VAUDEVILLE SHOW AT THE SUFFOLK COURT HOUSE

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^ 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 :

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^ 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 miss 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

BOSTON POLS : CAUCUS — WARD 20 ; AMBITION — 5TH SUFFOLK

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^basic democracy : Democratic state chairman Tom McGee of Lynn instructs West Roxbury’s ward 20 caucus

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There may be secret money in the Big Picture, but at the small level where actual people live, vote, and run for office, the money doesn’t taint. Whether it’s caucusing in West Roxbury or manoeuvering a run for State Representative in Dorchester, you find politics basic, the real deal, activism for its own sake. So it was, this morning at Boston Ward 20’s Democratic Party caucus, attended by almost 200 people. So it has been the past two days, since the House expelled Carlos Henriquez, leaving the 5th Suffolk State Representative seat vacant awaiting seekers.

But first, the caucus. I chose Ward 20’s because it is Boston’s biggest voting ward; many were sure to attend to elect 29 delegates to the Democratic convention. The caucus met in the community room at West Roxbury’s Police Station. Attendees and candidate volunteers filled every nook — the hallway too. The State Party chairman was there, Tom McGee of Lynn; so were two competing slates of delegates, a Don Berwick group led by Helen Bello — who hosted the huge Berwick house party that I wrote about recently — and a Juliette Kayyem list led by an old friend, Paul Nevins, an employment lawyer. A group of independent names was nominated too, well known people sure to draw votes on name alone; and attendees voted as much for names they knew as for any slate; there wasn’t at all the structure that I had expected of this meeting. It seemed as much a meet and greet as an election.

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^ Ward 20 state Representative Ed Coppinger discusses matters with Here and Sphere follower Michelle Von Vogler

There was voting, but mostly there was conversation as faces familiar or new worked the room. State Senator Mike Rush was there, as was West Roxbury State Representative Ed Coppinger. Governor candidate Martha Coakley worked the room for about 20 minutes, then left. District Attorney Dan Conley shook hands. So did Congressman Steve Lynch. Old friends Carole White (Kevin White’s sister in law) and Marilyn LaRosa were elected; I noticed Helen Greaney in the room and Greg Haugh also — two other Haugh’s sought election as delegates — and Ann Murphy, still glamorous as ever, now working as an aide to Mike Rush. A couple of Boston Teachers Union activists signed in — but I did not see Ward 20’s biggest BTU name, Ed Doherty — and people from both the Connolly and Walsh mayor campaigns.

Circulating as well were four who ran last year for City Council : local resident Marty Keogh, Jack Kelly, and winners Steve Murphy and Michelle Wu. It was a “good hit,” as pols say of an event well worth being seen at.

UPDATE ON DELEGATES ELECTED : Thanks to Rob for posting to me the entire list, mostly of the usual Ward 20 activists (including two Haugh’s and a BTU active, City Council candidate Marty Keogh, a Marty Walsh cabinet member — Alejandra St. Guillen — and at least one State Employee) and two Don Berwick delegates. Take a look :

Female Delegates:
Alyssa Ordway – 75 votes
Carole White – 74
Ann Cushing – 71
Cathy Fumara – 68
Helen Haugh – 68
Diana Orthman – 68
Marilyn LaRosa – 65
Patricia Malone – 65
Anita Salmu – 65
Margaret Sullivan – 63
Josiane Martinez – 60
Alejandra St. Guillen – 59
Sue Anderson – 58
Heather Bello – 26
Hema Kailasam – 21
Jennifer McGoldrick (Alternate)
Pamela Keogh (Alternate)

Male Delegates:
Robert Orthman – 69 votes
David Isberg – 66
Steve Smith – 66
Marty Keogh – 65
Bill Smith – 64
Kevin Walsh – 64
Bill MacGregor – 63
George Donahue – 62
Joe Haugh – 60
John Fumara – 59
Leo Connell – 58
Tom Hanktankis – 58
Patrick Murray – 58
Larry Connolly – 56
Bob Tumposky – 56

(UPDATED 02/09/14 at 10.45 AM)

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And now to the 5th Suffolk District, in Dorchester, where the expulsion of Carlos Henriquez has left a gaping hole…

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will he be the first Uphams Corner state Rep since Jim Hart 40 years ago ? John Barros may become a candidate in the 5th Suffolk special election… But so might the woman pictured below, Karen Charles of the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood :

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The 5th Suffolk State Representative seat in the Massachusetts House won’t be vacant for long. Already the hungry are circling, impatient, guessing and out-guessing. The big news is that John Barros, who ran for mayor last year and impressed many, is seriously considering a run. Barros lives in the heart of the District, owns a successful restaurant in it,. and would be an elite voice for 40,000 people very much in need of one. Barros is not, however, the only notable who is thinking publicly about running. There’s also Karen Charles, who works at WGBH (full disclosure : WGBH’s Peter Kadzis was my editor at the Boston Phoenix and remains a friend professionally and personally), and who, with her husband Kevin Peterson, an NAACP activist, make a formidable team of articulate reformers and who are said to be close to Charlotte Golar-Richie, who once represented the 5th Suffolk, still lives in it, and who was, like Barros, a candidate in last year’s Mayor campaign.

In that Mayor campaign, Barros won 2,072 votes in the 5th District’s 20 precincts; Golar-Richie won 1,465. Barros thus starts with a 600 vote advantage. That isn’t the entire story, though, Felix Arroyo won 570 votes in the District; and Carlos Henriquez, of Hispanic origin like Arroyo, is said to intend running again to reclaim his seat. Even if he does not run, the 570 Arroyo votes seem up for grabs, not to mention the 313 won by Charles Yancey and the 495 won by John Connolly. (Marty Walsh’s 640 votes might split between Barros and a Golar-Richie-backed candidate, as both she and Barros helped Walsh win the Final).

That said, Barros certainly would enter the race as the favorite no matter who else decides to run — including Henriquez himself. The two men are said to be close friends as well as political allies, and some speculate that if Henriquez runs — and he probably will — Barros will not. We shall see. Whatever the case may happen, this is a District that badly needs an A-list voice. It has always had a working-class majority even in the days, not too long ago, when much of it was Roxbury Red Raider country. The “5th” includes the entire Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, one of Boston’s most impacted by gang violence; a stretch of Blue Hill Avenue that Red Raiders knew as “Cherry Valley,” once almost entirely blighted but, of late, enjoying the beginnings of a resurgence (as anyone familiar with local hot-spot Merengue Restaurant knows); Upham’s Corner and half of Jones Hill (where I had my first adult job, working as go-fer to state Rep. Jim Hart); and, of Roxbury, the north side of Dudley Side from Hibernian Hall eastward, all the way past the Governor Shirley mansion to and including “the Prairie” ball field (where Red Raider teams played Park League baseball and football). None of the district is high-income; not much of it is middle-income. Everyone benefits from having an eloquent and respected voice in the legislature, but the people of the 5th Suffolk would benefit more than most.

There will be a special election to fill the vacancy. It will be called soon — the date of it as yet unknown but probably early May. It will be a short campaign, a local effort, politics at its most basic and not much different from that Ward 20 caucus that I attended this morning. More voters to reach, yes, but not much more structure. It also looks now to be the most attention-getting time that the 40,000 people of the “5th” have gained in many, many years if ever. Let the democracy of it begin.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON SCHOOLS : ASSERTIONS AT BOSTON TRUTH

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^ “Reclaiming the Promise” table discussions at Boston tTruth’s schools-reform meeting last night

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Truth is a risky word for an organization to name itself. Who knows the truth ? At best we can approximate — maybe. So there I was, last night, at Madison Park High school, where a new “Boston Truth” coalition, with at least 200 people on hand — held its first “discussion session” on how to achieve its stated objectives as set forth in a four-page brochure from which I will quote from time to time as I write this report.

200 people meeting on a wintry night made an impressive beginning. As one of “Boston Truth”s key organizers is a dear friend, I was glad for her, proud of her part in the accomplishment. On hand were many Boston Teachers Union activists, students, retired teachers, union organizers, some members of the press, and two political figures at least : Eric Esteves of the Boston NAACP, who intends a candidacy for State representative from the 7th Suffolk District (in which the meeting was held), and Marty Keogh, who ran for Boston City Council this year and finished seventh.

The meeting began with several public school students advocating — from scripts provided them — one or other of Boston Truth’s stated goals. “Public schools are public institutions,” for example; “Our voices matter,” spoke another. A third pupil recited : “strong public schools create strong communities.”

It seemed odd to watch students speaking mission statements scripted, but there they were. They very much enjoyed themselves. One after another they spoke, were applauded; then all took stage together, holding their placards, applauded by all, photos snapped.

The meeting divided into discussion groups of six or seven to a table; I joined the group that included Marty Keogh — he seemed the most likely to say something quotable. This proved not easy to get to, however; it wasn’t made clear what we were to discuss, or what conclusions our “discussion group” was to come to — there wasn’t an agenda, and the table monitor of my group did not impose one. People were reluctant to speak. Two women offered school-parent and teacher experiences; everyone asserted approval of the brochure’s goals. We were getting nowhere fast.

So I decided to speak up. “There isn’t a thing in these stated goals that anybody would disagree with,” I said. “What the City is arguing about right now is, how do we get there ?” A lady sitting two to my right responded. “We need equity,’ she said. “Schools shouldn’t have to compete against one another.”

“In that case,” I asked her, “How are parents to tell if their kids are receiving the education they need ?”

“Oh they can tell,” the lady answered me. “they get a feel for what the climate is. A rigorous curriculum. Parents can tell.”

In other words, parents DO judge schlools competitively.

I then opined that (1) the biggest issue facing schools — the acculuration that kids receive, or don’t receive, at home — is beyond the power of any school to control and (2) one way to encourage the parents of school age kids to focus on home preparation is to have strong PTAs — these were Boston Schools’ glory, back 50 years ago : now, hardly at all. At this assertion Marty Keogh finally spoke up and spoke well : “school assignment designations need to change,” said Keogh. “You can’t have a PTA if kids are transported all, over the city, parents can’t drive such distances to do PTA. Need neighborhood schools !”

Keogh even addressed the issue whence arises school competition — exactly as I had hoped. “Testing ? Yes, testing,” he said. “we need some way of deciding if a school is performing.” He and I discussed the matter — we were getting somewhere, at last.

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^ agenda scripts at Boston Truth schools-reform rally last night

Other than Keogh’s unscripted discussion, the meeting, as far as I could tell, dedicated almost all of its words and energy to assertion, not discussion. it was more a rally of the already convinced than a session for persuasion. Everywhere in the room were “BTU” campaign buttions, BTU literature, workers’ rights handouts, organizing fliers. That’s fine if you treat school reform issues as a job action, not a policy debate. But a job action will not do anything to move the debate toward even a partial consensus. It doesn’t seem to me, from last night’s talk, that the BTU, especially, has moved one inch off its insistence on its own program of school future: no competition among schools, no change in evaluation systems, no change in work rules, less testing of kids, of teachers, of principals; and full funding for all schools regardless. All it has done is to gain allies, mostly from union organizings and union-friendly school parents.

Tonight Mayor-elect Marty Walsh holds HIS Schools reform town hall meeting, at English High School in Jamaica Plain. it will be interesting to hear what his transition task force on eduaction has in mind that can move the discussion beyond stand-pat.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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^ Marty Keogh spoke well, indeed, best in show. (with Angela Cristiani and Jacqui davis)

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

WE PROFILE THE BOSTON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES : MARTY KEOGH

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^ at his recent fundraiser in Hyde Park

Marty Keogh is no stranger to those who follow Boston city politics. We remember him from when he served Peggy Davis-Mullen as her City Council aide back in the 1990s. He stayed with her through 2001.

Today, the Mission Hill native — “a projects kid,” as he puts it — whose family later moved to Hyde Park — lives in West Roxbury. He’s a practicing attorney — since 1999 — and married to Pamela Corey Keogh (from Lower Mills/Dorchester), has a young son, Nolan, (and an addition on the way), and is running for one of the four city-wide council seats that Bostonians will elect when they go to the polls to choose a new Mayor.

Keogh, like all his City Council rivals, is under no illusions about Council candidates’ struggle to get some voter attention. he knows that voters will focus almost entirely on the mayor campaign — as they must. He has no choice, then, but to campaign a good seventeen hours a day, everywhere in the city that he can find a spot to meet and greet, and anywhere that he can talk to a gathering. Indeed, as we do a question and answer with him in his profile, he is on the move, driving from shaking hands in East Boston to doing the same in South Boston — and points in between.

We asked Marty to answer the seven questions that we pose to all the at-large City Council candidates. What follows is, in effect, a conversation.

Here ad Sphere (HnS) : What in your loife makes you iunqiuely or especia;y qualified to be an effective councillor ?

Keogh : “Public service has been a part of my family’s history for well over fifty years, and I was taught that helping even one person in need was for the greater good of all… I got my first taste of helping people while working for the Boston City Council, serving as the Chief of Staff to (Peggy Davis-Mullen).

“I was in charge of constituent services, researching, writing and filing legislation that originated out of the concerns of these constituents, and implementing, delegating and overseeing the everyday duties that are required to run an effective city council office… actively coordinated and participated in neighborhood meetings throughout the city and served as the direct liaison between (her) and the community on many important quality of life issues.

“I then went to law school and for the last 14 years I have fought to help hundreds of juveniles and kids who had legal problems, elderly residents who have been victimized by scam artists and homeowners who were in danger of losing their homes. I often made little or nothing for my services, but the public servant in me found it difficult to turn a person in need away.

“I will always have the experience, energy and compassion to help people in need, and I hope to carry on this passion if elected…”

2. HnS : What are your two top priorities to work on if you’re elected ?

Keogh : “…I want safer neighborhoods and excellent schools in every neighborhood.
“Part of the reason people settle in a particular neighborhood is because it is safe, and it has excellent schools for their children that they can walk to.

“To the contrary, without safe neighborhoods or neighborhood schools, parents will leave that neighborhood just as quickly. It really is all about our kids, their education and their safety.

“As part my safer neighborhoods effort, I would like to see the Boston Police add 300 more “walking” police officers on the streets, fund the police budget to bring modern crime fighting technology to every officer, and place surveillance cameras in high crime areas in an effort to deter or catch criminals.

“I also want to start the process of building new schools in every neighborhood of the city where they are needed. Right now, there are still kids who don’t have books and cannot get the school in their neighborhood. I want to make sure that we have enough funding to buy new books and supplies, and to put arts, music, sports and special-ed programs back into every school.

“…also want to create a trade shop in every high school, because I know that not every kid wants to go to college, and that some kids want to enter the work force. My goal is to keep kids in school, and keep families in the city. Safe neighborhoods and neighborhood schools will help to accomplish this vision.”

3. HnS : casino vote : citywide or East Boston only ?

Keogh : “I am in favor of a Casino in East Boston, and an “East Boston only” Casino vote, because I recognize that this proposal will create jobs, revenue and capture Massachusetts money that will otherwise be lost to Connecticut. My decision shall rest upon the vote, intent and wishes of the East Boston residents.”

4. HnS : school reform : longer school day — yes or no ? Do you favor any of the other reforms in (John) Connolly’s agenda ?

Keogh : “I am in favor of longer school days, but only if teachers are fairly compensated for their time.

“It would be unfair to force teachers to work a longer school day without being properly compensated. As it stands now, a teacher’s job doesn’t end when the final bell rings. Teachers often work late and/or at home to prepare curriculum, tests and correct papers long after the school day ends, so as to be ready for the children the following day.”

“While I think that all of the Mayoral candidates have excellent ideas for the schools, the bottom line is that I believe in the Boston Public schools, and I believe in neighborhood schools.

“If the next Mayor wants to build more neighborhood schools, help decrease the dropout rate, make students proficient in all areas of education and bring sports, arts, music, trade schools and special-ed programs into every school, then you can be certain that they will have (in me) at least one friend on the city council.”

5. HnS : Charter schools : lift (the) cap ? partial cap (lift) ?

Keogh : “I am not in favor of lifting the cap on Charter Schools… I share the concern of most Boston parents that some Charter Schools are not inclusive enough because they do not accept special-ed kids or kids that can’t meet their educational criteria.

“I think that the Charter Schools we have now are doing well and that parents are satisfied with the education that Charter Schools provide their children, but I am also cognizant…that the Charter Schools are depleting much needed funds and resources from the Boston Public schools budget.

“I am one of only two city council candidates who actually attended the Boston Public schools and I believe we can make our public schools better.”

6. HnS : BRA : replace (it) ? Reform (and if so, in what ways) ? Should there be a separate board for planning (as some Mayor candidates have proposed) ?

Keogh : “The BRA has done a tremendous job transforming our economy, neighborhoods and skyline since the 1960’s, but the BRA needs to be more accountable and more transparent to the public it serves.

“Does that mean the BRA should be abolished? The answer is no.

“But the BRA needs to involve the public, and conduct all meetings, even if on the internet, that are open to the public.

“I don’t buy the baloney that we can’t get rid of the BRA because it is an agency mandated through the state legislature. We can, but when has the City Council actually ever tried to get rid of the BRA?

“The new City Council, if we work together, can make changes or recommendations which would, at a minimum, expose any conflict even if we have no power to stop the conflict. Through Home Rule Petition, the City Council could also recommend changes that would abolish the BRA or create a planning board separate from the BRA, as was the case prior to 1960.

“Or we could draft legislation that requires approval of any BRA project be brought before the City Council for complete review or ratification.

“But before we condemn or condone the actions of the BRA, we need to compare the pros and cons of having an independent redevelopment agency versus not having one at all. The entire reason the BRA was created was to end stagnant growth, urban blight and decay, which, for decades, was caused by the politics and inaction of the city’s leaders of the 30’, 40’s and 50’s.

“One area I would like to see the BRA focus on would be on inner city development as opposed to development among our city’s waterfronts. I love the way the city’s skyline looks, but I would love to see our inner city neighborhoods given as much attention as the Seaport District.”

7. HnS : Marty walsh says ‘there’s a heroin epidemic in the city now.”
Do you agree ?

Keogh : “I agree that there is a heroin, oxycontin and overall drug epidemic in the city of Boston and beyond.

“It is pretty clear that we have to offer help to drug users to get them off of drugs, but a much stronger emphasis has to be put on incarcerating the people who actually deal those drugs. I was impressed with the recent coordination of the many police agencies who tracked, found and arrested everyone connected with the Marathon bombings. It was through the concerted effort and sharing of information of all of our police that this happened in such a short period of time. It proves that good police work can yield great results and it helped put the public’s mind at ease.”

“If posible, I would like to see this effort re-created to reduce the amount of drugs, guns and violence, particularly in our inner city neighborhoods.”

HnS : thank you, Marty, for your thorough and detailed responses.

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^ answering a supporter’s question, at his Hyde Park “time.”

We summarize : Keogh’s responses make clear that he is as serious as a serious candidate can be. And that he will not be easily rolled in a candidate debate, or in Council meetings if elected. Fun is fun, and nobody we have met in this campaign is more fun to be with than Marty. And when there is business to attend to, Keogh is all business. It will be interesting to watch him bring his thorough preparation and fighting intensity to a Council debate this Fall.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere