I’ve been meaning to post about the corruption case involving former MA State Senator Dianne Wilkerson because it really lays out the most corrosive effect of corruption–a loss of trust:
What is the real deal with Columbus Center?
Why did Wilkerson throw herself behind the controversial and now-stalled project with such passion? Why did she go to the mat again and again to get support and public subsidies for the $800 million hotel, residential, and retail complex over the Massachusetts Turnpike when many of her constituents opposed the project? What was her relationship with Columbus Center developer Arthur Winn?
The feds are quite interested in answering these questions themselves, apparently. Winn got served last week.
And Columbus Center was just one of the many developments in which Wilkerson took an interest.
What about that big 22-story dormitory Northeastern University is building on the corner of Ruggles and Tremont streets? Why did Wilkerson support that project over many of her constituents’ objections that it was far too big and that the school had not provided enough benefits to the community in return for the right to bring more than a thousand students into the neighborhood?
And why did the senator oppose other Northeastern plans to expand farther into her district a year later? Was she acting in the best interests of her constituents, or was she really working to help one of the many developers with whom she had close relationships?
The same question could be asked of her stances on other projects in her district – the biolab proposed by Boston University, for example, which she backs and other elected officials in her district vehemently oppose.
Maybe her dealings on these and other development proposals – and she had a say in many of them – were on the up and up. Maybe she supported these projects for the jobs they’d bring into her district or for other perfectly good reasons.
But Wilkerson’s alleged willingness to take bribes to subvert the legislative process in the interests of one developer in Roxbury has cast suspicion on her dealings with all of the others, too.
It’s naive to think that developers and large business won’t have extra clout–their economic stature all but ensures they will. But Wilkerson went too far because her corruption moved the debate from policy to personal enrichment.
On a related note, my guess is that if Wilkerson decides to spill a lot of developers are going down…