The shape of Boston’s recent City Council election allows us to configure the upcoming Mayor election– which campaign has already begun. Unless miracles drop, Councillor Michelle Wu will run. So might others, but Wu has the challenger’s pole position. She received more than 41,616 votes (tally is still unofficial) from 66,884 voters — well over 60 percent. (No one was close. Annissa Essaibi George and Michael Flaherty fell 7000 and 8000 votes short, respectively.) Wu was the Council’s President and, you might say, was and still is its most outspoken policy proposer. At the end of October she reported $ 344,157 cash on hand — a massive sum for a City Councillor.

Mayor Walsh reported $ 3,930,051 — more than times as much as Wu has, but that’s to be expected. He has the power. There’s plenty of room for that funds imbalance to change drastically. Let Wu actually announce, and there’ll be plenty of funds coming her way.

Can Wu win ? She certainly can. Let’s look at the state of things :

( 1 ) In the Council election just held, non-union “progressives” — Wu’s chosen constituency — outvoted labor-endorsed candidates across the board, both city-wide and in the District 5 race. Wu endorsed the District Five winner and also Alejandra St. Guillen, who lost to independent “progressive” Julia Mejia by one ( 1 ) vote, 22,792 to 22,791, for the fourth Council at-Large seat. Meanwhile, Walsh endorsed only a safe choice, Annissa Essaiabi George, and St. Guillen, whose campaign seemed to stall the day after Walsh decided to endorse her.

( 2 ) Wu’s policy proposals have certainly electrified “progressives.” She called for the MBTA to be fare-free. She proposed a $ 25 annual fee for resident parking stickers. She whole-heartedly supports burdening car owners sufficiently to force as many as possible into using public transportation. She may very well support attempts to bring back rent control to Boston (as of today, State law bars it), and it would not surprise were she to propose some sort of voting rights for 16 and 17 year olds. If there’s a priority initiative on the organized progressives’ agenda that Wu does not champion, I have not seen it.

( 3 ) Plenty of voters who might not like this or that Wu proposal — or any of them — still give her credit for trying to bringing change to a City government that, to many, seems resistant to change of any kind and determined to go its own way no matter who doesn’t like it. First to mind is the Mayor’s attitude toward development : he wants lots of it and seems willing to bend every zoning rule in order to get as much of it as possible built. The more aggressively Wu’s proposals unsettle the Mayor, the better she is liked by the many, many voters who are fed up with seeing their neighborhood bullied by developers. Lastly, an enormous number of voters lack confidence in the Boston School Department — for many very good reasons. Those who can move to towns with better-run schools, often do so. The rest stay — and are unhappy. Mayor Walsh cannot count on their votes, no matter how many Schools policies are voted unanimously by his appointed School Committee.

( 4 ) the most recent citywide, major election, for Governor in 2018, saw Governor Baker take 49.3 percent of the City’s vote to Jay Gonzalez’s 50.7 percent. It would not surprise me if the 2021 Mayor election were similarly close. Baker assembled his 108,000 votes by winning ( a )  the new-breed, Downtown and adjacent areas populated mostly by tech and institutional voters ( b ) the “old Boston” voters of Charlestown, Southie, Bayside Dorchester, Hyde Park, upper East Boston, and West Roxbury and ( c ) 36 to 46 percent of Black and Latino voters. Against him were ( a ) the “progressives” Of Jamaica plain and parts of Roslindale ( b ) Brighton-Allston and ( c ) 54 to 64 percent of Black and Latino voters — 112,000 votes in all.

I doubt that Mayor Walsh can build a win via this coalition. Michelle Wu won a very large percentage of the Downtown and adjacent vote, and Walsh has never been strong in Charlestown and East Boston. Baker is himself an institutional, Downtown-ish man; Walsh is anything but. His background is in labor, and a labor guy he still acts the part. Unions form a significant part of Baker’s support, but for Walsh they are more than that, they are identity. Which is a problem, given the weak showing by labor candidates in the recent Council election. That said, Walsh has no choice : labor will be his bedrock, and the neighborhoods of his traditional base : South Boston and Dorchester, some of Hyde Park, and about one third of West Roxbury. This is far, far from enough, but Mayor Walsh has one huge advantage : he can go to events everywhere in the City, as Mayor, bring City funds for this project and to that organization, and just flat-out meet everyone he can, as Tom Menino did. Michelle Wu can’t come close to matching Walsh’s ubiquitous star power, nor his money grants. He can cobble together votes ten or twenty at a time from almost every part of the City, from business people who need City licenses, from those who use the City’s libraries, parks, youth activities, and Main Streets, or just from people who can tell their kids “I met the Mayor !”

Will this, then, be enough? Against it I see Wu’s aggressive change agenda, her status as a non-Caucasian, and the momentum that “progressive” organizations and pointedly non-White campaigns have built up ever since Ayanna Pressley’s 7th Congressional defeat of defeat of Mike Capauno. More than that, Wu has the look of today — of social media — as the extremely local, Dorchester-guy Marty Walsh does not. There’s a bit of a social class thing going on here, though no one will say it, but appearances matter in the Age of Instagram. Here, Governor Baker held a huge advantage. At six foot six, with the sleek build of a pro athlete and a gentle and well-spoken affability, the non-ethnic Baker dominates every room that he enters without being in the least bit domineering. Walsh is of ordinary height and not an easy conversationalist; he does not dominate unless accompanied by several aides who, crowding around him, convey importance by implication.

Will that be enough, along with all the money and licensing power that a Boston Mayor has ? I’m not sure. You can’t win an election by implication.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ the new Boston politics of blood votes : this campaign was where it took over

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After Boston’s primary election I wrote an article in which I cited lessons to be drawn from the results. I saw that a new movement, of business-office morality, in team with most voters of color, was outvoting the old labor and big government partnership that had dominated the City since at least Depression times.

This result prevailed on November 5th as well, as candidates of the old labor-and-government type were outvoted, even defeated, by their business-office opponents. Yet there was another factor in play in the “final,” a movement quite more radical in policy and more explicitly tribal than the preachy business-office voices heard in the primary.

If I am correct in my assessment of Tuesday’s winners — one race remains much too close to call, between Julia Mejia and Alejandra St. Guillen for fourth place in the Councillor at-large field — we now may have a Council majority dedicated to extreme measures relative to housing, transportation, and voting, policies which, if adopted, would set City administration into serious confusion, not to mention conflict with state law. Mayor Walsh will certainly veto any such proposals, and there aren’t enough radicals to override his veto; yet that’s small comfort for voters who expect the Council to propose reforms that improve the City, not disrupt it.

More ominous than the radicalism of November 5th is its tribalism. Candidates who won, and the two candidates involved in the recount, were extolled not only because of their policies but because they are Latino. Facebook was  flush with posts heralding “all three” — Mejia, St. Guillen, and District Five winner Ric Arroyo as a team : not a team on policy grounds but on ancestry.

Other facebook comments seen during the election’s  final days and after trek a similar path :

“Black people have been voting against their interests for years,” said one commenter on the Hyde Park neighbors facebook page — a wild generalization and a purely speculative assumption. Who gave her authority to speak for all Black people ? My 50 years of conversing with voters has shown me that voters know their interests very well and don’t need to be preached to by others about it.

On my own facebook page, a very serious activist baldly asserted that, as women number more than 50 percent of voters they should hold more than 50 percent of elected offices — so, in other words, we’re not to elect people freely but to apportion them ?

A columnist for the Dorchester Reporter dismissed Maria Esdale Farrell, candidate in District Five, as racist because she said she would address all people equally. Are some people, then, to be favored ? Really ?

A City-wide candidate said that her campaign was about lifting up the City’s immigrants — as if immigrants, who are rising faster than fast, needed her help to get to success, a thing that immigrants — legal or not — are much better at than the native-born.

These examples of “Tuesday wisdom” are, of course, precisely the M/O of Mr. Trump, although in reverse. As he loudly proclaims white people this, white people that, so his most triggered opponents proclaim every sort of other identity, all the identities that Trump’s racial message casts aside.

There has to be a better way; but at present I don’t see a better way coming.

The “blood and votes” message that drives much of Mr. Trump’s opponents was not restricted to November 5th’s radicals. It was very much a part — though stated in moral terms — of the business-office “diversity” voters who won more votes than the radicals. In the contest that I worked in, the District Five race, after an edited 12 seconds of old video of Tim McCarthy calling candidate Ric Arroyo’s endorsees “nonsense people” was posted on the Roslindale and Hyde Park facebook pages eleven days before election, an avalanche of condemnation and outright bigotry was thrown at Councillor McCarthy along with all manner of instruction — not to mention some condescension — as to how no white person (well, maybe one or two) can likely understand what it’s like to be a person of color and therefore a white candidate shouldn’t be elected in a District that has a majority population of color. (Obviously the late attack on McCarthy was made in order to ping back upon Farrell, who as the Roslindale post asserted, was “McCarthy’s hand picked candidate”).

Most voters who I talked to expressed an entirely different view of the campaign.

As Farrell’s Roslindale co ordinator, I knocked on about 3500 doors — six entire precincts, two of them  twice — and conversed with over 1000 people. The lesson that I learned ? That all voters want the same things : better schools, more responsive basic City services, and trees planted. And many voters said that they had no issues at all with City government, that things were OK as they saw it. I heard no difference about these matters between voters of whatever origin, gender or skin color.

Yet some factions of activists were willing to gin up every sort of identity grievance, and the voters were thereby not allowed to make a nuts and bolts assessment of the candidates.  Organized “progressives” in the District had a tested, long-time progressive candidate to support — Mimi Turchinetz — but from the outset she was bypassed by most such activists in favor of Ric Arroyo, who is much younger and new to politics. Why ? Turchinetz had, and maintained, substantial Roslindale support. What was there about her that “progressive” organizations did not like ?

This is not to say that the successful campaign of Ric Arroyo was illegitimate. He would likely have won had the entire apparatus of identity tribalism stayed silent. He is brother to a well-regarded former city Councillor Felix G. Arroyo and son of Felix D. Arroyo, who was a City Councillor as well and is now Suffolk Register of Probate. He was first into the field, two months before Turchinetz (and before Maria Esdale Farrell). He held a large money advantage right up to September. He had widespread name recognition, where Turchinetz and Farrell had much less of it. And he was campaigning a District that voted overwhelmingly for Ayanna Pressley’s identity campaign (“the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power”) against Congressman Mike Capuano. (Pressley eventually endorsed Ric and held a huge rally with him two days before November 5th.) All of that would have happened had the identity warriors said nothing. Ric Arroyo deserved better than to win an election dented by tactics that spawned a great deal of entirely unnecessary division.

That said, the identity message DID happen; and not only in District Five; and it has now cast Caucasian voters, other than the business-moralistic, as racists.

Candidates endorsed by craft unions and many other labor groups were also outvoted, as in the primary.

I can also examine the District Five result on other grounds :

In 2018 Governor Baker won 46 percent of the District’s vote, Jay Gonzalez 54 percent. The Farrell – Arroyo contest finished almost identically : Farrell about 45, Arroyo about 55. Farrell won every precinct that Baker won, plus two more. Arroyo won every precinct that Gonzalez won except two. It isn’t too far wrong to say that Baker’s voters were Farrell’ s voters, and Arroyo’s voters were Gonzlaez’s. (There were some differences. Farrell did less well than Baker in the Haitian-majority precincts, better than Baker in the Hyde Park ones, and about the same as Baker in Roslindale.) And why should the two results not have been like ? In both cases, a centrist (Farrell and Baker) lost to a “progressive” (Gonzalez and Arroyo). Voters know their minds very well. In the two elections they appear to have responded quite rationally.

Still, it’s not the result that I focus on but the manner in which the results were accomplished. The majority message on Tuesday, as last year in the Pressley and Capuano contest, is that all people are NOT equal, that some are to be accorded extra advantage because of their ancestry, or skin color, and others, less.

A sitting City Councillor yesterday opined, on facebook, that candidates of color should win, and candidates who are white should not,because people of color are “oppressed.” Really, in Boston? Our Police Commissioner and his deputy are both Black. So are our District Attorney, one of our Congress people, three of our City Councillors, our Sheriff, three of our State Representatives; and an additional three legislators are Latino as well as the Councillor-elect, the BPS Superintendant, and several high City officials. Add to this number several former legislators who now hold influential positions in business and lobbying.

There are also numerous potential candidates of color, of very worthy quality, who may well run for office and will have significant support if they do. Here I should mention Leon David, Ruth Georges, Sean Gauthier, Michel Denis, and Crystal Davis. (Add Stephanie Everett, Rufus Faulk, and Mary-dith Tuitt, who have run and might run again.)

Is there any difference in principle between these favoritism messages and Mr. Trump’s assertion that he is above the law and is treated unfairly by it ? If in fact to be white is to be a racist — as the morality message argues — then all bets American are off .

Which is what is happening in America.

Other writers than me have long noted that Americans have lost faith in public institutions. Now they’re losing faith in American ideal, in equality, in the Constitution, in the rule of law itself. Is it any wonder that blood and votes politics is replacing these lost ideals ?

But perhaps I overreact.

Most Americans, and most voters in Massachusetts and in Boston, still hold American ideals of equality dear. All over Massachusetts, outside of Boston, traditionally idealistic candidates backed by Governor Baker won their elections. In Framingham, Taunton, Chelsea, Revere, Brockton, Easthampton, and Randolph, candidates of the equality type won; and other candidates supported by Baker made strong showings elsewhere. If, in Boston, the world of Mr. Trump has set off a nasty politics of blood and ancestry, elsewhere there is much to be hopeful about.

The only worry is that almost all the successful candidates of classic idealism are white. They and the identity politicians of Boston and its surroundings live in two different Americas.

For the time being.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ targeted by the Mayor : Council dean Arthur Sargent III, whom we endorse

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Because Mayor Kim Driscoll is one of the most powerful Mayors in Massachusetts, and because she has harnassed the “progressive” activists without necessarily being one herself, she holds all the aces in the City Council election that happens next Tuesday. She has demonstrated time and again that, when her bets are on the line, she can turn out a two to one a majority on election day. Add city employees and their families to the “progressive” voters, and you’ve amassed serious vote totals. Include a majority of Salem’s business community and there you are. Two to one.

All of which means that most of the Councillors who voted “No” on the Mayor’s small-adjacent-unit zoning ordinance face defeat. Driscoll has called for voters to oust the five : at-Large Councillors Domingo Dominguez, Arthur Sargent and Elaine Milo, and Ward Councillors Steve Dibble and Tim Flynn. Nor is her demand vain. The at-Large Councillors face four very strong challengers : Conrad Prosniewski, newly retired from the Salem Police, who took top spot in the primary; Alice Merkl, Ty Hapworth, and Jeff Cohen, all of whom are rock-solid “Yes” votes on the adjacent-unit ordinance as well as — most likely — on anything else the Mayor wants. Hapworth and Merkl took third and fourth in the primary, and Cohen wasn’t far behind albeit in sixth spot. (Sargent came in fifth, Elaine Milo seventh.) As for the two threatened Ward Councillors, they’re in less difficulty. Steve Dibble from Ward Seven, looks likely to win — but not by a lot. And Tim Flynn, from Ward Four, almost certainly wins. His ward is the Mayor’s weakest in the city.

Can the Mayor defeat her three at-Large marks ? I think she can definitely defeat one, maybe two. Only Domingo Dominguez, who finished second in the primary, looks in good shape — but not safe. The difference between his vote and Cohen’s, in sixth, is only 300. Arthur Sargent may also have the advantage. In the primary, few voters voted in his Ward Seven, but the contest between  Dibble and his challenger will likely increase turnout by a lot. Which leaves Elaine Milo, a council veteran who has a lot of ground to make up. (Also running is George McCabe, the son of a former Councillor and a former Councillor himself. McCabe finished eighth and while not  target of Mayor Driscoll’s wrath, is not on the “progressive” team either.

All this by way of analysis and history. Now to our endorsements :

Domingo Dominguez : he’s the hardest working Councillor, an all-around nice guy who campaigns ceaselessly, does favors for people, and votes carefully. His Community Conversations are a model for future Councillors. He voted “No” on the small-unit zoning ordinance and explained his reasons publicly and at length. He;s also the City;s only Hispanic Councillor, which gives him the kind of ethnic base that used to be the identifying feature of Massachusetts City elections. There’s no other Councillor anything like him, nor any challenger. He brings distinction and personality to City governance.

Arthur Sargent : some call him silent, others discreet. With his deep roots in the City, its school activities and the old power plant where he worked for decades, if re-elected, “Sarge” will be the Council’s dean; he’s already its and encyclopedia. He’s also most knowledgeable on all Salem goings on and issues, and he’s often the voice of long-time Salemites who don’t see the benefit in the grand, bold, huge developments going up all over Downtown and up Highland Avenue. Right now that sort of skepticism is badly, badly needed on the City Council. Sargent has it.

Elaine Berard Milo : In a City still almost 45 percent of Quebecois origin, Milo is the only Councillor of that origin on the present group and will be the only one still if she is re-elected. Heritage, however, is not the reason for our endorsement,. Milo gets our nod because she represents the many, many Salem voters who think the vast development of Downtown, which has remade the City’s business district these past 16 years, badly needs a time-out so that the City can assimilate all that newness.

Alice Merkl : The Mayor is entitled to a voice in Council affairs, and Merkl will be a good one — always upbeat, a master of community outreach, Merkl is a true believer that the future of Salem is assured as long as it seeks diversity and a kind of unstoppable party atmosphere both at play and at work. Probably not: but if personality can make it happen, Merkl’s the one.

Ward Councillor endorsements : 

Ward One : James Willis

Ward Two : Christine Madore

Ward Three : Bob Camire

Ward Four : Tim Flynn

Ward Five : Josh Turiel

Ward Six : Jerry Ryan

Ward Seven : Steve Dibble

It’s a diverse group, which is as City government should be. Mayor Driscoll will have to compromise with this sort of Council : a thing she has always been loath to do. She should try it sometime.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Bron Latimer

^ Possibly a bronze of William, 4th Baron Latimer, impeached by the “Good Parliament” in 1376 — the earliest known impeachment process in our inherited political practices and precedents

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Quite soon now, President Trump will be impeached, and a trial of the articles of that impeachment will take place in the Senate, with Chief Justice Roberts presiding. Conviction and removal seems a definite possibility.

In this column I will talk about impeachment’s steps, but first, a little history : what is impeachment, and how did it get into our political system ?

The verb “impeach” comes to us from French, in which language the verb “empecher” (pronounced omm-pesh-ay)  means ” to prevent.” Thus the objective of impeachment is to prevent the impeached person from continuing in the office he or she occupies.

Our legal and political arrangements are taken directly from British law and government as these were arranged in the 1770-1780s. Impeachment is much older than that, however. To quote wikipedia :

Parliament has held the power of impeachment since medieval times. Originally, the House of Lords held that impeachment could apply only to members of the peerage, as the nobility (the Lords) would try their own peers, while commoners ought to try their peers (other commoners) in a jury. However, in 1681, the Commons declared that they had the right to impeach anyone, and the Lords have respected this resolution. Offices held “during good behaviour” are terminable by the writ of either quo warranto[2] or scire facias, which has even been employed by and against well-placed judges.[3]

After the reign of Edward IV, impeachment fell into disuse, the bill of attainder becoming the preferred form of dealing with undesirable subjects of the Crown. However, during the reign of James I and thereafter, impeachments became more popular, as they did not require the assent of the Crown, while bills of attainder did, thus allowing parliament to resist royal attempts to dominate parliament.

Bills of attainder are expressly forbidden in our Constitution. Impeachment is that document’s instrument of sanction against “high crimes and Misdemeanors” it accuses executive officers and judges of committing. (Congress members cannot be impeached. The process for disciplining them — censure or expulsion — is set by House and Senate rules.) It might be interesting to compare our modern impeachment process with that of the first recorded impeachment : When Parliament was called in April 1376, known as the Good Parliament and led by Peter de la Mare, the members wanted to remove corrupt advisers from court. Latimer, Neville, London merchant Richard Lyons and Alice Perrers were accused, and the charges against Latimer were that he had been guilty of oppression in Brittany; had sold the castle of Saint-Sauveur to the enemy, and impeded the relief of Bécherel in 1375; that he had taken bribes for the release of captured ships, and retained fines paid to the king, notably by Sir Robert Knolles, and the city of Bristol; and finally, that in association with Robert Lyons he had obtained money from the crown by the repayment of fictitious loans. Seconded by William of Wykeham, de la Mare sought to have Latimer immediately convicted, with the Commons acting on behalf of the king. They were unsuccessful and a trial took place.[4] The charges were proven and he was removed from his positions in the royal household and on the council, fined and imprisoned.

The record does not tell us stuff we might really like to know : ( 1 ) who devised the procedure by which this action was carried out ? Who gave this action the name “impeachment,” and why ? How come the King allowed it to proceed — at a stage in British history when Kings held almost all power, other than that of taxation and such accords as were guaranteed to peers in Magna Carta ? In any case, a much later action by parliament, the trial of Charles I, in 1649, provides our own impeachment with a direct antecedent.  This was a treason trial — treason is one of two specific crimes cited in the Constitution’s impeachment clause — judged by a Court set up ad hoc by act of Parliament : Charles was accused of treason against England by using his power to pursue his personal interest rather than the good of England.[8] The charge against Charles I stated that the king, “for accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same ends hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented”, that the “wicked designs, wars, and evil practices of him, the said Charles Stuart, have been, and are carried on for the advancement and upholding of a personal interest of will, power, and pretended prerogative to himself and his family, against the public interest, common right, liberty, justice, and peace of the people of this nation”.[8] The indictment held him “guilty of all the treasons, murders, rapines, burnings, spoils, desolations, damages and mischiefs to this nation, acted and committed in the said wars, or occasioned thereby”.[8]

Although the House of Lords refused to pass the bill and the Royal Assent naturally was lacking, the Rump Parliament referred to the ordinance as an “Act” and pressed on with the trial anyway. The intention to place the King on trial was re-affirmed on 6 January by a vote of 29 to 26 with An Act of the Commons Assembled in Parliament.

Our own impeachment follows the same design. The House — equivalent to Britain’s Commons — files the impeachment accusations, and the Senate — our House of Lords — tries them. British impeachments were tried before a bench of royal justices; ours are heard by only the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court — a presidential appointment (equivalent to Royal nomination), but very likely not appointed by the president being impeached (if the trial is of a president; any Federal executive officer or Federal judge can be impeached, and some are convicted.) And now to the enabling language of our impeachments :

first, the Text of  Article 1, Section 2, clause 5 : The House of Representatives… shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

second, language from Article 1, Section 3, clauses 6 and 7 : The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States; but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

third, the text of Article 2, Section 4: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

As impeachment is brought solely by elected politicians, and the articles judged by elected persons, impeachment in the Constitution is a political act only. It is NOT a legal trial. To what extent the basic legal rules apply, of due process and of evidence, is not prescribed. The House in  the current case has chosen to act like a grand jury, taking testimony in secret, for good and sufficient reasons given by Chairs of the Congressional Committees conducting the inquiry. Articles on impeachment, when finally presented, will read very like a bill of indictment, and such they are: but NOT a legal indictment, only a political one, as the sole punishment, if there’s a conviction, is removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor.

Note also this language from Article 2, Section 2 : [The President] … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

If President Trump is convicted in the impeachment trial, he cannot pardon himself.  If any of his executive officers are impeached and convicted, before he is convicted, he cannot pardon them. If Mike Pence becomes President upon a conviction of Mr. Trump, he cannot remove the impeachment by pardon either.

I would not bet against a conviction in the Senate. By his utter betrayal of the Kurds, and the weak and surrendering follow-up that has now taken place, Mr. Trump has alienated all but his stubbornest defenders. His incompetence has been shown, and his personal priorities. The articles of impeachment could be very, very many, if the House is of a mind to tally them all up.

Mr. Trump calls the impeachment of him a “lynching” — gross word so absolutely not true of the impeachment process, which as we have seen, is diligently enumerated in the Constitution to which he swore an oath of office ! Mr. Trump and his defenders call the impeachment ridiculous and a “coup” and refuse to co-operate with the House’s investigators. is he for real ? Again : he swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Including its impeachment clauses.

He seems either not to understand what the Constitution says or to not give  a damn. Yet ignorance of the laws is indeed no excuse. He has plenty of advisers to advise him what is illegal for him to do and what isn’t. It is a Federal crime to solicit foreign interference in our elections, yet Mr,. Trump not only demanded that the P:resident of Ukraine investigate a potential Democratic 2020 opponent (Joe Biden), he extorted Ukraine’s president — yet another crime.

Mr. Trump doesn’t understand the law or his role in it. Congress appropriated $ 491 million in military aid to Ukraine. Mr,. Trump has no authority to withhold that aid, he is, in fact, duty bound to get it delivered expeditiously. that is the plain meaning of the “take Care” clause of Article 2 of the Constitution, in which the executive’s duties are enumerated.

If impeachment were not available to Congress, how would our elected representatives ever hold the executive — the President and his staffs — accountable ?

If impeachment is not the necessary remedy for behavior such as Mr. Trump’s, it isn’t available at all.

If convicted by the Senate — by a two-thirds vote of Senators PRESENT AND VOTING (please note) — Mr. Trump is immediately removed from office, and the Oath of Office is given to Vice President Pence , whom the Constitution states his the first successor.

Thus the only question remaining is this : what exactly is meant by “an office of profit or honor” that a convicted Mr. Trump, once removed from office, cannot again hold ? Judgeships, certainly, any office with a salary, and any office requiring taking an oath. Perhaps that’s it.

Impeachment is coming, and, in my opinion, more than deserved. Conviction is not at all out of the question — again, in my opinion, warmly deserved. Of course my opinion is hardly the governing one. 20 Republican Senators hold Mr. Trump’s fate in their hands. We will see soon enough ho wit all turns out.

Until then, read up on your Constitution and about the history of impeachment in our common law and what it inherits from Great Britain.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Joe Kennedy III goes to East Boston, where his ancestor first landed in Americva, to announce his Senate candidacy

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Almost certainly Joe Kennedy III, currently the 8th District’s Congress,an, will win his primary fight against Senator Ed Markey. Polls show him way ahead — show Markey shockingly unknown among Democratic primary likelies –and they could easily favor him more and more. Yet Kennedy is running a campaign — from the Left — quite foreign to who he actually is. Why is he doing this ? The hard-core left isn’t going to support him; many are hitting him with the dreaded “entitled” epithet — and to be fair, he is, as a Kennedy, most definitely entitled in the eyes of most of our voters — and are flocking to the side of the ancient-looking, career politician Ed Markey, the very embodiment of what the Left recently has salivated to run against.

Why is the Left doing this ? Especially when Joe K has done everything but change his name to Bernie in assuring the Left that he supports its entire wish list, from medicare for all to “environmental justice,” whatever that is,  to the so-called Green New Deal, a double shot of  layer cake of “climate Crisis” and “public transportation whether you like it or not.”

But maybe the Left has a point. Do you believe Joe K actually supports these things ? I don’t. The Kennedys have never adopted wish-list positions. It was Ted who, explaining why he was never unwilling to compromise with opponents,  famously quoted Voltaire’s dictum that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” Before Ted there was John, a centrist Democrat who often politicked more like a Yankee Republican than the Irish Democrat he was. And of course there was Robert, who in his tragic 1968 campaign pushed aside the Vietnam protest candidacy of Eugene McCarthy in favor of his own nuts and bolts, labor union and civil rights priorities.

Like Ted, Joe, if elected to the Senate, may well espouse the Left’s wish list;but if he does that, can anyone doubt that he will seek compromise, not conquest ? I suspect that the ultras now embracing the ancient Ed Markey rather than the candidate of their generation — in contrast t,o what many did during the Ayanna Pressley and Mike Capuano fight — see the same vision that I see : Kennedy won’t “die on their desired hills,” as one of the currently trendy political phrases has it.

I feel very confident that the Left has it right : that Kennedy is not their champion, albeit he likely shares their desire for reforms — just not as many reforms, nor as drastic. Kennedy’s campaign apparatus and vote base, no matter what he says, will almost certainly be private industry labor unions and centrist primary voters generally as well as the Kennedy family’s still huge personal following. As such, I’m inclined to support him rather than Markey, who has embraced the Left’s grossly expensive public programs, not to mention how those programs will accrue to Washington yet more of our money and yet more authority over our daily lives.  Personally, I think Markey’s effectiveness as a leader of the climate-crisis Left is overrated. Others are the actual leaders, and Markey’s move into the climate world feels like catch-up. Sincere, his move surely is; it gives him a mission that suffices beautifully because it will never be achieved, not if he were to live to be 100 and serve six terms until age 98. Politicians love to advocate issues popular with their base but that can never be achieved, because the advocacy, not the accomplishment, is the thing. Accomplish your mission, and you’ve done your work — NEXT ! Much better to pursue unfinished — unfinish-able — business.

But then, if you’re unlucky, along comes a young Kennedy….

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Columbus Monument In Genoa Hdr

in Genoa, statue honoring Cristoforo Colombo, whose birth day we honor — for fundamental reasons of inheritence and example

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My Mom was born on October 12 in Dr Morrison’s patient care room at 80 Princeton Street in East Boston.

So even though I am not of Italian heritage by family, I am so by inheritance & location.

I have visited Genoa, Cristoforo Colombo’s home city (some say he was from an outlying area, not in the City prtoper, and definitely of humble merchant descent) , and it is beautiful & of a noble and combative history. Genoese seamanship and daring had a long history already behind it when Colombo made his mark.

He commanded a voyage of exploration on behalf of the king of Spain, but his boldness was Genoese. 500 years before him, Genoese seamen in their spunky little galleys, in alliance with seamen from Amalfi and Pisa, beat back the Saracen pirates who had all but closed the Medierranean Sea to commercial traffic. 300 years later a Genoese Grimaldi took possession of the Rock of Monaco — and his descendants still govern it today.

In that tradition sailed Cristoforo Colombo and his intrepid followers in their three tiny galleons. His and their discoveries changed the world, and we are here as a result. Columbus Day is America’s gestation day, and I honor it and him and the magnificent spirit of imagination, commerce, artisanship, municipal freedom and governance, and adventure that defined Italian civilization — and Genoa in particular — of the 11th through 16th Centuries.

We too are a commercial nation and, like medieval Genoa, governed, mostly, by a commercial and hard-working, often artisan citizenry. Our very national name — America — honors another Italian, Amerigo Vespucci of Florence, yet another city led by commercial men, artisans, adventurers and — Florence’s special obsession — lovers of art and literature. These, too, have come down to us here in Amerigo Vespucci’s nation as an inalienable part of our national character and inspiration.

Perfect, Columbus was not, nor were any of the Genoese and Florentines whose civilization we are the inheritors of. Columbus was cruel; the most dominant Genoese leaders were hard-headed, artless bean counters; and the Florentine big shots nursed indelible family feuds even as they funded immortal art.  But no human endeavor is free of the bad genes within it — within us all. We must be governed by our better natures despite all, and despite all, Columbus and his fellow Italians of the discovery era founded the world in which we as Americans do our best, most of the time, to live up to the heritage of those bygone cities of invention and opportunities seized.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Lydia Edwards

^ reform is coming to Boston’s zoning process. Councillor Edwards’s proposals invite serious discussion even if the details merit adjustment

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Several proposals have come forward recently to change how the City of Boston makes its planning decisions. They’re drawing plenty of  attention, too, thanks to the coincidence of a zoning board scandal and an ongoing, almost city-wide unease with development projects and how they get approved.

All of us have read of the bribery scandal involving a former member of the Zoning board of Appeal (ZBA) and a developer who sought the extension of a development permit without undergoing ZBA review. A member of the Board resigned soon thereafter when it was revealed that he acted as broker for the sale of properties whose ZBA variances he voted for. His doing so was not illegal, but it wasn’t well received by Bostonians who feel that the ZBA approves zoning variances regardless of the law governing them.

Last week Councillor Lydia Edwards — who represents East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End — called for reforming the way ZBA members are appointed. I will discuss her proposal later in this column. Its ante has now been upped by Councillor at-Large Michelle Wu, who today called for abolishing the BPDA — Boston’s Planning and Development Agency, which oversees all development proposals from beginning to permit grant. I will discuss Wu’s proposal, too.

Before I talk assess the two proposals, Edwards’s and Wu’s, let’s talk about the ZBA. It is a seven-member body, appointed by the Mayor, which votes on whether or not to grant a “variance” from the requirements of the Zoning Code. Article 80 of the Boston Zoning Code sets forth the entire process as administered by the BPDA. ( You can read Article 80 here : ) There is also the State zoning law, found in MGL c. 40A, which you can read here : The Massachusetts statute establishes zoning purposes and guidelines, and even though the City of Boston has its own zoning code, the law of variances is governed by c. 40A.

What are variances, and what is the law that regulates them ? ( 1 ) a “variance” is an exception to a particular zoning requirement ( 2 ) it is supposed to be granted SOLELY because it enhances the purposes of the law that it is an exception from. In other words, for example, an owner wants to build an extra bedroom onto his home, but that extra will extend into the side setback requirement of the “residential 2-family” district the property is in. The owner argues that granting him this exception, i.e., this variance, will strengthen his (and the property’s) commitment to maintain a two-family residence. Or, an owner may want to raise the height of his roof beyond the, say, 35 foot height restriction governing his zoning district. He proposes that his third floor apartment have a large picture window, say, that will require lifting his roof to 40 feet, five feet beyond the 35 foot height restriction. Abutters may object to this lift as impeding their view or their sunlight, and such objection will be entertained by the ZBA. Nonetheless, the ZBA may well grant the roof lift variance as improving and thus stabilizing the three family dwelling the owner wants to renovate.

In all such cases, the zoning law expressly states — and Massachusetts courts have repeatedly affirmed — that any such variance from the code must conform to the zoning law in force and even strengthen it.

Yet for the past several years, and especially during Mayor Walsh’s years in office, the ZBA has seemed to grant almost every variance request that comes before it, many of them appearing, at least to me, to defy flagrantly the applicable zoning restrictions. Properties are built to the street, or to the very lot line; or they propose 9 units where 3 are allowed and exist; or they offer half as much as parking — or less — as the code requires; or they propose five stories and even six, where the code envisions a limit of three. Or they propose many of these variances altogether. State zoning law makes clear that zoning restrictions are intended to safeguard a neighborhood’s character. Yet the ZBA constantly approves proposals that alter neighborhoods radically.

Little wonder that residents in the most developed zones of Boston — East Boston, South Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mission Hill, the Seaport, South End — have had enough and are finally in a mood to take no prisoners. The neighborhoods I name face hundreds of current requests for zoning variance, few of which — so residents worry — will be denied.

Voters sense — correctly, I think — that the free-for-all on variance grants result from Mayor Walsh’s insistence on the City creating 69,000 new housing units by 2030.

Into this already angry situation comes the ZBA scandal. Is it any wonder that residents and their political voices want the whole avalanche of variance and building to take a serious time out ?

Now to Lydia Edwards’s proposal. The East Boston Times summarizes Edwards’s comprehensive proposal thus :

“…real estate interests would be removed from the board and no named organizations or interests would have a permanent seat. Members and alternate members (seven each) of the ZBA would represent perspectives from affordable housing, civil rights and fair housing, environmental protection and climate change, urban planning, homeowners, renters, and expertise in zoning and the general laws.

Staff for the ZBA would be prohibited from engaging in other permitting, planning, development or real estate functions, and prohibited from engaging in private business in these areas…”

This is stiff medicine. I do not support removing real estate interests from a board that regulates real estate interests. Nor does it make sense for the ZBA to include civil rights and environmental interests. The ZBA is not a Court, and it is not a planning agency. It is tasked with one duty only : enforcing the zoning code and the purposes a variance must adhere to.

That said, it is smart for the seven member ZBA to represent actual neighborhoods. Perhaps ZBA membership might be expanded, so that all the larger neighborhoods of Boston would have at least one member, regardless of whether said member be a real estate person, or an architect, or a planner.

Edwards’s desire to see civil rights advocates, environmental people, fair housing interests, owners and tenants involved in the development process makes more sense when we think about reforming the BPDA. The agency’s public comment hearings and design approval tests were devised to give all of Edwards’s interests a required voice in planning decisions. I support some means by which Edwards’s interests are regulated into the planning process. (I am being general here because this column is already long, and specifics might be the subject of a follow-up column.) One difficulty with BPDA public comment hearings is that, in general, only those opposed to a project show up at hearings. Because that is so, and the City knows that it is so, the BPDA seems to take the position that it is free to represent — and to favor — the proponents of a project, who are certainly there even if they do not attend and speak up at a public comment hearing.

Another difficulty with the BPDA’s public comment hearings is that notice is given only generally to the public, and few voters are aware of where to find these notices. Even when aware, it is hard for someone to find a particular notice. The best locus is on a neighborhood face book page, where activists usually post meeting notices. I think the City owes us at least that much diligence. Perhaps if the City made an extra effort to notify us, it might find a greater number of supporters of a project coming to the comment hearing ?

And proponents are indeed there. Density advocates say that the City’s prosperity requires greater residential density. Business es that depend on there being more customers want developments that will bring in new residents who will then patronize those businesses. Owners of buildings know that if developments are approved, the value of their own property likely goes up.

In any case, greater diversity of opinion at public comment hearings might satisfy Edwards’s desire to see all interests heard and spoken for.

Now to discuss the Michelle Wu proposal:

Wu asks that the BPDA be abolished and that City planning be entrusted to neighborhood-based citizen’s groups. I vigorously oppose such a proposal. It would be the triumph of NIMBY and the end of unified planning that adjusts for traffic, transportation, water and waterfront access. Boston before the BPDA and its predecessor the BRA was a hotch-potch of commercial, residential, and industrial parcels jumbled all together, a public health mess as well as a guarantee that people living in it would leave as soon as they could — as they did. Councillor Wu will have to do better than her blanket abolition of central planning before I’m likely to get aboard.

That said, I recall current Mayor Walsh saying, at candidate forums during his 2013 campaign, that he would abolish the then BRA. Thus Wu’s call isn’t something unheard-of. Walsh’s argument at the time was that the BRA’s planning process was too centralized and so too high-handed. This is the same argument that Wu and her supporters now make.

When Walsh took office, he soon found out that city planning had to have a central point of decision. The City’s neighborhoods are quite different, and they have separate histories, but if planning becomes localized, all kinds of disconnect can ensue. Streets cannot do one thing in neighborhood A and another thing in neighborhood B. The City’s housing policy can’t go in one direction in Neighborhood C and another in neighborhood D. At some point the neighborhoods have to have common practices with respect to public works, zoning codes, school location, and access in and out. Thus the BPDA cannot simply be done away with and planning ceded to un-elected neighborhood activists. All such activists claim to represent “the neighborhood,” but they don’t. They represent one point of view. Others exist, as I have shown. Why should planning for a neighborhood be limited only to its residents ? Neighborhoods contain businesses, and work places, and they attract visitors who spend money there. Don’t these businesses, work places, commuters, and pleasure visitors have a money interest in the neighborhood as well as the residents ? Only a central planning agency can represent these other interests.

Wu knows this very well but for political reasons has chosen to evade the facts. Everybody knows that she is planning a challenge to Mayor Walsh in 2021. That’s fine, that’s her right, but it is not her right to go un-responded to. I can well agree with her that residents of a neighborhood have a proprietary interest in maintaining the character thereof, and I agree that the ZBA must be reformed so that it doesn’t as a matter of course override the law of variances because the Mayor wants 69,000 units of new housing built pronto. But it is NOT BPDA public comment hearings that’s the problem. At those, neighborhood residents have, if anything, overwhelming control of the discussion because supporters of a proposed development barely show up. The problem is the ZBA. In which case Lydia Edwards’s proposals are to the point, and Michelle Wu’s miss the mark.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ impeachment must be only the beginning of assuring that this sort of lunacy never happens to America again

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We have all seen that Mr. Trump has zero respect for the rule of law and basically thinks that a President can do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, plenty of the outrages he has done arise at least in part from authority that prior Congresses have given to the holder of Article 2’s office. The next Congress should take back authority that never should have been given in the first place.

Before I get to my list of legislation I hope the next Congress enacts, it’s useful to look at Article 2 of the Constitution, Section 3, which tasks the President :

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Also needing your consideration is Article 1, Section 1 :

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

BUT : Article 1, Section 6, gives the President a check on said power, namely, a veto, which may be overridden if both houses of Congress vote to override the veto by “two-thirds of that House.” “Two thirds” is not defined, but the common meaning would seem to be two thirds of the membership rather than two thirds of those voting.

—>> I have highlighted the “take Care” clause of Article 2, Section 3 because in so very many cases, Mr. Trump has undermined, if not outright refuse, to take such Care. With respect to immigration laws, he has basically made his own, violating all sorts of basic rights and procedures. Same for environmental protection, for civil rights, and for the conduct of foreign policy. In addition, he has refused to comply with the entirety of Congress’s powers of oversight and investigation of his performance of office.

That said, much of what he has done, by way of executive order and otherwise, he has done pursuant to legislation that gives him such authority. With respect to immigration, to declarations of national emergency, and in his engagement with his cabinet officers and their departments, he has perverted their duties to the service of his won, personal and political needs. He has also done the same with his personal conduct of foreign policy.

As Article 2, Section 2 says in part —  He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law — all heads of the executive branch’s departments charged with “taking Care that the laws be faithfully executed” are nominated by him, subject only to the Senate’s confirmation. Because all such department heads serve at his pleasure, and can be terminated for any reason, they are vulnerable to the President’s asking them to do other things than their appointed “take care” tasks. Mr. Trump has bent both his Attorney General and his Secretary of State entirely to his political purposes, and he has abused almost as badly his Secretary of the Treasury, the Commerce Department, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Interior, to cite the most obvious examples.

When he has not outright perverted his departments, he has set them upon an agenda which is his only, entirely apart from the law. He has forced Defense, Commerce, Education, Housing, Environmental Protection, and Homeland Security to disregard the law, discard requirements, and substitute his policy whims.

Most significantly, and the occasion for his impeachment, finally, by the House, he has violated laws in place, criminal and otherwise, by pressuring and even extorting foreign governments to participate in his election needs.

He has been to get away with these many violations of his oath of office because the Senate has a majority belonging to the same political party that he claims to belong to; and in modern America, political party is everything. It’s the vehicle for big donors and money influence of all kinds, it’s the cloak covering all sorts of corruption and shell games, it’s the obstacle to useful legislation and, as we saw from Senator McConnell in 2016, it’s the instrument by which the Senate violated the Constitution in refusing to grant its advice and consent to the nomination by then President Obama of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

The only practical antidote to the destruction of Constitutional government by the Republican party these past 7 years is to assure that Congress and the Presidency are controlled, starting in 2021, by the other party, the Democrats. I am under no illusions as to the Democratic party’s flaws. Its leaders are not saints. They’re subject to the same sorts of  donor and special interest pressures that have corrupted Republicans. That said, the Democrats have so far stopped short of putting their party priorities ahead of the nation’s interests. I am ready to trusty that when they take full control in 2021, that they will legislate changes to prior enabling laws and will, hopefully, also clarify Presidential authority which, up to now, has assumed basic good faith on said office holder’s part.

Mr. Trump exhibits no good faith in it at all. If laws are not enacted, another Trump can come along, be elected, and do the same as Mr. Trump has done. Here’s how we can make it much harder for a future Trump to do stuff :

( 1 ) revise the National Emergency Act so that the President can only declare a national emergency and use emergency powers, if authorized by a vote of 60 Senators.

( 2 ) clarify the laws authorizing “executive orders,” so that it is clear that no executive order shall contravene legislative purposes, or use emergency or other exception to override Federal law, and that any executive order that appears to do so shall be void ab initio

( 3 ) require that any tariff the President wishes to impose, pursuant to authority to do so, must be confirmed by a vote of at least 60 Senators.

( 4 ) enact legislation forbidding any Executive Department, and its officers, including the Department head, from in any way using Department powers to further the President’s purely political or campaign interests, and include a substantial fine, personal to the individuals found to have done so.

( 5 ) clarify that no claim of “executive privilege” shall apply to any public record sought for investigative purposes by a duly authorized committee of Congress or Congress generally.

( 6 ) enact that any withholding, by an executive official, of a duly requested public record, absent excusable time for performance, shall be a criminal contempt resulting in a fine personal to such officer and, in case of a second offense, imprisonment until the contempt is cured.

( 7 ) clarifying that the “advise and consent” clause of Article 2 includes a presumption of good faith, and that such advice and consent must be given to Presidential nominations as promptly as feasible, including during an election year.

These suggestions will do for starters. I invite readers to suggest additional measures.

Lastly, i wish to remind readers that impeachment and removal from office need not be all the sanctions that a removed President might face. Here I offer you another quote from the Constitution we claim to honor :

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ nobody in sight, in the “who cares” Boston election

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On September 24th a mere 44,972 voters bothered to  cast a ballot in this year’s City Council primary. 7,848 of those voters voted in District Five, with its eight-candidate , local fight. Which means that in eight-ninths of a 700,000 resident, 500,000 voter city, only 37,124 people bothered to vote. In some of the City’s 255 precincts only two ( 2 ) percent of the voters voted.

I may e wrong, but I cannot recall such a high number of opt-outs by Boston voters. Time was,m back in the 1970s, when I had already begun my long life as a Boston political activist, that a turnout of 27 percent (1973) was considered unacceptable. 27 percent would mean about 135,000 voters ! For comparison, in 2013, in a multi-million dollar Mayoral campaign, only 37.5 percent voted. Mayoral elections in the 1970s brought out well over 200,000 voters. South Boston used to see 9000 votes cast. Today, maybe 45400.  Charlestown once delivered 6500 votes. These days, more like 2700. In the 1983 Mayor election, more people voted in Ward 20 (West Roxbury and part of Roslindale) than voted in the 1972 Presidential race ! Today, in a City election, Ward 20 votes maybe 50 percent of its Presidential turnout.

Why his this happened ?

I have no polling firm providing me information, and you might have to ask individual voters why they did not vote last Tuesday, but I think one major development, these past decades, stands out : patronage has, by and large, disappeared from the City’s political system, along with the jobs that it accorded, and the people who lived by that system have, most of them, moved out to the South Shore and the Cape.

Having removed the overwhelming majority of patronage work from the system, all that is left to vote are the ideologically committed and people who grew up before the 1980s and were taught that voting is a duty.  These two groups  don’t amount to much, and in addition to small numbers, they have changed the tone of City Council campaigns,. name recognition, family ties, tons of personal friends, and popularity with City workers used to be the essentials for a City Council win. Today, not so much.

Turnout would probably be even lower were it not for the city worker residency requirement, which keep s many employees living in the City who otherwise would live elsewhere. i have never been a fan of telling city employees where they can or cannot live, but at least these workers provide the City an electorate different from the ideologicals.

In the 1970s the City and Suffolk County had some 30,000 employees. Add in Boston Edison’s 10,00 — jobs that in those days were often patronage — and the  families of all, and very quickly you could expect 100,000 voters. And they voted ! In that 1973 City election that I mentioned above, 99 percent — !!! — of the School Custodians voted. And they all lived in Boston, By themselves they constituted two percent of that 27 percent turnout. You can best believe that when the  Custodians union wanted something from the then elected School Committee, they were listened to.

We monitored who voted. If you didn’t vote, and asked us  for a favor, your non-voting was noted. Not surprising, then, that when a Council candidate wanted to do a city-wide mailing — in those days  candidates did their own — there was absolutely no problem getting 200 “volunteers” to show up a t a church basement or school assembly hall to “do a  mailing” for hours. Heck, those folks WANTED to be there, wanted to be SEEN there !

Try doing that today !

On election day you didn’t just ‘work a poll,” you were EXPECTED to. And you worked it and wanted to be seen working it, just as a union member wants to work a picket line and be seen working it.

Today, when union activists work a political campaign, they come to the headquarters and are signed in. That’s how it should be when you are depending on a union being strong and seen. City politics was once like that too. It isn’t t.hat any more. Today, people who work mostly work in a private sector, or have a government job hired on merit of one sort or another. They get up, clean up, go to work, come hole, do family stuff. City Hall is a place they call to get a street light fixed, if they call it at all. Nothing in their lives is bettered by anyone in City Hall.  Yes, the voters are taxpayers, and that should matter; but it doesn’t seem to. Tax paying is accepted as just another electronic deduction from your bank account, no different from the mortgage payment or the auto loan.

Back in the day, when you had to write out a check to pay the tax bill, and mail it to City hall, you felt differently, maybe.

This indifference to, or lack of relationship with, City Hall, is reflected in what voters tell at the door when you door knock. So me have issue with the school system, that’s for sure, and many complain about City streets and snow plowing; but just as many say they’re very satisfied with how things are going. Unless these voters are your family or est friend, good luck getting them to vote in a  Council election.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




The lessons that I find in last night’s results should unsettle those of us who see the issues differently from the coming majority. So what are these ?

( 1 ) Labor-oriented candidates lost to social justice and climate crisis folks. That much is clear. But there’s much more to the lesson than this. Ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s day, and to some extent before that, labor unions and government worked together to build  new, fairer America with securer jobs and higher wages, government aid, and stronger infrastructure. The GI Bill of Rights after World War II put millions through school and financed the purchase of homes. This partnership of labor and government found political expression in the Democratic party, and at times it fueled the Republican party as well. It was an immense social movement that fully engaged the immigrants, of Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Slavic stocks, in big cities all across the nation. The partnership has continued down almost to our own day.

Yet this major social and political movement has been losing force for some time. The new Boston has been  created in large part by people from elsewhere in America who come here for school and stay to work and innovate. They don’t share the immigrant traditions of “old Boston,” and they aren’t labor union kids. They’re independent minded, or they work in offices, and they draw salaries, not wages. Many are professionals — doctors, lawyers, architects, financial advisers — who work for themselves or in contract partnerships. These voters are building a political movement entirely different from the partnership of big labor and government.

( 2 ) the new workplace isn’t only a place to make money. It’s filled with moral dictates. Notices are posted, on walls or in employee handbooks, or in company mission statements, to the effect that “we are an equal opportunity employer.” In these office-work organizations, “sensitivity training” is now mandatory, in which workers are taught — required — to respect everybody’s sexual orientation, skin color, national origin, faith, disability, etc. Breach of these dictates can result in termination. The same is true for accusations of sexual harassment — a term interpreted a s broadly as possible. After all, no firm or organization wants to be known on social media as a place of “rape culture” or of “hate.”

Nothing could be more unlike the customs of workplaces in which labor unions s were formed or in which their members do a job.

( 3 ) the new workplace of dictated — preached — morality is not something new. It has been done before. In the major economic expansion that took place in Europe during the  century from 1050 to 1150, the upsurge of commercial guilds and the creation of an apprenticeship workforce was spurred by a religious revival that led to the most important reform the Papacy has ever undergone. A similar religious renewal accompanied the Industrial revolution. It was the merchant aristocracy of the North that funded Abolition of slavery and sent its sons to the Union Army, often to die, in pursuit of a moral mission. (famously, among others, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Robert Gould Shaw, of the 54th Massachusetts and the Beacon Street Shaw family.) 

( 4 ) This new movement, of commercially-based moral idealism gains strength also from the population movements accompanying it. As students from away move into Boston and stay to work, so immigrants come into our City and, as immigrants do, join the trend for job and social reasons. Most unions in the City are closed to immigrants because it’s hard to get a union job, most of which are spoken for years in advance if not decades. Thus most immigrants go to non-union jobs no matter what their skills level. (In the past two decades they’ve also fueled powerful, new unions. Notably, these new unions — Service Employees International Union and Local 26 Hotel & Hospitality Workers –have ast tended to link with the business-moralism model rather than with the old Labor Union & Government coalition. In the City primary they backed the candidates who did best, both city-wide and in some District races.) In addition, as most unions have been slow to add African-American members, for that same reason — jobs long spoken for — and as City Hall has long been staffed by the descendants of the Labor Union – Government partnership era, most of the City’s African Americans have joined the new movement of commercial moralism.

( 5 ) residents of Boston don’t just stay in the city. They move out, to the suburbs, usually in search of schools systems they have more confidence in. 40 years ago the descendants of Irish, Italian, Jewish and (some) Slavic immigrants dominated all Boston. Today, immigrants from the Caribbean, Hispanic nations, Viet Nam, the Maghreb and the Middle East, Nigeria and Albania have moved in, even as the City’s Irish, Italian, Jewish, and African-American descendants have moved away. The demographic foundations of labor Union – City Hall partnership are no longer the majority, not even close.

All of the above ranks highly in why last Alejandra St Guillen, Julia Mejia, and Michelle Wu topped labor-backed, native Bostonian Erin Murphy and David Halbert beat out Boston-born Marty Keogh city-wide and why Ricardo Arroyo edged out Maria Esdale Farrell in the District Five primary. (Different dynamics drove the result in the District Eight contest, where both the top two finishers voiced the commercial moralism theme, albeit differently from each other.) 

We can expect more of the same. This movement last year placed Ayanna Pressley atop Mike Capuano and Rachel Rollins over Greg Henning. It will not be denied.

By the way ; this movement is not by any means socialist as the Trump folks think, nor is it uniformly Democratic, as its leaders want it to be. Governor Baker last year won 49.3 percent of Boston’s vote — 65 percent in the Downtown neighborhoods where mostly new Bostonians live — and close to 40 percent of its voters of color, the same voters who gave Rachel Rollins and Ayanna Pressley 75 percent support. (Baker also had the support of the Unite Here, Hotel & Hospitality workers and benevolent neutrality from SEIU locals.) It’s a business-oriented, salaried, free-wheeling and socially directed generation that behaves like an institutional establishment, which is not surprising, because many of its people are as institutional as it gets in their thinking and connections. 

These are the lessons that i draw from last night’s results. I am personally not thrilled by it; my world is that of the labor Union partnership with government, of public service jobs and workplaces physical and constructing. I like big skyscrapers. I love the sight of rodmen walking steel beams. I like the noise and odor of factories. Suffolk Construction is the sort of firm I would love to have worked for — if I weren’t a journalist. I wanted the 2024 Olympics here. I like to see city hall guys out working a poll on election day. You are heroes all, a great bunch to down a frosty or two with after winning an election.

I also don’t like to be preached to by moralists, commercial or otherwise.

Yet I recognize that my world is passing from the scene, as are our pubs and taverns, and me soon with it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere