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Parade and primary a potential fumble, critics grumble

They address complaints to Kraft, Menino

Teacher Emily Silas with her students at English High, who wrote letters of complaint to Mayor Thomas Menino over scheduling the possible Patriots victory parade on Super Tuesday. Teacher Emily Silas with her students at English High, who wrote letters of complaint to Mayor Thomas Menino over scheduling the possible Patriots victory parade on Super Tuesday. (DAVID L. RYAN/GLOBE STAFF)
Email|Print| Text size + By Tracy Jan
Globe Staff / February 1, 2008

It's all based on one giant if, but if the Patriots win Sunday, some politicians and election officials foresee a nightmare scenario of traffic jams and raucous football fans when a Super Bowl victory parade clashes with the Super Tuesday primary.

The potential timing has prompted civic-minded high school students to fire off letters of complaint to Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Patriots owner Bob Kraft.

Even patriotic Patriots fans are kvetching in cyberspace that a historic victory would overshadow the election next week.

Yet, amid the uproar, others are questioning why a supposed world-class city can't pull off a parade and a primary on the same day.

"So you go to the parade and you can't vote? Go when I go, at 7 in the morning," said Michael S. Dukakis, the former governor and presidential candidate who now teaches political science at Northeastern University. "They're overreacting. Believe me, people will vote."

Said Dorothy Joyce, spokeswoman for Menino, "We can walk and chew gum at the same time."

Not everyone else has that same confidence. Some city councilors, including John Tobin and Michael Flaherty, want to reschedule any sort of victory parade, if one is necessary.

Tobin, a self-described "die-hard Patriots fan" who has tickets to the Super Bowl, said he worries about throngs of fans crowding Copley Square and City Hall Plaza, both near polling sites.

He suggested that the parade be routed instead down Route 1 in Foxborough. Another option he proposed: The city should delay the victory rally until Wednesday, even though some star players would be en route to Hawaii.

"This isn't an election for a fence viewer," Tobin said. "It's an election for the president of the United States."

Students at English High School in Jamaica Plain debated the issue in an Advanced Placement US government and politics class this week, when teacher Emily Silas brought in a Globe article on plans for a Patriots victory rally.

"Super Tuesday. Patriots parade," said Caitlin Carlson, a 17-year-old from Mission Hill, holding out her hands and weighing each option. "If voter turnout's so bad anyway and we have a parade on the same day, that's just dumb."

In their letters to the powers-that-be, the students cited Boston's historically low voter turnout in last November's elections as a reason not to give citizens yet another reason to stay away from the polls.

Menino said earlier this week that the city did not have a choice. The players would not arrive home from Phoenix early enough for a Monday parade, and many of them are traveling to Hawaii on Wednesday for the Feb. 10 Pro Bowl.

"May we strongly suggest that the Patriots players that are participating in the Pro Bowl reschedule their flights for Wednesday night?" students wrote Menino.

They were hoping for a sympathetic ear from Kraft, a strong English High supporter whose father graduated from the school.

Thomas Patterson, a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, called the controversy "the tempest in Tea Town." If politicians are really concerned about voter access, he said, they should enact legislation to allow voter registration on Election Day or make the day a holiday, as it is in some European countries.

"It seems horribly silly to me, with all of the other things that compete with people's ability to get to the polls on Election Day," Patterson said.

Silas, the English High government teacher, will further encourage civic-mindedness by taking her class on a field trip to her polling station in Jamaica Plain on Tuesday.

But a half-dozen of her students admitted yesterday that they may be absent on Election Day.

They'll be at the parade.

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