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.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Live Free (Straight-Only) NH

What's amazing about the current generation of Republican legislators is how they disdain republican government and have no trouble subverting American principles. Take New Hampshire. Do take it and don't bring it back until it understands.

In the worst recent example, Tuesday, New Hampshire's GOP dominated House Judiciary Committee in the GOP dominated House advanced a bill to repeal the state's same-sex marriage law. That would be the law that involved myriad public hearings and polling, a wrenching open statewide conversation about how sincere they were about equal rights and that live-free-or-die thing, and close votes in both houses. It passed two years ago and took effect last year.

Over 1700 homosexual couples are married there — to their advantage and to the harm of absolutely no one.

Key ideas for governance around this country include that republicanism. The supreme power of states and nation are supposed to reside in the people, who in turn choose their representatives to do the work of running the show. That has a counterbalance of courts to correct the occasional craziness and unconstitutionality, and roughly half the states have the flamethrower of populism, ballot initiatives or referenda. By the bye, NH has neither of those popular-vote traps.

After Tuesday's rejection of equality and liberty, the key guides to the state and nation, the crooked path lies ahead. The bill goes to the House for consideration. The Senate will duplicate the committee discussion and if it advances the bill, debate it as well.

As unbelievably un-American as it is, this process is advancing in the GOP majority legislature in Concord. The Republicans may well be willing to create unequal classes of citizens where there was one. They would regress to stripping existing rights from homosexuals, including writing in law permission to discriminate in housing and employment and otherwise by producing a lesser civil-union class than existed before marriage equality passed.

This seemingly vindictive anti-gay process would make a third class of adult citizen. Heterosexuals, who marry or not, can or do reproduce or not, divorce or not, are in one group. The married homosexual couples are in another, and so far at least, won't lose their status and many benefits of the married are in another. Then under the new version, the lesser civil unions have only the privileges that employers and others might graciously grant least temporarily. Un-American? No bet!

Note the lunacy and illogic in the bills preamble, including:
The vast majority of children are conceived by acts of passion between men and women – sometimes unintentionally. Because of this biological reality, New Hampshire has a unique, distinct, and compelling interest in promoting stable and committed marital unions between opposite-sex couples so as to increase the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by both of their natural parents. No other domestic relationship presents the same level of state interest.
Straight couples who don't have kids or adopt or can give birth or some other very common circumstance are not punished. That's reserved for homosexuals. Let's not even get into the awful situations many two-parent families visit on their kids in terms of alcoholism, other drug problems, and abuse physical, sexual and psychological. Nice job, GOP law crafters.

It's all too cruel and stupid. Taking away existing rights from an entire class of people is a disgrace. It also turns NH's motto backward. They'll need a new one, one that says nothing about freedom.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MA GOP Scorching Itself

flames.jpgThe clichéd 15 minutes of fame seemed to have been 1,500 pages of infamy instead. A huge number of right-wing media, including blogs, jumped on Elizabeth Warren, Left Ahead and me following last Friday’s show and podcast. A search for “elizabeth warren” “hick” will turn up tens of thousands of fresh (in every sense) hits.
For anyone who hasn’t yet heard the very widely disseminated clips of her and me, it starts near the beginning of the 40-minute show. Click the player below to start it.
Cross-post: This originally appeared at Left Ahead
She and I share a few traits unusual and remarkable in these parts. We were both born in Oklahoma (I also spent much of my youth in West Virginia where my mother’s family was) and since moving to the Boston area (32 years ago for me and 17 for her), we’ve heard repeatedly that we were hicks for our backgrounds. I have also heard assertions that everyone in WV is a hick, hillbilly, toothless, dumb and likely the product of incest. Way to stay classy, Boston. On her part, I have been reading and hearing the no-win vise — she’s “not one of us” because she’s not a lifelong resident as well as from a hick state, and on the other hand, she and her husband have taught at Harvard for 17 years, so they are elitist snobs.
I opened the conversation with that dichotomy. She responded jovially, noting that she was aware of that Catch-22 game. She said that she must be a new category, “an elite hick.” Shortly after, she said to one of my comments about my background, “I’m going for the hick vote here. I just want you to know. Maybe we could start wearing stickers that say ‘HICKS FOR ELIZABETH’. Could we do that?”
After the absurd MA GOP and conservative responses, I might order up some of those shirt and bumper stickers. Feel free to beat me to doing that.
Surely no one is surprised that FOXnews and the like tried to hurt Warren with this. They are, after all, the same sources that excused Sen. Scott Brown’s denigration of her and even his daughters publicly as just humor. They don’t understand the fundamental difference between mild self-depreciation and knocking someone else down to appear clever.
Some of us were surprised though by the MA GOP’s effort to blow this into a big deal. Chair Jennifer Nassour is leaving. The release on it came from Communications Manager Tim Buckley, who had the unenviable task of playing the jerk in the release they emailed (not on the site yet). His paragraph before a link to Politico piece on the podcast quotes himself as:
“Professor Warren’s insulting use of the word ‘hick’ offers a revealing prism into her elitist and arrogant worldview. Massachusetts voters deserve an explanation about just who Professor Warren was referring to when she spoke of winning the ‘hick vote.’”
Disclaimer: I have invited MA GOP head Jennifer Nassour on our show by email, voice mail, and twice face to face. Both times we chatted in person over the past year and one half, she pressed her card on me, took mine, said she’d love to do the show and to contact her office to arrange it. She or a handler seemed to have decided that was not a good idea, even knowing we’d had John Walsh, her Dem counterpart, on a couple of times. Now she’s announced she’s stepping down. I tried.
Elizabeth WarrenSensible folk are ridiculing the winger/MassGOP efforts, as in Mediaite calling them humor-challenged and NECN’s Jim Braude saying their bluster was pathetic.
Lynne, Ryan and I have been kicking around the spasm of coverage. We each figure the craziness only helps her. I see a lot of traffic going to the show both on BlogTalkRadio and Left Ahead. Anyone who listens knows quickly that she was cool about the hick talk, reflecting on her and me only. Moreover with the many, many extra listens, people who otherwise were not aware of the show or her strong set of problem ID/solutions are now. As Lynne said, it looks like the MA GOP wants to help Warren as much a possible.
Being an anal-retentive, research-oriented type, I also went through even the right-wing news-like sites and blogs for comments. There, many said they’d never vote for her, but nothing lost. They typically indicated they hated Dems, progressives and liberals, and some even had harsh comments relating to women, lesbians and some coarse lingo for female body parts. Plus, quite a few made the point they were not from Massachusetts (with the thank God implied).
This appears to be a bungled effort from the right to smear Warren and likely do balancing damage control for Brown’s numerous public errors. Net, I figure they failed. A couple thousand extra MA voters and possible contributors here and elsewhere know Warren’s priorities. They can contrast an incumbent who says he doesn’t know the solutions to joblessness and such, with one providing solid proposals.
I still expect her presence in the Dem primary process and, should she advance the 2012 Senate race, will put ideas and solutions on the table and elevate the dialog. People here will get a choice.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chatting Up Elizabeth Warren

We had a good time with Elizabeth Warren on Left Ahead yesterday. That's odd in that we asked and she addressed nasty issues — unemployment, crumbling bridges, economic morass.

Go to enough debate-like events and speak to enough pols, then you surely will gravitate to those who seem like the best ones to share a meal or drink with. She's in that class, at once funny and insightful. She doesn't speak in clichés, doesn't constantly circle back to repeat herself, and doesn't go for generalities.

Her 40-minute show was one of our better one. I've been shilling it and shall put a player here too.

My comments on Left Ahead follow as teasers.

With a charming blend of confidence and self-effacement, U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren handled all the three of us could throw her way in a half hour. Listen with the player below or download and play for the whole show.
We tried to cover some areas we had not seen her run through in her many recent appearances on news shows and debate-like events. We did concentrate on economic issues and her seven priorities for rebuilding the American middle class.
She can be colorful and trotted out a few metaphors she uses in stump speeches. “The house is on fire,” she said of the U.S. economy and its effect on the lower and middle classes. She presented a variety of solutions. That is a clear distinction between her and other Dem and GOP candidates for next year’s election. She defines herself as “a straight-up-the-middle gal,” and makes strong proposals.
Listen in as she answers in the affirmative when asked whether we needed an NRA/WPA-style effort to restart the economy. She explained how setting unemployed American, both in construction and the education and municipal sectors, to work immediately can create cash flow to inspire business rebulding and expansion, as well as repairing our crumbling infrastructure.
Asked bluntly whether she saw herself as a new version of the lion of the Senate as the driven Edward Kennedy was, she almost repliled yes. She spoke of meeting Ted meaningfully for the first time and getting a commitment from him to propel major legislation, on top of his already massive commitments. She said that was an inspiration for her and she tries to live it.
She was never short of humor either. For one example, asked about being derided by opponents for being from Oklahoma and on the other hand spending the past 17 years teaching at Harvard, she said, “I’m a new category, an elite hick.”
Warren sees possibities for important legislation passing, even with the existing filibuster potential and GOP blocking. Listen in as she defines how she got her consumer finance legislation enacted over dire predictions of failure. She describes being clear on the message, describing the issues, and getting a lot of people to go with it. “When people get engaged, yes, the Senate can move,” she told us.
Short-term, she also sees tough challenges as well as such potential. For one, she describes he current effort to roll back health-care gains passed recently. That would include overturning prohibitions on pre-existing conditions and coverage for students under 26 on parents’ plan and annual wellness checks (physicals) for seniors.
Warren was plain that her deciding to run was not for the glory or power of being in the Senate. “I’m running because there are things I want to change.”

By the bye, I've also tried to invite other candidates for the seat, including Alan Khazei. His campaign has not yet responded to email or voice mail requests. Of course, his folk are under no obligation to yet another blogger/podcaster set. However, it is refreshing that Warren and another not-all-that-young woman candidate have.

Suzanne Lee, running for Boston City Council from District 2 was on and likewise held forth well. She also has very savvy with online use, including an excellent website and social media handling. We are not at a point where net presence makes or breaks elections, but we're getting there. Including such in a campaign speaks well of candidates' smarts, or at least those of their minions.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elizabeth Warren on Left Ahead 10/14

U.S. Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren talks populism, economy, Congress, politics, and well, Elizabeth Warren, with us tomorrow Friday, October 14th at 1 PM Eastern. If you can catch the show live go here.
Her conversation will be available afterward on demand to hear or download at that URL, at Left Ahead, or on iTunes.
We’ll talk her campaign, her platform, and whether she can pitch problem/solution candidacy in this era of sound bites and generalizations. She’s shooting like a meteor across a dark nation, state and time. Many in both major parties want her to burn out. We’ll ask about the pressures and promises.

Warren and Occupy Catch-22

As new as both are to public consciousness, the judgments of Elizabeth and Occupy Wall St. are rampant...and particularly hostile. I've avoided mentioning them because there's already so much in electrons and ink on each.

Though a common factor is that the open hostility is evident even among allegedly left-leaning media, including blogs. The desire to see Warren and OWS failures includes denials of their essences.

Warren.  Up here in the Boston area, her many detractors trip all over their tropes. Temporally alone, their arguments for her unworthiness leave her no winnable option. She's been here too long and simultaneously too short.

As in most provincial locales, the too-short argument starts with, "She's not from here." True enough, Warren's birthplace is Oklahoma. I don't find that in itself damning, perhaps because mine is as well. In her case, she went through high school there before getting degrees in public universities in several states.

Somehow the inference in not-born-here is she can't be one of us, can't understand us or our problems, and is an outsider trying to take a political job that should belong to a born-in-Boston-damn-it local.

At the same time, winger media and blogs are full of elitist slurs. Here, time factors as well, but on the other end of the seesaw of illogic. Because she and her husband have lived in Cambridge and taught at Harvard Law for 17 years, she's been there too long.

While there are those who might dare to say they want a Senator who is provably smart, Somehow, teaching at Harvard is supposed to disqualify Warren...from something unspecified.

Less than a lifetime here is not long enough. More than a few years at Harvard is too long.

OWS/Occupy Boston.  I was going to limit any comments about the Occupy folk to a couple of Left Ahead podcasts. The loonies just won't let it be though.

Go to literally any newspaper or broadcast outlet in the past couple of weeks to get the gist. A very informal and originally inchoate protest action emanating from pissed off far more than corporate apologists and extremists on the right.

Here the Catch-22 is that the nascent, truly grassroots protest was not credible simply because it was not a highly organized, well stratified one with a list of specific demands and goals — think a major political party's platform after the convention process. Again, again and yet again, I'd read or hear the dismissive assertion that a formal structure and clearly agreed to position, OWS was chaotic, impotent and dilettantish.

That crazy talk is toning down considerably now, and not because there is an OWS manifesto held up by an elected leadership. Instead, there's an Occupy Boston and over 100 other similar protests. Suddenly it has become plain that this set of mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore folk are in fact a movement.

