Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Senator Wilkerson's last hurrah

Pictured above, convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
by Kevin John Sowyrda

It's the end of a Nixonian political career based on false hopes, greed, arrogance, unprecedented immaturity, personal self-aggrandizement and a total separation from reality - to such an extent - that you would swear, soon to be former State Senator Diane Wilkerson were the local representative of the Tom Cruise Scientology recruitment chapter.

She didn't get enough signatures. My God that sounds sweet. Now I know how Octavian felt when he had Anthony and Cleopatra cornered in Alexandria. It's purely delicious and I'm going to savor the moment like a good, cabernet or an old scotch . Can I say it again? She didn't file enough signatures to get on the ballot. Come on, cut me some serious slack and permit me to utter it just one more time because I've waited for this column for many blessed years - Senator Wilkerson couldn't muster the whopping three hundred signatures and now she's off the ballot and will have to pull a miracle out of her hat to politically survive.

Yup, I'm gloating like Hillary Clinton the day Bush's ratings hit the thirties.

And you thought Congressman Patrick Kennedy had problems? Compared to Wilkerson, the young lad from Rhode Island is Albert Einstein.

And for anyone daring to feign ignorance as to how the senator was so abysmally incompetent in not collecting 300 good signatures, something the local Girl Scouts could have mustered, may I dredge up the following historical facts. The senator could never perform numerous, what social workers call basic living tasks. The senator couldn't file her taxes for years, the senator has been fined by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) so many times that I hear they may set up a satellite office in her neighborhood, the senator couldn't pay her parking tickets, enough to wall paper all sides of the Hancock Tower. Simply put, the senator couldn't execute adult decision making.

I'm being too scorched-Earth, you say? I beg your pardon and ask you to imagine the political blessing of a South End absent Wilkerson holding the legislative scepter; a neighborhood with a real senator who can focus their attention on the myriad problems this great neighborhood faces instead of the gigantic problems the legislator faces – or refuses to face - personally.

The myriad of problems climaxed when Wilkerson was staring straight at a hefty prison sentence for her tax evasion. Her attitude during the case was so hostile and arrogant it was on par - granted at a lower dollar level - with that of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abromoff, who atleast could chirp the 'sorry' word when being sentenced to the long stretch of jail time he so richly deserves. In contrast, go back in time with me to Wilkerson's appearance before Judge Ted Harrington in 1997 when she had the unmitigated nerve to maintain that her failure to go through the April 15th misery with the rest of us common folk was because she lacked funds to pay her taxes since death threats from Southie insurgents required her to retain a private security force of unknown origin; and apparently at great expense.

Her lame excuse for the egregious behavior was like watching Saturday Night Live. But it wasn't amusing. It was quintessential race bating, pure and simple.

But, Harrington, an eccentric Republican, must have a soft spot for imbecilic behavior because he baby-slapped Wilkerson with a generous half-way house sentence of six months. You or I would have done serious time at Cedar Junction.

And rest assured the time in 'jail' did little to temper the "do you know who I am" attitude of the state’s most infamous senator whose cavalier disregard for even the most rudimentary rules of adult behavior have clearly affected her ability to be an ombudsman for this district.

We learned of other offenses quite recently which read like they came out of the Abramoff playbook. Wilkerson's campaign treasury has spent $70,000 on highly suspicious expenses which only the attorney general's recent law suit will uncover, since the ever belligerent senator won't explain them to OCPF. Wilkerson, a trained lawyer, is alleged to have given herself $18,000 for we-don't-know-what and retained her two sons as consultants doing we-don't-know-what. And you thought the Republicans in Washington had cornered the market on corruption? Incidentally, Wilkerson's salary as a state senator is above $50,000 and she's free to work other jobs, as most legislators do.

It would take Dr. Phil to figure out this entire Shakespearean political play. For every breach of ethics, for every exposed impropriety, for every bad headline, Wilkerson has seemed only more determined to pursue the erratic way of life. As one state senator told me off the record this week, "she's sweet in person, even a good public speaker, but the behavior would land the rest of us in jail. We stopped listening to her a long time ago. She's just not going to be relevant." But the South End needs a relevant senator.

So where does Wilkerson go from here, if not to join Patrick at the clinic. For my money, no one’s lined up to lick the 300 stickers she needs in September to get her name on the ballot. I think her base of support is eroding quicker than the president's. I also consider it nothing less than crude, racial stereotyping to presuppose that the African American community forgives Wilkerson's sins; as if they tolerate corruption in government any less than any other demographic group. And the senator's Republican rival, law school student Samiyah Diaz, suddenly seems like an anomaly in the making; a Republican South End law maker. She’s told the Associated Press that she may also run in the Democratic Primary. Maybe she'll be a Republicrat.

Speaking of that now wide-open primary, the attraction of a basically open state senate seat would normally be very alluring to many aspiring politicians. Don’t tell me City Councilor Mike Ross doesn't wish he could do it, and many others of his caliber. But this is Boston, and just to show you the racial tension that still commands decisions here, few will dare venture to Wilkerson's district because in Boston the racist charge is thrown as casually as the softballs on the Larry King Show. If you run against Diane you must naturally be a Klansman.

For my money, a silent majority steps in here and says enough of the fourth grade antics we've all had to suffer since Wilkerson's political birth. Boston's African-American community is savvy, educated and breaking more glass ceilings than ever before. A sophisticated electorate will not give an umpteenth chance to the perpetually melting down senator. They want the shootings stopped, a new police commissioner who can actually think out of the box, better schools and reasonable property taxes. Wilkerson is trapped too deep in her own abyss to help these constituents.

Soon we can all suspend reading and writing about a tawdry political career that was never more substantive than last week's episode of Desperate Housewives.

Kevin John Sowyrda is a political writer and commentator.

No comments: