We speak with longtime Boston city council member and founder of the Fund the Dream Campaign, Chuck Turner about what effect the Democratic National Convention is having on the city. Check out Chuck Turner’s project at: http://fundthedream.org/ [includes rush transcript]
This is Democracy Now! Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency broadcasting from the National Democratic Convention in Boston.
The Democratic National Committee is running up an estimated $95 million tab for the 2004 presidential nominating convention in Boston. The city itself has pledged $10 million for security costs.
Thousands of people have descended on Boston for the convention: there are more than 4,300 delegates, as well as protesters and antiwar groups, and some 15,000 journalists. Security in the city has been ramped up with local police, state troopers, National Guard, Secret Service, FBI and Homeland Security. In addition, some 40 miles of roads have been closed for the convention.
All of these are concerns for the city officials, and we are joined by one today–Chuck Turner is a member of the Boston City Council and founder of the Fund the Dream campaign.
Over the course of almost four decades, Turner has established himself as one of the city’s best-known dissenters. In the early ’70s, he helped stave off construction of a stretch of Interstate-95 that was slated to run through low-income areas of the city, at one point lying across Columbus Avenue to prevent construction.
From the end of the '70s through the early ’90s, Chuck Turner pressed Boston mayors for increased hiring of minorities and blacks on city construction projects. In 1991, Turner led a dozen protesters who occupied the mayor's office for four hours and forced him to make key concessions. More recently, he’s railed against educational inequity in the city, the onset of gentrification, and the wars in Iraq.
This month, Turner was a member of a coalition that sued the city to allow protesters to march to the FleetCenter the day before the Convention.
He has been a member of the Boston City Council for five years and is the only Fund the Dream member on the council .
- Chuck Turner, member of the Boston City Council and founder of the Fund the Dream campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: Among those who spoke at the protest pen was Boston’s City Council member Chuck Turner who joins us in the studio today. Welcome to Democracy Now!
CHUCK TURNER: Thank you!
AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. You were there addressing the Middle East. But you were a long time activist here in the Boston area around many different issues. Over the course of some 40 years, Boston City Council Member Chuck Turner has established himself as one of the city’s best-known dissenters. In the early 1970s he helped state of off construction of a stretch of I-95 that was slated to run through low-income areas of the city, at one point lying across Columbus Avenue to prevent construction. From the end of the 1970s to the early 1990s Chuck Turner pressed Boston’s mayors for increased hiring of minorities and African Americans on city construction projects. In 1991, Chuck Turner led a dozen protesters who occupied the Mayor’s office for four hours and forced him to make key concessions. More recently, he’s rallied against educational inequality in the city, the onset of gentrification and the war in Iraq. This month, Boston city council member Chuck Turner was a member of the coalition that sued Boston to allow protesters to march to the Fleet Center the day before the Convention. He’s been a member of the Boston City Council for five years. We welcome you to “Democracy Now.”
CHUCK TURNER: Glad to be here!
AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. So you have the Democratic National Convention in town running up an estimated $95 million tab. From here, the city has pledged $10 million for security cost, but a private host committee designated to raise funds doesn’t raise all the money it looks like the Boston tax pay areas will be making up the difference. Is that right?
CHUCK TURNER: I’m not sure the basis of that. That is, I’m not sure what responsibility the city of Boston has to be finance the debt. Boston, it was told to us a number of times when we were seeking to get goals for participation of business people that Boston 2004 was a private organization. They are a private organization. They have not met their goals. There’s no reason that the city should put its funds into that purpose and there’s no, we didn’t-there’s no contracts that were signed with the city, there’s no commitment that the city has made the city council of the mayor has made to fund it. So I don’t think our responsibility.
AMY GOODMAN: You have 15,000 journalists in town, 4,300 delegated, many thousands of protesters. Security in the city has been ramped up with local police, state troopers, National Guard, secret service, FBI, Homeland Security. In addition, 40 miles of roads have been closed for the convention. You have worked hard. Also, to make sure that the convention is open to dissent. Do you feel satisfied?
CHUCK TURNER: Well, I think what we see is the use of large events by the security apparatus of this country to prepare for the thinking that says we have to conform to those who are telling us what to do. I think what we are seeing here is an erosion of democracy. I think the tragic incident of 9/11 is -has been used to allow those who want to move us backwards and introduce an atmosphere of state control. So may on the psychology of the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: Would you say that the convention has been good for workers in this city? I mean you’ve got the firefighters arrived at an agreement and a contract just on the even of the convention. The police as well, although they were forced into arbitration, and then you have Boston Globe staff writers and others who the Boston Globe sponsored enormous media party at the new convention center, not the Fleet Center, which is way larger with an actual Ferris wheel giving that sense of a media circus. And then just a few weeks before when they were threatening to bring out one of those huge, inflatable rafts at the party, they also came to an agreement.
CHUCK TURNER: It’s been good for some workers and I think for other workers it is not clear yet. When you saw at the largest union in city unions in Boston receive contracts, they received raises of some 3.5 to 4%. If you look a the other unions, unions that-
AMY GOODMAN: One got 14%.
CHUCK TURNER: Yeah, over a four year period. So it’s about 3.5. Firemen got 10.5 over three years. So, but when you look at the contracts and you compare the contracts of the higher-paid workers to the contracts of the low are paid workers, what you see is that the lower-paid workers in the city are receiving smaller yearly raises. At a time when the economy is out of control, when the workers are having a very difficult time even staying in the city. Those who got—those who are getting more got more and those who are getting less got less than the better-paid workers. It’s an example of this country’s, of the mentality that those who have should be rewarded more and those who don’t shouldn’t, you know, shouldn’t be expect to get the same—I voted against the contracts. I think they are—I think those contracts are penalizing those unions that have not yet settled. They don’t talk about the bus drivers or the mechanics, the others who haven’t settled yet. And they don’t talk about how the funds that are being played to the police and the fire at that 3.5 or 4% level will affect the contracts of the other workers. There are other contracts that have been resolved at 2.5, 2.7. Why should the police and the firemen who get good base salaries, police are able to, every policeman earns $80,000 a year. And so I think the contracts really show us the difficulty of this economy where those who are really struggling aren’t rewarded fairly and those who are doing well get more.
AMY GOODMAN: Boston city council member Chuck Turner, I want to thank you very much for being with us. This is Democracy Now! as we broadcast from the unconventional city, Cambridge, self-declared the unconventional city just across the river from the Democratic National Convention in Boston.