Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Yoon, Restless

Prima facie, new Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon is just another ox on a team plowing circles. And yet, the political stew at the Plaza is simmering with new ingredients. (I promise to ease off on these metaphors, but only for this post, not for 2006.)

The wheezing, narrowly focused observers like to say 1) the Council is just a creature of the Mayor, with little real power, 2) the entrenched Irish-American and Italian-American members rule in this little wasteland, 3) while minority members have increased slightly, they are still outvoted by the old guys, and 4) Yoon is the only new member this term and his lefty vote replaces that of Maura (The Moue) Hennigan.

Note: Yoon becomes the new Councilor tomorrow. He hasn't blogged since his same-sex marriage (he's for it) post in September. We'll have to see if he leaves himself open to voter questions and comments. I bet yes.

There's a good chance suddenly that the self-satisfied pundits haven't paid enough attention. Consider Jim Kelly, Michael Flaherty, and Team Unity.

Kelly used to be brain-dead and now may well be brain alive. Cancer, tumors, surgery are nature (and history) calling to say, "Do the right!" He used to be the Council clown and voted against everything fair, often joining the much brighter, but even more callous Albert (Dapper) O'Neill.

Yet Kelly has grown and mellowed considerably of late, even to the point of favoring civil unions. That's three years late and a couple millions short, but shows considerable maturing and evolution.

Now after his critical illnesses, he has to have a firm sense of his mortality and must think of what legacy he'll leave after long Council service. In contrast to Hennigan, who did so little meaningful in 24 years, he has a shot at being part of or leading in progressive acts and policy making. Look for Kelly to make important proposals that the liberals can support with vigor.

Now that Flaherty fellow knows that Da Mare is in his last term. He salivates over taking over. So, he has to massage Menino, but also show that he has the stuff to advance the cause of the city. Look for him to play kissy-face with the powerful Tommy, but initiate his own innovative plans. He has the hardest job in City Hall balancing both.

Then there are the four non-White Councilors out of 13. Yoon is a relative kid to them, but Hennigan was no great shakes for liberals. Yoon has already accomplished much as a housing activist. The voters knew what they were getting and sent someone who can do more than brag and whine. Yoon is a uniting force. Look for him to be the catalyst of liberality in this staid body. He doesn't mind letting his Unity buddies share or take credit. For that matter, he doesn't mind letting Da Mare claim the honors.

The dynamics are right for big stuff in the next couple of years.


Anonymous said...

What's "liberal" in things that really matter in Boston city politics? Gay marriage vs. civil unions? That's really a state issue - and Jimmy Kelly coming out in favor of one or the other position is sort of like Chuck Turner parading photos of Iraqi "torture" - sound and fury signifying, well, not very much. As a city officials, I'd much rather see how Kelly's thinking has changed/is changing (if at all) on such issues as school and MBTA inequalities, rapidly rising residential property tax rates, crime. Has it? Will it?

massmarrier said...

Actually, in a quite a few areas, Kelly has lightened up and liberalized. For example, when he used to head the Council's housing committee, he was tool of big realtors, like Jerome Rappaport. As such, he regulated for large, white landowners who drove the poor and middle-class from affordable housing to sell high-end condos. That, of course, disproportionately hit Black and Latino residents. That's changed and he is much more a fair housing and build-low-income units guy.

Now, I still would have loved to see him lose in the last election, but even before his physical problems, this was the new, improved Jim Kelly.