This long overdue reaction to the abuses of financial and other large business corporations is not aimless, formless and ephemeral. As it became increasingly clear that the protesters were not all young trust-fund types, rather veterans and seniors joined them, the inane dismissals dwindle. The Catch-22 folk are having to find other spurious claims to denigrate it.

One might think that the Tea Party folk, libertarians and others who assert paternal and interventionist government policies are evil incarnate would grok OWS. One would be wrong. That in part is likely due to NIH, not-invented-here, syndrome.

Likewise, one would suppose that those often self-righteous agitators would actively support OWS free speech and increasingly focused protest points. That should be singularly true in Boston, of the pre-Revolutionary War rabble-rousers like the Adams boys. Instead, our Mayor Tom Menino says he agrees with many of the OWS and Occupy Boston aims, but he still worked with the police to arrest and roust the encampment here with flaccid reasoning about costing the city money, hurting the Greenway plantings, and the mythical bugbears of a century ago, anarchists, plotting in the camps. Cut us a very thin slice of that baloney.

Fresh Noise

If you want real news, you apparently have to wait for the media, including most bloggers, to rouse themselves and begin thinking. The galumphing herd eager to smear Warren and the Occupiers has been terribly influential.

As Warren speaks in those debate-like performances of 60-second answers to clichéd and cutesy queries, we are hearing the unheard of — problems identified with solutions advanced. Likewise, as OWS and its dandelion-like spouts from its many seeds flourish, we hear with increasing clarity what is wrong and what will right it.

This has been a shameful period for the news, which became the noise. Let us hope that the press in all its forms emerges chastened a bit. Let us hope the papers, talking heads, and we feeble if vain bloggers are more observant after these stumbles.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Incredible TBD Power of Southie

The allegedly politically monolithic South Boston neighborhood gets real contests next month. A district and at-large battle should show if zip-code voting is the most important factor.

Of course, South Boston is not the only provincial area of this city, commonwealth and region. It is special more in that it tends to have a higher than average voting rate and that many of its residents share color, culture and church. So, they are more likely to be a bloc for "one of us."

Understandably in a neighborhood that long had a lower family income and perceived status than much of town, there's pride in holding Congressional, General Court, and Council seats...forever and ever. Even as Southie became part of Council District 2, it retained the power. There simply are more voting residents than in the combined South End and Chinatown. Plus, those neighborhoods are more diverse and much less likely to do the zip-code and us-v.-them at election time.

When parochial pride battles evident self-interest, pride has almost always won here. This time though there are  two skirmishes that might break that least with reinforcements from other neighborhoods.

So Don't I

So, there's District 2 incumbent Bill Linehan. He's the Irish American there, or just Irish, as those in Southie have it, against Chinese-American Suzanne Lee. She's had a long career as school principal and respected, effective avocation as community activist. He was a long-time manager in Parks and a bureaucrat for the city's COO before starting two terms as Councilor. He plugged in as replacement when Jim Kelly died.

There are major obvious differences. He believes in constituent services, but sits and waits for folk to call him; she would patrol the whole district looking for problems to ID and solve. You can learn all you need to know about what she's done and wants to accomplish from her campaign site; you could stare at his one-page placeholder and not know more about him than when you loaded the URL. She's all problem/solutions; he's a pleasant enough fellow.

This is identity politics at its plainest. For Southie, there's someone who looks like them and lives where they do versus someone born in China, who lives in the Asian-dominated part of the district.

Yet, this is also a choice of change and leadership and energy. Over at Left Ahead, we spoke with Lee, a show you can hear here. Voters who pay any attention at the forums to stump speeches and in media know he's pretty much a low-key paper pusher and she's, as the cliché goes, a change agent. Status quo lovers are not going to want Lee.

The two major local dailies have each run pieces suggesting that South Boston will be determined to hold onto this Council seat, and will turn out to do that. This conflicts with electoral history that predicts very low turnout for year with no mayoral, gubernatorial or congressional contests.

Political folk wisdom has it that shoe leather wins such races. Lee seems to have worn out many heels and soles in all parts of the district. As much as I'd like to think that willingness to propose solutions, eagerness to appear in public and in media, online presence including social media, and a history of doing good things for large number of residents would rule, it may or may not here. Lee has decided advantages in all those aspects, but she is not a life-long Southie resident and arrived in Boston from the wrong direction.

