I am a member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, and I am perplexed by the Gazette’s call for the resignation of Ben Day, the JPNC’s chair. (“Editorial: JPNC chair should resign,” jamaicaplaingazette.com, Nov. 1.) Day released a statement cataloging campaign donations by developers and their agents at the time the developers were seeking city approval of two projects on S. Huntington Avenue. According to the Gazette, Day should resign his position because the release of the information damaged the JPNC’s relationship with elected officials, and has caused strife in the JPNC.
Maybe the press release did damage relationships. But what is so revealing about this episode is the degree to which many, evidently including Gazette editorial staff, so uncritically accept the business-as-usual of Boston politics. Day’s greatest offense then, it seems to me, is that he found some information (public information) that anyone who has not been sufficiently indoctrinated in Boston politics might find very questionable, and had the temerity to step over the unspoken lines and print it in a newspaper.
For my part, it seems obvious that if receipt of campaign contributions is embarrassing to the public officials who accepted them, the remedy is not to call for the resignation of the individual who brought those contributions to light, but for the public officials not to accept them. Indeed, City Councilor Mike Ross took that position by returning the donations and reiterating his policy (again a seemingly obvious policy, in my view) not to accept contributions from developers while their proposals are before the City. Even this gesture, however, was treated by the Gazette cynically, which again reveals how deeply ingrained the business-as-usual practices of the city of Boston are. Instead of taking Ross at his word regarding his policy of not accepting such donations, the Gazette simply states that Ross was “embarrassed” into returning them.
Day’s press release may have embarrassed elected officials, and it certainly has caused strife at the JPNC. But Day is on the right side of this issue. Elected officials were embarrassed not because of the release of the information concerning the donations, but because of the donations themselves. While I certainly understand community concerns that Day’s actions may have frayed relationships with elected officials, the response from the community should not be to castigate Day, but to demand more from our elected officials.