^ to the office of Mayor : which one ? and Why ?
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Ten days ago I wrote that Marty Walsh had to change the conversation big-time or he risked being beaten by a lot. A few days later I wrote of the contradictions and conundrums in his campaign. He has now responded. He has changed the conversation AND resolved the contradictions. He is now the Candidate of The Labor Left
It is likely not a winning hand. It is certainly not a hand for a Boston in which union households in toto amount to about 14 % of the total vote. But it is a better hand than the fuzzy and disorganized hand that he had been playing. And because it is a better hand, it merits a better answer; and that it is getting, from the much more broadly based, more contemporary, more freewheeling campaign of John Connolly.
Here and Sphere, for which I write, has already endorsed John Connolly. My intention now is not to repeat that endorsement. It speaks for itself. My topic today is to examine the office of Boston Mayor itself : what do we expect our Mayor to be ? And not to be ? And why ?
Under the current City charter, the Mayor is all powerful. He (and it will be a he) appoints all administrative heads, oversees all departments, has enormous appointive power all the way down the organizational chart, and thus controls the City budget even though the Charter gives the City Council the final vote — though the Mayor can veto it.
Given the vast powers that a Boston Mayor has, it is small wonder that every interest group in the city wants him on its side. in such situation, there are only two arrangement options ;
1.The mayor can be an honerst broker amongst these interest groups, independent of any of them, or perhaps loosely aligned, from time to time, with one or more.
2.The Mayor can be the captive of one or more interest groups, elected so completely by them that he has no independence, or very little, but is, rather, that interest groups’ instrument.
It doesn’t take very much imagination to see which version of Mayor is portended by which of the two campaigns now hotting up. Personally, I prefer the first version, and I suspect that so do most Boston voters. It is not fun when an office as dominant as Boston mayor is the policy instrument of one interest group — unions especially, given that unions’ sole interest is to increase wages. (Increasing wages is a very worthy goal. But it is the epitome of narrow; a Mayor’s policy goals should be wide.) a major reason why I — most voters — prefer the independent-Mayor version is that interest groups develop an internal momentum of their own leading to either increasing radicalization or to factionalism. Radicalization alienates more and more voters from government (and should). Factionalism makes government a beehive of back-stabbing, a boiler room of inefficiency and contradiction. No one with any sense of civic governance should want a Mayor bullied by radicals or burlesqued by faction.
A City with a powerful-mayor charter can survive these political ills. Most people simply get on with their lives. The City may annoy them, or impede, but because most people live in the private sector and make most of thir life decisions on their own all day long, a mis-mayored city can hardly break them. But wouldn’t it be so much better to have a Mayor who enables rather than impedes ? Gives some aid to every interest group but all aid to none ?
^ John W. Sears, 1967 : “I play center field.” It’s still the model for what a Mayor of Boston should be.
Because so much effort, and so many people, are needed by a Boston Mayor candidate in order to win election to the office, a surge by interested people cannot be avoided. Indeed, the involvement of interested people is a good thing. But all surges risk going too far. it’s up to the candidate to stop that. It is political malpractice to aid and abet it.
—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere