Monday, November 28, 2011

Barbed and frank Barney Frank

My immediate thoughts on reading that U.S. Rep. Barney Frank would not run for reelection were:
  • One fewer courageous progressives in Congress
  • The clarity of vision in the House will plunge
  • Some tiny minded winger in Sen. Scott Brown's mold may slither into the seat

Yet, the 71-year-old, 16 termer may well be doing the right thing for various other reasons. To the WaPo, he said candidly (his only mode) that his newly reconstructed district would be much more conservative and that at his age he thought he didn't have the energy level for that kind of prolonged contention.

There's one lesson. We see far too many in Congress tired of body, mind and emotion plugging along. We occasionally see the likes of a near dead, addlepated Sen. Strom Thurmond returning to office long after they can no longer serve any useful public duty. In contrast, Frank still has fire and wit and knowledge and, as needed, sense of outrage.

As soon as it became clear he'd announce today, the local winger papers and blogs piled on jealous vitriol. It was an early Christmas present and he should bear the responsibility for the economic collapse and recession. In reality, beyond such spite, he was a formidable force to gather the hate and fear of the right and the corporate lickspittles.

I should be so short-tempered. I am wont to Southern politeness and a UU wishy-washy desire to let people have their say before pointing out how wrong they are and why. He does not tolerate such inanity. He is quick to call B.S. on liars and frauds, be they committee witnesses or other Congressmen.

As such, there's lesson two for whoever follows him and to his peers. You frame the argument when you do not allow deceit and stupidity unchallenged into the debate. Although often funny, he may do that a bit too abruptly and with too intense a level of ridicule, but the end is the right one. Do not pretend that everyone's opinions are as right or as valuable as another's.

Frank has long been a bugbear to wingers. He is viper tongued, impatient, and of course, openly gay. He finds immorality and dishonor not in anyone's sexual orientation, rather in making many Americans go without so a few can play Scrooge McDuck.

We can at least hope that Frank has set the pattern for a few younger progressive pols...maybe even that one will step up in 2012.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time to Make the Marriage

Yes, yes, yes, I am Mike Ball, but I'm a.k.a. massmarrier. That is, this blog sprung coming up on eight years ago from a double marriage-per-Massachusetts catalyst. Long-term friends asked me to solemnize their coupling at the same time the commonwealth's highest court was deciding whether marriage equality was the law here.

Now I'm still about the business of marrying folk. That's a bit of a pun, as I am a long term monogamous guy. I'm no Newt or Big Dog Clinton. No one puts asunder in our house.

Next month will mark solemnization number four. A buddy from several years back asked me to do the theater and signature for his eldest daughter. That will happen right after Christmas.

Originally, I'd figured to go one a year. First it was Kay and Paul, she I'd known long and well, socially and in church service. She'd followed me immediately chairing first Personnel when it meant figurative heads on the ground, job descriptions, and battles over benefits and salaries and then the Prudential Committee (the board). We'd fought far too many skirmishes and major battles not to be friends. She was also the one who knew that ordinary, non-ordained folk could perform marriages here, so long as you petitioned the governor's office.

The next year, Jasper, a much longer term friend, yea, back from college days in South Carolina, asked whether I would marry him and his partner Jay. We attended their civil ceremony in New Hampshire the previous year, before same-sex marriage was in place here. Like so many long-partnered homosexual couples, they wanted, well, equality in the form of marriage.

Next was the long spell. I tried to lure sandbox buddy Charles from Florida. He and partner Karl have been together almost as long as Cindy and I. Of course, a Massachusetts marriage means nothing to the satraps of Florida, but they intend to come here and have me solemnize their union as well.

Forget the dreadful, hateful lies of the self-styled pro-marriage/pro-family wingers. We who actually are pro-marriage and pro-family believe in the legal union for those committed to each other. We thus have to believe in marriage equality.

In the middle, I figured I was out of the marriage business. That in itself is a funny term. Of course, I charge no one. In fact, I pay the $25 application fee for the one-day designation of solemnization myself. It is well worth it to me.

However, my almost-32-year-old firstborn surprised us by asking me to solemnize his marriage this June. Of course, that's a good surprise that a parent likes, officiating at Aaron and Jessica's wedding. In contrast, I know from others there are the surprises of "You ruined my life. I never want to hear from you again," or "It's a felony charge. They want $50,000 cash bail."

The fourth marriage will be next month and the fifth sometime next year. That's not exactly on track for even an avocation. However, a long-time friend who's a minister has more than once called my one-day solemnizations "poaching." He holds that doing weddings is an important income supplement for clerics. He doesn't like the MA law, recently copied by CA, that allows plain folk to pronounce the couple married and sign the license making it legal.

I do. I recommend it.

Performing the marriages of friends or even of friends' children is an emotional rush. I think it might be a wee version of what an OB feels delivering babies.

I was in on the birth of my three, catching all, and doing the final one solo as the nurses and midwives were across the room chatting, not realizing it was showtime. While I have to say I was more involved and fulfilled by delivering my sons, I was deeply moved by the three marriages I've already done. Those are over a lot faster than labor and they are a lot less physically messy, but they too are quite a bit of fun and make you feel a part of something important.


Monday, November 21, 2011

How Transgender Rights Finally Passed

Grouse, moan...I can complain about what is missing from the long-delayed transgender-rights bill that finally passed in MA. I have already carped about the big hole of public accommodation.

Yet, we need to keep in mind that that the plug uglies tried successfully for years to pretend this was the bathroom bill instead of an issue of civil rights and plain fairness. What the new law will do is huge — prevent discrimination on gender identity in housing, employment and credit.

They can circle back and do the missing piece...we would hope in the next legislative session.

For a fascinating look at who to bless and what kind of work they did, click over to this diary at BlueMassGroup.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Covert Despots

Unacknowledged in the Occupy Boston/Greenway battle is yet another manifestation of autonomous agencies. The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway is just one of many organizations given terrific power in a narrow scope by government, one whose folk consider themselves legislators and constabulary.

In this particular, peculiar case, the chair of the organization cites their manufactured rules as de facto laws. It wants the city to enforce these by whatever force necessary, while claiming to want a gentle resolution.

Who died and made them king? Well, we all did and it's the American way. From nuclear regulation to professional baseball to physicians' associations among who knows how many examples, we cede authority and often pay many hidden costs.

Lackaday, good-hearted and pretty smart City Councilor Matt O'Malley got caught in this web spun by Greenway Chair Georgia Murray. In her open letter to Mayor Tom Menino, she asked to throw the bums out. She cited their rules, as though these were laws. She points to rules allowing only "passive enjoyment" of Dewey Square Park, prohibition on "overnight sleeping," and a permit for  "Any use of the park that requires set ups (sic) and anticipates crowds." Her letter reads in part, "We believe that the current use by Occupy Boston is not compatible with our obligation to ensure that everyone may enjoy the Greenway..."

As a pseudo-lawmaker, she tries to bolster her case with odd, vague justifications, including:
  • The Conservancy abandoned plans to have a food festival on October 15 on Dewey Square Park (a permitted event) from public safety concerns.  We anticipated large crowds of attendees and there was inadequate space due to Occupy Boston.  Fifteen small businesses lost income they were counting on.  
  • On our Farmer’s Market days, the farmers are experiencing a real reduction in income due to the noise, odors, and interference by the members of Occupy Boston and other protest groups. 
  • Our neighbors are buffeted by noise and wary of aggressive confrontation when they are passing through the Dewey Square Park. 
  • There are disturbing incidents of drug dealing. 
  • Sanitary conditions are deteriorating significantly over time.  Although we do not currently have a rat infestation problem, it is only a matter of time given the current conditions. 
Or from other angles:
  • Greenway folk did not adapt to the well-known Occupy encampment, by moving its festival to one of the several huge, open plazas short distances down the park.
  • Unquantified hearsay about the markets is dubious, particularly the "noise, odors and interference" claim that reads like Thurston Howell III remarks. 
  • Likewise, there's more hearsay about inconvenience to unspecified "neighbors."
  • Assertions of drug dealing in a park well known from nighttime drug dealing long before Occupy.
  • Unsubstantiated claims of deteriorating sanitary conditions, replete with a future fantasy about maybe rats, in a camp with continuous programs for cleaning, rubbish removal and more.
This junior-high level rhetoric did suck in O'Malley. The Herald tried to stir up some trouble in its ongoing anti-hippie mode. It got him to say what he surely thought might be fairly neutral lingo, "The Conservancy makes a strong case. Small businesses are hurting from this. It may be time to move them off the Greenway." They did pick up on his addendum that any eviction "should be done 'peaceably.'"

Matt's a great guy and a lot more free-speech oriented than the typical Herald winger. I bet he figured he was threading this political needle instead of getting a bunch of snotty comments, including from me, on his Facebook page.

The imperiousness of the Greenway people is predictable. First, they are volunteer do-gooders. As is typical of that group, they act like others should do what they want because they are so splendid in character and deed.

Beyond the typical volunteer syndrome, they also show the inherent problem of the quasi-autonomous groups. These have nominal power in restricted areas. In that process, they too often act as though their privately promulgated rules have the standing and power of laws produced through representative legislation.

Let's be plain.The Greenway Conservancy folk are not lawmakers and neither cops nor prosecutors.Their rules are guidelines, which they at least obliquely acknowledge by asking the mayor to ask the cops to do something. The letter does read as though their rules are laws, at the very least publicly discussed and approved regulations that might emerge from City Council.

We've experienced this from many agencies. Some are scary and dangerous, like the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Agency). Some should be benign, like the American Medical Association, which grew into regulatory powers over physicians, but all too often does not discipline or remove those needing it.

In the current, very local case, the Greenway Conservancy folk apparently stifled their Brahmin impulse until they popped. They saw the courts refuse to clear Occupy's camp and the mayor deciding to hang back. At least Menino has the political savvy to understand the peril of smothering protest in the town that fomented the American Revolution.

In contrast, the Conservancy board has decided whom they will classify as public and what activities they will allow. Now they are stomping their feet.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pandora's Casino

All it takes now to open for once and forever the lid on casino and slot gambling here is Gov. Deval Patrick's signature on the disgraceful bill finalized yesterday. There's a tiny chance you can influence him with a call, email, visit or letter (go to the contacts page to pick your method[s]).

However, in a for-God's-sake-do-something economic panic, Patrick and the frequently sensible Senate President Therese Murray turned blind and stupid. Against all evidence, they are:
  • Pretending that commonwealth will get big revenue gains from gambling
  • Pretending that casino and slots money will come from out-of-state gamblers and from money our residents would spend elsewhere
  • Pretending that there will be substantial increases in employment here short and longer term
  • Pretending that huge increased costs for infrastructure and other state support will somehow not be huge
  • Pretending that we alone will break the pattern of Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Mississippi and the other casino/slot destinations that have destroyed economies, elevated unemployment, and zombie-like addicted gamblers
  • Pretending that the new joints won't destroy and cannibalize the existing lottery

Don't Rush

As it appears inevitable that we'll be starting the slide with the three casinos and the crack house slot parlor, those with any wits should do the best possible in that case. Just over a month ago, casino expert William Eadington was in town at a Rappaport Center session on this very subject. We are doing none, nada, zip of the best practices that minimize the damage and maximize the gains of gambling.

In the shortest form, what the few places that have managed this process well have done start with getting highly detailed proposals for any casino. Instead, we're doing the absolutely stupidest way of taking bids and looking for the one that promises the best return on only vague plans.

In contract, places like Singapore and Melbourne did it right, taking several years to evaluate full proposals and considering all the effects. They ended up with true destination resorts that attract tourists for a lot more than gambling and for a long longer stays (and more expenditure).

They also tightly control access by locals to minimize effects of addictive gambling. Known abusers are ID'ed and refused entry.

