THE MAYORALTY OF MARTY WALSH : THE WEAKNESS COMES HOME TO ROOST

Michael Curry NAACP

^ “access, opportunity and results” : Michael Curry of the Boston NAACP and son at a rally recently

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In Friday’s Boston Globe appeared an article by Akilah Johnson in which was made clear that incoming mayor Marty Walsh will be monitored on his response to diversity issues and held accountable for his actions. Wrote Johnson in the article :

The group, calling itself The Inclusive Boston Alliance, is developing a score card to scrutinize the creation and implementation of education, public safety, employment, and economic development policies. The group plans to conduct status checks after the first 100 days of Walsh’s administration and again at the six-month, one-year, two-year, and four-year marks.

Access, opportunity, and results have to be the building blocks of the Walsh administration,” said Michael Curry, president of the Boston Branch NAACP, one of the organizations involved in the alliance. “That’s what communities of color voted for.”

The alliance, which plans to formally announce its intentions Friday, includes the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, the Commonwealth Compact at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and MassVOTE. These and several other community and civil rights groups came together during the campaign and held two debates focused on issues affecting communities of color.

In no way can any of this be a surprise to Walsh. He actively sought votes from Boston’s communities of color. The vote that they provided him tallied more than his own Primary vote. As I wrote immediately after the Primary and before it : one of the odd features of this election was that whoever won, a big majority of his vote would come from people who didn’t want him. It proved so. Now we see what the consequences are. The new Mayor either adopts as a priority the demands of those who voted for him as skeptics rather than supporters, or he is in trouble right away.

It would have been no different had John Connolly won. Except for one thing : Connolly was a much stronger candidate, politically, than Walsh. As Paul McMorrow has astutely pointed out, Connolly defeated Walsh in 95 of Boston’s 137 Caucasian-majority precincts. Connolly didn’t need to win any of the 118 COC-majority precincts; he only needed to break even, or to lose them slightly. Walsh needed to win these 118 precincts by 15 points. (He won all but 11, most of them by 20 to 25 points).

The numbers prove it. In the Final, Walsh carried 49 selected precincts (in Wards 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, m15, 17, and 18) by 5687 votes : almost 800 more votes than his city-wide win margin. In the Primary, Walsh won those same 49 precincts by a mere 110 votes. Between September 24 and November 5, Walsh’s Black community endorsers alone (I leave out precincts where Felix G. Arroyo was strong; his situation is different; see my Note below) brought Walsh an additional 5577 votes : again, about 700 more than his Final election win margin. Walsh has been called a “bridge Mayor” — bridge between the Menino years and a Mayor of color. The numbers and the politics of Connolly voters make a strong case for that assessment.

Connolly would have had much more liberty to negotiate the monitoring groups agenda than has Walsh. It is not clear to me that this calculation played a role in the endorsements that John Barros, Charlotte Golar-Richie, Gloria Fox, Russell Holmes, and most other politicians of color accorded Marty Walsh. But it would surprise me if (1) the political advantage offered them by Walsh’s vote weakness didn’t occur pretty soon after the endorsements were given and (2) the advantage didn’t occur right away to many of these endorsers’ advisors.

And another thing : make no mistake. Boston’s communities of color want a Mayor who “looks like them,’ as the campaign’s mantra often put it,  as soon as they can elect one. A Mayor Connolly would have been very hard to beat: because it is not at all clear that Marty Walsh’s Caucasian vote base would vote by 15 to 20 points for a candidate of color as readily as the precincts of color voted for Walsh. Whereas John Connolly’s voters are much more open to such a candidate and have always been. Can anyone doubt that had Walsh faced Charlotte Golar-Richie, she would have beaten Marty in almost every Ward carried by Connolly ?

Mayor Walsh will be much easier to defeat, than would have Connolly, if not in 2017 then definitely in 2021. I think that both parts of his coalition know this very well indeed. I think he knows it, too. He is moving all the chess pieces right now to make himself trusted as well as accepted, and nobody in Boston politics is better able to get there. But can he ? It will be interesting to see how Walsh’s political vulnerability plays out at the tables of power where Boston’s — and his — political future is decided.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : I have left out Felix G. Arroyo frrom my analysis for three reasons : ( 1 ) he is Hispanic, not Black, and has a significantly smaller vote base than Charlotte Golar-Richie had ( 2 ) his endorsement was, I feel, given entirely sincerely on the issues and not in any way out of real-politik calculation and ( 3 ) if he is to win a fight to be Mayor he will have to break free of the coalition that he whole-heartedly embraced this time around. It won’t be easy, but Arroyo has tgime on his side. He’s only 34 years old !

