight and ugly exposed the city’s simmering racial tensions – a crisis that also contributed to give birth to a new generation of leaders in communities of color who have transformed the city’s political landscape.