Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shootin' for Mayor, 2 of 2


Who would even want to be mayor Boston? Well, lots of folk, maybe every single City Councilor.

The job is high profile and sort of powerful, largely because the rest of city government is so weak by law and regulation. Yet, it is also fairly powerless. The archaic and childish home-rule process gives the commonwealth legislature and governor absurd power, legally and financially over the city. Boston can't do squat without begging up on Beacon Street.

Moreover, mayor tends to be the end of the line, and not a ramp to higher office. True, James Michael Curley managed to get into the governor's office, but he also spent time in jail. Our mayors are more likely to become law partners or college professors.

Yet, there seems to be an egalitarian tenor to the office. You too can be mayor.

This is part 2. See the intro here.

Three for the Road

We may be in for a good race this year. Already the two announced candidates are slapping each other around. They are starting out with a central theme and not showing their cards yet. The initial issue is clearly a stalking horse. If Menino announces a run for a fifth term, they'll bring out their big marbles.

The first two announced candidates are South End businessman and gadfly Kevin McCrea and Councilor Michael Flaherty. Lurking right outside the circle and soon to announce intentions is Council Sam Yoon.



Shooter 1Shooter 2Shooter 3
Kevin McCreaMichael FlahertySam Yoon

McCrea's only really political card is that he sued the city successfully to get its pols to start obeying the open-meetings laws. Boston is not the only commonwealth municipality that likes its closed-door decisions, but he has a horse to ride into the contest.

Flaherty likes that too and tried to hitch a ride. He talks the talk, but he has an unfortunate history here of being one of those backroom pols. Even though his initial video says he is the guy to provide open government.

Amusingly enough, he got laughs for 1) the Kitchen Aid mixer over his shoulder, 2) his bungled release of his announcement, and 3) having to backtrack and admit he was a huge, regular offender on this very subject. McCrea jumped right on this.

Meanwhile, Yoon has been on open and transparent government for a long time. If he announces for the race, he can easily dismiss the two of them. I bet this issue will not resonate with voters regardless and none of these guys can win the election on this plank.

Yoon is surely the smartest guy on Council and perhaps in City Hall. He's a bit low-key, but who could be more so than Menino?

No Place to Stand

From the looks of their websites, neither announced candidate is Web 2.0 savvy. Flaherty not only blew his online announcement, his website is junior-high class, with no real content beyond the announcement. His metatags don't even put a title up on the bar. His Spanish version of the site has a good text translation, but the video is neither dubbed nor does he speak in Spanish. Latinos aren't going to be impressed. He won't offer a web-based threat.

McCrea is better, but he really just has a look-at-me blog. There's no platform and no compelling reason to go with him.

Oddly enough, Yoon is the only one with a set of issues and solutions online. I would expect that if he decides in a week or so to run that his site and literature will set the tone with the others, including Menino, reacting. He'd have a headstart.
Note to Yoon: Don't run, at least not this time. You don't have the money, you don't have the machine, and you don't have enough union and other interest groups to make the difference. Hope that Menino is in and that he wins. You'd have four years to get support and cash.

Show Us the Money

Yoon set and met very modest goals for fund-raising. He said he'd consider a run if he could collect $100,000 by the end of 2008. He did that.


However, if you look at just the cash on hand, this is all Menino. In state campaign filings for the end of the year, cash was:
  • McCrea: $744
  • Yoon: $137,762
  • Flaherty: $590,102
  • Menino: $1,408,184
Among the notes are that:
  • McCrea has lent his campaign at least $33,500 and repaid himself $10,000 at the end of the year; his total is deceptively low
  • Yoon just put on a push in the fall and has collected for a short period
  • Flaherty has been working at this for a year and has his friends
  • Menino carries forward a war chest as well as he hasn't turned on the turbo yet
You have to wonder how serious McCrea really is and whether he has the political and business connections to bring in the necessary capital. Likewise, Yoon would need four to 10 times that to make a run, which is possible but difficult in a short time.

Meanwhile, Kevin seems devilish and prickly. He's likely to poke Flaherty repeatedly. Flaherty needs more issues and a real platform. If he's holding back, he needs to play some cards. If he doesn't have compelling reasons for voters to choose him, he'd better rethink this whole thing.

This is a very promising start. I'm not sure these three guys or any subset of them can make a solid run. Here's hoping that Menino and Yoon make their intentions clear this month and turn up the heat.

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