BOSTON ELECTION FINAL : SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT THE OFFICE OF BOSTON MAYOR

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^ to the office of Mayor : which one ? and Why ?

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Ten days ago I wrote that Marty Walsh had to change the conversation big-time or he risked being beaten by a lot. A few days later I wrote of the contradictions and conundrums in his campaign. He has now responded. He has changed the conversation AND resolved the contradictions. He is now the Candidate of The Labor Left

It is likely not a winning hand. It is certainly not a hand for a Boston in which union households in toto amount to about 14 % of the total vote. But it is a better hand than the fuzzy and disorganized hand that he had been playing. And because it is a better hand, it merits a better answer; and that it is getting, from the much more broadly based, more contemporary, more freewheeling campaign of John Connolly.

Here and Sphere, for which I write, has already endorsed John Connolly. My intention now is not to repeat that endorsement. It speaks for itself. My topic today is to examine the office of Boston Mayor itself : what do we expect our Mayor to be ? And not to be ? And why ?

Under the current City charter, the Mayor is all powerful. He (and it will be a he) appoints all administrative heads, oversees all departments, has enormous appointive power all the way down the organizational chart, and thus controls the City budget even though the Charter gives the City Council the final vote — though the Mayor can veto it.

Given the vast powers that a Boston Mayor has, it is small wonder that every interest group in the city wants him on its side. in such situation, there are only two arrangement options ;

1.The mayor can be an honerst broker amongst these interest groups, independent of any of them, or perhaps loosely aligned, from time to time, with one or more.

2.The Mayor can be the captive of one or more interest groups, elected so completely by them that he has no independence, or very little, but is, rather, that interest groups’ instrument.

It doesn’t take very much imagination to see which version of Mayor is portended by which of the two campaigns now hotting up. Personally, I prefer the first version, and I suspect that so do most Boston voters. It is not fun when an office as dominant as Boston mayor is the policy instrument of one interest group — unions especially, given that unions’ sole interest is to increase wages. (Increasing wages is a very worthy goal. But it is the epitome of narrow; a Mayor’s policy goals should be wide.) a major reason why I — most voters — prefer the independent-Mayor version is that interest groups develop an internal momentum of their own leading to either increasing radicalization or to factionalism. Radicalization alienates more and more voters from government (and should). Factionalism makes government a beehive of back-stabbing, a boiler room of inefficiency and contradiction. No one with any sense of civic governance should want a Mayor bullied by radicals or burlesqued by faction.

A City with a powerful-mayor charter can survive these political ills. Most people simply get on with their lives. The City may annoy them, or impede, but because most people live in the private sector and make most of thir life decisions on their own all day long, a mis-mayored city can hardly break them. But wouldn’t it be so much better to have a Mayor who enables rather than impedes ? Gives some aid to every interest group but all aid to none ?

John W Sears

^ John W. Sears, 1967 : “I play center field.” It’s still the model for what a Mayor of Boston should be.

Because so much effort, and so many people, are needed by a Boston Mayor candidate in order to win election to the office, a surge by interested people cannot be avoided. Indeed, the involvement of interested people is a good thing. But all surges risk going too far. it’s up to the candidate to stop that. It is political malpractice to aid and abet it.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : 18 FORUMS UPCOMING … AND A NEW STATE REP FOR THE 12TH ?

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^ John Connolly vs. Marty Walsh : big battle shaping up

In case you doubt that the “sprint to Primary day” is really under way for the 12 Mayor candidates, get this : there are no fewer than eighteen — 18 ! — Mayoral Forums on schedule between today and September 19th.

No one wants to downgrade any Forum, but clearly, of those coming soon, the Main street Coalition’s Forum at the Strand Theater in Uphams’ Corner, on August 19th is key. Important, too,  are the Ward 10 (Mission hill and Hyde Square) Candidates Night on August 27th, the South End Business Alliance Forum on August 29th, and the Wards 19 and 5 Democratic Committee night on September 5. After that, it’s all big stuff, especially these : the NAACP’s Forum, 650 Dudley Street, on September 10th; Action for Boston Community Development’s Forum, 178 Tremont Street, on September 11; the Boston Teachers Union Forum that same night, at the BTU headquarters, 180 Mt Vernon Street near Columbia Point (Dorchester). Then comes the Back Bay Association’s Forum on September 16, and on September 19th, two biggies ; the Dorchester Board of trade, 780 Morrissey Boulevard, off Freeport Street, and a WBUR and Boston Foundation Forum at U Mass Boston in Columbia Point.