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : HUNGER GAMES — CATCHING FIRE ( 3 stars )

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^ Jennifer Lawrence and josh Hutcherson as Katniss and Peeta in “Catching Fire” as sequel to “Hunger Games”

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The second time may be a charm, but hey, it’s all relative, as the first “Hunger Games,” written and directed by Garry Ross (“Sea Biscuit” and “Pleasantville”), felt paunchy, disingenuously deep and retro flimsy given the state of computer enhanced film-making these days. That cinematic first chapter of Suzanne Collins’s runaway YA hit was a tad muddled; then again, it had the burden of informing newbies of what they needed to know about the austere future-world of Panem and its kid-against-kid death matches without boring the stuffing out of its loyal readerships’ attention-challenged minds.

What made the first “Hunger Games” adaptation burn beyond its kinetic plot and high kitsch, was its star Jennifer Lawrence — already revered for her work in “Winter’s Bone,” and subsequently rewarded with an Oscar for her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook.” The actress, with her wide luminous face, aptly brought to the fore the deep disdain and skepticism imbedded in her can-do heroine, Katniss Everdeen. But living under the tyranny of a fattened plutocracy obsessed with power, control and hedonism while the masses slave and starve, tends to do that to anyone possessing faint embers of freedom and righteousness in their bellies.

Much has been made of the franchise’s lifting from the 1999 Japanese thriller, “Battle Royale” (also made into a movie). Both in their own right clearly borrow of “1984” and “Lord of the Flies,” and more to the point, do dumbed-down fusions of the two groundbreaking classics. In cinematic form, the series roils eerily with the grand cheesiness of “The Running Man,” “Logan’s Run” and even “Battle Star Galactica,” but where those vehicles were tongue-in-cheek, “Games” is either dead-on serious or wholly over-the-top spectacle. Both ends offer their rewards, but overall, it’s hard to consume the film’s higher reaching message–if there truly is one–with any respectable seriousness.

“Fire” picks up where “Hunger Games” left off : Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) taking the victors’ tour of the thirteen impoverished districts to pay honor to the fallen tributes (those who died in the last movie). The caveat injected by President Snow (Donald Sutherland oozing with megalomaniacal aspiration) is that the pair have to sell themselves as a romantic couple, a facade the Capitol wishes to project as an opiate to pacify the increasingly restless populace. It’s something Katniss, who has a secret lover (Liam Hemsworth), isn’t interested in doing, but when her family’s well-being is thrown into the mix, she plays nice–for a while.

That unrest grumbles with the nascent makings of a revolt (what took so long?) and bears Katniss as the reluctant face of the movement. Snow, none too pleased by this, invokes a double jeopardy clause of sorts and initiates a new Hunger Game, pitting the victors of the past against each other. It’s at this point that Phillip Seymour Hoffman wanders in from left field as the new game master orchestrating the deadly doings in the arena–which are far better imagined and more tautly rendered (by director Francis Lawrence, a vet of fantastical mayhem, with “Constantine” and “I am Legend” to his credits) this time around. The movie’s nearly halfway over by the time we arrive at the game, but the good news is that the steep preamble means plenty of raucous screen time for Woody Harrelson, back as the drunkard former victor, Haymitch Abernathy and Stanley Tucci as garish game show host Caesar Flickerman, who with his pompadour and false sincerity, is an entertaining rival to Richard Dawson’s indelible snake from the “The Running Man.”

If there’s one pebble-in-the-shoe issue I’ve had with the series, it’s the hokey grandiloquence about oppression and rebellion that postures some type of meaningful political statement. Simply living in such dire straits as those in the districts do, one can only imagine that it would be preferable to go out in a blaze of defiance than die a starving cur, beaten and broken. The script, bolstered by “Slumdog Millionaire” scribe Simon Beaufoy, doesn’t make true inroads here. Not yet anyhow. And in there too, Hoffman, the brilliant actor, feels inert and lost amongst the pomp. So too does Sutherland as the flat, cut-out dictator, little more than Ming the Merciless dropping in from Mongo. Places on our planet, less overt in their tyranny–Liberia and Libya, for example–have tossed dictators. Snow and his ilk have been in power for seventy-five years, and all that after a bloody revolution, which makes you wonder what kind of shit hole Panem was before. (Panem is purportedly some amalgam of North American countries).

In the end (again) it’s Lawrence and her resolve that carries “Games.” A star of less capability might have given a less nuanced performance and put the weight on Lawrence–the director. Once the games are on, the film flies like a deer through the woods. And it’s here too, that Jena Malone drops in as one of the victors, full of sass and verve, pulling off a loquacious costume change in an elevator before the eyes of other riders. Like Harrelson and Tucci she adds a well-timed shot of zest. The two men circling Katniss however don’t fare as well. Hutchinson and Hemsworth are often wooden idols enamored with Katniss, constantly dumbstruck and inert. Thankfully Lawrence is in the middle and capable of making the stilted eddy palatable.

Displeasingly, the film ends abruptly. Like the penultimate “Harry Potter” chapter it’s a hinge for the next installment, and while that’s obnoxious in the broad sense, it does leave one wanting in all the best ways possible. Once skeptical, I’m now hooked.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies