BOSTON ELECTION : CITY COUNCIL ENDORSEMENTS

Yesterday I posted our endorsements for Boston’s four at-Large Council seats. There was some push-back. Folks evidently do not grasp our method or else disagree that we should use it. The disagreement I can handle : these are our endorsements, so be it. as for comprehending, I will lay out my criteria once more :

1. We insist that a Councillor be independent of the Mayor, even in opposition to him. The Council has little enough power as it is. What good is a Councillor almost powerless if he or she does not stand free of the Mayor and criticize his agenda when it deserves criticism ?
2. We also want an at-large Councillor to demonstrate as much city-wide support as he or she can manage.
3. A Councillor should OF COURSE demonstrate knowledge of the main issues and be able to address them in speeches and on paper.
The above are all the criteria I have used in giving our endorsements. Simple.
On these criteria, there are three candidates who merit Here and Sphere’s unqualified endorsement. I also list their “score” on the two criteria on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest :

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1. Jack Kelly.  Independence of Connolly : 4 Independence of Walsh : 3 City-wide support : 4 ability to address issues : 4
Total score : 15

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2. Mike Flaherty : Independence of Connolly : 3 Independence of Walsh : 4 City wide support : 5 Ability to address issues : 5
Total score : 17

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3. Ayanna Pressley : Independence of Connolly : 2 Independence of Walsh : 4 City wide support : 5 ability to address issues : 4.5
Total score : 15.5

Four of the five other candidates merit our endorsement, but a qualified one due to their perceived closeness to one or the other Mayor candidates or a lesser city-wide support than we see in the above three :

4. Marty Keogh : independence of Connolly : 4 Independence of Walsh : 1 City-wide support : 3 ability to address issues : 4
Total score : 12
5. Michelle Wu : Independence of Connolly : 2 independence of Walsh : 4 City-wide support : 5 ability to address issues : 3
Total score : 14
6. Annissa Essaibi George : independence of Connolly : 5 Independence of Walsh : 1 City-wide support : 3.5 ability to address issues : 3.5
Total score : 13
7. Jeff Ross : independence of Connolly : 2 Independence of Walsh : 4 City-wide support : 4 ability to address issues : 3.5
Total score 13.5

You will notice that we make no mention of Stephen Murphy. This is not to disparage Stephen, who has been a personal friend of this writer for many, many years. My reasons for leaving Stephen off the list are two : ( 1 ) I think that his best work — connecting “new Boston” constituencies to “traditional” Boston — is accomplished ; and ( 2 ) Steve was hardly a profile in boldness once the arbitrator’s BPPA award was brought back to the City Council for approval or disapproval. Steve : ya gotta lead, buddy !

OK, so there you have it : our Council endorsements. Now go ye and vote as ye think best.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON ELECTION : CITY COUNCIL AT-LARGE FINAL — A FIRST LOOK

Boston’s City Council has little power via the present City charter. Such little as it has is most effectively directed to questioning the Mayor’s agenda. Even though the Council almost always gets onto the Mayor’s side on such, merely by questioning it awakens the City’s voters to agenda items that might not win most voters’ favor. And they are less easily brought aboard the Mayor’s agenda than are the Council members.

Every Mayoral agenda contains items that voters might justly question. That’s why we, at Here and Sphere, in making our endorsement and suggestions for the Council, rank a candidate’s potential independence first of all. We want the Council to answer to constituencies that the Mayor’s agenda does not favor. We see the Mayor’s proposals and the Council response as a kind of labor negotiation, one in which a common middle ground is reached. For that reason, we especially insist that the at-Large (city-wide) elected Councillors demonstrate this independence.

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^ Jack Kelly : independence almost assured — we endorse ! (photo  by Kelly campaign)

Which is why we balance our endorsement of John Connolly for Mayor with an endorsement of jack Kelly as a city-wide Councillor. He will be as comprehensive a “voice for labor’ as anyone of the eight candidates on the ballot. None, to our knowledge, has received as many Union endorsements as has he. Moreover, Kelly is not only a “voice for labor.” He has Planned Parenthood’s endorsement, that of District Four Councillor Tito Jackson, and the support of at least two Boston Globe columnists so far.  And just today, he gained endorsement by Ramon Soto, who was an at-large Council candidate himself.

Kelly addresses issues only after careful study — no Council candidate is more thoughtful. His enjoyment of people is infectious; everybody sees it. If anyone in this year’s election has the inner stuff to enthuse almost everyone, it is Jack Kelly.

The other seven candidates include four of the seven who we “suggested” in the Primary. The three who missed the cut — Chris Conroy, Catherine O’Neill, and Phil Frattaroli  — will, we hope, be heard from again. The four “suggested’s” who did make it — incumbent Ayanna Pressley and newcomers Annissa Essaibi George, Marty Keogh, and Jeff Ross, all of whom we like a lot — now find themselves in competition with three whom we did not suggest. These are serious contenders : incumbent Stephen J. Murphy; former Councillor Mike Flaherty; and one newcomer, Michelle Wu.

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^ Annissa Essaibi George : very Dorchester and as “Dot” is Boston’s largest neighborhood, that’s reason enough to like. we do.

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^ Jeff Ross : hard work and a proven, long time commitment to Bostonians needing a voice

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^ Marty Keogh : the voice of Wards 18 and 20 — is it enough ? we hope it is.

We continue to like our four “survivors.” We understand that at least one, even of them, will not be elected in November. Yet we cannot simply dismiss Flaherty, Murphy, and Wu any longer. So how, at first look, do we judge their candidacy ?

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^ strong in every neighborhood of Boston : Mike Flaherty

1.Mike Flaherty has put together a citywide vote as uniformly strong as any Council candidate. And city-wide strength is something we want to see in a city-wide candidate. It’s almost as important as independence.

After failing to win election in 2011 — having lost badly in 2009 when he challenged mayor Menino — Flaherty has won back all the voter confidence that had appeared no longer his. We would be very surprised if Flaherty does not win back his Council seat, and we will be doing a Profile of him next week. In which we will take the temperature of his independence of mind.

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^ Stephen Murphy : what has he yet to do that he has not already done ?

2.Stephen J. Murphy has been a personal friend of this writer for almost our entire adult lives. Indepenence from Mayor Menino is built into his soul. Murphy’s mild, gentlemanly manner belies a passionate commitment to traditional Boston ways and agendas — into which he has, much more smoothly than I thought likely, blended all kinds of “new Boston’ constituencies. Murphy seems to say, “you may be think you’re one of those ‘new Bostonians,’ but you’ll fit right into traditional Boston, I will take you there, and you will like it.” No one else on the Council could have done this important mission as successfully.

My only question of Murphy’s continuing on the Council is whether or not his work hasn’t been fully accomplished. What has he still left to do that others can’t do ? I will be asking him this question in a coming profile.

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^ Michelle Wu : impressive bio

3.Michelle Wu. She was said to be all over the city; we have all seen her worn-out-shoes news story. Yet I, despite being all over the City at street level myself, since the beginning of August, only met Wu for the first time at the Roslindale parade. Where did she wear out those shoes ?

The Wu candidacy puzzles me. She took fourth spot in the Primary by a huge margin : how did she become so well known ? so well thought of ? Better known than marty Keogh ? Better thought vof than teacher and neighborhood activist Annissa Essaibi George ? More worthy a progressive than Jeff Ross ? Her personal story is impressive : harvard Law School graduate and care provider for her widowed mother. Her political story seems even more to the point : she was a campaign staffer for Senator Elizabeth Warren, the most popular politician in Massachusetts.

Yet others in this year’s Council campaign worked for Warren as well. All, even Jeff Ross, who grew up on the West Coast, have longer and deeper attachment to Boston than Wu, who only recently moved to the City. Why the Council ? To me, at first look, Wu seems better fitted to head a city administrative department than to be a elected voice. If the theme is “new Boston,” Ross, to our mind, fits the bill much more profoundly than Wu. Surely her biography and Warren connection impressed many voters who don’t accord their Council votes a policy importance. To me, using a Councillor vote to congratulate an impressive personal achievement is to disrespect the Council. A Councillor should be more than a graduation day photograph.

That said, we will be talking to Michelle Wu next week and asking her what there is about her candidacy other than a very impressive bio.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON CITY COUNCIL PROFILE : ANNISSA ESSAIBI-GEORGE

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As many of you reading this already know, we put Annissa Essaibi George on Here and Sphere’s suggested” list for the Primary. Of her we said the following :

a Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) activist, Essaibi-George has the radiance, class, and articulation for which Boston Public school teachers are justly respected. We met her and liked her instantly, and mot just because she’s from Dorchester, with strong support in East Boston as well (where she teaches at East Boston High School). She runs a small business, and has time, somehow, to also be a neighborhood activist. We think no one will outwork her on the Council, and definitely her voice for the BTU is needed, even if the BTU itself sometimes misses the political bulls-eye.”

Everything we said of Essaibi-George then, we found to be just as true as we had observed of her. We met her in the home neighborhood, that part of Dorchester centered on St., Margaret’s Church. It’s where the late House Speaker John McCormack lived, and it’s where Marty Walsh was born and still lives. Essaibi-George was born and grew up here too — and keeps her campaign headquarters nearby as well. (And yes, it was open with volunteers busy when we met her.)

Despite the exotic name — her Father came from Tunisia; George is her married name — Essaibi-George is a total Dorchester kid. She has the accent and she knows the people. When we met her at the Sugar Box on “Dot Ave” she was just finishing an intense discussion with District Three Councillor Frank Baker, who also grew up close to St. Margaret’s and still lives there.

We and Baker said our hello’s, and he left for other business, and we asked Essaibi George (AEG below) the questions we always ask of Council candidates. The first question that Here and Sphere (HnS) asks is, “what unique qualities do you bring to the Council if elected ?”

This answer we already knew : as a Boston Teachers Union memeber and activist, she will be a voice for teachers : who are, after all, the focal point of Boston’s most costly and biggest single city department.

HnS : What school reforms do you see as needed ?

AEG : “A lot of Catholic schools end in the eighth grade. We need to ramp up what we are doing in our high schools so bthat parents feel better about sending kids to them. Not every kid gets the exam schools. Each of our high schools needs to be partnered with a union, a big business, or a university. To give the kids hands-on training connected to learning. Bio-tech firms need to be in this mix). More than once a year. Let our kids see what it’s like to work. Universities: let sophomores at BU (Boston University) come to the high schools and mentor our kids. Our kids need to know what it’s like to go to college. They need to see what it’s like to do the work (that’s expected of them) in college.”

HnS : The BRA — replace it or reform it ?

AEG : “Reform it.. Don’t get rid of it. Community opinion (should be) heavily weighted.”

HnS : Doesn’t that simply enable NIMBY ?

AEG : NIMBY comes from a neighborhood not being included. There has been undue dumping of low quality housing in some neighborhoods. And too many methadone clinics. These are often for-profit, and the more people they can run through their system, the more profit. And the neighborhood ends up having to deal with it.”

HnS : As for neighborhood development, what about liquor licenses ?

AEG : “Every neighborhood has different characteristics. Again, if the neighbors feel that a liquor license is needed or useful, then the City should be able to grant it. And if it isn’t needed, then not.”

HnS : Do you agree with what Marty Walsh said a couple months back, that there os a heroin epidemic in Boston ?

AEG : “There is a heroin epidemic and a mrthadone epidemic. We need to hold the methadone clinics resposnsible for the quality of their care. Care and supervision needed.”

That discussion that we mentioned her having with Councillor Baker was, so she told us, about when the Council hearing would be held to discuss the 25.5% BPPA arbitration award — Baker did not yet know when it would be held. The subject being mentioned, we of course had to ask — indeed, she insisted we do so :

HnS : “All right then, what IS your opinion of the BPPA award ? Can we assume it is the same as everybody else’s ?

AEG : “I support the award ! We’ve negotiated, and we should make the decision before it gets to arbitration. After 24 negotiating sessions we should be able to settle ! Otherwise why have negotiations ?”

On this resolution she and we disagree. But we were impressed to find her giving so forthrightly a contrary opinion to our own. She has a point : how can a labor negotiation not reach settlement after 24 bargaining sessions ? The question wants to answer itself. Besides, we actually prefer to see diversity of opinion on the Boston City Council. If all four at-Large Councillors agree on matters, why have four of them at all ?

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^ the candidate in West Roxbury, meeting voters at ward 20 Precincts 10 and 14, on Primary night

Essaibi-George finished seventh in the Primary. We’ll be looking to see her in the areas she is now focusing on, including, of course, West Roxbury and Jamiaca Plan. She has the active support of Catherine O’Neill, who was on our “suggested” list as well but finished ninth and thus missed “the top eight cut.” O’Neill comes from the opposite end of Dorchester and, as a television hostess and published playwright, has a different following from Essaibi-George’s but one that complements it. Did we mention that the Firemen of local 718 also support her ? They do.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : Our summer intern, Dave Morrison, contributed important research and reporting to this profile.

BOSTON ELECTION : FOR AT-LARGE CITY COUNCIL

Boston voters go to the polls on Tuesday — in less than 48 hours — to choose the candidates who will face off in the November 5th “Final.”

Mayor is of course Boston’s first priority; but a City Council final eight will also be selected. Below are our choices. Please read about them all. We like all eight.

photo (69) Jack Kelly : our first choice, as the most across-the-board voice of labor we’ve seen in decades, at a time when a trusted voice of labor is most needed on the Council. Kelly’s campaign has captured the imagination and support of the entire City — even the Boston Globe –and he has the endorsements (including from Councillor Tito jackson and planned parenthood) to prove it. He also has ours.

photo (55)Chris Conroy : his campaign lacks money and moves sometimes on foot, but Conroy has much more city-wide support than that suggests. He grew up in ward 16 (Fields Corner) and lives now in ward 11 (Roxbury) and speaks in eloquent and passionate detail about bettering the City’s schools — not bit by bit, but hugely. Some might say, “a white guy in Roxbury ? and think “1969 hippie,” but that’s for throwbacks. Conroy is the Roxbury of today : diverse, and progressive for real, not just for hippie dreams.

Annissa Essaibi

Annissa Essaibi-George : a Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) activist, Essaibi-George has the radiance, class, and articulation for which Boston Public school teachers are justly respected. We met her and liked her instantly, and mot just because she’s from Dorchester, with strong support in East Boston as well (where she teaches at East Boston High School). She runs a small business, and has time, somehow, to also be a neighborhood activist. We think no one will outwork her on the Council, and defintely her voice for the BTU is needed, even if the BTU itself sometimes misses the political bulls-eye.

photo (65) Philip Frattaroli : resident in the North End, he owns a restaurant, Ducali, on Causeway Street and grew up in his Dad’s restaurant business. As Mayor candidate John Barros says, “ten percent of all workers in Boston work in the restaurant business.” Reason enough to want Frattaroli on the Council; add to that his growing city-wide support, as he captures the imagination of small business people everywhere in Boston frustrated  by the red tape encasing the City’s bizarro permitting process.

photo (43) Marty Keogh : we’ve known Marty for a long time — and that’s him : this season’s most energetic voice of “traditional” Boston. From that side of Boston– as it stands  today — he has gathered the kind of committed support that elected Councillors galore thirty and forty years ago. Keogh has significant labor union support and is beginning to make some inroads into parts of “new Boston.” We can’t wait to see him debate cultural issuers with Jeff Ross (see below), progressive agenda with Chis Conroy, and school assignments policy with just about everybody.

photo (61) Catherine O’Neill : if Senator Elizabeth Warren does nothing else for Boston, her selection of O’Neill to work the campaign’s media presence deserves our thanks. O’Neill, we discovered soon enough, isn’t just a Warren protege. She comes from the large and we,ll-known O’Neills of Lower Mills, field-directed Linda Dorcena-Forry’s historic State Senate win,  is a published playwright, and hosts a Boston television show (at BBN TV). And it shows. She simply loves people and political discussion — city-wide ? no problem at all — and people take to her as well. We look forward to seeing her speak from the perspectives of both “traditional” Lower Mills and “new Boston” media on all the issues — senior citizens too.

photo (39) Ayanna Pressley : she’s an incumbent, and we hope that she continues to be one. The Chicago native is articulate, genial, classy — and has hold of an issue vital to Boston’s quality of neighborhood life : her Home Rule petition to the legislature to grant Boston control over the number and location of our liquor licenses. ask restaurant businesses if that matters ? Hint : it does.

photo (24) Jeff Ross : a South End resident — in Ward 9 Precinct 2, for political junkies like Ross — this politically experienced, veteran campaigner now steps forward to run for office himself, bringing to the battle long and progressive knowledge of what must be done to make Boston a more diverse, more fun, and more effective city for all. You have to respect — and want to see elected — a guy who grew up in a working-class, home, was the first in his family to graduate college, is a voice for the city’s LGBT community, and has the neighborhood touch too.

Conclusion : by no means do we wish to denigrate the eleven at-large candidates who did not make either our endorsed or suggested list. Indeed, the eleven include two long time personal friends and several promising newcomers. But one must choose; that’s what elections are about. If the eight people we have singled out above all “make the cut,’ Boston will enter a new political era, one less dominated by the old ways and more inclined to articulate diversity. that’s what cities should be.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere