Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tuesday Will Be Huge: Endorsements

Smearing the ovals is always important and even more so November 5, 2013. Obviously for Bostonians, choosing a new Mayor will likely set the new tone and agenda for 12, maybe even 20, years.

The City Council composition will change more than it has in memory. Going beyond the strong-Mayor/weak-Council cliché, we need only look at how much the Council has done beyond its statutory budget-approval power. We expect and demand much more than replacing toppled stop signs from the crew of 13.

This time, with four Councilors not running for reelection because they ran exclusively for Mayor, the change will be dramatic. I confess that I regret that Arroyo, Consalvo, Ross, and Connolly will be gone. Each has been active and brought his own visions and schemes.

I sometimes make light of their grandiloquent claims of being legislators. The archaic MA Home Rule system means that all municipalities here, even the biggest one, have to beg the commonwealth for any changes in governance and any plan to raise revenue. Yet if you look through the résumés on the Councilor pages at, you can see what each has accomplished. It's impressive and a good reason to consider Councilor votes carefully.

Only one district Councilor (Frank Baker in D3) is unopposed. The other incumbents should win reelection easily...except for do-nothing Bill Linehan (D2). There, Suzanne Lee, who almost unseated him two years ago and lost by only 97 votes, has a great chance of winning.

I'm not in that district and maybe shouldn't comment. She's a great progressive with a solid platform. Were I in D2, I'd vote for her.

Where I can vote is in my D5, for at-large Councilors and for Mayor.

  • District 5 Council. My preferred candidate, Mimi Turchinetz, just missed the runoff. Neither remaining, Tim McCarthy or Jean-Claude Sanon, excites me. Rob Consalvo was great on both constituent services and implementing improvements. I can't see either of the two coming to his level. However, McCarthy at least has done the services job for the Mayor for years. So he has the slight edge here. 
  • At-Large Council. You can pick up to four out of eight running. Two existing ones definitely need to return. Steve Murphy is the one all Councilors turn to with the can-we-afford-that questions. He knows money. Plus, he's been a worthy Council President for the past three years, keeping everyone on track and making sure the key discussions and votes happen. Ayanna Pressley is a strong social activist, particularly on issues for women and girls, including violence. Then I urge turning to, if you pardon that overworked term, new blood. Michell Wu has specific planks for jobs, education and safety and good credentials already. and Jeff Ross is a youngish lawyer with big social visions, oh, and he's comfortable saying he'd be the first openly gay Councilor. He'd be a good addition to help keep the Council acting for the right reasons as well as toward the right goals. We can't have too much of that. 

The Big One

Mayor. I wish I had the perfect candidate, someone I could get as excited about as Elizabeth Warren for US Senate. At least along with my research, stump-speech visits, and forum and debate attending and watching, I had the benefit of talking with both Marty Walsh and John Connolly at Left Ahead. In fact, I held off until the recent chats to make a final decision. Both are liberal-to-progressive sorts with good positions on nearly everything. Either should be a good Mayor.

Neither is a great orator (although Connolly has an edge in public speaking) nor a charismatic presence. Of course, our beloved Mayor Thomas Michael Menino was not and is not, not when running for D5 Council nor for Mayor. He both won again and again and again, and has done a fine job.

I ended up deciding to go with John Connolly for several key factors. Emotionally, I have been appalled at the calumnies against him, even at lefty joints I frequent, like BlueMassGroup. Five or six folk who post diaries or comments there have pounded him for months, with often false and even paranoid slanders. For example, he has long said and written that he was a former teacher for serving as such two years at a Jesuit middle school in NYC and the one year at a charter school back here. The anti-Connolly types repeated the lies that he claimed to be a career teacher and was thus a fraud. Instead, he said that those three years made such an impression that he has worked to improve schools for all and eagerly took on the arduous duties of the Council's education committee for four years. They, and amusingly enough those who comment on the Boston Herald site, also love the loony rap about his surely, absolutely (but without any evidence) brief career at Ropes & Gray as proof of something nefarious and terrible. In fact, his two-plus years there had him as a junior, a newbie, who really didn't get connected to big shots and others the slanderers irrationally hold that somehow must have happened. They have him as a 15-year "corporate lawyer," as a mark of shame. Both the time and duties are false. Also, his irresponsible accusers take him to task for "privilege," as in attending private prep school in Boston (even though Walsh did too), having graduated from Harvard and getting a BC law degree. By any local standards, all those things are traditionally virtues and suggest competence and smarts. Trying to twist them into insults is beyond silly.

Finally for Walsh, I really only have one serious problem with him and he hasn't been at all helpful here. He's had a life as a union leader, getting into it as naturally via his father as Connolly did via his Secretary of the Commonwealth dad. He's made many hundreds of thousands from union pol positions. I have been a union member and support unions strongly. However, Walsh's trust-me attitude sucks. He has tried repeatedly to get Beacon Hill to pass legislation that would mandate arbitration rulings on municipalities, as in taking away budget approval power from the Boston City Council. His response to questions about this, as in the recent Boston Police Patrolmen's award was to trust him. Trust him that the contracts would never get to an arbiter. Trust him that he'd be so on top of union issues that he'd work out a deal before a crisis. I can't do that. I've seen and known far too many politicians for far too long to accept just trust me. (I think of the POTUS an his spying and drones crap. I don't trust him on either.)

It is not a begrudging endorsement of Connolly. I ate their platforms repeatedly in the many ways they served them to me. Connolly has the edge on vision and path to his goals.

The Picks

  • Mayor John R. Connolly
  • At-LargeStephen J. Murphy, Ayanna S. Pressley, Michelle Wu, Jeffrey Michael Ross
  • D5 CouncilTimothy P. McCarthy

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peepers and Leapers in Boston Mayor's Race

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
        —Cassius in Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene II

Some peep. Some leap.

Local pols waited until the bet was not such a long shot, but a cluster have endorsed Marty Walsh for Mayor of Boston. Those have been City Councilors Tito Jackson and Felix Arroyo, State Reps Gloria Fox, Russell Holmes, Carlos Henriquez, Liz Malia and Dan Cullinane, State Senators Linda Dorcena Forry and Sonia Chang-Diaz and US Rep. Mike Capuano, and former mayoral preliminary also-rans John Barros and Charlotte Golar Richie.

That's the game, you might say, as Walsh's campaign has. Yet, perhaps as telling is who remain the peepers.

Sure enough, the Mayor here is a relative Colossus, at least in this burg and the Eastern third of the commonwealth. Also, under the past three in that office — White, Flynn and Menino, the power there has solidified and expanded even beyond the city charter. The peepers have reasons to, as the Greeks used to put it, kick not against the goads.

There are some likely surmises about the state and federal level endorsers, and the city ones separately. Certainly the State Reps and Senators are likely to have some doings with the new mayor. They may even want favors for their constituents that Walsh or Connolly could command or heavily influence. On the other hand, their reelection and advancement do not not depend on our City Hall. That's more so with Capuano. He's insulated from our Mayor's not-all-that-super powers. He's pumped the hand and slapped the back of another strong union advocate...not a sin in his district, not at all.

The two who didn't make the mayoral final and Arroyo have taken a bit of a gamble.Sure, they'd like to be behind the winner. There might be a solid, even cabinet-level job in it if they pick the right guy. For Golar Richie in particular, that has been her career — walking under Gov. Patrick and Mayor Menino figurative legs as important functionary. For his part, Arroyo is still very popular (just not as much as he had figured) and has a real record of achievement in Council. Jackson likewise remains beloved. He more than survived taking the still warm seat when Councilor Chuck Turner was sent to a WV prison. He fabulous attitude and solid Council performance insulate him. Barros, who knows? He has a confidence, even arrogance, that suggests he'll bull his way into a good position even if it's not in City Hall.

Beyond them, most local pols are sitting this out. They have the disadvantage of no prohibitive favorite. Connolly had a narrow lead going into the preliminary, according to numerous polls, but Walsh topped the ticket, albeit by only 18.47% to 17.22% of the total out of the 12 candidates. It was still a win for both of them, a little more so for Walsh. I'm sure he'd be delighted to finish with 1.25% more of the vote than Connolly on Nov. 5th.

A few respected influencers have said up front that they are sitting this one out. Councilor Ayanna Pressley is likely most notable. She has a big base, including in the various Latino and black neighborhoods and subneighborhoods. She's in the at-large reelection campaign and has remained uncommitted. For someone who surely has higher office in her future, and in her mind, that is savvy.

One might expect Council President Steve Murphy to speak up. One would expect vainly. Murphy has been President for three terms. It's probably someone else's turn, but he nevertheless is also wise not to kick against either the Connolly or Walsh goad, lest he make an enemy of the new Mayor.

Supposedly Menino has been nudging donors and political influencers, very quietly, to support Connolly. He seems to be legacy driven and part of that appears to be holding to his promise to stay (at least publicly) neutral.

Barring the unlikely Halloween-week shocker that suddenly makes one candidate or the other the certain winner, I don't expect any meaningful new endorsements. Walsh filled his dance card and Connolly did not.

Similarly but to probably less effectiveness, Connolly has been more personable, smarter and rational during the televised debates. Neither guy is a Bill Clinton-level orator, but Connolly has skunked Walsh in the first two. Fortunately for him, viewers levels have been low, particularly for the first one, which was up against a Red Sox-Tigers championship game.

There's one more, next Tuesday. Even if the Series goes beyond four games, there won't be one that evening. While it is only a week before the final election, there's no reason to suppose a large number of the 19% who say they are undecided will watch. The rest of us probably have immutable decisions.

Who Do You Trust?

When I was a kid, Johnny Carson was the host of a TV program Who Do You Trust? Therein, a hubby would have to decide upon hearing a question category whether he'd gamble on his wife's answer or trust his own.

Here and now, we have to consider which of these two progressive sorts we believe. Again, in Walsh's favor, the televised debates are not popular. A knock against him is that as a long-term, highly paid union official, he would give away the coffers in contract deals. His comeback is that he knows how to negotiate after decades of doing it, therefore he can tell union reps what is and isn't possible, and they'll be reasonable. His efforts as a legislator to make contract arbitration binding on municipalities by law undercut that contention seriously.

The knock on Connolly is vague and two-elbowed. He says incessantly that he taught school for three years between graduating and entering law school, seminal years that informed his public concerns and policy. Stressing that and his Councilor experience, he underplays a few years as a junior (non-senior/non-partner) at two big law firms and a founding partner in a much smaller one. Critics and cynics say without evidence that he claims to be a career teacher and that there just has to be something terribly damning in the list of clients he represented. He does not discuss the clients, claiming to protect confidentiality.

One more time, it's good for Walsh that the debates don't earn many eyes. He comes across as evasive addressing any thorny question. So, for him, it comes down to do the few viewers believe he'd be able to stifle decades of pro-union experience, as he very strongly swears he would?

Likewise, for Connolly, does his easy manner and frequent grin lead you to trust him or make you think that you don't know what it is, but he must be hiding something?

Muddy Sprint

Two weeks to go and we know a few things. One is that the two campaigns and their outside supporters will certainly pay for mailed and broadcast ads. Experience so far suggest that both campaigns and Connolly's supporters will keep their messages positive and focused on their candidate and his views. Alas, if very recent evidence holds, Walsh's outsiders will remain dirty and get nastier. I am pretty sure that will turn off more voters than it brings to their guy.

Both candidates are convinced that the ground game will make the difference. They both have enough money for ads and both have solid political organizations to get out the vote. I'm with them in thinking that neither the debates nor the endorsements will settle this.

If you haven't gotten enough of the race and the duo, you can catch their chats with me on Left Ahead.

I really love this stuff and am going to miss it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boston Mayor Final, Thing 1, Thing 2

Here in Boston, we're loving choosing a new mayor after 20 years of a good, beloved one. As much as some locals like to brag about how dirty and nasty local politics are, the relatively polite preliminary and final, dealing mostly with concepts and issues, has been refreshing. We could get used to this.

Following a dozen candidates for mayor and interviewing many of them was like a real job, and confusing. I even ended up in an uncharacteristically personal live reasoning about whom to vote for in the preliminary. That was far more revealing and extroverted than I typically am. That was raise-the-glass stuff, the origin of symposium.

We ended up with two solid progressives for the final on November 5th. Either would make a good or maybe very good mayor. That's fabulous to have such a choice.

Over at Left Ahead, I chatted with the finalists, Marty Walsh and John Connolly. As a disclaimer, Walsh is only a casual acquaintance. Connolly is what Stephen Colbert refers to as "a friend of the show," having been on LA numerous times.

Below are players for the interviews. Walsh is on top and a half hour. Connolly was today's. He was between events and gave me 17 minutes, starting at 8:30 minutes in.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Boston Pol Pitches Keep Coming

What are we politics addicts to do on November 6th? Careering from one event to another has been the norm for many months. This morning it was a cluster event, slightly modified. 
The informal Harry S Truman Society here has long held a meal and then an election-eve rally. For this year's municipal, they combined it at the West Roxbury Pub, under the aegis of City Councilor Matt (everyone's favorite ginger) O'Malley. Ostensibly, everyone running for the final was to show up and nearly all did. 
Seven of the eight at-large Councilor candidates appeared and spoke. Martin Keogh's dad died a couple of days ago, Matt noted. Neither of the mayoral finalists did (probably a boneheaded decision considering 150 or or so hardcore voters in the pub). One of the two District 5 Councilor candidates (Rob Consalvo replacement), Tim McCarthy, was there, Jean Claude Sanon was not. One candidate for next year's gubernatorial race showed.
This was a tasting menu of pols. Each person got up to three minutes, under the eye of a timer, one who actually enforced the sked. So we got truncated stump speeches. Oh, and the tables were heaped with lit.
Pix notes: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.I apologize for the grainy images. The lighting was bad and I brought my lesser camera. The pic below of Steve Murphy is not from the even because I didn't get even a remotely OK shot. 
License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

Ever sincere, O'Malley got into his goals and accomplishments before asking for reelection as District 6 Councilor. Millennium Park (we all call it Mt. Menino) will get more jock fields and be "the premier destination for athletes" and Billings Field will get a tot lot. His office did over 600 constituent services cases. He was at his best though blending humility with all that, as "the former skinny red head kid who used to bag your groceries (and who) gets to be your voice in City Hall."

Joe Avellone is running for governor in 2014. He's an oddity in our political world, as surgeon, Naval Reservist, and health company founder and CEO. He said the #1 issue here is jobs, which he promises to create in every region. His was a teaser speech and he promises much more over the next year.
He's back. Former Councilor and a candidate for mayor last time, Michael Flaherty pitched his experience at the job. He said he'd be ready to jump right back in as at-large Councilor. He spoke of education and wants a year 13 of school to prime BPS grads for college. As it is, he said, if they don't get into an exam school, they're lucky to qualify for a community college. He also wants treatment on demand for both kids and adults. Finally, he went with the tangible; "my hope is that we'll have snow melters," instead of "touching each snowflake five time."  He looked good, sounded confident and competent. 

Annisssa Essaibi-George was one of the two sports-oriented candidates for at-large Councilor. While she is a BPS teacher, mom of kids in schools, and a knitting-shop owner, she used most of her minutes to talk about her kids' hockey and other sports. She did say her election would let her "sit at the big-kids' table" to help better the school system. 
Michelle Wu said exactly the right thing to me. She brought up my rambling and uncharacteristic Left Ahead podcast in which I figured out my endorsements for the preliminary in real time. She apparently listened to the half hour. She was both candid and smart, also sweet, commenting about her parents immigrating from Taiwan for better lives for their children and her mother developing and coping with mental issues. She tied it all back into how government has a role in such crises and how she became the de facto BPS parent for her younger sisters. She is a real package and reinforced my endorsement. 

Luis Valerio won the handout award; his was the fanciest and most heavily coated. English is very obviously not his first language and his presentation here and what I have seen on TV suffer. He stressed adult ed, like using schools in evenings to advance adults, like Brookline and Newton do. He says he'll be "the voice of the parents of West Roxbury residents in City Hall."
Jeff Ross made passing mention that he'd be the first openly gay Councilor. He spoke of progressive goals — uplifting Boston's impoverished, universal pre-K, early childhood evaluation to ensure equal opportunity, and leveraging the city's money with banks that lend locally. 

If I could hand out awards, Ayanna Pressley would get the Best Speaker. She was burning and reminded me of my Southern roots. She spoke powerfully of transcending neighborhoods and the benefits of diversity of thought on Council. "I champion these issues not only out of moral imperative but because they have economic effects," she said. She noted she had "led the charge" on issues like violence against women," adding that "an oracle didn't whisper that in my ear. You did." Great stuff.
My neighbor and friend Steve Murphy was his charming and casual self. He's president of the Council and the guy who understands money and budgets like no one else. He did mention his work on PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) that will bring in $50 million extra from non-profits by 2018. His main thrust though was the great working relationship the Council and Mayor have had. The city is strong "because we have worked together and partnered," he said. 

Jack Kelly, also for at-large Council, seems still in his mind to be captain of the Matignon High hockey team. That was 14 years ago, but he riled the locals talking about how his team beat CM a few times. I suspect he turned off far more local parochial-grads than he interested. 
This is not the first time I saw Tim McCarthy in action. He was on his game for this and is likely the new District 5 Councilor to be. This time he was positively literary in his eloquence. He spoke of what you'd see if you looked out your front door. If you were happy with the mundane issues (safety, services and such), "that's what keeps people here." Then, if we have happy, dedicated residents, "the bigger things we can address." He's done constituent services for the Mayor for a long time and seems more than ready to replace Consalvo.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Joisey Justice, Marriage Edition

Looks like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has hitched his wagon to a manure truck. We all figure he'll go for the 2016 GOP POTUS nomination, but he keeps returning to the anti-gay stance. That's not likely to wow his wingers and sure as hell won't cut it with the larger electorate.

With NJ courts mandating marriage equality, he has insisted repeatedly that each level through the state supreme court rule on at least a stay of the beginning of intertwined love. Lose. Lose. Lose. Today, the highest court there said no stay, and went on to chide him that if he continues in such lunacy with a full and formal appeal to lower courts' rulings that he's not likely to prevail.

So it's a huge honking L on the big guy's head.

What calculus brings a supposedly smart fellow to figure that if he only bucks national opinion, if he only turns bigot when the nation has gone the other way, that he'll benefit.

Go figure, Chris. Dumb.

Saturday update: New-elected Sen. Corey Booker is ready to perform marriages again. In his authority as Newark mayor, he had refused to do that until his state had marriage equality. It does and he will officiate gay and straight ones.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maybe Mayors Nudge It Out

The Sox won tonight 1 to 0, which was about the score for the first of four John Connolly v. Marty Walsh debates. The latter needs to up his game.

The vid will surely be up by tomorrow on WBZ and the Globe. If you track it down, you won't be rewarded with the best hour spent.

Neither candidate is charismatic and both are out of practice in one-on-one debates, but Connolly tromped all over Walsh. John was occasionally smarmy and Walsh too often dour.

On the plus side, neither was catty or dishonest. Neither slandered the other and the digs were subtle enough to pass without pissing off anyone. There was no class warfare and neither ridiculed the other for his upbringing.

Connolly was clearly the more comfortable. This probably related more to their personalities. Walsh is super sincere and does not exhibit the compassion those who know him speak of constantly. Instead, he seemed hesitant and on numerous questions when given the last chance for a brief rebuttal said to just move on. He didn't play the game this time. Maybe he'll do better in the next three debates.

Interestingly enough, Connolly was quick to refer to his three years teaching school. That could well have been an opening for a nastier opponent. On various websites, pro-teachers-union and other comment leavers deride Connolly's two years in an NYC Jesuit school, working only for room, board, and a $200-a-month stipend, then a year in a non-district charter school in Boston has not really teaching. That's loony, partisan talk, but one easy flank of attack, one that would be hard to argue succinctly.

To his credit, Walsh did not take that low road.

Connolly in contrast was snarkier a few times. Walsh left this opening much as Connolly's teacher gambit with referring several times to this or that piece of legislation he voted in favor of (not that he sponsored), as though a vote gave his full credit for any benefit. On his turns, Connolly said that Beacon Hill failed Boston in this way or that, as a minor slap.

The only big assault came twice when Connolly drew attention to Walsh's amendments to bills that would make public-sector union contract arbitration binding on municipalities. He was able to claim that this might could Boston $200 million by taking the right of the City Council to vote down bad arbitration awards. Lackaday, Walsh let those pass, saying weakly and without comment that this wasn't really what his amendments meant. Instead, he had a spongy promise that the contract would never get to arbitration under his mayoralty. Harrumph.

Moreover, Connolly was not shy about race and culture. Even though Walsh recently got endorsements of three preliminary opponents — two African-American and one Latino — Connolly was savvy enough to cite several instances where he co-sponsored what Councilors call legislation with a leading black figure, Councilor Ayanna Pressley. If you came in ignorant, you'd have left figuring Connolly was in with the black voters.

A fair criticism of Connolly's platform has been that it was shorter on details than Walsh's. Tonight, Walsh should have taken that directly to Connolly, being very specific and identifying vagueness in the latter's planks.

The good news for Bostonians is that these are two progressive sorts. They have a great deal of goals in common. Either would be a worthy successor to Tom Menino.

For the voters who watched the debate instead of hanging in to make sure the Sox went up 2-1 over the Tigers, they saw an insipid and unsure Walsh against an occasionally smug Connolly.

So 25% of debates done and done. This was Connolly's night. We have to ask first how important these clashes will be and second whether Walsh's team will point him in the right direction.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Marty Walsh Talks Boston Final

Maybe in the larger world Boston stuff is small beer. Around here though, folk can't stop talking Red Sox and even more, the race for the first new Mayor in 20 years. Left Ahead's net-radio/podcast show is doing its part.

Yesterday, one of the two finalists in next month's final election was on the show. Martin J. (Marty) Walsh spoke about the race for half an hour. Click the arrow below to hear his show. Go to the Left Ahead site for a recap and useful links.

Next week, John Connolly comes on Left Ahead, Tuesday, October 15, at 2:30 PM Eastern.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Screamin' at the Demons

Our duty includes loudly and iteratively calling BS on those whose propaganda includes absolving Congressional Republicans for this shutdown. Friends, coworkers, relatives...all..who make the error of raising the shutdown and even pending debt-ceiling/default conversation, need to have their heads aligned properly. Do that for yourself, for them, and for the nation.

I have my own rant about this. It's only 18 minutes, a relative bargain over the usual 30 to 40-minute Left Ahead podcast. There can be no quarter. Click below to hear my rant.

Decades ago, my wife worked for the sixth-and-seventh grade Scholastic weekly newspaper, NewsTime. The staff had to running jibes at upper management's fake equivalence. One was that no matter what the trend was, you'd avoid analyzing the underpinnings with the suffix On The Move. For example, for The Longest Walk, the heads were Indians on the Move.

The other was more invasive and pervasive. Writers and editors were never to take a position. The fantasy was that there were exactly two sides to any story. The yin-yang trope was such that if you said this is one side's position, you had to immediately give as much space and weight to a differing view. You then never, ever took a side or made a conclusion.

This is not a middle-school, amoral, unthinking issue. The House GOP have goofed up democracy, the economy and their constitutional duties hugely. There is no pretense of both sides deserving equal blame. I ranted already about this. See above.

Please do the same.