Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mare's Nest or Mayor Test

My fantasy last evening was that one or two of the dozen Boston mayoral would figuratively push the others off the forum stage. The Herald, NECN and Suffolk U. crammed them all on stools like so many sparrows waiting at the feeder.

The whole thing is on-demand at Comcast and will appear in pieces at NECN. Look for Boston Mayoral Forum: Part 1 and Part 2.

I didn't get what I wanted and am much less wowed by the alleged fireworks than the Herald, NECN and Globe reported they were. I dislike the forum format, with too many pols,  too many simplistic questions, too short a period to answer and virtually no give-and-take debate among candidates or with the moderators.

Yesterday it was what we have come to expect. NECN's Latoyia Edwards somehow confused this event with college football, setting the raucous tone very high in the into. Moderators NECN's Alison King and Herald's Joe Battenfeld were respectively OK and pinheaded throughout the 90 minutes. The latter is an unrepentant winger who does not think on his feet. He repeatedly went for the gotcha-questions and failed. That did not keep him from returning even when the candidates did not want to play his games. (To Dan Conley for example, how dare you send your kids to parochial schools?)

While the squabbling and talking over each other continued, I had hoped for a decisive winner or two. I didn't get it. The theory floating about is that this forum would let candidates below the slightly higher polling John Connolly and Marty Walsh each promote one or maybe two clear distinctions for themselves. Then in the next two weeks before the preliminary, they could pound their chests and stress those planks.

Yeah, yeah, there were some differences, like Connolly wants an East Boston vote on a casino, Conley a citywide one, and Bill Walczak somehow holds that he'd stop any casino in town, regardless laws or public opinion. Those and others don't make the election. We knew going in what various candidates thought and felt about crime, schools and so forth.

The verbal and physical tics were more fun than trying to listen as 11 candidates (David Wyatt was stony silent) and two moderators talked over each other. It was often a circle shout.

Instead of picking an easy-to-explain/easy-to-relate-to/easy-to-remember plank, most of the candidates threw résumé morsels whenever they could. Instead of a concise policy answer, they'd refer to my so-and-so plan (economic development, crime, schools...). Conley had even snuck in a prop, one of his programs in a bound printout, which he waved about several times. Others referred to something they had done as a City Councilor or CEO or City Hall hired gun. Each had multiple chances to wow with a new angle or boffo proposal. None took them.

A few also did distracting motions, none so often as my district Councilor Rob Consalvo. He kept pulling his suit jacket closed. Was he trying not to look too round, hiding a dinner spill on his shirt, or what? He's much better at public speaking than I. Still he should lose this tic.

Also, for every one of them, except Walczak, they need to practice a relaxed smile. Watch part 1 of the forum to wince through the candidate introductions. Clearly none had been a beauty queen or equivalent. Their forced, fixed grins were painful to behold. Meanwhile wildly smiling Edwards was a great example as she introduced them.

In the end though, I didn't get what I wanted, that clear winner. Maybe I watched too many Westerns as a kid — white hat v. black hat with the good guy on top at the end. This is not yet at the end, but we voters have hard decisions.

Ryan and I talk about the race this afternoon on Left Ahead. My next post here will be on my process in narrowing preliminary choice.

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