Hyde, Egleston Squares have council races

October 23, 2009
By

John Ruch

City Councilor John Tobin, whose District 6 seat includes most of Jamaica Plain, is running unopposed on the Nov. 3 ballot. But in Hyde and Egleston Squares, longtime incumbents Mike Ross and Chuck Turner are facing challengers.

Carlos “Tony” Henriquez is challenging Turner for the District 7 City Council seat. Turner is under indictment on federal corruption charges for allegedly taking a $1,000 bribe and lying to the FBI about it. Turner has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong and previously told the Gazette that he views the election as a referendum on his innocence.

Henriquez, a former aide to City Council Michael Flaherty, has called the federal case one of many “distractions” that lead Turner to fail to deliver basic city services to the Roxbury area.

“If his focus is always on himself, he’s not really legitimate,” Henriquez previously told the Gazette, noting that even the streets around Turner’s Roxbury district office are not properly cleaned, and that public safety remains a concern in such areas as Egleston Square.

But, Turner previously told the Gazette, he is actually “far and away…the most productive councilor this year” in terms of legislation and hearing requests. That includes a successful package of ordinances dealing with the mortgage foreclosure crisis.

In District 8, which covers a large section of Hyde Square, Ross is facing a challenge from Northeastern Uiversity economics profess Oscar Brookins.

The bulk of the district covers Mission Hill, where Brookins and Ross both live. Their policy differences are mostly about the impact of students from nearby colleges in the Mission Hill neighborhoods. Ross has made sometimes controversial efforts to reduce the student population, including support for rent control and an ordinance limiting the number of non-related people living in one apartment. Brookins, who is also a local landlord, emphasizes that students are legitimate neighborhood residents.

Ross is now the City Council president—a position he told the Gazette he is likely to retain if he is re-elected—and is even looking ahead to a possible run for Congress. [See related article.]

Ross was among the councilors involved in secret City Council meetings that violated the state Open Meeting Law and were exposed by a successful 2005 lawsuit. Acknowledging that the lawsuit had some merit, Ross noted that in his first month as council president, he instituted several major reforms that prevent the council from violating the Open Meeting Law.

“We’ve made the council more transparent,” he said. “I’m not patting myself on the back too hard, because it’s something we should have been doing a long time ago.”

Brookins unsuccessfully ran for the District 8 seat 20 years ago. More recently, he and his wife, Kathryn, have become known for controversial lawsuits attempting to halt large developments in the Mission Hill area. They also irregularly publish the Mission Hill News, a publication that often harshly criticizes elected officials, the Boston Redevelopment Authority and others.

“Over the years, I have fought for my morals,” Brookins said at the Ward 10 Democratic Committee forum earlier this month, referring to his lawsuits. He said his goal has been “a government that is less intrusive, a government that is run by the rule of law rather than the whim that pops into people’s head.”

In praising the relatively high turnout in the September preliminary election, Ross told the Gazette that he is a supporter of mandatory voting, though he has no official proposals for it.

“I think an apathetic electorate is dangerous to democracy,” said Ross, who has praised Brookins for challenging him. “I like the Australian [government] model, where everybody is required to vote.”