^ the Lady’s not for trashing : Patty Campatelli on the big stage — with Mayor Walsh

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It’s vaudeville time at the Edward W. Brooke Court house down-town, hard by TD North Garden, up the street from pugs and mugs bars, close on Haymarket Square.

Yep, vaudeville time. There’s the current Register, said to be a party animal given to fisticuffs and cuss words. She’s now on “paid leave” while certain scandalous allegations made against her are duly investigated by inquisitors official.

There’s not one but two (2) former City Council candidates — one of them who served as such, with distinction — seeking to replace her. There’s also an East Boston businessman in the running. My question to all is, “why ?”

WHY does ANYONE want to be Register of Probate ? Why is the job an elected one at all ?

The Register of Probate keeps the records of Probate Court cases : estates, guardianships, divorces, custody matters, and some restraining orders. Because estates especially are public records and must necessarily be so, the keeper of these records gets to be elected by the public. Or so goes the collective wisdom of those who enact our State’s laws. And why not elect each county’s Register of Probate ? We elect the State Auditor, for goodness sake. We elect Registers of Deeds. We elect Library commissioners.

One wonders why we don’t go ahead and elect the Boston Harbor Master, or the Commissioner of Transportation, or the Franklin Park Overseers. But the trend is moving in the opposite direction : toward appointing ministerial officials. Heck, we no longer elect even Boston’s School Committee — and for very good and sufficient reason. Our experience of the School Committee in its last decade was of a body beset by racist demagoguery, by insider politics with respect to administrative jobs, by a custodian’s union immune to reform and accused — perhaps unfairly — of acts verging on the illegal. The elected school committee spent more time politicking than managing; and the school department’s managers spent more time politicking, too. Today, the Mayor appoints Boston’s school committee. It perhaps hasn’t enough power : but it does advise, and often wisely. Those who serve on it do so as citizen activists, which is what elected school committees are supposed to do as they govern the system that prepares the entire society’s next generation.

A Register of Probate has no such vital task. The Register’s work is purely ministerial. The only connections the office have public policy are that its expenses are paid by the public, and its administration must enable those who seek Probate services to do so efficiently and well informed.

Upon these tasks are placed, in Suffolk County, a six figure salary and a six year term. a Register, once elected, is almost impossible to defeat. The work is not strenuous. Assistant registers do the grunt stuff. A name well known to the voting public, and not tainted by scandal, gives a candidate entree to that never-to-be-lost six figure income and the tasty pension that accrues to it.

Thus the vaudeville. Let’s look at the players :


^ out of retirement : Felix D. Arroyo with newly elected Charlestown St Representative Dan Ryan

Your show time includes Felix D. Arroyo, returning from pleasant retirement in Uruguay, to the political klieg lights with a familiar beard and an act that he performed very skillfully long before he was ever a City Councillor : administrator of a bureaucracy. People forget that he served as such in the Mayor administration of Ray Flynn.

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^ dancing and prancing : Marty Keogh is rushing to the stage now

The marquee also lights up the name Marty Keogh, long a City Hall aide and, last year, a City Council candidate at large. Keogh has an especially lively act on offer.

Every vaudeville act needs a newcomer, a kind of opening act, and in East Boston business-person John Sepulveda, this show has its man. Give him room to show his stuff and then applaud or throw rotten tomatoes, in the best vaudeville tradition.

And finally there’s Patty Campatelli, the buxom gal who won the Register’s job in 2012, when it happened to be open; and who has since then entertained many, infuriated others, and delighted me. I kind of like her act. Spunky, charismatic, buxom strong. But then she hasn’t yet punched my face or called me a vagina.

Yes, it’s show time at the Probate Comedy Hour, and not far from where once the Old Howard theater — formerly an emporium of serious theatricals — displayed strippers and dialect comics to Harvard students and those who couldn’t get enough of bare boobs, scatological wise cracks, and ethnic cartoonery. I┬ámiss the Old Howard, and so, probably, do you. Time to welcome it back.

Arroyo, Campatelli, Keogh, Sepulveda. One to be Register of Probate, the others to be — why not ? — Boston Harbor Master, Franklin Park Commissioner, Head Keeper of Licensed Bicycles. I insist.

All that’s missing, so far, is for Ted Lewis to strut on stage, cane in hand, and orate “Is everybody happy ?”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ to the levers of power : Mel King standing with Marty Walsh

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On Wednesday, Mel King, grand man of the Old Left, endorsed Marty Walsh for Mayor at a press conference in the South End. Joining him was former State Representative Royal Bolling, Jr, of Grove Hall, as well as Felix G. Arroyo and John F. Barros. All was friendly; all joined in a ring of hands as King declared that “I stand with Walsh” and “there’s a new rainbow coalition !” It was a moving scene. At age 85 King won’t have too many more such moments; but he is well entitled to this one. Thirty years ago he himself was in a Mayoral Final versus South Boston’s Ray Flynn…

Thirty years ago ! King’s history in Boston politics goes farther back than that. Like Walsh, he was a State Representative. Before that, he was a very vocal, confrontational activist, of a type then common, brought to prominence in the late 1960s by President Lyndon Johnson’s Anti-poverty program. There was lots of money in that program, and a great deal of community planning power — the Model Cities Program overlapped and abetted it — and King was at its center along with activists gentler and, it has to be said, more lastingly effective. Yet effective or not, King drew a following — devoted — on the Left and the Far Left, and this he kept intact, it following him into that 1983 Mayor election in which he lost badly, like Barry Goldwater an ideologue before his time.

Would it be too melodramatic to say that King’s time was yesterday’s press conference ? This was the not the first occasion that Mel King has endorsed a candidate from a constituency not close to his own — in 2009 he and Ray Flynn held a joint endorsement conference for Mike Flaherty; but that was a challenge to an entrenched incumbent, one whom King — and Flynn — both felt had overstayed his time or forgotten “the people.” This time King was endorsing in an open election : endorsing the candidate of established power. So the question presses for an answer : why did he do it ?

One is tempted to conclude that, as Walsh has successfully coalesced all the strands of Boston’s Labor Left, so King the Old Left icon simply joined the party — gave it his imprimatur, as it were. That’s the obvious answer. i think it’s the wrong answer.

For King, the Left is oratory. His objective has always been something else : get people of color to the levers of power. For King, the Left is a means to pry those levers away from the established forces. And Marty Walsh has finally been revealed, this week, not as “the union guy” (though he Is that) but as the quintessential levers of power candidate. The BRA insider candidate. The candidate of developers needing Building Trades union laborers, multi-million dollar money deals, zoning persuasiveness, and planning clout.

Thus the endorsement. The levers of power now reach out from Walsh to King and his fellow seekers of the elvers.

I do not mean to suggest that for King, union solidarity and power to the workers do not matter. They’re part of his life mission.

Prior to the Primary, King was closest to Charles Clemons, a radio station owner whose economic views aren’t much different from Herman Cain’s. King did not support Felix Arroyo — though 30 years ago he and Arroyo’s father Felix D. Arroyo were strong allies — nor did he support John Barros or Charlotte Golar-Richie. It is simple to figure out why : Clemons’s radio station is a lever of power. All media are levers of might. Barros, Arroyo, and Golar-Richie had none, or lesser such levers. Thus King’s support for Clemons, a candidate who was not going to get to the Final in any scenario. King seemed to be saying that he’d prefer to stand by a lever of power that he could count on rather than chance things with the other three.

The Primary proved his skepticism correct : none of the three made it into the Final. King was now free to choose a candidate on better odds : one of the finalists WOULD win. For an entire month he did not choose. But then came polls showing that the wind was blowing in the Walsh direction, and doing so because Walsh’s campaign was wielding goliath-an levers of Hulk power :
$ 2,400,000 — and counting — of special interest money is one hell of a power lever !

King’s choice was thus a simple one, and the man who made his reputation on confronting Irish politcians from the seaside Wards joined hands with one in a “new rainbow coalition.”

Keady beaming ... 10.30.13

^ high point of a thirty-plus year career in Irish Democratic Boston politics : Tom Keady praying that this is not just an illusion

And, symbol of the power levers thus levered, there was Walsh’s reported svengali, Tom Keady — now Boston college’s Director of Development, but long known to me from a time when, as a young political, he worked for then Speaker of the house Tip O’Neill, whose Congressional District included Keady’s home precinct in Brighton’s Ward 22.

Not for himself, at age 85, did King link to Walsh power.This was done, rather, for the next generation of King people. It was a gift from the Grand Old Man of “Arise Ye and take what is rightfully yours.” As such, it is likely to be a powerful endorsement, if it hasn’t come too late in the race in which the tide seems to have already turned..

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere