Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wall of Pols for Deval

Only somewhat plugged in, only somewhat of a wonk, I still reveled in the local political types coming to the gym for Deval Patrick and Tim Murray's opening rally/sally/volley yesterday. Many of my favorites showed, but of course, we were left wondering about those local pols who did not appear.

As of yesterday, I have to drop all pretense of deriding pols who work the room. I found myself going to one pol after another myself. I know them, many have come on as guests to Left Ahead!'s podcast, and despite a so-so batting average, many of those I endorse who went on to win were there.

First...the crowd though. English has been on the verge of trying to go out of business for a long time. It's the RCN of public education. Banners in numerous places cite it as the first public high school in the nation (1821), not to be confused with Boston Latin School, the first public school (1635). Being first is not always a great thing. Think about the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Boston's subway; they honestly don't carry their age that well. However, English moved a few times and took over the ailing Jamaica Plain HS in an effort to save both. Tenuous at first, it's sort of working.

Most of us who visit the school for public hearings, candidate nights and such head to the auditorium, which is a bit rundown but serviceable. The rally thingummy was in the gym and from overhearing people, I was one of many there for the first time. It was smallish, but not seedy, not bad at all. For a school allegedly barely in business, they played good host.

Some of Each

By count, they had set up for about 300 folding chairs. The bleachers on one side would have accommodated about the same. There was a smallish press platform for the TV cameras and such opposite the dais and behind chairs of hoi polloi.

In theory, the rally started at noon, the doors opened at 11 a.m. and no one believed anything would be on time. Not only is that the norm for politicians, but Deval and Tim started at different places about 8:30 and would converge on the first major rally, so noon was like a Manhattan dinner party start hour.

I arrived around 11:30 after a cathartic stride up from the bottom of Hyde Park. Even coming up on Doyle's for the left turn to English, I didn't see any hoard. Had I driven, I could have parked on Washington Street. I felt a slight disappointment too not to see any Charlie Baker's or other adversaries' minions holding signs or chanting. Where's the spirit of competition?

In the gym, we had our rainbow. Massachusetts may not be post-racial, but Deval's supporters seem to be. While there was a good share of us beige or pink skinned types, a clear diversity representing the various races and cultures here arrived and mingled. Yes, I can be simple-minded about this all and yes, I am a Unitarian, and yes, I like the crowds supporting Deval and Barack representing a real range of citizens.

I did a quick scan and approximation. Unlike most public gatherings, this one seemed consistent with Boston's diversity. It was a bit short on the growing Latino population, but otherwise seemed well representative. Likewise, the couple of dozen young folk with STAFF badges on their lanyards were a pretty good blend of colors, but almost entirely teens and 20s. People my age were put at tables to sign folk in and collect tickets.

Where's Menino?

Instead of where's Waldo, I wonder where's Menino? Our mayor wasn't evident. I'll try to find out why.

In a different Boston school four years ago (BLS), Tom Menino introduced the new candidate, the un-favorite of the Democratic Party, a certain Deval Patrick. I would have supposed right now would Menino would be very savvy to stand up with and for the governor.

Many Boston pols were not so trepid or shy. Most of city council was there. Apparently Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo was too, but I didn't see him. Rep. Liz Malia showed, as did Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. I assume some legislators went to the many smaller gatherings on the two days, or the other big rallies in Worcester and Holyoke later Saturday.

Glad Handing

I spent a little time with:
  • Chang-Diaz — very little in this case as she was her usual intense self—turning those intense gazes from one hanger-on to another. I admit that I like her and her record, that I endorsed her in both the failed and successful runs for office, and that while I hear many say only she can look great in everything those gigantic hoop earrings, I see someone with the drive and vision that many other pols should emulate.
  • Rob Consalvo — the councilor in my new district (5/HP). He's highly personable, although I disagree with him on terms limits for mayor and council (I for and he con). We chatted Cleary/Logan Square businesses as well as libraries. Townsend's is solid. He recommends Rincon and he had news on The Hyde. Locals have never forgiven the new owner at the latter for putting anything where the beloved diner-style Dot's was. Cops I chat up while doing clerk or warden duties at an HP polling place bemoan the demise; they care about eateries. Rob though said he and some other city officials had met with The Hyde's owner and agreed to provide him with a grant to complete the renovation of the spot. When my family tried it out, the owner came around to say he wanted to put in a small micro-brewery when he could. I bet that would be great fertilizer for the restaurant. Apparent Boston is willing to invest in that. Rob noted that The Hyde will be closed for a few months to accommodate the improvements later this year. That's good stuff for someone who lives up the hill from there to hear, particularly as The Hyde already features my favorite ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute.
  • John Tobin — is no longer my district councilor after the JP to HP move, but I keep tabs with him. He's the busiest legislator in the body and clearly has both ambitions and the drive to achieve them. Just recently at his coffee shop office hours, we talked libraries, as we did yesterday. We are of one mind on public libraries, particularly as they now are the single source for computer, printer and internet access for many of the lower-middle and lower classes. Closing a Boston library is broadening the digital divide in another neighborhood. John still says he won't vote for a budget that closes any of our public libraries. He's been joined by two other councilors; two more and the budget won't pass without tweaking. This should keep many flies on the walls alert this spring before the June 30th final budget vote.
  • Mike Capuano — U.S. Rep. Capuano is unquestionably one of my favorite pols. I hear people say he's abrasive, but I see and hear candid and ethical and compassionate. He's a true progressive and suits me just fine. I thanked him for ending up supporting health-care reform in Congress. In his typical fashion, he immediately let me know again that he would not have voted for the Senate version handed to the House. He and I lamented the exclusion of single payer and agreed that the new law should just be the start of this reform.
  • Ayanna Pressley — the delightfully sincere councilor holds no grudge that I ended not endorsing her in the multi-candidate race (she was close for me, but I favored two others slightly more). She said she'd come on Left Ahead! to update us on the first 100 days, her transition from John Kerry's staff to city politics, and those little issues like being a woman in a man's world. She makes me smile with remarks like, "I get up every morning and get to actualize my values. Now, how many can say that?"
  • John Connolly — This at-large councilor has the unenviable job of heading the education committee during this schools/funding crisisand swears he wants that job. He showed at the rally in character. Most other councilors were dolled up, the men other than Felix Arroyo (heavy sweater) were in fancy suits and silk ties. This John came as John, in jeans and pushing a stroller with his sleeping daughter Clare. In fact, he refused VIP seats up front to help guarantee that his child could continue her nap. As a dad of three, I appreciate someone who cares for his kids like that. We'll be talking education more and have a session next month on biking.
So, as podcaster and blogger, I had a good enough time before the stars came out.

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