Monday, September 28, 2009

City Council President Mike Ross At Moxie

City Council President Mike Ross addresses supporters at Moxie on Charles Street.
Beacon Hill, Boston
September 23, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why Mayor Menino Won Boston's Ward 5

A year ago, I noticed that City Councilor Michael Flaherty showed up at Sonia Chang-Diaz's victory party in Jamaica Plain. Chang-Diaz had just defeated sitting State Senator Dianne Wilkerson in the state primary, and Flaherty wanted to pass on his congratulations.

No doubt, however, Flaherty wanted to catch a feeling of the wave that Chang-Diaz had created to deliver the upset. Just a few months later Flaherty would announce he hoped to become Mayor, challenging a 16-year incumbent. What could he learn from Chang-Diaz's win (Wilkerson had also been in office for several terms) and perhaps more importantly, how could he win favor with the same group that backed the challenger?

City Councilor Sam Yoon was not at the victory party, however I am sure the Chang-Diaz phenomenon also partially motivated his decision this year to jump into the Mayoral race.

Chang-Diaz, after all, exemplified what Flaherty and Yoon hoped to do. They wanted to unseat an incumbent who had been in office for a long time. They wanted to ride the wave of change.

Chang-Diaz did extremely well in my neighborhood of Beacon Hill, and in the other neighborhoods that comprise Ward 5--- Back Bay, Fenway and Bay Village. She won more than 70-percent of the vote across the ward. For Sam Yoon, in particular, such results were critical to his hopes. If he could replicate what Chang-Diaz did, one figured, Yoon would have a shot. Especially since conventional wisdom said the socioeconomic realities of Ward 5 were inclined to favor Yoon.

Of course, there were three challengers running this past Tuesday, so emulating Chang-Diaz's mark stood as a pretty lofty goal for Yoon. Still, he didn't even come close. In fact, he lost Ward 5 to the incumbent Mayor by nearly six percent.

Looking at the precinct level results within Ward 5 doesn't provide much solace to the Yoon camp. The Mayor won the Beacon Hill/Back Bay area of the Ward (arguably one center of Yoon's base). By comparison, Chang-Diaz picked up more than 80-percent of the vote in certain Back Bay precincts last year.

So why did the Mayor win Ward 5? Why didn't those Chang-Diaz voters flock to Sam Yoon en mass? Certainly no two elections are the same, and this year's Mayoral contest is very different from last year's state senate race.

Boston is a world-renown city. It has its problems, but on the whole, residents I have spoken to in Ward 5 are happy with where Boston is right now and are proud to live here.

The Mayor has made some very difficult decisions. On his reasons, he doesn't equivocate. I think voters appreciate that in a Mayor.

The Mayor is mindful of the city's finances. Boston has the highest bond rating in its history. A sound financial stance actually resonates with residents in Ward 5. Yoon's comment that he doesn't think bond ratings are important did not go over well.

Finally, last year's state senate race was marred by a variety of past ethical accusations against the incumbent. Chang-Diaz ran on the message that voters should not have to sacrifice ethics for progressive leadership. The message resonated. This year, in the case of the Mayor, the incumbent's administration is free from any such accusations. People will note certain traits of his personality, but the bottom line is the Mayor has never been the subject of any sort of investigation.

The other bottom line is the city of Boston is doing fine, and the Mayor has good ideas for moving the city forward. And for the plurality of voters in Ward 5 who came to the polls Tuesday, that reasoning for the Mayor was good enough.

Editor's Note: I am a supporter of Mayor Menino's and am volunteering for his campaign team. Last year, I volunteered for Sonia Chang-Diaz's campaign team.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lots of Friendly Faces

The big neighborhood day on Beacon Hill is off to a great start, with a nice crowd at the Hill House pancake breakfast, which was held at the Firehouse on Mt. Vernon. Many of Beacon Hill's families filed their way through. City Councilor John Connolly also paid a visit.

