Voters going to the polls September 14 to fill the vacant Fifth Suffolk District House seat - and given the high stakes let’s hope there’s a big turnout - will cast one of their most important ballots ever.
The levels of crime, poverty, and joblessness in our community remain unacceptably high. As Massachusetts sees signs of a desperately needed economic recovery ahead, we desperately need a representative on Beacon Hill who will not only lend us a strong voice but also take strong action to make sure our priority issues are addressed and that our community is not left behind... again.
Putting our Dorchester and Roxbury communities first will require a special kind of leadership. Government provides tools to help communities help themselves, but there are many other constituencies clamoring for the same precious economic, public safety, educational, social service, and transportation resources.
So how will we be heard above this clamor?
The special kind of leadership I refer to ideally blends deep experience in government and community affairs with a fresh perspective, a positive vision of the future, and a high level of both energy and commitment to get the job done.
I respectfully submit that I have proven that I can provide the kind of leadership our community deserves and demands.
During my career in public service, I have worked at high levels of Massachusetts government in both the executive and legislative branches.
More important, as a Boston school teacher I have been actively involved in the educational, cultural, social, and athletic life of our community for nearly thirty years. With my own two children now in Boston public schools, my personal involvement has only deepened.
As a teacher, I have witnessed both the problems and the promise of our city and its citizens first hand, at its most basic levels, in the eyes and actions of the many young people I have taught and mentored.
How we can begin to overcome problems and emphasize promise was brought home to me just recently when I received a text message from a former student thanking me for encouraging him when he was on the verge of being lost in high school, and asking if he could help out as a volunteer on the campaign. To a teacher, his words were a great affirmation of the things we try to do to make a difference:
"...I believe Boston is like me in high school...it has the potential to be great...just needs someone to show them how..."
I also believe we have the potential to be great, but it will take hard work, vision, experience, will, and commitment to tackle those issues that prevent us from being great. On Beacon Hill we need someone who will fight to bring state economic development resources - programs like tax incentives, workforce grants, low-interest business loans - to our community so that we can have neighborhoods that offer jobs and a vibrant street life rather than blight and decay.
We need someone who will fight for our schools and for public safety resources, someone who will protest our crumbling infrastructure and inadequate transportation system, and work to get the resources to make those right.
The Fifth Suffolk District House seat is vacant and will remain so until January 2011. It is mind boggling that a district in such distress has to go without representation for so long. The new representative will find a backlog of constituent issues and urgent legislation to confront.
The Fifth District seat is not suitable for on-the-job training or for those who would approach the seat with "business as usual attitude."
The residents of the district deserve and demand something more.
Barry O. Lawton is a candidate for state representative from the Fifth Suffolk District. The Reporter has invited each of the candidates for state representative in the Fifth Suffolk to write a statement explaining their candidacy.