Monday, October 31, 2011

At-Large Incumbents? Yes Indeed.

For the good, Boston's at-large City Council race has a relative plethora of solid candidates. Of course, it's musical desks with four for the seven running.

I've held off endorsements 1) to be close to the election on 11/8, and 2) to stock up Left Ahead's podcasts with candidate shows. One or two shows for six are available (look over the site archives). Sean Ryan promised several times to let us know when he was ready and he apparently never was.

Because I'm late to the gate, I am embarrassed to write that I'm with the Globe and Phoenix and other thoughtful pundit types in endorsing the four incumbents. Each has shown expertise, passion and accomplishment in areas unique to him or her. The city will be best served by building on what may be the best crop of at-large Councilors ever.

Vote Steve Murphy, Felix Arroyo, John Connolly and Ayanna Pressley.

Begrudgingly, I admit that the often-wrong Globe editorial board is spot on in its endorsement of these four. Unfortunately, their new paywall may prevent many from reading this essential piece. Fear not, the Phoenix came in ahead of us all with its similar analysis and conclusions last week.

Most local media seem to grok this. Bay Windows/South End News looks pretty silly, replacing Murphy with former at-large Councilor and body President Michael Flaherty. They fess up that who marches in South Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade is a heavy factor.

The short of it is that Murphy is the finance/budget master and thus essential, Connolly has the vision and perseverance to deal with contentious school money and reform issues, Pressley has brought big issues and solutions to such ignored areas as protecting women and girls as well as teen pregnancy, and Arroyo is a champion of youth, labor and housing issues.

The endorsements tend not to say why you should not vote for someone else. They should. In two of the three cases, that is tough. Ryan stands alone as a libertarian sort whose issues as vaguely defined on his website (fine use of social media and video though) are largely broad strokes painted on broad issues. Coupled with his lack of experience in public office, he is not getting a lot of support of any type.

Flaherty and Will Dorcena are different matters. They are both super guys, both very bright, charming and accomplished. Dorcena is new to elective politics, but understands the problems facing Bostonians and sets out a strong platform. Its a very tired local cliché that you have to introduce a bill four or five times before it becomes law and you have to run for Council at least three times. I for one hope he finds a fit in Boston government and is not disheartened by this race.

Erstwhile Councilor Flaherty is still the wild card. He quit to run against Mayor Tom Menino two years ago and wants back in the chamber. He pretty much claims the whole Council is a pack of lapdogs and they need someone like him to give them some vision and courage. Cynics are sure he just wants a platform to run for Menino's spot again.

He offers a Halloween-scary platform of what's dreadfully wrong in each aspect of Boston life. Unfortunately, it's very short on vision and solution components.

This election though may come down to reinforcing older Boston or looking for continued improvement. Flaherty's path back in will surely rely on the strength of zip-code voting and identity politics. Will his traditional appeal in largely Irish-American areas like Southie and Westie get enough folk to the polls? This certain-to-be low turnout off-year election should be a true test for the mettle of the locals.

I do admit that there's a sliver of irony here. In her most recent Left Ahead show, Pressley was bluntly realistic in noting that identity politics is always important here. She hopes that in addition to progressives, her candidacy inspires women, Bostonians of color, and residents of her neighborhood to go to the polls.

The boon Flaherty gets is that the District Council race features the do-little one-of-us Southie resident and incumbent Bill Linehan against firebrand Suzanne Lee. That race doubles down on the neighborhood vs. city interest bet. It should translate into higher votes in District 2, which includes Southie, Chinatown and the South End.

I can't call either the District race or the four at-large winners. I just tell you how to vote — the four at-large incumbents and Lee.


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