, Salem, MA


March 31, 2014

Our view: Cheers, jeers for local newsmakers


“I’m very grateful,” Champagne told reporter Neil Dempsey.

CHEERS to Mario Joseph and Brian Concannon, the recipients of the 2014 Salem Award for their brave work on behalf of Haiti’s poor.

Joseph, a native of the country, has been called “Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyer” by the New York Times. He was the lead attorney in the prosecution of those involved in the so-called Raboteau massacre of 1994, when soldiers went door-to-door in the small town of Raboteau, shooting and beating supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been deposed in a military coup.

Concannon, director of the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, helped prosecute that case. He also sued the United Nations on behalf of victims of a 2010-11 cholera outbreak in the country, an event medical panels found was likely caused by U.N. peacekeepers.

In a column elsewhere on this page, Kinnflo Michel, a Haitian native and Salem State University senior, said “Concannon and Joseph are no strangers to standing up to human rights violations in Haiti ... What they do is dangerous, yet they continue to be the voice of a poor nation whose government disregards them. We need to support them and continue to keep the struggles in Haiti at the forefront of our awareness.”

JEERS, again, to those holding up a bill filed by state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, to lift the cap and other restrictions on the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. The opponents, who include the usual crowd of Boston “progressives,” claim the charters are robbing traditional public schools not only of state funding but also of their best students. Both claims are nonsense. Public schools are reimbursed for the aid they lose when students transfer to public schools — in effect, they’re being paid for kids they DON’T teach, just not as much as the teachers unions would like. As for the best and brightest students and their parents clamoring to get into charters — the wait lists have tens of thousands of names — there’s a reason for that. It’s that the traditional public schools have been failing them for decades. “It’s for the children,” whine the proponents of paying public schools for not doing their job. Let’s be honest. It’s for the bucks.

There was some small hope for progress last week after House members came up with a revised proposal of their own. Let’s hope legislators start taking their constituents’ wishes seriously.

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