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^ Former School Committee member John Barros ; impressing many, and a chance to be heard on the big stages coming up

For some of the twelve, these Forums will be a last chance to get voters thinking beyond the “major” hopefuls. For the “majors,” it will be a voice-exhausting exercise in saying over and over again the themes and details that they are already speaking about, again and again, every night now.

Having had few opportunities to say their say in detail and at length, the last-chancers will doubtless impress many. Still, without meaning to sound dismissive, this writer feels, from long observation of major City campaigns, that for the last-chancers, these forums’ big significance will be that they catch the attention of the “majors,’ so that after the Primary, their support will be sought after. Which accords them and their supporters some palpable share in the agenda of whichever candidate finally becomes Mayor. Given that Boston has a strong-Mayor charter, by which the mayor appoints almost every key administrator and runs almost every City department, having skin in his or her game is no small thing for a last-chancer to gain.

There will also be some last-chancers who either do not get the point or who mishandle it. So be it in the political major leagues.

For the “majors,” the objective will be to not stumble, as Dan Conley now infamously did at a recent Black Community Forum, and to not misstate or overlook a policy position. Preparation will not be an issue; with so many forums coming on, no one is going to lose his or her forensic mojo. Still, these forums do not — cannot — overwhelm a major candidate’s time and thinking. He or she has several of his or her own campaign events on schedule, every day and night. it’s one huge, daily rush-rush-rush from here to there and everywhere, a series of stop-and-speak’s, strung across 17 hours of driving like knots on a rope. Such a candidate finds himself cramming on the ride to a Forum — when he or she’s not trying to catch 40 winks.

The good times of this campaign are over for the “majors” — the one on one talks with voters, the casual visits to city parks, neighborhood groups, restaurants, and small house parties. From here on, it’s thirst, palm cards, remembering voters’ names; it’s punishment, exhaustion, endurance, awareness missing nothing, plumping for funds — and reporters bothering them. But hey — this is the biggest of big leagues. Bring on the Forums.

As far as who the Big Two will be after Primary time, we saw nothing yesterday to change our view : John Connolly and Marty Walsh are it, with Rob Consalvo a credible alternative.

I give Consalvo that much because, at yesterday’s special Primary election to choose the 12th Suffolk State Rep’s Democratic nominee (to replace Linda Dorcena-Forry, now a State Senator), he had the most visibility of any mayor hopeful. At the seven city polling places (the District also includes also two precincts in Milton) and in lawn signs all over the Mattapan part of the District, Consalvo showed up.  So far as this writer has observed,he has all along  run the most thorough visibility campaign of the twelve. Were it not that a battle royal is already shaping up between Connolly and Walsh — political people throughout the City are talking about it; we’ll discuss why in future reports — Consalvo’s visibility effort would make all the difference. But that battle royal is taking shape, and fast, and the man from Hyde Park may get squeezed out.

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^ Rob Consalvo ; visibility dominant

The 12th Suffolk being a Dorchester/Mattapan thing, local favorite Marty Walsh had workers displaying his name — enthusiastically — at several of the seven polling places; supporters of Bill Walczak and Mike Ross also made a few appearances. John Connolly people, however, were not seen. This could not have been accident. Clearly Connolly had no intention of being measured against Walsh on Walsh’s home turf.

Now to that 12th Suffolk District special election. As we reported on our Facebook page at 9:00 PM last night, the Democratic nomination was won by Dan Cullinane, a former Marty Walsh aide from the Lower Mills neighborhood of Dorchester — as politically active a community as any in Boston. Surely Walsh had to be pleased.

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^ Dan Cullinane : Lower Mills victory

Cullinane’s victory party at the Ledge on “Dot Ave” was packed with about 100 supporters, including State Senator Brian Joyce as well as several members of the large and well-known Lower Mills O’Neill family, one of which, Catherine O’Neill, is running for Boston city Council city-wide. The O’Neills too had to be pleased.

Cullinane announced “diversity is the strength of our district’; and thanked, in particular, voters of Haitian origin, several of whom celebrated at his party : “merci, merci, merci,” Cullinane said, ‘and I can’t wait to visit Haiti !”

The new nominee won more than 60 percent of the vote against Stephanie Everett, who waas an aide to State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Marydith Tuitt, an aide to State Rep Gloria Fox. Cullinane now faces, on September 10th, two independent candidates, one from Milton and one from Mattapan, in a District as Democratic as almost any in the State. If elected, he will join the Boston delegation and bring it to full size again.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE SPRINT TO PRIMARY DAY HAS ALREADY BEGUN

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^ Marty Walsh at “Mondays for Marty” in Charlestown

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Six candidates, at least, of the twelve people vying to be be Boston’s next Mayor, have ramped up their campaigns big-time. Truly the sprint to Primary Day has begun.

Every Monday, Marty Walsh holds a town hall with neighbors in those parts of the City he feels he most needs to win a spot in the final. we attended his Charlestown “Monday” last night and found it packed with neighbors with important questions — pointed questions,well informed — to ask of him. Other than Mondays, Walsh can be found shaking hands across the city, sending teams of volunteers to knock on doors, winning endorsements.

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^ John Connolly speaking to the West Roxbury improvement Association. Who says Boston voters aren’t focusing on this race ?

John Connolly is dashing across the city from event to event. Yesterday saw him in West Roxbury — addressing a crowd of 200 at the west Roxbury Improvement association forum — Roslindale, Brighton,. and “Eastie,” where State rep. Carlo Basile has endorsed him.

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^ Rob Consalvo has probably visited more and diverse community groups than any rival candidate.

Rob Consalvo sends out teams of door-knockers, attends forums, and does meet-and-greets everywhere along the long “spine” of Boston from Readville and Mattapan to the South End, North end, and East Boston .

Dan Conley’s campaign looks a lot like Consalvo’s, except that he has concentrated not on the ‘spine’ but on the extensions : South Boston, West Roxbury, Roslindale, Brighton.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : ramping up big-time, finally. (HQ in Mission Hill)

Charlotte Golar-Richie, whose Dad, a retired New York judge, just died, has opened up five neighborhood headquarters, from Mission hill to Roxbury to Upham’s Corner, and though very slow to ramp up, is now fully engaged in the fight.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo :  lots of shoe leather and enthusiasm — and union endorsements

Felix G. Arroyo has sent out more door-knocking teams than any of his rivals, and he often joins them. He has some strong labor endorsements and is earnestly pursuing others.

Three other campaigns, those of Mike Ross, Bill Walczak, and John Barros, have made a mark — Barros for his knowledge of the issues, Walczak for his opposition to casinos, Ross for his visibility in social media — but it seems very unlikely that they can catch up to the six top sprinters.

As for those six top sprinters, they are not all running equally. Arroyo and Golar-Richie still suffer from looking to constituencies internally divided, with many of their leaders undecided which way to go, unhappy about what looks likely to be the Final. Arroyo and Golar-Richie also have yet to convince many of the voters whom they will need that they have what it takes to address the issues forcefully and consistently. This was demonstrated at a Black Agenda discussion meeting last night, at the Dudley Branch library, where the participants spoke disparagingly of some, angrily about Dan Conley, unsure of the candidate they most would like to back, impressed chiefly with John Barros, whom they concede isn’t likely to win, and, interestingly, with Marty Walsh, whose labor support they appreciate.

While some vital components of an Arroyo or Golar-Richie candidacy struggle toward a decision, and as Dan Conley attempts to recover from a blow-up — and bad publicity — at a recent candidate forum, there is no hesitancy at all in the camps of the race’s obvious two leaders, John Connolly and Marty Walsh, or on the part of Rob Consalvo. They are running and running fast, hard, focused, backed by strong money and an army of supporters. Even though 70 %, probably, of all Boston voters are not part of these three men’s core vote, their 30 % of the total available vote are active and, thus, making inroads for their chosen candidate into the 70 %; so that by Primary Day — September 24 — if nothing changes big-time, a significant part of the potential Arroyo and Golar-Richie vote will go, not to them, but to the three “traditional Boston” leaders.

After all, no one, whatever kind of voter he or she is, wants to vote for someone who can’t win or who doesn’t look ready. We would have thought, when this race began, that “new Boston ,” with its 70 % of the likely vote, would carry the day and elect a Mayor. Some leaders of the “new Boston” are frustrated that that doesn’t look ready to happen; and they are expressing their frustration.

