I’m voting for Frank Baker, and here’s why

While the Dorchester Reporter has deliberately not taken an editorial position on the District 3 council race, the newspaper’s publisher, Ed Forry, is personally endorsing Frank Baker.

Next week, we will go to the polls to select one of two local men to serve in the District 3 City seat. I will vote for Frank Baker, and here’s why:

I believe we need to choose someone we can count on to fight for the people of Dorchester, to protect our public assets from budget cuts and other bad decisions that may come out of the current – and any future - city administration. The entire Dorchester neighborhood deserves to have a reliable partner who will stand by us in tough times. For that reason, I am convinced that Frank Baker is the right choice for our neighborhood on November 8.

I have been very impressed with the campaign that Frank Baker has conducted over the last several months, both for the content of his proposals and the positive tone that he and his team have taken in attempting to “unite” Dorchester across old boundaries of turf, ethnicity, and class. Frank has attracted a diverse cross-section of talented, civic-minded people from all corners of District 3 and has emphasized from Day One that he hopes to be a public servant who can bring us all together as one community.

Baker has proposed several initiatives that would have an immediate impact. He intends to roll out an “E-lert crime notification” system – a state of the art e-mail network modeled on two pilot programs already in use in St. Mark’s and Savin Hill – to aid crime watch groups and police. Tellingly, Baker has the support of the grassroots civic leaders who have been the innovators in this project, and he says he will partner with them to launch the system shortly after his election. Baker plans to coordinate this and other initiatives from a storefront office in Dorchester, the first-ever such district office in District 3 since it was created in 1983.

Baker has made a bold proposal to tackle several critical problems in one stroke on Dorchester Avenue. Baker wants to reduce the city’s fleet of school buses and re-deploy them to smaller bus yards in more neighborhoods citywide in an effort to improve efficiency in transporting public school kids, including his own five-year old twins. His proposal focuses on the sprawling bus depot at Freeport Street and Dot Ave. that remains a nagging source of congestion and delays. The concentration of yellow buses in this central Dot Ave. location has been a detriment to commercial plans in years past – and Baker’s proposal to redevelop the Glover’s Corner area is a welcome and exciting idea.

Another key plank in Baker’s platform is informed by his own compelling personal story: While he has personally been drug-and-alcohol free for nearly two decades, Baker got his start in community activism by helping scores of neighborhood men and women get sober. He knows first-hand that one of this community’s greatest challenges is confronting the scourge of addiction — and the problems that come with it.

While both of the finalists for the District 3 office have civic credentials, Frank Baker’s campaign has made a stronger case that he is the more independent candidate in the race. His opponent, John O’Toole, is a good and decent man and well qualified. But, from the outset of this contest, it has been very clear that O’Toole’s campaign has been managed in large part by elements of Mayor Tom Menino’s political machine. O’Toole himself saluted the mayor’s operatives by name at his second-place victory party on Sept. 28 and credited them with running his campaign.

Why would Dorchester want to select as its next councillor someone who is so clearly in league with a mayor who already wields such great power in City Hall? The council exists in large part to serve as a check and balance to the mayor’s office and to scrutinize its various departments and initiatives. We need our district councillor to stand up loudly for this neighborhood’s interests, particularly in times when the mayor’s policies are not in our best interest.

Since his re-election in 2009, it must be said, there have been numerous instances in which our community has needed to push back strongly against Menino-led initiatives, from the proposed library closures and the actual shut-down of several community centers last year, to proposed school closings and the ongoing fiasco surrounding the public school’s chronically late bus fleet.

No administration is perfect and there are many things that Menino’s team does well. But, when there are some proposals that are poorly conceived or executed— or when City Hall simply is not getting things done efficiently for our neighbors— we need our district councilor to be a strong, independent advocate on our behalf.

Frank Baker is that strong, independent voice. He will best represent our collective interests as a city councillor and bring a new set of skills, life experiences and ideas to the table.

That is why I will vote for Frank Baker on Election Day next Tuesday.