Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Now and Next for Beantown

The first thought of God was an angel. The first word of God was a man.
--Kahlil Gibran

Much in that vein, New Boston is still high concept. The reality is better than bad, but far from the ideal.

Yesterday’s elections were much like state and local ones are supposed to be. The incumbents won handily. Few new Lancelots, untainted by political dirt and not yet sagging from constituent services, will sit at the old table of governance.

Key players to watch in City Council are Felix Arroyo and Sam Yoon.

Thing 1

Felix is ambitious and accomplished. He also has put on the mantle of cultural hero, representing first Latinos and next others of color.

He was very hungry to be top vote getter. Instead, he came in second again to Council President Michael Flaherty, nearly 16% of the vote to his nearly 18%. While both were impressive margins in a four-for-eight preference poll, Flaherty pretty much has the presidency again, and the best shot at mayor next time.

We are betting that the region’s troubles with the strictures the commonwealth places on the city keep Menino from accomplishing enough for Boston in the next term. He’ll likely step down, old, worn, exhausted.

Felix might be able to change that in the next four years. He is at least as bright as Flaherty and with much keener vision and stronger passions and compassion. If he produces a viable program for advancing Boston as a city, while bringing along the least of its citizens, he could be the next mayor.

Let’s watch.

Thing 2

Oddly and delightfully enough, Sam Yoon followed the big kids with nearly 15% of the vote. He is the best and brightest.

For tokenism, he is the city’s first Asian-American Councilor (shame on us). It is a tad amusing and predictable that the established order is like Faulknerian inbreeding. The Irish-American, then Italian-American voters pushed the old WASPs from the Council decades ago. Voters were not interested in other subgroups until recently.

Now Arroyo has shown real stuff. Yoon is even more promising.

The two of them may not be able to wag the 13-Councilor dog. Then again, they may, together or separately.

It is far too early to predict, but Yoon appears to be the sort of politician that this, or any city, could use by the dozen.

Let’s watch. Let’s also hope that the stolid Councilors, like Jim Kelly, don’t tromp on or end run the initiatives from the Lancelots.

Numbers

The incumbents pretty much maintained status quo in the mayoral and district councilor races. Their numbers were 60% to 70%.

That doesn’t speak well of Boston voters. Not only was turnout well under 40% — shameful for such a heavily contested set of elections, but where there was a chance for real improvement, voters punked.

The most obvious was the odious Jim Kelly. He got nearly 61% to Susan Passoni’s nearly 39%. He has a long documented history of regressive politics and bigotry. He is definitely Old Boston or really Old South Boston.

In contrast, she offered progressive politics and a hopeful voice to the largely blue-collar voters. They stayed with the schlemiel.

Oddly enough, Kelly recently came around on same-sex marriage. Perhaps if he stays on Council and lives to be 137, he could become reasonable and liberal.

Finally for the Council, the tough vote was in my JP District (6). John Tobin got the incumbent’s nearly 64%. Gibran Rivera had nearly 36%.

This was not like the Kelly/Passoni fight. Rivera looks like a good guy, a very good guy. Unfortunately, he was up against a Councilor who not only has the right politics, but one who has delivered new programs, voted progressively, and provided services for the locals.

Tobin was the right choice, but Rivera deserves a spot somewhere.

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