A group of teenagers calling for more summer jobs got a civics lesson they didn’t anticipate on Thursday when they tried to pay a visit to US Senator Scott Brown.
About 25 students, along with several community activists and Councilor Felix G. Arroyo of Boston, were hoping for a meeting with Brown when they were intercepted at the entrance to the John F. Kennedy Federal Building. They were told that Brown’s office could not accommodate a group of their size and were denied entry.
The aborted meeting with Brown followed a rally on City Hall Plaza and a hearing on summer jobs in the City Council’s chambers. The group started out at about 150 strong, but had dwindled by the time the students tried to visit Brown’s office.
“They never even got to the metal detectors,’’ said Mswati Hanks, a community organizer in East Boston. “They had been [protesting] for about three hours by that point, and they were disappointed that they weren’t even allowed in the door.’’
“These are young people who want to work this summer, them and their brothers and sisters,’’ Arroyo said. “Brown voted against summer jobs funding, and we wanted to ask him to reconsider if the issue comes up again.’’
In truth, the students had known that they probably weren’t going to be able to meet personally with the senator unannounced. But they wanted to at least get to his office, leave him a petition they had written, and meet with his staff. Two members of Brown’s staff did meet with them - but on a sidewalk outside the building.
Being denied access to the public building rankled the kids and their mentors.
“They were denied access to a public building by a man who claims he’s holding the people’s seat,’’ Arroyo said. “ ‘The people’ should include them. They’re constituents.’’
A Brown spokesman, John Donnelly, said the staff was following established procedure in meeting with a large group outside the office. Donnelly asserted that many protesters often prefer to remain outside, where their actions are visible.
At stake is federal funding for summer jobs, an effort that is a tough sell in this political and economic climate. Such funding has dried up in the past few years, a trend that isn’t expected to change in the next month or two.
In 2010, Brown voted against a bill that would have funded summer jobs. In an e-mail, Donnelly said his boss supports summer jobs, though he stopped well short of saying that Brown had any plans to do anything about it.
“Senator Brown supports the federal funding for summer job programs as long as they are paid for in a fiscally responsible way, without adding to the trillions in national debt,’’ Donnelly wrote. “Senator Brown believes job creation starts at home, with neighbors helping neighbors, and that’s why he’s hosted three jobs fairs in Massachusetts.’’
So the kids should keep an eye out for the next neighborhood job fair, I suppose.
Hanks, the organizer, praised the teens for attempting to spark action. “This was on school vacation week when they could have been doing other things, but they want to make a difference.’’
Senators don’t meet with every group of constituents that comes knocking, and Brown wasn’t even around. But that’s not the point. Constituents (even if some in the group are not yet old enough to vote) should not be treated like an annoyance when they try to walk into a federal building - the people’s building. Certainly a man who was elected on the strength of his regular-guy credentials should get that. Trust me, 25 developers wouldn’t have to meet with Brown’s staff on the sidewalk.
Paying more than lip service to summer jobs is not a bad idea, either. The biggest misconception about kids is that they don’t care about issues, and don’t want to work. Somehow, disproving both those errant notions got these kids nowhere.