By Jim Smith
BOSTON — A scathing report by federal housing officials and a Boston Globe editorial cartoon by Dan Wasserman have drawn the ire of South Boston residents, many of whom believe their community is being unfairly labeled as racist.
At issue is a Department of Housing and Urban Development report issued last month that concluded that the Boston Housing Authority failed from 1992-96 to protect nine minority families from a pattern of ongoing harassment by white tenants in the Old Colony Housing Project in South Boston and the Bunker Hill project in nearby Charlestown.
The Globe’s editorial cartoon depicts Mayor Thomas Menino and City Council President James Kelly being pressured by a HUD official to erase hateful, racist graffiti covering walls within the housing development.
Political leaders, including Menino and Kelly, have condemned the HUD report for relying on outdated material and consisting of questionable allegations made by a group of minority residents seeking thousands of dollars in a lawsuit against the housing authority.
Kelly, in his weekly column in Dorchester and South Boston weekly newspapers, offered a stinging rebuke of the HUD report. "HUD’s accusations of racial discrimination by the Boston housing authority are not only fraudulent and biased, but they are deliberate distortions of the truth," Kelly wrote. "They should be withdrawn, and an apology issued to the residents of the city of Boston."
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Kelly asserts that white families have been fleeing the housing developments in droves for years and that the residents in the projects are now predominantly black and Hispanic. "The system is administered almost exclusively by minorities, and the waiting list for public housing is close to 90 percent non-white," he wrote. "To even consider settlement [of the lawsuit] is a terrible injustice to the decent people of our city."
Meanwhile, the Globe’s ombudsman, Jack Thomas, acknowledged in his column earlier this week that the mayor’s press secretary had described the Globe’s coverage of the HUD report as "more biased than anything she had ever seen in the Globe."
The Globe cartoon that accompanied the critical news reports struck a raw nerve with Southie residents, some of whom say they had hoped that the newspaper’s gratuitous use of negative stereotypes about their Irish-American community was a thing of the past.