Muscle Test

That Michael Flaherty fellow is another matter. Sure, he's of Irish extraction and from South Boston, where he maintains a strong supporter base. He also proved himself a great fund-raiser when he was at-large Councilor and Council President. He's a connected lawyer and not unimportant, he's charming.

He also seems to have annoyed the devil out of Mayor Tom Menino for a long time and more recently the at-large incumbents. The former is particularly important in that Menino is extraordinarily popular, even in this day of hate-the-pols, and he has foot soldiers the inspire support, donations and GOTV.

After being unable to unseat Menino in the last mayoral, Flaherty wants back in. His entry would be one of the four incumbents. At Left Ahead, we spoke with him and the incumbents and shall try to squeeze in a couple related shows this month. You can go here for links to the at-large candidates' shows.

Back to conventional political wisdom, Flaherty's best shot supposedly would be to pick off one of the first-termers, Ayanna Pressley or Felix Arroyo. So far, he's doing a nice job raising money, but all four incumbents have base supporters and solid roles on Council. No one dislikes or distrusts any of the incumbents or feels underserved.

As in District 2, turnout more than shoe leather may make this race. There was no preliminary, just a truncated run for November 8th. The debate-like-events have only recently started. Because these slots are citywide, getting supporters to the polls is crucial and even harder than in a district race.

The great pro here, Menino, said that plainly last week when he introduced Pressley at a meet-and-greet for her at Townsend's in his and my shared neighborhood of Hyde Park. He asked people to volunteer for her "as a favor to me." He put it right out there with,"She's only been in office 20 months. She hasn't had time to build a machine. We gotta build a team for her."

That's very Boston and the kind of insight you expect from such a skilled pol. So for the two new at-large incumbents, the question may be whether their machines work well enough to overpower what may be a rusty version run by Flaherty.

District 2 and at-large are where the action will be on November 8th.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Love and Marriage in Iberia

I generally believe folk can find plenty of note on their own. So, I don't often point. I'll make an exception for Frank Bruni's NYT op-ed today.

He describes the quick evolution of same-sex marriage in Portugal. Not unusual is that among the nations with marriage equality, it too is a largely Roman Catholic one. It seems the leaders in such countries can take New Testament teachings of treating others with love and respect, as well as following the Golden Rule.

Predominately Christian inhabited nations from Norway to South Africa somehow evolved beyond Leviticus. They don't narrowly select Old Testament snippets to support very unChristian beliefs.

Before munching Bruni's offering, click on the graphic to pop up the three-tiered world of gay relations. A teaser of it is here to inspire you.

It includes the 10 nations with marriage equality (of course, to our disgrace, we are not yet among them). It also includes those places where gay male relationships bring a 10-year or greater prison sentence, and those where being homosexual still means a death sentence.

How's civilized in this shared world?

Bruni came away from his conversations and more academic look at Portugal believing that the legalization means "same-sex marriage became a badge of sophistication, affirming their country as an enlightened place."

Friday, October 07, 2011

Brown Could Use a Helper

Sen. Scott Brown's only-the-latest crass sexist blunder is disquieting. He's certainly not the only federal legislator who runs down women or some other group so long as he can make a puerile joke. Yuck yuck.

Heck, various Senators and Representatives as well as Governors and other pols do much the same. 

Brown would like to be known as the deal maker-or-breaker in the Senate. Instead, the first associations will such as insulting a middle-aged woman's looks and offering his daughters to anyone interested. Just joking, ha ha ha ha, he said. In the case of his daughters, both they and his wife seemed used to such deprecating humor from their reactions in the vid.

Let's set aside whether he is a hard-body-only guy or thinks unmarried women are chattel. Instead, what about his executive function, you know, the key role of the mature brain that governs our thoughts and actions? As adults, we normally develop a cause-and-effect understanding that keeps us from, among other misdeeds, social blunders.

He doesn't appear to have a ripe one.

Long ago, in puberty in fact, I lost patience with the insulters. Those who say cruel and malicious comments about and in the presence of others — including but not limited to slurs on race, sexual orientation, gender or religion. Often then they'll grin and say something like, "Oh, I don't mean nothing by it." 

The aw shucks disclaimer didn't cut it when I was a teen and still doesn't. Get a grip on your base impulses!

U.S.Senators often serve decades. Everything they say and do publicly is likely news. If Brown's brain can't control itself, perhaps he needs to find another job.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Pressley Does Hyde Park

The end of the out-in-the-world day for most of us was another stop without rest for the at-large Boston Councilors. Last evening at Townsend's City Hall machers showed to tease each other and praise Ayanna Pressley. Then for her and Steve Murphy, it was immediately careering from one to two to three candidate forums.

As Murphy told me, the various neighborhood groups generally don't communicate or coordinate and end up cannibalizing each other's events. The seven at-large for the four spots race to as many of these as they can. Mayor Tom Menino had advice for them last night — "Drive fast!"

It's no surprise that other Councilors call for Pressley's reelection. Last night, District 5's Rob Consalvo, of course, showed as Hyde Park is his turf. He led in layering on Ayanna's virtues, followed by Murphy and Menino.

The surprise is that so far there's no every-pol-for-self mentality. Conventional wisdom was that with four incumbents and three challengers for the four desks, there'd be divisions. Moreover, former Council President Michael Flaherty wants back in and the same punditry would have him trying to knock off one of the two first-termers, Pressley or Felix Arroyo.

Without a preliminary and going straight for a November 8th final, this race has been quiet. That's over and the next five weeks should exhaust all of them.

The sweetness that pleased the crowd was not the peer praise though. Pressley described to me and then to the room of maybe 100 that she was moved that a young fan had her mother bring her. A 7-year-old girl had interviewed her for her school newspaper and in doing it proved the worth of Pressley's efforts to inspire. The girl now figures she has a goal and a good shot at it. Pressley noted that the mother had groomed the girl for the interview, including braided hair. Then after the young reporter saw her, she announced to her mother than she too wanted big hair, like Pressley's. She had it last night, surely not the only aspect of her idol she'll emulate.

I think I've atoned enough for questioning whether Pressley could make her transition from big-issue, national politicking to the city level. As the trio of praising pols said last night, she does constituent issues but has brought in major concerns, most obviously in starting a Council committee, Women & Healthy Communities. As her Council page puts it, "The committee is primarily concerned with adequate delivery of city services and programming for youth, families, seniors and new Bostonians, with particular focus on girls and women. Some of the issues the committee plans to address over the next two years include domestic and sexual violence, child abuse and neglect, bullying, substance abuse, mentoring, hunger and homelessness." As is her style, that does not substitute for regular tasks. She just piles those on top.

Tag Team Lauding

The floor show was good last night. It ran from fast-talking Consalvo (Menino teased him as still being in his auctioneer mode from the Y fundraiser) to self-effacing Murphy to the quipping Mayor. Consalvo captured the salient points: 1) She hit the ground running, 2) She tackles the tough issues, 3) She's a great team member. Then Murphy got right to the point, alluding to the peril of a first termer, He called for everyone in the room to work for Pressley's reelection.

Menino was candid as ever too. He introduced her and set it up with "She's only been in office 20 months. She hasn't had time to build a machine. We gotta build a team for her." He asked for people to put in as much time as they could, even if it was only a few hours, "as a favor to me."

Recurring themes among the three Pressley praisers included how the Council, and particularly the at-large members, acted as a team and worked through their disagreements. From my perspective of 30 some years, I agree that this Council as a group is smarter and far less zip-code and voter-identity stifled than I was used to seeing.

So far, none of the at-large incumbents is making any break with this unofficial slate for reelection. That may be in part because each has a personal record and emphasis. Murphy is the money wiz, John Connolly does schools, Arroyo is housing and unions, and Pressley women/girls, violence and poverty (big and complex). Unlike the overt and not too effective Team Unity of a few years ago when all the Councilors of color sort of worked on a few things together, these at-larges seem to be cooperators instead of collaborators. Their working together and public respect may well last five more weeks and beyond.

Matured Campaigner

When Pressley spoke, she held the floor better than anyone. I've seen and heard her a few times, but must say that she's fully come into her own with her stump speech. She could persuade nearly any voter who hears her in person.(Gosh, it's been two years since she first joined us on Left Ahead. She was convincing then, but is much more confident and powerful now. She discussed this pending race four months ago.)

She stood straight and gesticulated almost like a t'ai chi master as she spoke to the lessons she carried forward from her recently deceased mother. She was totally believable when saying, "I love what I do. I get to actualize my values every day."

As far as she's concerned "Municipal government is not the lowest rung of power." She's been applying city resources and acts on those big concerns, like poverty and violence. To her, a key rhetorical question is, "Who has the monopoly on big-heart issues?"