Forums offer insights into local races

As we reported last week, the voter advocacy organization Mass VOTE has pulled together a series of forums intended to highlight contests for local offices. These seats for state representative often get little attention from the electorate and the mainstream media, and this year, in particular, it has been hard for candidates at the local level to get much attention.

Voters have particularly tough decisions to make in the Fifth and Sixth Suffolk districts, where two state representatives — Marie St. Fleur and Willie Mae Allen— have left or will leave vacancies. (St. Fleur has already resigned and Allen will retire when her term ends in January.) Four candidates are vying to replace St. Fleur in the Fifth Suffolk and five people have cast their hats in the ring to replace Allen.

In addition to reporting on both races in our pages, the Reporter has invited all of the candidates in both districts to submit articles in which they state their reasons for running. The first of these commentaries — by Fifth Suffolk candidate Carlos Henriquez— appeared last week and a second candidate in the Fifth, Barry Lawton, is featured this week.

But voters should get a chance to meet and scrutinize each candidate live and in person. That’s why we encourage our neighbors in the Fifth and Sixth districts to attend. The Mass VOTE forums may in fact be the only time that all of these candidates share a stage and have an exchange with one another and with voters. For residents in each district, the forums present themselves as the very best way to get a clear picture of what each candidate has to offer. The Reporter is pleased to serve as a media sponsor for both events and we encourage neighbors to attend.

The Fifth Suffolk forum is next Tuesday, Aug. 24, at 6 p.m. at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square. The Sixth Suffolk candidates will be featured at a second forum next Thursday, Aug. 26, at 6 p.m. at Prince Hall in Grove Hall.

– Bill Forry

Using kids to solicit: Bad idea
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that panhandling is a form of free speech that is protected. But there are ways by which local authorities can curb the proliferation of the dangerous use of kids to “can” for dubious charities at city intersections. So we were pleased to see that a Dorchester man was arrested earlier this month on charges that he has been running a bogus charity drive in which kids approached cars in Edward Everett square asking for donations.

Rodrick Pendleton, 46, was allegedly overseeing four kids asking motorists for money. He told cops that they were collecting money for “children with HIV and AIDS.” Later he fessed up that the group “International Teensters” doesn’t exist.

Even when organizations are legit, it’s just a bad idea to have kids ducking between cars to collect coins and dollar bills. The city of Boston should beef up its ordinance to ban licensed organizations from using people under 18 to solicit money at intersections. It’s just too dangerous. Meantime, thanks to the Boston Police for putting the effort in to stop the scam in Edward Everett Square this month.

– B.F.