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 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

PROFILING THE COUNCIL CANDIDATES : JEFF ROSS

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^ Jeff Ross ; has impressed a lot of activists already

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We met at-Large Council candidate Jeff Ross at Club Cafe, where a short while after our interview, he attended an affair for Marty Walsh and was introduced to the gathering.

This is what candidates for Boston’s four at-Large Council seats are doing, as often and as diversely as they can. Even as a veteran worker in Boston political campaigns, Ross must do the same, and as a practiced campaigner, he knows it. He’s also ready with detailed, though usually succinct, answers to the several questions that we ask of Council candidates. Not surprising that he has gained much good press in Boston’s media.

He currently holds office, as the Democratic State Committeeman representing the State Senate seat now held by Sonia Chang-Diaz. (All elected State Committee members are elected by State Senate District at the Presidential Primary every fourth year.) He lives in the South End part of Chang-Diaz’s district — in Ward 9, Precinct 2, for political junkies — and, as he tells us, is “the first LGBT person elected to the State Committee from this district.”

He will also, if elected an at-large Councillor, be (to the best of our knlowledge),the first LGBT person to hold that Boston office.

As he represents one of Massachusetts’s most progressive-voting Senate Districts, he too holds progressive views. But the range of campaigns that he has worked on these past seven years — Ayanna Pressley, Felix G. Arroyo, Gloria Fox, for example — has taken him to old-line politics (Fox) and business-oriented mainstream (Pressley) as well.

“I have lived in Boston for 20 years,” Ross tells me. “I grew up on the West Coast in a working class a family; my Mom worked for minimum wage; often we used an oven to heat our house.

“I was the first in my family to go to college. I was on the waiting list at U(niversity of) Penn(sylvania) but got into Northeastern. So to Boston.”

Ross’s bio answers Here and Sphere’s standard first question, “what about you uniquely qualifies you to be a City Councillor ? Thus we proceeded directly to our other usual questions.

Here and Sphere (HnS): What can you do as a Councillor to advance your concerns for the working wage that some have proposed ?

Ross : “We can propose home rule petitions and testify for them at the State House. I have testified at legislative hearings. I’m ready to do it again.”

HnS : Do you support Ayanna Pressley’s Home Rule petition (to give Boston control over its own liquor licenses) ?

Ross : “I do support it. Some neighborhoods have too many licenses, some too few. The point is to create destination neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods need supermarkets … that are within walking distance for people who go about on foot.”

HnS : Abolish the BRA or reform it ?

Ross : “reform it. Development should be neighborhood-driven. They should include affordable housing.”

HnS : Lift the charter school cap or not ?

Ross : “If we’re going to lift the cap it should be an innovation type of school, a school free of state-mandated curriculum. For the lowest-testing twenty percent of schools I support after-school programs in art, music and woodcraft. These help (a kid) to reconnect. And innovation around sports, because (these kids) need more student interaction.”

HnS : Do you favor an Elected school committee, as some are now proposing ?

Ross : “I do not support an elected school committee. The schools have improved a lot under the appointed committee

HnS : You live in the new Boston, thus we have to ask ; do you favor late night transport and a later closing hour than the current two A.M. ?

Ross : “(of course) there’s the need to extend the cloing hoyfrs in he Downtown area, Financial District, and Waterfront. The concern in other neighborhoods is the noise, though. Late night transport, yes; people who work late in the buildings need a way to get home.”

HnS : Do you agree with something Marty Walsh said, that there’s a heroin epidemic in the city ?

Ross : “There is an uptick in ‘STI’ and (as we know) Molly. And heroin (too). We need public health education in the schools, plus, (better) outreach to families. We need to have these conversations with young people. it gets back to what I said about early evaluations and early intervention as treatment and recovery. I have a family member, same age as me, who died (like that) and who needed that sort of social safety net…”

And so ended the Q and A, and both of us joined the Marty Walsh affair beginning in the next room. Jeff Ross to campaign, we to be the newsie in the room.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere