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.

5 comments:

stone's throw said...

Of course the residents of Ward 5 are happy with the current direction of the City -- they live in BEACON HILL!!!! What's to complain about?

It's the rest of the City - the reality of the City - those people living in Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury who need something more - something better. They have been brainwashed into believing that the Mayor is their meal ticket - no one else in office would take care of them like he does. But in reality, the bar has just been set so low, it's lulled everyone into a pathetic state of complacency. This was the first time anyone had the chance to expect more from their leader, but once again the machine flipped on to lull everyone back into submission. How sad.

shirley kressel said...

Ross, why do you say that Tom Menino is free from ethical accusations? Even the Boston Globe, which has given him a free pass for so many years, has awoken from its slumbers. McCrea raised several issues related to public land sales, tax breaks, liquor licensing and development permitting. Cronyism and nepotism have been documented. And e-mail-gate is just starting.

Corruption is a broad concept, generally encompassing the subversion of fair and honest services and the betrayal of public trust. These are what hurt the citizens, whether or not cash is put into underwear.

shirley kressel said...

Ross, why do you say that Tom Menino is free from ethical accusations? Even the Boston Globe, which has given him a free pass for so many years, has awoken from its slumbers. McCrea raised several issues related to public land sales, tax breaks, liquor licensing and development permitting. Cronyism and nepotism have been documented. And e-mail-gate is just starting.

Corruption is a broad concept, generally encompassing the subversion of fair and honest services and the betrayal of public trust. These are what hurt the citizens, whether or not cash is put into underwear.

ksb said...

There's a big difference between accusations that stem from unfounded rumors and actual wrong-doings. As a resident of Boston, I think the Mayor and his administration have been incredibly transparent and honest throughout their tenure. It's easy to sensationalize 'non-issues' in media outlets and portray them as missteps without explanation.

On another note, I've lived in Jamaica Plain for 23 years (my entire life) and since I was 6, I've lived near Franklin Park/Egleston Sq. This is an area no one used to want to live in, it was deemed unsafe, run-down, etc. Since I've been there (about the same period of time Mayor Menino has held office) this part of the city, and many other similar neighborhoods, have gone through tremendous transformation. My neighborhood, 15 years ago the site of an escaped fugitive search, and 16 years ago, a neighborhood where hooded strangers pulled a gun on my family in our backyard, has turned into a residential hotspot. Crime is down, youth see real opportunities around them, and residents enjoy their streets and neighborhood resources -- new restaurants, libraries, health centers, and more. Beacon Hill and the rest of Ward 5 aren't the only nice places to live in Boston.

ben said...

In an effort to celebrate an incumbent, you have crafted this analysis?

First, to clarify, Ward 5 and the 2nd Senate District are not synonymous. More important, however, the two preliminary elections were not analogous. Well over 50% more people voted last year in Ward 5 because it was a unique year for voter awareness. But most important, Menino only got 39% of the Ward 5 vote (and if you focus on the true Beacon Hill and Back Bay precints, it was a virtual deadlock with maybe a one vote difference). Yet your analysis is that Menino is loved in our cushy neighborhood?? Doesn't look like it.