It looks as though their frustration will indeed be the case. We say it again : the Final looks to be a John Connolly versus Marty Walsh race — with Rob Consalvo the only alternative probability. Every day, this result looks more and more likely.

—- Michael Freedberg

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : WHAT THE MONEY & VISIBILITY STORY TELLS US

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^ John R Connolly and Marty J. Walsh ; the top two by any measure

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A look at the OCPF (Office of Campaign finance) reports ending July 31, 2013 tells us that what we can assess on our own already is true: there are four tiers of candidacy among the twelve whose names will appear on the September 24, 2013 ballot.

At the bottom are Charles Clemons and David Wyatt, who have raised almost no money and spent hardly any.

The next tier, of candidates who have raised low six-figure money, or a bit less, includes names both expected and a surprise. It was always likely that Charles Yancey would fall far short. John Barros too. But who knew that Charlotte Golar-Richie, the only woman in the race, a former State Representative and a widely esteemed administrator, would barely make this tier’s cut ? Or that Felix Arroyo, whom many expected to see in the top tiers, would fall into this one ? Both Golar-Richie and Arroyo have raised less money than Bill Walczak, a community organizer and hospital administrator — highly regarded, and for many decades — but who has never run for any elected office.

The Walczak presence intrigues us. As the only candidate openly opposing locating a casino in Boston, has won to his side all those who  reject a development which would add many jobs and lots of tax revenue for the city. Whatever we may think of such opposition — and we decry it — it is the opinion of a vocal minority,and Walczak has it. His tactic is a common one for an underdog candidate to adopt. At this stage of the mayoral campaign, it makes sense for a candidate who at first glance looks overmatched to gain traction by bringing into camp at least one identifiable and committed constituency. This, Walczak has done.

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^ Bill Walczak the anti-casino candidate : raised 4 234,919.95. More than either Arroyo or Golar-Richie.

The downside of Walczak’s move is that almost everybody in the City wants to see a casino complex built here. Still, his move blocks rival candidates from poaching a following that probably totals six to eight percent of the Primary vote.

Next we have the tier of strong runner-ups. Here are three names, all important in the race ; Mike Ross, a District City Councillor, who has raised $ 625,579.88, much of it from real estate interests; District City Councillor Rob Consalvo, who reports $ 445,783.29; and District Attorney Dan Conley, who has amassed $ 698,307.64, reportedly mainly from lawyers.

The top tier belongs to just two names. Neither is a surprise. At-large City Councillor John R. Connolly has raised $ 834,242.96; State Representative Marty Walsh, $ 857,526.96. If money were the only fact in this race, the Final would contest these two, likely as close a vote as their money figures.

But money isn’t everything in politics. Visibility matters just as much. By “visibility” we mean not just what you can see but what you hear and feel: the grip of a hand on your wrist, as we like to say it. Visibility on the street used to be all; today, one has to add visibility on the internet. This changes the Boston Mayor outlook significantly. The “traditional” Boston voter has given Walsh, Connolly, Conley, and Consalvo their strong money and, so far, polling advantages. The other candidates with any chance of winning, however, must work on a different route. As they must look to young voters and to technology-driven Downtowners — who are almost impossible to reach with a door-to-door campaign — social media is their means. This is how life is lived today and not just in Boston. But can social media elect a Boston Mayor ?

On the street, the visibility victory goes to Consalvo, Walsh, Connolly, and Conley, in that order; and then to Arroyo. On social media, Arroyo does much better; and Ross, especially, has made himself a social site force. Presence on social media allow Arroyo and Ross to rank, at “omgreports.com,” fourth and fifth — higher than Rob Consalvo. Indeed, the site’s online voting function ranks Arroyo first. Still, even online, Walsh and Connolly place no lower than second and third; indeed “omgreports.com” ranks Walsh and Connolly the top two in overall presence, with Dan Conley third. And why not ? The “traditional” candidates have boldly put their issues agendas to voters both “traditional” and on-line — bolder by far than any of the “new Boston’ candidates has done. Connolly put his forth just yesterday, in seven languages, no less, on-line and on the street. The “traditional” candidates are not living in 1983. They all have significant, even commanding, presences in social media, on Facebook and Twitter. And so do their voters. It’s a new generation even in West Roxbury, Dorchester, and Southie.

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^ John Connolly : bold platform, presented in seven languages (including Viet-Namese, Albanian, and Caoe Verde Kriolu)

Money and visibility thus agree. The Final two will likely be John R. Connolly and Marty Walsh. It’s not impossible for Conley, Consalvo, or even Arroyo to edge ahead of either man, but it would definitely be news. Significant upward movement had better start to show really soon for the three candidates now trailing, but with a chance. Will there be such ? We await the August finance reports — and some well-researched polling results.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo : big street presence in many parts of the city. Is it enough ?

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : SIX WEEKS TO GO

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^ Rob Consalvo outside one of his local headquarters

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It’s getting nitty now, and gritty, the 12-candidate race to elect a new Boston Mayor. Candidates and their armies are knocking on doors, talking to voters one on one — which is the ONLY way to do it. The lawn signs wars are crowding fast. The money is in, and many key endorsements, ones that actually can deliver votes. Nor, fascinatingly, is anyone dropping out. It’s too late to do so, as the Primary ballots have already been printed. The rumors of Dan Conley moving away to run for Attorney General did not pan out. (This is good news for Rob Consalvo.)

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^ Dan Conley : staying in mayor race

Indeed, Conley, like Rob Consalvo, Marty Walsh, Felix Arroyo, and, probably, the other “major” candidates, have already begun to open local headquarters in the neighborhoods they are counting on; and to staff them. (Haven’t seen a John Connolly local HQ yet, but very likely soon.) With local headquarters open, the candidates who have them can ramp up their reach out to voters as yet uncontacted, or contacted but uncommitted. From local headquarters phone banks can be more precisely targeted than from a central office.

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^ Felix Arroyo : “forward with Felix” showing up at last in the neighborhoods that count

The ‘majors’ are also scheduling regular weekly ‘events,’ such as Marty Walsh’s “Mondays With Marty” and Felix Arroyo’s regular meet-and-greets at locations key to his campaign. Rob Consalvo is making his headquarters openings an “event.” Surely John Connolly and Dan Conley are doing the same. For these candidates, “events” are occasions to raise the enthusiasm level of their already committed voters — and campaign volunteers — and to bring to the committed-vote level voters who have shown interest. In other words, the fun and games times in this campaign are over. From here on it’s all about commit, commit, commit and identify a vote and keep it identified all the way to Primary day.

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^ Marty Walsh : “Mondays With Marty” in every neighborhood ?

So much for the “major’ candidates. What we do not understand, frankly, is the stance of the other candidates. Why are Charles Clemons, John Barros, and Bill Walczak still in this race ? And what of District Councillor Mike Ross, who has raised much money from real estate interests but doesn’t seem so far to have gathered an observable following ? Unfortunately, neither question has a ready answer. Clemons, Barros, Walczak, and even Ross surely knew that they were almost certain not to get to the November Final, yet they ran anyway. Is it about introducing oneself to voters ? Hard to see the advantage in making a first impression as an election loser. More likely they see that for the Final, the votes they do manage to win on Primary day will give them influence as the two finalists compete to win their support. Sometimes that campaign purpose succeeds.

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^ Mike Ross : lots of money, so far not many visible votes

The above discussion did not mention candidate Charlotte Golar-Richie. Her campaign remains the most puzzling of all. As the only woman in the race, as a person of color, and as a widely accomplished city and state administrator, she has all the credentials a next Mayor would want to possess and an identifiable, sizeable constituency. Yet her campaign hasn’t made itself felt much. She lacks money. She is only now beginning to be visible in the lawn sign wars. She has key endorsements, but they were won early and do not so far seem to have brought her many votes. Nor has she dominated the news. How could she, when, as reporter David S. Bernstein has pointed out, she has only the vaguest of messages and no platform ? The other “majors’ have both message and platform. It matters.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : disappointing campaign so far

In a campaign like this one, which will reach almost every voter, most of them at the door, a candidate has to make himself or herself FELT as well as seen and heard. We used to say, “make them feel your grip, just as if you were grabbing them by the wrists.” Walsh, Consalvo, Connolly. Arroyo, and Conley are doing that; so far, Charlotte Golar-Richie hasn’t. Time for her to get tough. A Mayor of Boston HAS to be that.

Prediction : right now we see Rob Consalvo looking stronger, possibly moving to second place; Connolly weaker. Walsh still a good bet for second, even first place. Dan Conley fourth. None of the eight “new Boston” candidates has a chance if all stay in the race — and with the September ballots already printed, all remain in it.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere