Saturday, June 18, 2011

"First in the City" City Council Forum Tuesday

If you look at elections as happening in four year cycles, this year's election should be a sleeper. There are no federal or even state elections on the ballot. The only elected officials voters will choose this fall are the city councilors who will represent them in the City of Boston.

Then former City Councilor Michael Flaherty decided to run, and the race suddenly got interesting. Flaherty was an at-large Boston City Councilor, and then two years ago he decided to run for Mayor (and got trounced by Mayor Tom Menino). Now, Flaherty wants his old job back.

Who am I kidding? In reality, this year's election is still a sleeper. The Flaherty vote provides the only real drama. Truth be told, most people don't care about local elections, which is sad, since the local officials tend to have the most impact on issues that people actually care about: crime, education, and affordable housing, to name a few. The people who do vote this year will be special; not many will go to the polls. If you say you are voting, I guarantee you will get special attention from those running for city council in Boston.

Certainly this election season really matters for the four incumbent at-large city councilors, who would like to keep their jobs despite Flaherty's decision to run. For that reason and for those candidates, this Tuesday's "First in the City" City Council candidates' forum is very, very important.

My ward committee, the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee, has a history of hosting the first city council candidates' forum for at-large candidates every two years. This year's forum promises to upstage the event's all-ready significant legacy. David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix will be the moderator. Boston Neighborhood Network will tape the event to broadcast it at a later date on COMCAST cable. Reporters from the Beacon Hill/Back Bay Patch, Universal Hub and the Dorchester Reporter, among other outlets, are poised to cover the event.

If you would like to go, the forum starts this Tuesday, June 21 at about 7 p.m. at the First Church in Boston, which is at 66 Marlborough Street (corner of Marlborough and Berkeley Streets) in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston. The forum will be an hour long. All seven of the presumed candidates for at-large city council have confirmed to the committee that they will be there: John Connolly, Ayanna Pressley, Felix Arroyo, Stephen Murphy, Will Dorcena, the previously mentioned Michael Flaherty, and Sean Ryan.

I have been a member of my ward committee for three years now, so I have some free advice for the candidates. Two simple suggestions:

1) Show up. Certainly the members of my ward committee have their quirks, but the group assembled Tuesday will be comprised of very motivated, active voters. If you impress, you will earn volunteers and donors... maybe even an endorsement by the committee, which brings other benefits given the committee's sizable bank account. As State Treasurer Steve Grossman reminded me last weekend, it was Woody Allen who said, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." That could not be more true on Tuesday. I know there are members of my committee who will literally write off candidates that don't bother to appear at events like this.

2) Make your thoughts local. The forum is being hosted by the Ward 5 Democratic committee, so make sure you know geographically what Ward 5 includes and cater your comments to the concerns of that geography. We're talking Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Chinatown, part of the South End and part of Fenway. If you talk about trash, keep in mind that we don't have room downtown for large trash receptacles. If you talk about crime, remember that Fenway Park rests inside the ward. I know this sounds simple, and I know it sounds like I am preaching, but you don't know how many times candidates have appeared before the group and talked about their experiences in South Boston or West Roxbury. Not gonna work. As Speaker O'Neill said, "All politics is local."

To the candidates, thank you for agreeing to be at the "First in the City" City Council candidates forum. I am looking forward to it. Good luck.

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