City Councilor John Connolly (right) with Hill House Executive Director David Beardsley
Firehouse on Beacon Hill, Boston
September 20, 2009

I admit I had two portions of pancakes and bacon, so I made sure to double my donation.

There's quite a bit of activity on Mt. Vernon Street outside the Firehouse, as preparations have begun for the Beacon Hill Civic Association block party. Given the weather is stupendous on this late Summer day, I think there's going to be a very nice crowd.

Among the tables, I saw the Friends of the Myrtle Street Playground setting up a clothing sale. There's also a makeshift used-book sale near the corner of Mt. Vernon and Charles Streets.

Anna's Taqueria is supplying the food for the block party; the beer is from Harpoon. How can you beat that?

The Firehouse on a Perfect Late Summer Morning
Beacon Hill, Boston
September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Mission Hill Road Race

Nothing like a nice 3.2 mile run to start off the weekend. I joined a few hundred others who ran the Mission Hill Road Race this morning. I accomplished my two goals-- I finished; and I didn't hurt myself.

Part of Team Menino at the Mission Hill Road Race (I am in the center)
Outside Kevin Fitzgerald Park, Mission Hill, Boston
September 19, 2009

Big Neighborhood Weekend in Boston!

It's the weekend before the preliminary local elections in Boston, and fittingly, it's a two-day stretch crowded with neighborhood events.

This morning I am running (yes, you read that right) the Mission Hill Road Race, a 5K that starts and finishes mere feet from the church that hosted Senator Ted Kennedy's funeral a few weeks back.

Tomorrow, I am attending a series of events in my neighborhood of Beacon Hill. The Hill House Community Center is running a benefit pancake breakfast at the firehouse on Mt. Vernon Street. Then I am visiting the Beacon Hill Block Party, run by the Beacon Hill Civic Association, which starts at 1 p.m. right in front of the firehouse (it's a 1/4 block from the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Charles streets on Beacon Hill).

I will try to post images, etc. here. The weather is going to be very nice, so it should be a great weekend.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Endorsements: John Connolly and Ayanna Pressley

It's a big weekend for local politics in Boston. Tuesday is the preliminary election, when Boston voters will go to the polls. On the ballot will be four candidates for Mayor and 15 candidates for four at-large Boston City Council seats.

I have already stated on this blog that I am voting for Mayor Menino and have been volunteering to help his re-election bid. I was hoping, tonight, to outline the four votes I will cast for Boston City Council at-large seats. However, I have only made up my mind about two of my four votes. The other two, frankly, might come down to the wire.

In truth, there are so many good candidates in the Boston City Council race. For the record, here are two that I will be voting for on Tuesday:

John Connolly
Councilor Connolly is one of the hardest working elected officials I have ever met. I got that impression when I first shook his hand four years ago, when he was unsuccessful in his first race for city council (I voted for him then, too).

Councilor Connolly understands well one of my biggest concerns about the City of Boston. Numerous younger families are leaving the city because they don't trust the Boston Public School system, and they can't afford private school. At the Ward 4/5 City Council forum earlier this year, Councilor Connolly had the absolute best answer about education. He is on board with experimenting, and he is on board with giving teachers the flexibility to do their jobs.

Ayanna Pressley
How can you not fall in love with Ayanna Pressley's story? A native of Chicago, she was raised by her mother, as her father spent her younger years incarcerated. She moved to Boston to go to college, but she dropped out to work full-time after her family fell on hard times. She worked her way in public policy as a staffer for Congressman Joe Kennedy and Senator John Kerry.

Ayanna is a young, smart, and sharp community-action oriented person, and her neighborhood focus is vital in Boston-- arguably a city of several distinct neighborhoods. It was bittersweet when Ayanna moved out of Ward 5-- where she was a Democratic Committee member-- to buy a home in Dorchester. I am thrilled she's running and am eager to vote for her on Tuesday.

So that's it for now. No doubt I will get to speak to many of the candidates running on Tuesday over the weekend, as I am spending the entire two days in Boston. I am in Mission Hill tomorrow for the Mission Hill road race. Sunday is a huge day for my neighborhood of Beacon Hill, with activities all day-- culminating with the annual Beacon Hill Civic Association block party, one of my favorite events of the year.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Boston Globe Goes Fishing: Gets Little for Dinner

The Boston Globe today published an investigative piece that evaluated emails sent by staffers of Mayor Menino to determine if they cross the line between being civic and being political. After what the Globe admits was an expensive effort, the reporters didn't uncover much.

One staffer sent an innocent email to a friend who decided to support one of the Mayor's opponents in the election. Another staffer sent a note offering women's basketball tickets from the Mayor to community children's groups in the city. Another admitted he paid attention to those who had contributed to a competitive effort.

This is not exactly Watergate stuff (and while I am not a lawyer, I don't think any of it is illegal). I appreciate the Globe's commitment to investigative reporting, but I think everyone out there should keep the discoveries in context.

The Globe hints to an underlying theme-- also pushed by the Mayor's opponents-- that many of the Mayor's most ardent supporters on the campaign trail also work for City Hall. Which to me brings up a basic point: Should it surprise anyone that people who work for the Mayor think he's a good guy and that he should be re-elected? I actually would be quite concerned if they decided NOT to work for the Mayor's re-election efforts.

While I work in the private sector now, I remember interning for Vice President Gore in 1996. I remember that the interns often volunteered to help with the Clinton/Gore re-election campaign that year. I remember being upset when I heard of friends who were supporting Senator Bob Dole. I was working so hard for my candidate, I couldn't help but take it personally.

I also remember that one of my fellow interns, Ryan Hart, was thrown into an effort to help save his own position shortly after he started. USAID, where he interned, found itself on the chopping block in budgeting negotiations. Ryan hadn't even interned for a week, and yet he was stressing the successes of USAID while we watched TV at night. For employees in Boston's City Hall, who themselves will likely have to change jobs if the Mayor loses this campaign season, it should not be a shock to anyone that they work long hours during volunteer time to support the Mayor's campaign.

If there's one part of the Globe story that I can attest to first hand, and which cannot be overstated, it's this:

"The liaisons, who make an average of $37,000 annually, are known as some of the hardest-working employees at City Hall and many residents give them high marks for helping them take care of everything from unplowed and trash-strewn streets to finding new housing after a fire or securing a permit for a block party."

As I have pointed out before, the tireless efforts of the Mayor's staffers are collectively one of the main reasons he has my vote. Given that they are young, the sad commentary here is the Boston Globe has decided to investigate a group of 20-somethings whose only fault is they work their butts off for their boss, during public and private time.

And speaking of my vote, I am looking forward to casting it for the Mayor tomorrow night, when the Ward 5 Democratic Committee meets to consider an endorsement in the race.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Should be Interesting

Get ready for a number of posts about the upcoming Boston municipal elections...

As a member of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee, I received this email today:

Committee members and friends:

REMINDER - Please note that on Monday, September 14, 2009, the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee will be sponsoring a "Mayoral Candidates Forum" for those candidates running for Boston City Mayor. The Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee will be co-sponsoring the event. Beginning at 7:00 pm, there will be an opportunity to "meet and greet" the candidates. At 7:30 pm, the Mayoral Candidates Forum will begin promptly, and last precisely one hour.

The Mayoral Candidates Forum will be held at the Boston Architectural College, 320 Newbury Street, Back Bay, Boston (on the corner of Newbury and Hereford Streets), on the second floor. David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix will be moderating the event.

Please note that immediately after the conclusion of the forum, the eligible members of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee will be voting on whether to endorse any of the mayoral candidates for election. Those members of the committee who are not eligible to participate in the endorsement vote will be separately contacted.

This will be a great event - I hope that you can all make it! Thanks.
Rob Whitney
Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee