Thursday, April 25, 2013

Herd of Stallions

Da Mare, a.k.a. Boston Mayor Thomas Michael Menino, made a massive (22) herd of all male would-be replacements appear. Simply by announcing he would not run for a sixth four-year term, he gave the ambitious, the vain, and the delusional permission to run for the open spot in the September preliminary.

Today's Boston Globe has the full list of the 19 who have pulled papers and three others who have already said they're in the hunt. Candidates have until May 13th at 5 PM to apply and May 21 at 5 to hand in the required 3,000 registered Boston voter signatures.

In reality, they likely each need 4,500 or 5,000 signatures to have enough legit ones. Moreover, pundits and consultants figure candidates will need one million dollars to run a competitive race.

The current herd includes:

  • City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo
  • John F. Barros
  • Lee Buckley
  • Robert Cappucci
  • Charles L. Clemons Jr.
  • Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley
  • City Councilor John R. Connolly
  • City Councilor Rob Consalvo
  • Miniard Culpepper
  • William J. Dorcena
  • Althea Garrison
  • John G.C. Laing Jr.
  • Divo Rodrigues Monteiro
  • David S. Portnoy
  • City Councilor Michael P. Ross
  • Gareth R. Saunders
  • Bill Walczak
  • State Representative Martin J. Walsh
  • Hassan A. Williams
  • Christopher G. Womack
  • David James Wyatt
  • City Councilor Charles C. Yancey

Some seem to be vanity candidates, like Charles Clemons and John Laing, co-founders of 106.1 TOUCH (pirate) radio, and likely Barstool Sports head David Portnoy. Plus there are I'll-run-for-anything perennial candidates like Althea Garrison. Several community activists jumped in with yet-to-be-determined levels of seriousness.

Likewise, five of the 13 City Councilors are in. Apparently four are willing to vacate their seats and show the confidence of running only for the top job. One, longest-serving Councilor Charles Yancey filed for his district seat as well. In theory, if he won both, he could choose one office to take. If he loses the preliminary on September 14th, he'd still be up for his district seat.

Others are apparently still mulling. Many progressive sorts were sorry to see that Councilor Ayanna Pressley would not run for Mayor. We have yet to hear from Council President Steve Murphy. He's in his 50s and this could be his one shot at the office, but that's a hell of a big, rough herd to run with.

It makes me dizzy for this blog and the weekly Left Ahead podcast. It's tempting to be as cowardly as the local dailies, not covering individuals until some drop out and most lose in the prelim. Over at the podcast though, we have pretty recently spoken with Connolly, Dorcena and Consalvo. That was Dorcena as the first to announce, a year ago, and the other two because they had worthwhile political and policy commentary.

This could be fascinating or tedious before September. Certainly if any forum group tires to put 22 on the stage at a time, each would get 15 to 30 seconds a go and resolve absolute nothing. I'm still looking forward to the show.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

France Joins Marriage-Equality List

Love expands legally in France. The National Assembly passed same-sex marriage 331 to 225 today in a bill identical to the Senate one already approved.

The plug nasties have a last-gasp effort to beg the Constitutional Council to overturn, "censor" the bill. Those judges have up to a month to decide. There seem virtually no chance of reversal happening.

Homosexual couples can start marrying nationwide by the middle of June.

Le Monde has the story (in French, mais oui).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Straight to Crazy After Boston Bombings

Well now, there's crazy like a fox and crazy like FOXnews. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell most definitely remains in the latter class of stupids.

Following Monday's Boston Marathon bombings, with their death, dismemberment and massive injuries, he took the mic on the Senate floor to make absurd political claims. Those centered on counter-terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. His punchline was, "With the passage of time, however, and the vigilant efforts of our military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals, I think it’s safe to say that for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has actually returned."

Think Progress has the full quotes and clip.

Know you will hear more of such baseless claims. From what should be a leadership position, McConnell instead points the way to the unprovable, untenable, and impotent. As a nation, both government and individuals, we are more aware of dangers than ever, have numerous agencies and procedures at work constantly, and have thwarted many terrorism attempts. The ones that happen are God awful but very rare.

As usual, his implication is that somehow, someone (read President Obama) coulda, shoulda done something unspecified that woulda prevented the Boston bombings.So far for the first day and one half, most winger commentators have managed to stifle such base words. Here's betting McConnell's were just the first.

The larger and underlying issue continues to be that Congressional Republicans and GOP leaders neither like nor truly understand the post-WWII America. Let us recall that over 400,000 Americans were among those who died in WWII. To a one, they would say then and later that it was about keeping the United States and larger world free. Likewise those who fought in Korea, Southeast Asia and the Middle East almost all echoed that.

The trend we have seen in recent years though, particularly after 9/11, has been expanding government powers to limit liberties. Among the most pervasive are TSA airport procedures. Unlike say Israel, we don't use savvy airport agents and sensible observation. We go for mindless rules about a couple of ounces of liquid and resort to frisking and even to strip searches.

Safety Fantasies

The wingers at the state level instead reserve their version of freedom to actual murder threats. That would be stand-your-ground laws that literally permit individuals to decide when they can execute someone. That would be permits to carry loaded sidearms into drinking sessions at bars. That would be the right to own and walk around with semiautomatic rifles with 30 or 100 shot clips attached.

Let us constantly be aware that international and domestic terrorists want to cripple Americans. They want us to be afraid all the time. They want our country more like autocratic ones, where big, intrusive government rules and citizens must obey.

The crazy-like-FOX crew seem to be all for that anti-freedom movement. They're fine with every bigger, ever more intrusive government spying on us, our calls, emails, travels and more. Likewise, they are fine with employers deciding what health care their workers can get (think contraception). At the state level, many seem delighted to restrict the most fundamental American right, that of voting.

McConnell and his ilk clearly don't like the America that grew, evolved and matured around them. They want a much more confined America. They lie about wanting less government while they ever expand agencies to control us.

I call them out.

The Boston bombings brought many tragedies — a word I never use lightly. Personal ones include the murder of 8-year-old Martin Richard.

There is no need for or utility in political lies about complacency. Likewise, being in denial about susceptibility to terrorist acts right here in the United States is simply delusional. We're not in a war zone. Then again at the most basic level, we, and the whole world, are. Fantasizing that big-daddy government can keep us safe every hour everywhere from every monster goes straight to crazy.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Melissa Crosses the Nasties

Apparently MSNBC is new to the parents-rights mini-movement. This week, they've been wringing hands and trying valiantly to be amused by winger bloggers and Fox talking heads slamming Melissa Harris Perry.

At the bottom is a segment in which Chris Hayes and she seemed surprised and even stunned. The Fox-ies had spent much of the week literally ranting and feigning high-pitched outrage. She had only called for larger community involvement in ensuring the safety and successful development of children.

The winger drama centered on her saying that a family's children are not the sole responsibility of the parents, that the community can help and should help. Of course that is a simple, generally religiously based concept going way back to Old Testament days and before. The idea that if there are problems, you're on you own, is a more recent, destruction and cold one.

Yet, winger media are always eager to pounce. They have been outdoing each other depicting these old fashioned values as collectivism, communism and other such drivel.

Hayes and Harris Perry were generally confused about where all this overreaction originated. Welcome to the world of parents rights.

That subgroup of wingers claims legal and moral ownership of their children, be it in how they are educated or whether parents can beat them freely and on any whim.

I did a series here (search for parents rights). One post links to several others by their emphasis. MSNBC folk can be sure if they again dare call for community involvement in helping kids, and particularly if they use the expression that "our children are not our own" as the metaphor for people helping each other, these vipers will pop out of their holes.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pols (Not) Hedging Election Bets

Oh, now it becomes clear. Nothing, other than smart politicking, prevents our office holders from running for a higher office while simultaneously running for re-election.

I have been reading in the local rags that Boston City Councilors, for one example in the news, had to resign to run for the suddenly, shockingly available mayoralty. As is my wont, I headed to the City Charter and the Council rules to find, cite and link to the specifics. I pored through each with no results.

Then I ran across a piece in the J.P. Gazette that revealed reporter Peter Shanley's query to Mayor Tom Menino's office. It seems that it's savvy convention to show confidence by stepping down, but it's not required. In this case, a Councilor could run for both the mayoralty and re-election to Council. Then, assuming victory in both races, the double winner would choose which job to take.

Of course, at that level, it screams a lack of confidence to run for two offices. The perception is that voters would assume you presume loss before the first vote registers.

Yet we don't have to go very high up to see hedging bets for other offices. U.S. Senators John McCain,  Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, as other examples, held their seats while running for President (and Sen. Joe Biden as VP candidate). Likewise, both U.S. Reps. Steve Lynch and Ed Markey are running in the special election for U.S. Senate without resigning.

In a bit of humorous math, the risk level for Mayor is vastly higher than that for U.S. Senator this time and place. The field is wide and diverse. Some candidates are already well financed (as in $250,000 to $700,000 in the checkbook). At least four of the 13 Councilors are in and one or two more may make the leap in the next few days. The DA from Boston's Suffolk County is in, as were two early announcers (sill badly underfunded, but swearing money won't win this race). A state rep joined and so it goes.

There's no party affiliation in the preliminary in September, but nearly everyone is a Democrat by the bye. So far, we have no women running. It's also coincidentally the Middle Earth of Boston politics, with few candidates of color and nearly everyone Irish American. That's our history after the brahmans and before the ascendancy of those of Irish and Italian heritage.

The Council itself is a little more diverse. It only has one woman, one Latino, and three African Americans (including the woman).  Oh, and there's one Jew, and he's the most recently announced candidate for Mayor. The body certainly does not represent Boston's makeup ethnically or racially.

Now I wonder how many of those Councilors will or are even considering running for two offices in September and should they be in the top two finishers for Mayor, in the general in November.

Candidates who step away from secure spots and announce, "There is no plan B," as they run for higher office can seem heroic and confident. Yet, voters don't automatically reject those who hedge their bets.

Here, the Council could have the largest shakeup in memory if the candidates do not run for re-election as well as the mayoralty. Right now, that could mean openings for:

  • Felix G. Arroyo, at-large
  • John Connolly, at-large
  • Rob Consalvo, district 5
  • Mike Ross, district 8

Plus, maybe Steve Murphy, at-large, and the slim possibility of Charles Yancey, district 6.

There's no certainty that any one of them would win. They'd all take a huge flyer. The district Councilors are each and all from safe seats for them. Murphy is generally a big vote getter at-large, as are Arroyo and Connolly.

Murphy has held the Council presidency the past three times. That might well be at risk if four or more new Councilors come to office after November.  He's still thinking, he says.

The Boston Herald, our winger tabloid, has been flogging Suffolk DA Dan Conley. Their highly biased staff points fairly to his large checkbook at the beginning of the campaign. However, when he was a Councilor, he was neither particularly powerful nor memorable. He's had a much greater impact as a prosecutor. He hasn't had a chance to make his platform pitch. If it's law-and-order up top, that remains to be seen whether voters will weigh that heavily.

I'll be monitoring the stump speeches, tweets, FB postings and websites as these develop. Right now, the scrum to announce following Menino's decision not to run again has the runners still metaphorically tying their laces. As soon as enough of them put their platforms out, I'll comment on site contents and presentations.

A few quick thoughts though for the announced Councilors:

  • Arroyo: Bright, confident, progressive, charming, he's also a good speaker. I've also been to numerous meetings where I overheard young female voters of various ethnic backgrounds commenting that he's very handsome and saying they know he has a wife who's even prettier. While that shouldn't make any difference, people have noted they like to look at him...and Jasmine. He's the first Latino to run for the office and has a large supporter base.
  • Connolly: Wonderfully Boy-Scout level sincere, he has a deep passion for improving Boston schools...right now! He's run the Council's education committee for several terms, which is a royal pain on many levels, one that others run from. He was a teacher, his wife is, and they have two kids starting public school. He'll have other planks, but he is building his campaign first on the tough goal of high-quality schools in every single neighborhood. The question here is that if he's seen as the education guy, will voters who care more about jobs, housing and safety bypass him?
  • Consalvo: He is turbo-charged. He's been among the most active idea guys (like shot-spotter), proposing regulations and programs incessantly. He has the constituent services role down pat and learned from his Hyde Park friend and neighbor Menino to show up at every event and meeting, to know voters and get known. Rob seems to figure that if Tom can do this, he can. (Disclosure: He's my district guy, has done constituent services for me, and I like him.)
  • Ross: He's the Council smarty, which comes with mixed value. We saw in the last mayoral election that smart was not enough, as Sam Yoon came in third and out of the runoff. People tell me they find Ross cold. I don't; he and I have talked cycling and I thought he ran a ship-shape cruise when he was Council president. He is a more visionary sort with larger goals for the city. Will those ideas intrigue voters? Is the timing right for something demanding and different?

