Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Hyde Park Home Run

 My fantasy and hope for last evening was that one of the eight candidates would totally outshine the others. There were a few who disqualified themselves to my thinking, but none that won it all.

The event was a forum for the Fairmount Hill Neighborhood Association's monthly meeting. Regular readers here know I disdain these 45-second-answers joke. Yet, I held hope.

I sat next to UniversalHub's Adam Gaffin. While I was out doing necessaries this morning, he managed to push out a recap, which is here. He captured the drift of the drifting responses, without being judgmental. I'll do for him. Check his for key topic comments by the candidates.

Where I could find a website or at least a Facebook page, I linked the first mention of the candidate's name to it. I included some mugs, more as graphic devices than anything of real value. The shot for Callendar, who was absent due to a conflict, is a partial cap from her campaign site.

Arbitrarily, I comment in first-name order.

Andrew Cousino
Sincere, concerned about the poor and homeless, but not ready for prime time. He has slowly, steadily advanced himself, now to an special officer for Longwood Security Services. He didn't offer much and nothing inspiring or new. Off my list.
Granddaughter of former State Rep. Willie Mae Allen, the 25-year-old law student was raised as an activist. She's chipper, eager and says she can relate to the youth voters. Maybe, but I didn't hear any substance when the moderator read the answers she prepared. She too needs seasoning.
Ava Callendar

Jean-Claude Sanon
He radiated quiet competence and confidence. He was first to mention and stress constituent service, odd as typical voters see that as key for the office. He certainly wouldn't be in line with existing Councilor Rob Consalvo's innovation-of-the-week legislation, something D5 folk have come to accept and expect. He was OK but not a powerhouse. 
A realtor with the requisite bubbly personality, she has the view of the three D5 neighborhoods tied to the likes of housing stock, jobs, and shopping area vitality. She'd aim to bolster the shortcomings per neighborhood. She supports more voc-ed HS, and called linking Madison Park and Roxbury Community College a union of two underperforming institutions. Where she did have positions, they were fair to good. 
Margherita Ciampa-Coyne

Michael Wells.
A peculiar guy, he lost me by demanding (twice) a revisit of the Casey overpass replacement. That's been settled at all levels after much discussion, it's in JP as well, and would be a total waste for all. He also didn't know anything about Mattapan,which seemed OK to him. No thanks.
A real disappointment last evening, because we'd met most recently at the ribbon cutting for the Fairmount Grill. She told me with a smile she considers herself an activist and troublemaker. Her website is also coy and does not provide those progressive planks she claims to have. She's one of several running on résumé. She presented very well but suffered largely from my expectations unmet.
Mimi Turchinetz
Patrice Gatozzi
We all know her from running HP Main Streets very well for years. Am amusing note from last night is that her son was the official timekeeper and he was fair enough to cut her off several times. She's very nice and enthusiastic. I don't see her as having Consalvo's organizational skills, passion and anal-retentive detail mind. He can be demanding enough to make things happen, as he did for me as my Councilor. I have no sense she can.
He surely will be in the run-off. He's been a career Boston operative, what the Herald snarky types would be quick to call a hack, but his credentials put him in the macher class of folk who make things happen. He waffled on charter school cap (more study he said), he wants the whole city to vote on an East Boston casino, he'd talk to big-box stores, he would pour money into the HP community center and to revitalize Cleary Square along the lines of Roslindale's center. He sounds too much like Scott Brown, trying to please all and be the fulcrum. A+ for confidence.
Tim McCarthy

Friends and neighbors who know of my political interest as well as blogging and podcasts ask the hard and obvious questions about whom to vote for. I'd like to give definitive answers — not yet. Granted this is a complex municipal election, for mayor, for at-large City Council and for a few of the open district seats, including this one.

Last night settled little for me. I'll have to keep reading, attending speeches and fora, and for the November final, the debates leading to it.

For D5, I think I'd like to see Mimi and Tim in a final, replete with meaningful debates. Rob has spoiled us for simultaneous top-gear services and zap-pow ideas/implementation plans spurting like soft-serve ice cream. This is no election for so-so candidates.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gov. is Baker's to Lose Again

Saddle up your swayback horses with cliché tack. The MA governor's race will be the wheezing GOP-for-balance one.

Lordy, that's tired and stupid!

Do-nothing state rep and senator, then fizzling firecracker fill-in US Senator Scott Brown said he would not run for MA governor next year. At least this time he seems to have finally learned not to jerk his party around until it was too late for other candidates to raise money.

That likely was a race he might have won. He hasn't failed at this race. His probable Dem opponent, Steve Grossman or a slimmer chance of Juliette Kayyem, face the dual disadvantages of that one-party paranoia and less celebrity glow.

The badly aging former teen model suffers from his own dual problems brought by ego and vanity. Someone he trusts needs to alert him to the reality that he is already making more money than he deserves to and that his occasional appearances on TV and in other media let him pretend to be wise and observant — traits he has never shown. He can play that online and on air without challenge.

Now the empty-bench MA GOP turns over in their political bed back to their old companion, Charles D. Baker Jr. Supposition, already in the Boston tabloid, is that the nomination for next year's race is his already.

 I have to agree that's almost certain.

Oddly, there may be other, better candidates, but they are hiding as Dems. The fairy tale here is that progressive, very left Dems dominate the politics, indeed the whole world of the Bay State.

If you are simpleminded and literal enough, sure, you can make that case. Both houses of the legislature are rife with Dems and have only a few Republicans. You can point to an over 3-to-1 party enrollment among voters as well.

Yet, numbers as well as even cursory analysis show a different reality. Consider that party registration is 35.7% Dem and 11.1% GOP, with a half percent Green-Rainbow and political designations (not officially parties but still a voter registration choice). Wait, you say, that's less than half. Sure enough, over half the MA voters do not choose a party — 52.6%.

The unenrolled as the official term has it regularly vote Democratic Party but have their pretense. They love literally to shout at polling places that they are "not unenrolled. I"m independent!" It's sort of silly but not too bad as adult foibles go. I've written on this before.

The One-Party Game

The game we play here is pin the governor on the statehouse. We've had up to 18 running years with Republican governors, while we vote solidly for Dem presidential candidates and keep that Dem balance on Beacon Hill otherwise.

The unproven, unprovable fantasy is that if we have a one-party system both legislative and executive branches, something terrible will happen. Specifically, voters across parties are wont to tell pollsters that Dems will ride the state with their spurs digging in, implementing all manner of extreme left-wing laws and expenditures. Voters are apt to chant, "It's only common sense."

That phrase is a verbal and political tic. Almost invariably that and "let's not reinvent the wheel" mean "I got nothing. I'm about to make wild, unsupported assertions and don't expect to have to justify them."

Back to reality, both major parties here are full of moderates and wishy-washy liberals. A few Republican legislators over the years have been nutty anti-choice types and such, but not many.Moreover, former Gov. Willard Mitt Romney constantly had to dance around his leadership in implementing universal health care for us while he was in office, arguably the most liberal act of any MA gov.

I contend that most Republican voters hide in the unenrolled ranks. Likewise, I contend that most Republican legislators hide as Democrats. There's general truth to the idea that except for governor or legislature from very conservative districts, you need a D next to your name for election.

That written, Left Ahead co-host Ryan Adams and I are among the legion lefties who want a more vibrant MA GOP. We end up speaking in political and economic code here instead of having substantial discourse and debate, both in campaigns and in the statehouse.

Guts, Anyone?

Lackaday, we seem to have a courage deficit here. Many Dem pols are willing to say they are fiscally or socially conservative but none switches to the GOP. For the Republicans, I can't even get a state party chair to chat it up with us on Left Ahead.

I had hopes for Jennifer Nassour. Three times when we met, she said how much she looked forward to coming on the show. Twice she asked for my card, took it and swore she'd make it happen. She never returned calls or email afterward.

Now I've tried the current one, Kristen Hughes. As close as I've gotten was to her scheduler guy. I called repeatedly to get him. I admit it was amusing when he heard the name of the show and asked whether we were left-wing. I told him both Ryan and I were progressive sorts, but that we let guests speak their piece without badgering them, pulling out surprise adversaries or using trick questions. He swore he'd get back with me but never has. No guts, those elephants.

I'd very much like to ask Hughes what chance she has of flipping conservative voters from unenrolled and conservative pols from Democratic.  I do see that as the positive future of the GOP here. Then again, that would require both insight and courage.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Mayor Planks to Stand On

Yesterday, I put out a mega-table comparing websites of the 12 candidates for Boston Mayor. It probably comprises too many data points and subjective assessments. I went wild as well as there being a full dozen.

Today, I get down to a subset with expanded commentary of what many of us wonks consider the real stuff — platform and planks. If you go to a candidate's site, do you get a real sense of that person as mayor would try to accomplish?

If you looked at the table here or on BlueMassGroup, you already know that only two of the candidates in my assessment really put out a platform. One of those has a web design that stymies finding the good stuff.

Here again are the candidates, but with platform info and my opinion only. Click on a candidate's last name to check the site yourself.
  • Felix Arroyo — Fairly easy to find under the VISION OF BOSTON tab. Then choose 1 of 15 categories. Each has detailed list of goals, but no specifics on achieving them. 
  • John Barros — Easy to find under John's Policy Vision. Then click 1 of 5 categories. These are broad and vague, as in "Providing the resources that Boston schools need according to their students' the level of need."
  • Charles Clemons — Easy to find under the Issues tab. A plus includes several concrete proposals to help the elderly poor. All else is very vague, as in "School committee reform" and "Firm believer in community policing — the public and police working together."
  • Dan Conley — Easy to find under Issues tab. Then choose 1 of 7 categories. His are by are the most complete, detailed, specific, well-thought-through proposals, goals and methods.
  • John Connolly — Easy to find under IDEAS. They go far beyond the stereotype of him as an education-only candidate. All 12 categories are on one page. They are mixed, some overly general "recruiting anchor companies across all industries," but others more specific, "Extending learning time at every school to provide a full academic program that includes science, social studies, physical education, music, and art;"
  • Rob Consalvo — Oddly hidden platform. Under the About tab, which has no indication that is more than meet-the-candidate, you just might page down past two big pix and several paragraphs to find two lists, One is of major accomplishments as Councilor and the second has 7 planks or proposals. Most are general, as in providing first responders with sufficient resources, but others are more specific, such as "Create a cabinet level Office of Innovation, Ideas, and Technology to tap into the next wave of ideas from Bostonians and seek out and implement the best practices from all over the country, even all over the world." 
  • Charlotte Golar Richie — Her Vision For Boston tab is what passes, weakly, for a platform. For someone who boasts of city, state and federal experience, she seems unready for this race. Her vision is all fluff. There are a few touchstones from her résumé but little else. The gist is in the last paragraph, including "I know what it will take to run this city. But more than this, I know what it will take to unite the city." In other words, "Trust me." Uh huh.
  • Michael Ross — His is the most maddening platform and site. He is likely the brainiest person in the race. At first and second look, you wouldn't know that or even if he had a platform. His site makes the number one mistake found in software manuals and help systems, requiring the user to know the exact term the developers use to locate something. Hidden under a big splash screen top, page down and find two buttons. If you can figure out what Boston Smarter is and feel inclined to click it, bang!, a pretty impressive platform pops us. (Actually, you can pull it up in an easy-to-read form from its hidden URL.) The content is detailed, specific and singularly technology-driven, a vision for major changes in how Boston government would work. Who knew?
  • Bill Walczak — No platform-specific area for him. He may be the thinking-person's candidate, always a dangerous category to choose. However, if you click the Media and Blog tab, the two choices (In the News and Bill's Blog) are full of positions. 
  • Marty Walsh — Nothing to add from yesterday's table. The About Marty area has bio with implied general goals. Press/Latest News lets motivated voter tunnel down to statements.
  • David James Wyatt — He can't really be running. His one pager has no tabs or platform. The closest he makes to promise is, "He marched with Chuck Turner and expects to march in Boston for more job opportunity; better schools; safer streets, and an end to the machine politics of politically connected families."
  • Charles Yancey — This befuddled double campaign (Mayor and Councilor) has no platform. The only three tabs are Home, Meet Charles and Get Involved. The bio under the middle one has a hard-to read block of text with his personal, Council and education résumé, but no promises, no planks, no platform and no stump speech. 
Overall, this is a lackluster set of websites, particularly from the content view. Conley stands high and Ross will impress those who get through the hazing of the site design. The others lean toward generalities and seem afraid of putting out positions for others to snipe at in public events.

A few like Wyatt are amateurish, because the candidate is an amateur. Others such as Golar Richie and Yancey should have a lot more content, exhibit a lot greater thought, and give the voter something to appreciate. They've been around so long and involved in so much, they need to show they learned something.

Just maybe the candidates will take an evening or two to look at the competition online. It's not too late to update sites.

For the preliminary, it's unlikely that even a brilliant website will win it for the two. With a dozen, it's unlikely that many voters will be as politically needy as I, and go clicking around a dozen sites. Yet, in the weeks remaining, having yet another reason for undecideds to smear your oval can't hurt.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Would-Be Mayor Sites Scorecard

However much the current dozen candidates for Boston Mayor paid for their website designs, they spent too much. 

Was it only 7 and 5 years ago that Deval Patrick and Barack Obama (buddies and soul mates on many levels) leveraged the net and social media to win their governorship and presidency? Reviewing the dozing dozen's sites, I have to assume:
  1. Candidates don't put too much importance on web campaigning
  2. Campaigns are unsophisticated about content and visual elements
I went to the 12 to see who did what well and poorly. My first conclusion is that poorly is the operative word. My second is that the typical voter will be disappointed trying to get a fix on any of the dozen by the websites. My third is that the 12 better hope they are right that it will primarily shoe leather and GOTV with a bit of advertising that win the preliminary and then final elections this time. These net sites won't.
Disclaimer and background: I'm a long-term HTML guy. I've worked on personal and corporate websites. I've been a technical communicator for decades, including usability testing for sites and documents. I also host Left Ahead and have interviewed and know many of these candidates. They've had plenty of time to publish platforms, polish slogans, and decide what might sway voters.
I offer a Geek Score per candidate. That's my subjective overview of the use of technology and presentation. There's also a Wonk Score. That's the political POW factor from the site. There there is a grade and comment on the visual aspects, on the effectiveness of tabs, on the power of the candidate's platform, the slogan, the media available, how events appear, and then how usable the site is to a voter.

Campaign slogans are iffy; come candidates seem to have none and others several. This is one thing they should put some effort into and make sure at least the yard signs are memorable and meaningful.

I went a bit crazy in number of columns. I apologize if you have to scroll.

In the table below, lick on a candidate's last name to visit the site and judge for yourself. 

CandidateGeek ScoreWonk ScoreVisualTabsPlatformSloganMediaEventsUsability
A — Clean layout with easy-to-find contentB — Videos are solid but planks are vagueB+ —Attractive and graphics do not get in the wayA — Up top and very clearB —Easy to find, but crowded with 15 topicsBuilding a Better Boston and Forward With FelixA — Video-centric with solid interviews B+ — Tab opens clickable calendar A — Fonts a little small but tabs are plain and easy to use
B+ — Tight and clean design, pulldowns off top buttons work wellC — Spongy, non-specific planksA — Open and well designedA — Buttons on top work as tabs with pulldowns. Highlight then a single click.C — Appears to cover everything but planks are vague and use pol-speakStand Up NowB- — Almost entirely print media links. Takes motivated voter to readA — state of the art calendarA — Features work well and navigation is clear
C — Well designed minimalist siteC- — Not much content but what's there is clearB — Attractive and cleanC+ — Clear and function wellC- — Sparse but fairly deailed for what appearsUnity Builds Strong and First Name on the BallotD — Next to nothing, no meaningful pix or newsC- — easy to access but not interactiveB — Everything obvious and works quickly
C+ — Site well planned, executed. Events fail and vids are boringA — The A+ platform earns political content high markB+ — Nice use of pix, giving a very personal, personable viewB — Easy to use. The empty Events is awfulA+ — Best in the race, with clear goals and methodsBoston's Best Days Are Ahead of UsD — Largely his big talking head with ho-hum messagesD — No events listed. Tab should go until they beef it up.A — Crisp, fast site
B- — What's there is solid, but where's the vid and intereaction?A — He is plain on what he's done, wants to do and howB- — Clean site, everything is obviousB — Minimalist but clear and work wellA — Ideas are very clear and specific, covers all big areasOur Future Starts With Our Schools and Good Schools=Good NeighborsD — Old school print and pix. Needs videoC- — Scrolling, takes multiple clicks to access, no interactionC — What's there is easy to access. Needs more content.
C — Well functioningC- — Content hidden and vagueB+ — Good looking site, with use of pix to make it about himC- — Voters don't know what's hidden behind tabs.C- — Hidden at bottom of About tab, and non-specificMaking Boston BetterC- — Little and in Blog. He should have tons of video and print.D — Gimmicky map instead of calendar. Canvass events OK if you know to go to VolunteerC — Donating or volunteering OK. He should not make you search for h is platform or events.
Golar Richie
C- — Site works but the lack of content detractsD — Her vision tab is grey and mush mouthedD — General goals do not inspire at allC — Mouseover and pulldown tabs are clear and work well, but need larger typeD — There is little here and what appears is vagueCharlotte for MayorB- — Some good news clips, but nothing of her own and some clips don't workC- — Old-style scrolling, not interactive, hidden under News tab.B — Fast and functional site. Only events are so-so.
C- — He is net savvy but form trumps function hereC- — great, but hidden political contentB —Clean and attractive, but you need to scroll for anythingNone, Does not apply.C- —Very detailed, but buried behnid Boston Smarter buttonBoston SmarterB — good linked videosD — Need to visit his FB page for current activitiesD — no tabs, buried content, voter must guess what's behind smallish buttons
B+ — Well designed and fast site. Everything works well.B- — Content is there and better than most candidates but you have to figure out to go to news and blog.B — Very personable, particularly for an activist. Contend and personal touchesB —Tabs are clear and well functioning. Someone put some real thought into these.B- — Platform hidden in news and blog choices. Much there though.Maybe Bill Walczak for Mayor of BostonC — News is print only but it's good, useful stuff. Vids are at the bottom of the front page, kind of hidden.D — Events do not seem to appear on site.B- — Major functions are obvious and work well. A few are obscure, like having to figure to go to news and blog for talking points.
C — Some pages load slowly but overall, the design and functions work well.C- — The About Marty area has bio with implied general goals. Press/Latest News lets motivated voter tunnel down to statements.B — Intense red and blue on white space. Crisp.C-- — Few choices and no platform per se.C- —Minimal, no planksMaybe Marty for MayorB — Lots of press and a little video. With time and interest, voters could find out a lot about his positions.C- — Obscure in right column of each page under many buttons. Click for minimal detailsB — What's there works well and except for the obscure events is easy to find.
David James
D- — Virtually empty with only donation workingD- — No real contentD- — One page with almost no contentNone, Does not apply.D- — Vague goals on single pageMaybe Candidate for Mayor of BostonF. None. Does not apply.F. None. Does not apply.F. No functions ad even Donate does not work.

C- — What's there functions but there's littleD- — He runs for both Mayor and Councillor. Mayor site has only bio.D — Facebook images and content with bio, volunteer and donate buttonsC- — Bio, volunteer and donate buttonsD- — Only bio has info, with no planks or promisesMaybe Charles Yancey for MayorF. None. Does not apply.D- — Just a little in FB feed.D- — Easy to confuse this with Councillor site. Very little functionality.

The short of it is that no one is brilliant here. As much as we'd expect web technologies and design to continually advance, forget that. These folk either don't care or don't know their stuff.

It may very well be that those puerile forum thingummies rule in the preliminary. Every candidate gets two minutes to brag and then a minute or less to reduce complex topics to a bowl of grits. I disdain these and there's hardly more than one or two memorable quotes from an evening.

We'll see how savvy it is for the dozen to have half-baked campaign sites. Conventional and media wisdom is that you have to have a website, but that it makes little difference. Most voters don't visit.

In this once-a-generation election, no candidate is outstanding. That is odd for a few. First, Mike Ross is a long-time internet geek. He should have the best site but doesn't. He and Bill Walczak have the big, wide, deep visions for a new Boston; you'd expect great web tech to highlight that. Nah.

A few are predictably dull and even ho hum. Pirate radio king Charles Clemons, teacher David Wyatt and to a slightly lesser extent long-term City Councilor Charles Yancey are running vanity campaigns. None has much money nor has roused much interest. Yancey even is simultaneously re-running for Council. Their sites are bare, sparse and frankly ineffectual — no platform, no reason to vote for them, in Yancey's case little evidence he wants the mayoralty, and for all, not even a real campaign slogan.

There'll be more before the preliminary. I have calls out to other candidates. Meanwhile, I've done four interviews at Left Ahead. to hear their half-hour shows, click the candidates below: