Thursday, October 13, 2005

Maura at the Door-a

No sooner did we post than Maura Hennigan's slick campaign flyer flew our way.

It was addressed to Our Friends At, which is at least better than Resident. We can forgive her not going with more expensive mailing lists. As she is quick to mention, Tommy has all the money.

Now the question remains, will this sway voters, any voters, enough voters?

We can flash back to content-analysis courses. Impressions include:

The cover portrait is very dark and has mixed messages. She has the standard turkey-neck-hiding hand to the jaw. That successfully softens her and makes her less haggard. She wears a business-like blazer, good. She has an American flag lapel pin, important to older voters. She wears a costume jewelry necklace, feminizing and not too flashy, and a good offset to her butchy haircut. Unfortunately, the effect is fairly funereal. The darkness, setting and her indifferent stare remind one of a mortician at the viewing.

The words are "Maura Hennigan for Mayor" and "A lifetime of Service...A vision for Boston" (punctuation and capitalization as appearing). That will only work if there is an innovative and believable program inside.

Overall, the cover is positive but still chilly.

The meat is the opposite side. The heading has a slogan left, "True to the people she will serve." That is fairly weak. There is nothing about leadership or that vision she promised. The implication seems to be that she will do as she said in the town meeting, ask the neighborhoods what they want and react. That is not a vision, rather tepid populism.

The three small images on top show her with three representative contingencies — white-collar white folk, a black couple, and an elderly woman. That's the predictable knish/hot dog/cannoli eating routine. No substance there, but a hint again that there will be specifics in her visionary program for each type.

The real pitch is a set of four columns, with bullet points under each.
  • Putting Education First — Despite her education experience, this features only small beer, helping start a pilot school, helping get money for another school building, lead on a public-building air-quality ordinance, and again, listening to parents.
  • Increasing Neighborhood Safety— She's against the bio lab, wants more police, wants quicker announcements of rape alerts, and worked with the cops on a school program.
  • Supporting Responsibile Development — She votes for rent stabilization, says she advocates low-income and senior housing, wants more community input to the BRA, and joins in calls for a master plan for all business areas.
  • Fighting for Better City Services — She makes a vague claim of wanting fair allocation of services across neighborhoods, wants higher quality street repair, and tried to get the City Council to pass a spot-inspection ordinance for infrastructure.
Without putting too fine a point on it, she brings to mind the Leonard Cohen line "A scheme is not a vision." The main message is pretty low on content.

If these are the best she can produce from 24 years as a Councilor, she should go run her realty business. Those are not impressive accomplishments. It looks as though she also failed at many of her efforts despite her tenure. Voting for something is far shy of making it happen.

More important, she promises in person and on the front of the flyer that she has a vision for the city. It is not there. No major aims appear, just tinkering with what exists, improving here and there.

It would have been far better for her to say it is time for her to come into real power, where she can get away from that lame City Council. If elected, she would...and then list a half dozen major themes and projects that would transform Boston. Instead, we have a set of bullet points that individually and collectively add up to a promise of incremental improvements.

I have my doubts this will convince significant numbers of voters to turn out a mayor who cannot articulate very well for the wanna-be who cannot articulate why she is any better.

Alas, Maura, you need to dream bigger dreams.

Afterthought: By the bye, if Maura really wanted to earn debates, she could have gotten them by putting out a killer vision and platform to match. If citizens heard her or read her flyers, and then said, "Damn, that's what I want for Boston!," Tommy would have had to react with his own and go head to head with her.


Chris Cagle said...

I agree with you about the lack of an organizing vision for Hennigan's candidacy and would probably second some of your criticisms, but I think you're being a little unfair to her. At the very least, if you apply the same standards, Menino's publicly stated education platform is hardly a coherent policy initiative ("small beer" really applies to his answers during that first debate), and his campaign literature seems no more substantive.

massmarrier said...

Yes, I am harsh. On the other hand, she knew before she got into this that she would have to overcome voter inertia.

Menino is not promising much at all. Maura had lots of time to back up her own pledge of a vision for the city.

Where's the beef?

I wanted an exciting race. I expected that she could put him on the defensive with a campaign for a new city.

Perhaps where I am unfair is expecting her to be visionary and brilliant. She seems to have the energy and confidence, but little else. Tommy is neither visionary nor brilliant and will never be, but she is saying to dump him for no clearly defined reason other than he's been there a long time.

She promised us ├ęclat. She set the expectations. I want it and am waiting.