Time to decide: Polls open in preliminary city election

Smart Voter 2011: A special supplement to the Sept. 22 Dorchester Reporter details the choices in the upcoming preliminary election in District 3.Smart Voter 2011: A special supplement to the Sept. 22 Dorchester Reporter details the choices in the upcoming preliminary election in District 3.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

UPDATE: According to the Boston Election Department, voter turnout ticked up to 13,965 as of 6 p.m., or 11.62 percent.

In District 3, 6,046 people have voted so far. The biggest turnout remains in Ward 16, at Florian Hall and the Kenny School.

EXCLUSIVE FEATURE: Research the candidates' positions on key issues in District Three

NEW: Baker campaign apologizes for 'improper' Hart endorsement flier

PLUS: Linehan, Jackson face challengers in Districts 2, 7

UPDATE WITH 3 PM NUMBERS: City-wide voter turnout hit 8 percent by 3 p.m., according to Election Department numbers. That comes to 9,656 voters.

Florian Hall's two vote-rich precincts are driving a 17% turnout in Ward 16, while Savin Hill's Ward 13 Precinct 10 remains the second highest. The Kenny School is a close third.

The District 3 contest accounts for 4,273 votes as of 3 p.m.— that's 44 percent of total citywide vote thus far.

UPDATE WITH NOON NUMBERS: Boston's Election Department numbers show low turnout continued through noon, with 5.31 percent of voters turning out, totaling 6,380 people across the three districts holding preliminary elections Tuesday.

Florian Hall in Ward 16 Precinct 12 leads city at noontime with 22.7 percent turnout; while Ward 16 Precinct 9, located at Kenny School in Adams Corner, is next with 16.9 percent.

After Florian, Savin Hill's Ward 13 Precinct 10 has the second biggest vote total (238) at noon. By percentage turnout, Savin Hill comes in third for District 3.

UPDATE WITH 9 AM NUMBERS: The city of Boston's Election Department has released statistics showing that there is a very low turnout so far in the three district council races locally. In District 3, turnout is slightly higher than elsewhere in the city. Still, only 1,090 people in the district had cast their vote as of 9 a.m.

The highest turnouts so far in District 3 are Florian Hall (16-12) at 8.9%, Savin Hill (13-10) at 7.2% and the Kenny School in Adams Corner (16-9) at 7.7%. Turnout is particularly weak this morning in Lower Mills (Ward 17) and Meetinghouse Hill/Bowdoin Street (Ward 15).

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How to handle Dorchester as a “food desert”? How can Carney Hospital be helped in expanding its reach? And what are some of the ways to reduce violence in Boston? Those were some of the questions tackled by several of the District 3 city council candidates at a Tuesday night forum focused on health care at Harbor Health Services.

Five of the seven candidates gathered at the forum, held a week before polls open in the race to replace City Councillor Maureen Feeney. The Sept. 27 preliminary will winnow the field to two candidates who will face off on Nov. 8.

Answering an audience member’s question about the paucity of mainstream grocery stores and the high number of fast food chains in District Three, longtime civic activist John O’Toole said he would like to push Whole Foods, a grocery store at the center of controversy in Jamaica Plain, to come into Dorchester.

Frank Baker, who once owned the 20-seat Avenue Grill on Dorchester Avenue, said residents need to support the businesses that open up in the neighborhood. He said he closed the restaurant because “business wasn’t great.”

“We have to create an environment of welcome and we don’t really do that as much,” said Stephanie Everett, a former aide to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. “I shop locally, I eat locally.”

Marydith Tuitt, an aide to state Rep. Gloria Fox, said she is a “little spoiled” living on Fairmount Street, which enables her to walk to Shaw’s or the markets in Codman Square.

She said the stores must have prices that the community can afford.

“I don’t go to Whole Foods,” she said. “I’ll go to a farmer’s market before I’ll go to a Whole Foods.”

Craig Galvin, who owns a Neponset-based real estate firm, said residents must bear in mind that supermarkets usually have a “master plan” that spans several years. “The time to talk with them is not when a spot opens up; it’s two or three years before that,” he said.

The forum was moderated by Michael Curry, president of the local branch of the NAACP, and sponsored by several local health centers. Carney Hospital, MassVOTE, and the Reporter newspapers also were sponsors.

Marty Hogan, an information technology consultant, and Doug Bennett, a former Nantucket selectman, did not attend the forum.

A question submitted by Harbor Health Services asked the candidates what measures they would suggest to reduce violence in the city.

Tuitt called for focusing on home environments and to educate youthful residents on “how to be successful adults.”

“Kids have to feel like they have hope,” Baker said, noting that he lost one friend in the early ‘90s to street violence and another friend who committed suicide because of drugs and alcohol while he was on the phone with the person.

O’Toole said children have to be kept busy, pointing to the Leahy-Holloran Community Center and its athletic activities and video games that were available all summer long.

“The most important thing is to start at home and keep our kids occupied,” he said.

Galvin praised Boston police officers but added that community centers should be expanding their hours instead of closing.

“Every time we cut the budget of a community center, we hurt our own children,” he said.

All of the candidates who attended agreed that Carney Hospital, recently acquired by the for-profit Steward Health Care system, needed to be highlighted and marketed to the community.

“It’s almost like a shop locally sort of thing,” Baker said.

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