Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hennigan, 24-Years' Worth

Where will our hero mayor of the future come from after Tommy Menino finishes his fourth term? Despite both the Herald and Globe reviewing last night's mayoral debate as one in which Maura Hennigan stung da mare with zingers, she didn't show enough stuff to make her the boss.

Facts are that Tommy has been good for the city, even though his improvements have been incremental instead of quantum leaps, and Maura does not have and cannot produce the brilliant strokes and vision to unseat him. You can certainly understand why the newspapers try to keep coverage exciting, but an honest review would have asked the wonderfully clich├ęd, "Where's the beef?"

This city stages the immigrants and poor for the rest of the commonwealth. It carries the burden of other entry cities, such as New York and Los Angeles. It also has the cruel restraint of being the capitol and having to beg the commonwealth legislature for money and even the power to change the way it operates.

He did not make enough of it in the debate. Tommy has been up to the gold dome getting Boston the resources to deal with strains inherent in a city that carries a heavy load for the Westons, Wellesleys and Dovers of the state. He is trying hard to see that Boston gets a fairer share of the massive revenues it pays to support the rest of Massachusetts. That requires a liberalism that respects and cares for the underclasses.

We need more of that from Menino and from the next mayor. Ideally his successor will bring both the power of personality and an inspired vision to the job. Unfortunately, we don't see that person waiting or hear that person campaigning. Certainly, Maura is too tired and too lightweight to be the heroine.

After re-watching the debate and re-scouring her campaign site, we remain unimpressed. There are a lot of repetitive words but no breakthrough.

Maura has been a city councilor for 24 years. She has far too few examples of leadership or vision during those decades. During the debate, as in the campaign to date, she has brought up that Tommy has been in office nearly 12 years and the city has never had a woman as mayor. Ho hum.

She has been in office so long that:
  • She is unquestionably part of any systemic problem
  • She has had decades to dream, reason and fine-tune her vision and specific policies to implement it
  • She is unable to show how she would do better
Pick any or all of her platform to see the problems. Education is her most fleshed out and what she hit Tommy with the most in the debate. Pull up her position statement and her reform proposals.

It is easy to shred her criticisms of the Menino/school committee/superintendent education record. Menino can, and did the the debate, pick success stories that more than offset her version.

What we are left with is her reform program. It leads with the lamest and least defensible plank of all –– re-introducing the elected school committee. That failed plainly and repeatedly for decades. It was a system that led to the stagnation and then decline of the schools. It is a highly politicized regime that served neither kids nor parents nor teachers. The only meaningful reforms to the schools came with the appointed committee.

Unfortunately, Hennigan falls back repeatedly on a very conservative fantasy. In the debate and her literature, she iterates that if we only go to the neighborhoods on each issue and do what the locals want, all will be well. That sort of town-meeting avoidance of leadership can work for the provincial needs, but not for larger systems, like schools.

The rest of Maura's self-described reforms are vague and high minded from the first glance. For example, she wants partnerships between schools, community based organizational and institutions of higher learning, and creating strong and successful incentives to attract and retain teachers...including professional development, sufficient resources, and a strong mentoring program.

Well, la de da. Wave a wand, mumble incantations and swell things will happen.

You would think after 24 years and quite a few as a school nutritionist that she would bring more to the race. Too little, too vague, too bad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I''m familiar with this subject too