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Boston City Council and The Race For District 7

by Talia Whyte

The first debate among the qualifying candidates to take over the seat left by ousted city councilor Chuck Turner took place Jan. 20 at the Roxbury YMCA. This is possibly the most watched city council race in recent history, where there were originally 16 candidates, but only six candidates who actually received the minimum number of signatures to be on the ballot were invited to the debate. Also in the debate were pro-life advocate Roy Owens and city employee Danielle Renee Williams. Perennial candidate Althea Garrison was also invited, but was a no-show.

With Garrison leaving an empty seat, community activist Haywood Fennell, a write-in candidate, was invited last minute to join the panel. For someone who possibly has little chance of winning, Fennell received the most applause from the audience for his platform of economic development, youth literacy and “real” CORI reform.

However, the most controversial candidate to speak on the panel was Cornell Mills, son of former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, who was recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison for taking $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents and a Boston businessman who was cooperating with the FBI. While there was much discussion about the community's long history of political activism, there was no mention by Mills or the audience about Wilkerson’s legacy. It is also apparent that there is no mention of Wilkerson in Mills' campaign literature or web presence.

Instead, Mills’ website says only the following about his family: “My brother and I grew up in a household where public and community service was an expectation. We learned early on the importance of giving back and participating in the fabric of our community.”

As a matter of fact, there was no mention of the corruption charges against Chuck Turner at the debate either, but rather the focus was on the corruption within the Menino administration, and its alleged negligence towards problems within Boston’s communities of color.

The Feb. 15 primary election will cut the race down to two candidates, followed by the final election on March 15.

UPDATE:  On January 25, 2011, former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner was sentenced to three years in federal prison.