Even before this proposal stage, which should last several years, the government should be clear on what it expects. Then it can set up the operations to those aims. For example, Pennsylvania charges high taxes on winnings because its aim is increased tax revenue. Singapore charges very low taxes because it aims to create that destination resort, earning from non-gambling activities as well. In addition, its tax policy lures the highest rollers from far away.

We have not done that and apparently do not intend to do so. Instead, our legislators and the executive branch seem blindly digging into gambling mud, hoping to come up with some extra money.

The other key aspect Eadington noted gets snorts and guffaws from MA residents. The process for setting up and overseeing the casinos/slots has to be highly honorable and transparent (Pause to laugh loudly.)

We saw the opposite at its worst. As the cliché variously runs, Caesar's wife must be above reproach (or suspicion). Instead, we suspect dirty dealing by lawmakers even before the gambling passed. Instead of forbidding legislators' involvement in gambling ownership or operations forever, we dropped down to five years after leaving the General Court, then the already suspect lawmakers knocked that to a single year. Now even some of them are wailing about the onus of not being able to suckle on the gambling teats of this cow they have fed immediately.

This process has been dirty from the beginning and stinks more every time the legislature touches it.There's no way to shut the lid on this Pandora's box once Patrick makes the act into law with his signature.

He promised us long ago that if casinos came to MA, they would be only a small facet of his plan to develop various types of business. The model was economic development along the line of funding genetic engineering or other technologies.

Perhaps understandably, the deep and wide recession and its effects have washed away his resolve on this. That's no reason not to make it known to him that you don't want him to sign casinos/slots into law.

If that happens as it surely appears likely, the very least we should demand is first, clarification on what we expect from gambling income, and second, two to five years to receive detailed proposals on sites.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Halfway Up Transgender Rights Trail

Today, the MA Senate will certainly join the House in passing the Transgender Equal Rights act. Stripped of public-accommodation protections, H.502/S.764 still puts into law strong protections for transgenders in housing and employment. Yesterday, the House vote was 95 to 58 in favor.

Bay Windows went to the good guys for comment. The most salient recap may be:
"We support this bill," said Jennifer Levi, director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ (GLAD) Transgender Rights Project. "We want complete protections for transgender people -- including in public accommodations -- but also know that in order to get there, we cannot walk away from the legislature’s first step toward achieving those full protections."
Almost certainly, the plug uglies, including Massachusetts Family Institute got their Pyrrhic mini-victory though. Using disingenuous slogans and arguments, the public-accommodation aspect of the legislation will have to wait for another legislative session. It almost certainly will happen, but not this year.

Like other winger organizations, MFI has led the attack on equality with illogically reframing the issue and smearing the beneficiaries. In this case, this seminal bill to offer basic equality was plugged as special rights and the bathroom bill. Instead of admitting the overt discrimination faced by the estimated 33,000 transgender folk in the commonwealth, the opponents manufactured demons in the john. They trivialized the problems and pretended that this bill would mean men dressed as women would invade the women's room and girls' rooms everywhere.

The protect-your-daughters lie seemed to resonate with the confused and the anti-LGBT folk out and in the legislature. Of course, it's a red herring, but it did manage to delay full equality.

I'm betting the rest will happen next year, but meanwhile, yesterday was and today will be a good day for fairness and equal rights.

Morning Update: The MA Senate did approve the bill, by voice vote this morning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Senate Seekers Not Quitting

Last evening's U.S. Senate debate-like-object with two candidates was a splendid chance to chat with, then hear two of them, Tom Conroy and Herb Robinson. Rhetorically, physically and in policy, contrasts between them were wonderfully stark. In a time and place of sameness, I think the couple dozen of us left with clear senses of what they are about, more than we have seen before.

This one was at Pine Manor College and driven by public policy consultant Pamela Julian. She's also a League of Women Voters member and wants that group to help sponsor more of these for this race.

Neither candidate as been a guest on Left Ahead. Several others, including folk who have dropped out have been, including Elizabeth Warren. I was not disappointed by meeting and listening to two of what Robinson used to refer to himself as low man on the totem pole. "I am in the lowest candidate in this race," he said. "We all know that."

He noted in his remarks that he doesn't have a lot of money, campaigns part time as a full-time engineer, and isn't given much of a shot. In contrast, while he managed to stifle it for much of his time at the podium, Conroy called out the "pundits and prognosticators" who had already given the Democratic nomination to Warren.

The two were as different in presentation as physically. Both were good company, although Robinson likely would make a better dinner or bar companion, with good stories and amiability. In profile, Conroy is a raptor, all edges and sinew. He was alert, loud and emphatic. The rotund, furry cheeked Robinson was clearly bright and terribly sincere. He was soft-spoken, even sleepy, but had specific goals and several innovative proposals. He also was not afraid to preach some doom about the economy and nuclear power.

Conroy started with matches to Warren's about-me routines and even captured a bit of the POTUS' calling out of prototypical Americans. On the up-from-tough-roots bio, he included such anecdotes as his parents with no spare money. "My mother at one point didn't even have a quarter to buy a subway token to take me to the hospital when I was so sick I couldn't eat," he said. He got to run a business and become a state rep through education and his parents' example of "hard word, dedication, with discipline and some smarts and some prayer and some help from people in the community, and a sense of service to others in need." Then we went to Terry, Jen and Michael whom he met as he walked 650-plus miles around the commonwealth. Each was a prototypical resident struggling.

Whew, there's a full basket.

In contrast, Robinson spoke of three goals — fixing the economy first, making "America a better place for all of us," and "do it safely." He had specific proposals, such as tying capital gains taxes to unemployment. For example, if the jobless rate is 6.5% or above, the tax rises and rich folk would get a break if it falls to 2.5% or below. He wants capital gains taxes as regular income, adjusted for inflation.

He didn't present any sob or inspirational stories. He's been an engineer for 30 years and thinks things through in detail, depth and width.

He noted that incumbent Sen. Scott Brown had no real proposals to fix the economy even after a year and one half in office. "I have two," he said, "and I'm doing this part-time." He said he can make better decisions than Brown and do it safely. He added that unlike the incumbent he "knows the difference between hairspray and nuclear fallout."

Both candidates answered moderator Julian's questions about education saying they were for more fully funding schools and loan programs. Robinson added that with Prop. 2½ limiting municipalities' tax growth rates, "over the long term, every city in Massachusetts is going to be in the same situation as Lawrence." He also noted that the nation spends far too much on the military and that he opposed the Iraq war well before it started.

For a sample of part of Conroy's polished stumped speech, click below for two and a half minutes of him on his game.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Let Loose the Dogs of TV

Let's pace ourselves. The ads for the 2012 Senate from MA race are just kindling in competing bonfires being heaped.

State and national GOP and wingers accept the now obvious, that Elizabeth Warren will go for the seat against incumbent Scott Brown. Following the Citizens United/Super PAC/money-is-free-speech boner, this is the election where will find out how stupid and destructive that SCOTUS decision was.

Both Brown and Warren already have support from well funded and often hidden snipers. There are tons of coverage on the new, nasty reality. You can also find lots of examples, which I won't bother to embed any of here. Head to YouTube and search for strings like Scott Brown oil or Elizabeth Warren OWS to find current ones. Fresh dirt for him is here and for her here.

Disclaimer: We chatted with Warren over at Left Ahead last month and the three of us liked her both personally and for her ideas and solutions.

Let's now consider what's likely to happen with attack ads for these candidates.

First note that Brown has been in office over a year and one-half. Voters, should they bother, can look to his votes and statements, his record. Having never held elective office, Warren has the advantage/disadvantage of presenting what she would have done and would do.

The advantage here definitely looks to be hers. Brown has been a showboat from the beginning. He bragged about being in a pivotal spot, able to block or allow to pass any bill. During his tenure, legislation has been cumbersome, ineffective, and with negative effects on the economy and other big areas. Instead, he could have picked a couple key issues, as wise Senators are wont to, and led bipartisan efforts. Then he could have fairly claimed leadership and national interest — very good reasons for reelection.

She is left with his weakness and her forte, ideas. He speaks in political clichés and generalities. She likely has 20 or 30 IQ points on him, but is no Utopian or limited theoretician. She has the decided advantage of conceiving of and bringing to life the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is much needed, very appreciated, and in strong contrast to anything Brown ever did on state or national levels.

Her weakness is not that she can be aligned with some aims of OWS. Rather, she so far has spoken largely of rescuing and revivifying the American middle-class. Those folk not coincidentally are the majority of us and of voters. On the trail, she'll have to respond to other themes, such as foreign policy.

So far, the winger attacks have seemed desperate. Now there is her statement that she set the intellectual foundation that helped spawn OWS. Previously, they failed in trying to portray her banter with me on Left Ahead about being called a hick in MA as some insult to rural voters. Well, that backfired. Not only was that self-depreciating bit plain to the 10K-plus who heard the YouTube outtakes, it clearly was not what they wanted to trick people into thinking. They also drove over 1,000 so far to listen to the whole show with her, quite likely getting her new supporters. She could use more attack-ad enemies that politically clumsy.

Warren has powerful, detailed solutions to big problems. Her introduction into the race suddenly elevated the dialog beyond any ability to propose or debate that Brown so far has exhibited.

However, Brown has a predictable winger strength. He speaks in those clichés and generalities. Like Presidents Reagan and Bush the Lesser, he offers reassuring, if disingenuous, messages that don't require voters to think. For those who want guns-and-butter and everything-will-be-OK messages, Brown will be ready.

Let's also not overlook the gender factor. MA is at the bottom of states in terms of electing women to statewide office, much less sending them to the U.S. Senate.

Moreover, even here in the allegedly liberal land, STRONG + SMART + FEMALE = SCARY CANDIDATE. Her election would mean a breakthrough for the commonwealth.

As these attack ads proliferate, one factor to watch is the local v. out-of-state one. Voters here are largely provincial. As Southerners are wont to ask, "Who are your people?," Bay Staters favor those born and raised and still living in one MA town. Likewise, they are quick to ask of candidates, "How much of the campaign money is local?"

The latter is kablooey for the first time now. Following the unlimited-money thingummy, we'll see ads and cash flowing largely from out there. You can be sure the MA GOP and wingers will whinge about her support, while they will be even more guilty of the perceived sin of out-of-state funding.

Here, the slight majority of voters are unenrolled in any party. They feign independence and love being wooed. The ads will be for them.

Even flat-out lies by Warren defamers are not likely to benefit Brown with the unenrolled and undecided. The wingers, self-identified social conservatives, Republicans, and even those who demand a man in office made up their minds. If they are swayed at all, it will come from the likely outcome of debates where the empty barn coat creaks and flaps like a barn door.

What a great use of technology in a science-fiction sense if we could go about our lives while fast forwarding all the attack ads until next fall's election. At this time, I'm more delighted than ever that I watch almost no TV.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Same But Different Boston Councilors

No incumbent Boston Councilor lost yesterday, but several came close. The crowd favorites switched order. Southie's power comes into question. There was no revolution, yet the results have implications.

Right off, as someone who works the polls for the city, I was pleased that the turnout was just anemic and not the predicted terrible. At 18.1% of voters, you'd think it would mean keening and rending of garments by democracy advocates. However, our expectations have long lowered. Grumpy pundits thought this off-year election with no statewide, mayoral or congressional seats might mean as few as 6% of voters would do their do.

The polling place where I worked had over 28% turnout. Comparatively to expectations and the recent 13% in the last election makes that seem robust and involved. That written, as someone who never misses any election and as a poll warden who's invested, I don't see why we can't expect 60% or higher turnout. I can rant when anyone says, "I wasn't aware we had an election," or "I don't know anything about any of the candidates." Be warned.

Hub Shuffle

Here, Council results should provide sources for jokes among the winners, as well as offline planning for the next go in two years. The expected leaders trailed, and one at-large and one district councilor nearly got nipped. The pundit predictions going back at least six months were flat wrong in many cases.

The not-yet-certified-ergo-unofficial results for at-large run (informal names):

Ayanna PRESSLEY21.42%
Felix ARROYO20.26%
John CONNOLLY18.74%
Steve MURPHY15.26%
Michael FLAHERTY14.73%
Will DORCENA4.99%
Sean RYAN4.21%

This list has two big punchlines. Among the four winners, Connolly and Murphy had topped the ticket last time and Arroyo and Pressley scraped into office for their first terms. So, the order dramatically shifted in unpredicted ways. The other biggy is that former council president and five-term at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty missed the cut this time.

Oh, experts, where art thine expertise?

Many broadcast, print and blog observers figured Arroyo and particularly Presssley as likely to lose to Flaherty. After all, they were finishing single terms, he is very well known, a skilled fund-raiser and connected, and council elections have long been friendly to Irish American men. Plus, his home of South Boston had the only open district seat, and therefore, more reason for voters to participate.

Here the wise guys weren't so wise.

When I arrived home at 9 PM from closing my poll, the first results from the city showed Flaherty ahead of Murphy and down in District 2, Suzanne Lee ahead of two-term incumbent Bill Linehan. The almost-real-time reporting on election nights is a super feature. I watched as results shifted quickly over the next hour. In the end, we got the above results and a less than 1% apparent win by Linehan; whether Lee requests and gets a recount is TBD.


So, as I'm wont to ask, what can we learn from this? 

First, it's a positive statement about diversity in town. Voters pushed the only Latino and first black woman ever to the top of the at-large reelection results. In a city with a growing minority population and a sorry history of racism and sexism in politics, that's good stuff.

Neither Arroyo nor Pressley won sole because of their race or gender. Both have championed good causes,  as well as delivered the requisite constituent services. Moreover, as Pressley told me recently, she knows identity politics can work for any candidate. In her case, she looks to voters of color, of her gender, and from her neighborhood to support her, and then she expands from there for the whole electorate.

More surprising is that two Irish-American male councilors slipped to three and four in the results. Both are popular. Each has considerable expertise — Connolly running education and Murphy the budget processes. Also Connolly is the acknowledged campaign-contribution king. 

His organization seems to have anticipated a strong showing by Pressley, despite the gloomy forecasts. Last night, about the time the results gelled, his folk sent out a press release. They took a good share of the credit for her success in Connolly's West Roxbury, where he introduced and campaigned with her. And, oh by the way, he has over $100,000 left in this campaign coffers, the release noted.

Murphy is surely less sanguine. He has not yet posted on his campaign site or Facebook pages. 

Disclaimer: I know and like Steve. We're neighbors, living only a couple of blocks away. 

In his Left Ahead podcast leading up to the election, he did agree that his financial expertise is not as high in profile as some on council. It's my feeling that he's a bit humble and needs to make voters aware that when his peers want to know what this or that big or small matter means in money terms, he's the one they turn to for the judgment. This close vote may inspire him to brag a bit, even if that's not natural for him.

For his part, Flaherty has pledged to work with the council in any way he can. Dorcena and Ryan have not posted on their Facebook pages or websites. 

Flaherty remains popular, has positioned himself as an opposition voice to Mayor Tom Menino and surely will not disappear. I suddenly recall many years ago when I ran into President Thomas Jones of the University of South Carolina as we crossed the historic horseshoe of the antebellum campus in opposite directions. He and I (student newspaper type and general agitator) had clashed many times and he considered me a royal pain. Yet we had a begrudging respect for each other. I knew he was being ousted following the student riots there and I told him I was sorry. He said he was like a rabbit with many tunnels and holes. He would reemerge. I'm sure Flaherty will too, after some consideration.

Dorcena, I hope, will not be discouraged. He got in late, with little money and no history of holding office. He chatted with us at Left Ahead as well. He's smart, he's charming and he has a detailed, broad series of issues and proposals. There must be a good place to draw on that energy and those ideas.

Ryan, of course, runs for office. He has low-key, lightly funded campaigns, depending largely on ringing doorbells and speaking at every possible forum. He is one candidate who may change nothing after this election.