I love this stuff. I'm also glad I'm not running for anything. I do promise to pay attention to them though.

Tom Terrific's Victory Laps

Without shoveling figurative dirt on the mayor's casket, Bostonians are easing into acceptance that our longest-serving head guy, Tom Menino, truly is not running for a sixth four-year term. That doesn't count the head-start Ray Flynn gave him by running off to become ambassador to the Vatican.

The stereotypers are hard at work echoing each other. They previously sang the chorus of how a re-elected POTUS only has 12 to 18 months of any conceivable power and accomplishing — here's betting that's so much crap for Obama's last four years. Now and more more locally it's, "Oh, that Menino was so powerful, now no one's afraid of him any more and the power brokers and their interests will all run from him. I say even that is not so simple and obvious.

Instead, today I thought about the many small joys he'll be doing one more time. I've never seen a pol who loves contact with the voters as much as he does. I'm sure he'll do them all.

I thought of those today when the sked appeared for his neighborhood coffee hours. He shows at all 14 parts of Boston, hands out potted plants from the city greenhouses, but really does his favorite thing of shaking hands, calling out names, asking about family, and being the populist. A report and pic from two years ago is here.

It doesn't hurt that Dunkin' Donuts supplies the coffee and sugary stuff. They are smart to have affiliated themselves. Those are nearly sacramental items here and they lubricate interaction as people gather while awaiting himself.

Da Mare shows at Bike Friday on city hall plaza and hundreds of constituent events big and small. He's noted more quietly for comforting parents of murdered children. Clearly it's a lot jollier to glad hand and joke.

For the fun part, the best has long been his annual July 12th block party by his Chesterfield Street house in Hyde Park's Readville section. That's the anniversary of the day Flynn hightailed it out of town for Rome and Menino elevated from City Council President to Mayor.

There are some sponsors and sops for the masses.  A local radio station sets up a tent and table to play tunes. Others hand out ice-cream cones, hot dogs and tchotchkes.

He bestrides his street like s lesser colossus, one who does not tower above the lesser mortals. Tom Menino tends to stand in the middle of Chesterfield Street, meeting. greeting and chatting up all comers...for hours at a time.

This go, he's likely to still be using a cane, but I bet he doesn't miss a moment on his last such celebration. I've been to many of these and sure won't miss this one.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Big Boston What-Ifs on Mayor

As hard as it is for us locals to believe, Boston Mayor Tom Menino, the colossus of Hyde Park, showed real savvy in saying 20-plus years would be enough. Now we'll buzz like a hornets' nest about his successor.

The most frequent speculation is surely from David (not Berenstain Bears) Bernstein's blog. He took the Talking Politics name with him from the Phoenix. His stuff is a motley blend of well-researched, experiential, and just uncontrolled typing.

Rules can sometimes be inflexible, as in Boston Councilors running for mayor. They have to step down from City Council.

That has some hole-in-the-body-politic effects. I doubt many missed Maura Hennigan. On the other hand, Mike Flaherty had quite a following. Moreover, San Yoon was surely the brightest person in City Hall; he just lacked political instincts and savvy to go with the brain power. The city could have benefited mightily from many more years of his service on Council.

Just recently, with three previously announced candidates after the mayoralty, the how-many-Councilors will make the jump fascinates. At-large Councilor John Connolly is in the race and won't run for reelection as a result. The other two, marketing consultant Will Dorcena, and co-founder of TOUCH pirate radio, Charles Clemons, at least can go about their business while running. Just entering is Suffolk County DA Dan Conley, with over a half million dollars on hand. He's a former four-term (eight years) Councilor.

So, back to speculation about the larger class of potential competitors — Councilors. What if...

  • Ayanna Pressley. She'd be a strong candidate for any office, think lieutenant governor or MA senate as well as Boston mayor. She's smart, accomplished, resilient, even good looking, and driven by volunteerism and social action. She has particularly strong followings in her Dorchester, among women, with African Americans, and fairly well represented citywide. She was a huge vote getter in the at-large contest.
  • Steve Murphy. Council President yet again, he does a really good job getting the knuckleheads to knuckle down and focus. He's also the acknowledged financial whiz on Council. In his 50s, he knows this might be his only shot. He has a lot to give up if he goes after it though. He is also a perennial at-large vote harvester.
  • Felix Arroyo. The other popular at-large Councilor, he has long ago surpassed his father getting votes and passing the law-like proposals and regulations they do down there. He's bright, pretty, witty and a very nice guy, favored far beyond his Latino affiliated constituents. He's ambitious.
  • Tito Jackson. The biggest personality on Council, he is vibrant and enthusiastic. His District 7 folk have no doubt he's all for them first and the city right behind. He jumps into crime, clean streets and other quality-of-live issues. He's fun to be around and is likely looking for the right next level up.
  • Mike Ross. He's the downtown Councilor in ever sense of the term. A seven termer, he's been president of the body. (I also like that he's a regular cyclist.) I peg him as the brightest on Council. He brings big ideas, his own and those from Cambridge, other cities and the commonwealth. He'd be the visionary, which might be a tough sell but one that could click if many voters favor big changes.
  • Rob Consalvo. His my district Councilor. He's a super-nice guy and one of the most active in proposing Council actions. He's still in the Young Turk/young lion class. The Mayor came from Hyde Park, which Consalvo represents. Word from many fronts is that he sees himself as the natural heir to his good friend Menino.
  • Charles Yancey. The longest-serving (15 terms) Councilor and a former body president, he has the title dean of City Council. Virtually all the Councilors have large egos. Hearing him speak at meetings and hearings, I suspect his is the biggest of all. He is a district Councilor and likely doesn't have the personal power, the raw personality to sway the city.

If all of them were in with Connolly, that would be a majority of Council up for grabs. We'd see the usual suspects and bozos running...and losing badly. We'd see numerous activists having real shots at both at-large and district seats. The makeup and direction of the body would change dramatically.

The open mayoralty after 20 years is too, too much for too many. It might be another 12 or so years before there's another good chance. The young lions would be much more like toothless, clawless oldsters.

If every one is in, Boston would be in for a huge shakeup far beyond a new mayor. It might be a net good. However, the district Councilors in particular have gotten their constituent services down pat and their replacements would not master that learning curve quickly, and may not even been good at it or have the right staffers readily available.

So I can join those at the local papers and blogs in surmising. We should know soon, as they can file nomination papers with Elections as early as April 17 and must by May 15 for the preliminary. They have to get and file 3,000 valid voter signatures by the end of May 21. That of course does not begin to account for all the money raising, visibility, online/marketing/speechifying/volunteer recruiting and such. The Mayor has made it plain he's not handing off his political machine to any candidate.

So of the Councilor possibles, what do you think?

  • Ayanna Pressley. Here's betting she's biding her time and picking the right combination of office, issues, and timing. I bet she sits tight.
  • Steve Murphy. The Herald did an insightful interview with him on how hard this decision will be. He's in a solid, deeply respected position on Council, but in his 50s, this could be his one chance for the other side of the fifth floor. He's lost several runs for statewide office (for which he did not have to quit Council), that's gotta make him ballot shy. I don't know how he's going to go. (By the bye, he's a neighbor but not a close friend.)
  • Felix Arroyo. He put out the call for campaign donations. It seems if it comes in fast enough, he'll run. He shouldn't have any problem getting volunteers and the signatures. He'll go. 
  • Tito Jackson. He loves his constituents and neighborhood as much as he loves himself and as much as he loves performing. He'd have to get a citywide following to make his candidacy viable. He's likely to look to a State House seat or maybe even lieutenant governor. He sits this out.
  • Mike Ross. I suspect he'll go in. He'll need all of his smarts and to amp up his laid-back personality to come off at the guy with a vision for a better Boston. It's possible. Then again, he has to count on the timing. Voters know they'll get change. He has to make them believe he serves up the best flavor.
  • Rob Consalvo. He won't be able to stand it. Like most Councilors he shaves the Mayor's face in the morning in his mirror. 
  • Charles Yancey. I predict he'll waffle and in the end not go. He's make a career out of district Councilor. He's powerful and his niche. He's really not a citywide player.

Beyond Councilors, other candidates will get in. State Rep, Marty Walsh is one. I don't see him or Conley even making the final after the preliminary.

I'm figuring Arroyo, Consalvo, Ross and maybe Murphy. It would be an exciting (for us) and exhausting (for them) contest...a true battle of yard signs, innuendo and slurs, and non-stop voter contact.