Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Boston Song Out of Yoon

Boston mayoral candidate Sam Yoon was his intelligent, intense and sincere self yesterday evening. At a small gathering of bloggers, he hosted, held forth, and made strong statements.

His key proposal was for a way to fix the strong-mayor/weak-council government he regularly blames for what ails us. Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub covered both the abstract and particulars of that well here.

At every stump speech, forum and debate, Yoon decries that everything must pass through Menino's hands to happen. The contradiction in his call is not lost on him though. He quickly points out that changing this will initially take a strong mayor to drive the legal and statutory changes necessary to define and structure a weaker mayor.

His vision here is more than the linchpin to his campaigning. He wants more than simply sharing more power with City Council. For one example, he shares the conclusion that the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) program for colleges and other non-profits cheats the city of revenue. The two other mayoral challengers to Tom Menino, Michael Flaherty and Kevin McCrea, agree.

However, Yoon ties this to the strong-mayor issue. Speaking of PILOT, he said, "These hings happen in a black box. That has to change." He figures if the public is in on the negotiations with, say Northeastern, the city will get a better agreement and more cash annually.

I had to cut out for family obligations, so I was the first to leave Flash's yesterday. Others of the five bloggers there may have more goodies.

So, today when I had some time, I did check the followup to comments Yoon's press secretary, Jordan Newman, made before the candidate arrived. He was really upbeat, noting that August was Yoon's best fund-raising month ever. He said the campaign beat those of the other candidates. He attributed that to "people are seeing this as really obtainable."

That drove me, the old newspaper drone, to the numbers. Sure enough, the August filings show healthy receipts and balances heading into the September 22nd primary.
Ice Water Splash: Examining the figures should always note that Mayor Menino has at least an order of magnitude greater cash in his campaign account, with more on the side to drop in if necessary. None of the guys can imagine they will outspend him in the primary or general. They have to capture the voters' aspirations and fears with more than advertising or paid campaigners. We think of Cassius' epithet for Caesar — Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.

Everybody can play

However, the receipts and cash make this race look competitive enough. Apparently, Menino was aware enough of this that on the last day of August, he dropped $300,000 from his other account into his campaign fund.

I toted the figures from those reported to the state. For August, I had:

August in 60,810.79
August out 99,260.93
End balance 39,133.81

August in 0.00
August out 3,525.00
End balance 33,467.34

August in 381,756.36
August out 103,836.05
End balance 807,527.22

August in 86,100.50
August out 75,373.78
End balance 58,167.54

We can't draw definitive conclusions from those figures. We can see that everyone has cash to spend and that everyone but McCrea is hard at work raising contributions. We can also see why Newman was heartened by the cash flow.

I believe we can assume with confidence that our longest-serving and popular mayor will be one of the two challengers headed to the November general election. We can be nearly as sure that McCrea has made his criticism and gotten his points aired, but not to the extent that he'll advance.

Who's convinced?

Between Yoon and Flaherty, it is now a real question which will live politically to advance. The stereotype would have the Irish-American with the long list of big unions endorsing him thrash the wonky Korean-American. Yet, this doesn't seem an election of clich├ęs in the flesh.

Yoon has a shot. It remains to be seen how many voters he's convinced that he's that change they want, the way to bump up Boston's commonweal.

In terms of contenders, all three claim they are the pilot to steer to a newer, better Boston. They want to trash the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), putting development decisions in the hands of the Council and citizens. Yet this becomes a question of whom would you trust.

Unfortunately for the contenders, Boston is not in terrible shape. Schools could surely be better, crime certainly lower and housing more affordable. Yet, none of the big areas is terrible enough to make the voters scream for Menino's head. The three challengers say, "We can do better," and present their ways of doing that.

On the face of it, McCrea is the revolutionary candidate. Yet his sometimes abrasive presentation couple with some loose fact-like-claims in the big debate and his lack of government experience. In contrast, Flaherty may be a little too vague on the details and a little too unsure on the procedure. Then Yoon's positions require voter focus.

During the televised debate, my wife cringed and commented several times when Yoon made his arguments. She pointed out that he spoke naturally and was obviously bright. However, he used many terms such as i.e. and antithesis. She figures that would stop some voters' brains and turn off others.

Yoon has good positions and offers clear paths to the ends he proposes. His cash flow suggests that more voters are listening enough to be convinced. The question remains whether there will be enough to lift him to number two in the primary tally.

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Quriltai said...

This reminds me of the noise about appointing an interim senator. The system isn't the cause, it's the person. Any mayor worth having will be utterly powerful if he stays in the same post for 16 years. Add to the fact that Menino has outlived half the city's population and met the other half, and I figure it's not the system -- it's the guy in the system.

So I don't understand why we have to change the system beyond getting some new blood in there.

Ginnette said...

The system was created and maintained by this same mayor who won't do term limits, hasn't done what was promised with schools etc.
Especially on the charter it hasn't been changed since 1909. Sam Yoon wants to revamp it so that it has to be updated every so often and he has many more great changes to implement once he gets elected.