^ a Councillor, not a Don Quixote ; Michelle Wu (with Philip Frattaroli and Marty Keogh at the Frattaroli family’s post-Columbus Day Parade reception

—- —- —-

There’s much flap going around now,as silly a brouhaha as I’ve observed in this entire Boston campaign cycle, including an op-ed by my old Boston Phoenix colleague Yvonne Abraham, to the effect that Councillor-elect Michelle Wu¬†shouldn’t vote for Bill Linehan as the new Council President.. Supposedly she should vote for a Councillor who “shares her agenda.” Today’s Globe quotes several persons, described as “progressives,’ who promise not to support Wu for re-election if she votes for Linehan. This is zealotry of the Tea Party kind, to which the Left, as we’ve seen in the past, is hardly immune. One quoted voice even says that “Unless (Wu) changes her mind…she’s a one-term city councillor.”

This is rubbish. It’s also as silly as a political kerfuffle can be. Boston’;s City Council has no power that the mayor doesn’t want it to have. It can propose, it can debate, it can re-arrange the musical chairs by which Council Committee chairmen are chosen; but it can’t do a damned thing of significant importance without the Mayor thumbing up.

Sure, individual Councillors can have an independent impact, if they’re willing to get frozen out by the Mayor. John Connolly pursued an independent course. Others have done so. But when the chips are on the table, and the Mayor’s agenda is at stake, you will no more find a majority of the 13 Councillors opposing than you’ll find a sting ray in your briefcase on Christmas eve.

So what’s the big deal here ? Let’s try a little political reality, for a change, and lose the ideological version of cgi-created film monsters.

The rule governing voting for Council President has long been : “vote for the weakest.”

In this case ( 1 ) Bill Linehan is no threat to run for Mayor against Marty Walsh ( 2 ) ramping up either Tito Jackson or Matt O’Malley to Council President — both of whom want the honorific — would be a threat and ( 3 ) ramping either man up to Council President would impede the 2017 (or 2021) mayor race plans of the REAL potential candidate of significance. (It’s Jackson’s and O’Malley’s very strength as Councillors that make them musts-to-avoid as Council President. Get my meaning ?)

^ Matt O’Malley of Council District 6 : his record-breaking vote makes him unelectable as a Council President

Most important, Linehan has no base at all independent of Mayor-elect Walsh’s core support and thus has no power to oppose him on any item of import.

THAT is how Council Presidents are chosen. Stupid indeed is the newly elected Councillor who bucks that reality; and Michelle Wu is far from stupid. I applaud her acumen in this matter.

As for being re-elected, Wu’s husband notes that even if you subtract her entire vote from wards 4, 5, 11, and 19 she still won by 14,000 votes. This is an apt subtraction, because 2015 will be a Council-only election, and in these, the voters of Wards 4, 5, and 11 turn out far fewer voters than they do in a Mayoral election. Wu’s re-election will be decided in Wards 20, 18, 2, 16, and 17, and of course also in Chinatown’s Ward 3 Precinct 7. All of these feature constituencies very different from the wards identified with Tea Party Leftism or comfortable urban reform. And you know what else ? Wards 4, 5, 11, and 19 contain plenty of voters who aren’t Tea-Left. Of the 15,000 or so voters who will likely turn out in 2015 in those four wards, Wu will comfortably win at least one-third — probably more. She may slip from second to third or even fourth (though I doubt that); but re-elected she surely will be, assuming that she does the job of city-wide Councillor in painstaking daily detail. Which I have no doubt at all she will do.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere


IMPORTANT UPDATE : Even as I wrote this story, the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast issue was being settled. District Councillor Bill Linehan and Linda Dorcena-Forry issued a joint statement, that Senator Dorcena-Forry would, in fact, be hosting next year’ St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast. The dispute lasted all of two days.

However, the other half of this story — the Freedom House Forum for Mayoral candidates “of color” only, remains. And so I ask you all to read, below, what I wrote before news of the South Boston resolution broke…

The last thing that Boston’s Mayor campaign needs is an interruption by racism. Yet that is what has happened these past two days — through no fault of the candidates, let me make very clear. The 12 hopefuls running, and their campaigns, all speak for the new Boston, long since grown beyond a sadly racist past — 40 years ago and more — and have made this one of the most intelligent, forward-thinking issues conversations I have ever seen in the political arena. It has been citizenship at its high school, civics class best.

And yet the past intrudes. Some voters, and even some civic leaders, can’t help themselves.

First came the news that the committee that puts on South Boston’s annual St. Patrick’s day breakfast was divided on whether to invite its newly elected State Senator, Linda Dorcena Forry, to host the affair. South Boston’s State Senator has, ever since Bill Bulger’s time, done the honors; and all have been white and of Irish heritage; whereas Dorcena Forry is a person of color and of Haitian parentage; and lives in Dorchester Lower Mills. Of course, a case can be made that, as the breakfast is a South Boston event, a South Boston spokesperson should host it. Fair enough; and now, since the resignation of State Senator Jack Hart, South Boston’s City Councillor, Bill Linehan, has claimed host status. But that’s not at all the last word. Though never a rule of the breakfast, the area’s State Senator has hosted it for at least the last 20 years. Thus the problem of Linda Dorcena Forry.


^ Linda Dorcena-Forry : South Boston’s next St Patty’s day breakfast host ?

Will she be invited to do what the District’s last three state senators have always done ? It would be next to impossible, were she not so invited, to avoid that race is the reason. It would be bad business indeed for the breakfast committee to accord any such prospect. Linda Dorcena Forry should host the 2014 St. Patrick’s day Breakfast. She will do just fine.

The above discussion was not till today on my task list. Indeed, I had intended not to mention the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at all. To me it is a neighborhood affair, and that was that. And then came my discovery, at last night’s Mayoral Forum at the Reggie Lewis Center in Madison Park High School, of the Freedom House Mayoral forum flier pictured below. It forced me to set aside, for awhile, the excellent conversations at Madison park High about jobs, construction,l and schools. Please take a close look at it :


Like you, I could not believe what I was reading. I was stupefied. “The First mayoral Forum for candidates of Color.” proclaimed the flier.

If the South Boston St. Patrick’s day breakfast is just a neighborhood affair, in no way a government-funded or public function — you have to buy a ticket — Freedom House’s Mayoral Forum is every bit a public function.

The flier adds insult to injury. “Free and open to all,” it proclaims. Open to all ? But not to all candidates ? What ARE they thinking ?

This is one Forum that Here and Sphere will, not attend. Nor should any of the candidates “of color.’ All should say “thanks, but no thanks.”

Then it will be time to address the matter of who will host the 2014 South Boston St. Patrick’s day Breakfast. After which the last strokes of old racism will, hopefully, fade away like what they are: the ghosts of failed, immoral attitudes.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere