Saturday, July 26, 2008

Endorsement: Sonia Chang-Diaz

In 2006 I voted for Sonia Chang-Diaz because I could not understand how an incumbent State Senator could forget to put herself on the ballot for reelection.

This year, I am voting for Sonia Chang-Diaz because I think she is the better candidate.

Two years ago, I did not know much of what I wanted from my State Senator. The 2006 election for the MA 2nd Suffolk Senate seat was a bit of a circus. Since no Democrat had filed signatures to be on the ballot, the only way to vote was to write in for a candidate. I arrived at the voting booth in September 2006 for the primary with six stickers in my hand, each with Sonia Chang-Diaz's name on it. It took three of them for me to actually vote according to the directions (the stickers didn't quite fit, and I was panicked if it wasn't perfect, my vote would not count).

We all have had two years to learn more about Sonia Chang-Diaz, and it is now clear that her views and priorities match mine more closely than her opponent's.

To me, priority number one for state-level officials is to build our Boston communities by encouraging young families to stay and establish themselves. Just last night I attended a going away celebration for two good friends and neighbors that are leaving Boston. It reminded me of the numerous other friends who have already left; in fact, it's pretty much conventional wisdom that when you graduate from a Boston-area school, you only stay in the city until you get married. After that, there's no way to afford being here.

The issue of Boston young professional flight is hard to solve, and I don't profess to have a good set of answers. But education is a good place to start. The education system in Boston is in continual need of attention and out-of-box thinking. Education is priority number one for Sonia Chang-Diaz.

As the son of a former elementary school teacher who taught me Kindergarten, I support any creative approach to improving Boston's schools. Education is one of the primary reasons why young families stay or leave.

I look forward to Sonia Chang-Diaz's leadership on education, and I desperately anticipate her participation on the Storrow Drive Tunnel issue. The Storrow Drive Tunnel (and the Longfellow Bridge, for that matter) is in critical need of restoration. The State is currently performing preliminary repairs to the tunnel, but they are nowhere near the level of work required. Planning to fix the tunnel will be a sticky mess. An attempt by the State to usher a public process last year that would address the traffic and community impact of the repair (not to mention what the tunnel would look like after the work is done) fell apart. For Beacon Hill and in my opinion, the Storrow Drive Tunnel will be the number one public issue facing my next State Senator during the early part of the next term.

Much of what I expect of my State Senator for public process issues, such as the tunnel, is to be present. The Chang-Diaz campaign told me this week to expect that Sonia will be an active listener, and will coordinate closely with my State Representative, Marty Waltz. This participation will be very important. The State has indicated that the current preliminary work will be complete by early next year, when the public process for the larger Tunnel refurbishment will start over.

If there is one opinion that I hope Sonia Chang-Diaz will adopt from her opponent, it is strong opposition to the prospect of casinos in Massachusetts. As so many have said, the proposal by Governor Patrick to build casinos is short-sighted. It lacks creativity and frankly is a band-aid to fix the budget issues-- not a long-term solution. (As someone who grew up near two casinos in southeastern Massachusetts, I am not a fan of them.) We should demand that the Governor look for other approaches that solve the budget crisis in a more fundamental way. It's easy to be negative; and I profess I don't have an answer to this problem either, but I think we can do better than building casinos.

Sonia Chang-Diaz has been very visible on the campaign trail. It appears she wants to meet every single voter at least twice during this campaign. I admire her dedication, and I have no doubt she will be just as visible when she is elected. I can't wait to work with her to rectify the issues that concern me and my neighborhood.

I will be voting for Sonia Chang-Diaz in the Massachusetts State Primary, scheduled for September 16.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Going to Denver

I will be in Denver from August 26-29 for the Democratic National Convention as a spectator. I am hoping to see Senator Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Importance of Political Operatives

In 2005 I volunteered for Mayor Tom Menino's re-election campaign (I am a big fan of the Mayor's). I was asked to hold a sign for him outside the State House polling location on Beacon Hill in Boston. In the morning, I met up with another volunteer. I won't mention his name here, but suffice it to say he had experience in previous campaigns, doing far more than just holding signs. I wondered out loud how many voters I could influence for the few hours I would be volunteering.

"Every little thing counts," he responded. "It all makes a difference."

I was reminded of that story while reading a fantastic article in last week's New Yorker Magazine (the issue with the controversial cover depicting Barack Obama as a terrorist). The story talked about Obama's roots in politics within the Chicago political independent movement. His first race was for State Senate, and he ran to replace Alice Palmer, who had decided to run for Congress.

Even as a young politician, Obama was an astute political observer. He knew his chances would be greatly advanced by earning the endorsement of Palmer and other Chicago politicians located near his home in Hyde Park. These endorsements were important for the volunteers they brought.

The story focused for a small part on two ardent supporters of Alice Palmer, Alan Dobry and his wife Lois Friedberg-Dobry. When Palmer endorsed Obama, the Dobry's instantly began the process of campaigning for Barack. Palmer's supporters and rallied around her self-appointed successor. And Palmer's operators-- the people who took care of the details of her campaigns-- worked for Obama.

Politics in many ways is about processes. Getting on the ballot by asking for signatures. Phone banking to identify strong supporters. Door knocking to further the voter ID process. Holding signs for visibility. There are these processes and then the processes for managing these processes. And all have their place in campaigns and politics.

Barack Obama would not be a candidate for the presidency today if it were not for the Dobry's and many others like them-- the operators who made sure Obama won his first election.

Further, to many others out there, like me, who hold signs and collect signatures for other candidates, we must never forget that the candidates we support have to start somewhere. Heck, one of them could become a presidential candidate.

NOTE: Story Reference: "Making It," The New Yorker Magazine, July 21, 2008, by Ryan Lizza.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Independence Week

Levanto Beach Cottage
Point O' Woods Beach
South Lyme, Conn.
July 4, 2008

Embedded Yankee Fan

It is tough to be a Yankees fan in Boston, though I am convinced the ranks of Yankee fans here is significant. I have met many baseball watchers who have, after a minute or two of idle chatter, thrown out the unsolicited statement, "Well, sometimes you meet people whose team allegiances are upsetting." When combined with a gentle nod, that's typically code for admitting one is a fan of the Bronx Bombers.

Yankees fans in Boston are in hiding. I own about a half dozen Yankees hats, and yet I never wear them. I own one piece of Red Sox attire: A Red Sox sweatshirt I bought at Fenway Park during an April game rain delay when it was cold and wet. I had to buy it or I would have frozen. The shirt now has a big coffee stain running down the middle.

I am often called a wimp by Red Sox fans, usually female ones, because I don't wear Yankees attire around town. I can only say that as a male Yankees fan, sporting Yankees attire is dangerous. Just last week I read about how a man from Cape Cod beat up the father of family in a car with New York plates simply because he assumed the family was a group of Yankee fans. Walking down a Beacon Hill street with my Derek Jeter shirt on doesn't seem wise.

For the big games in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, like game seven of the 2003 ALCS when Aaron (Bleeping) Boone hit the winning homerun for the bombers, I usually go to an "undisclosed location": The home of a fellow Yankees fan somewhere in the city. I would imagine there are similar safe houses throughout the town. Even though my friends ask, I have never said where mine is located.

Given all this, I like going to Connecticut to my family's beach cottage in the summer, because it means I can wear my Yankees gear. Last week was July 4th weekend, and during the family weekend festivities I sported my new hat.

Essex Landing

Essex, Conn.
July 5, 2008

At the beach, Point ‘O Woods in Old Lyme, there is a nice mix of Yankees and Red Sox fans. One regular beach goer brings with him a portable radio and gives me updates from the Yankees broadcast. It turns out his cottage is right down the street from ours.

It's gotten a tad easer to be a Yankees fan in Boston since the Red Sox won the World Series twice. The first World Series win was kind of like releasing a pressure cooker. When people would find out I was a Yankee fan, they would offer to buy me a beer, as opposed to before, when they would demand I buy theirs.

The ironic part is I don't hate the Red Sox. I love Fenway Park, and I have a lot of respect for many of the Red Sox players (as a former Little League catcher, Jason Varitek is probably my favorite). It was fun to see the Red Sox win the World Series, it just stunk that they had to beat the Yankees to get there.

It takes me less time now (versus before the Red Sox won the World Series) to admit to new friends that I am a Yankees fan. The reaction has varied over time. One female friend responded with: "I am going to need some time to think about this," while generally people simply shriek in horror and then come up with some all-knowing comment, like "You know, I noticed you never wear Red Sox attire."

Every year I spend 180 dollars to order the Comcast cable package allowing me to view as many Yankees games as I can. So don't worry Red Sox fans, my living in Boston and being a Yankees follower causes all sorts of pains, financially or otherwise.

P.S. Don’t worry, I am a Patriots fan.

Maria Friswell (Nana)
Essex, Conn.
July 5, 2008

Note: I took the photo above of my maternal grandmother at a picnic last week.