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?"


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