THE MAYORALTY OF MARTY WALSH : A LETTER FROM MEL KING

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^ Mel King : says that his endorsement was prompted by the “young adults” of Right to the City,” whom he “encouraged to do this analysis” of “its questionnaire to both candidates.”

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A letter from Mel King in today’s Boston Globe prompts me to write a column about Marty Walsh’s impending Mayoralty that I was already thinking about. In his letter, King — the Grand Old man of street-theater activism, decades before Occupy — says :

“A group called Right To the City, composed of various organizations working on access to affordable housing, good jobs, quality education, and sustainable community development, seeks to enable a cross section of racial, ethic, and income groups to remain and participate in all aspects of Boston.’

The letter continues : “The group’s members, a new rainbow coalition, are in the forefront of such issues as foreclosure blockades to protect people’s homes, stopping no-fault tenant evictions, and fighting alongside unions for construction jobs.”

This letter fascinates me. It raises all sorts of questions :

1.The second quote sums up the organization City Life/Vida Urbana, of which Steve Meacham, a man very close to both Felix Arroyo’s, is the justly respected spokesperson. Vida Urbana does all but one (that, see below) of the things cited in that quote. Yet in the Primary, when it most mattered, King did not back Felix G. Arroyo. He was closest to Charles Clemons, a man of almost Republican economic views, and to Clemons’s major supporters — all of whom ended up supporting John Connolly.

2.The first quote mentions affordable housing initiatives as one of Right To the City’s priorities. Did King not know — does he not YET know ? — that one of John Connolly’s primary endorsers, State Representative Jay Livingstone, filed and shepherded a $ 1.4 billion affordable housing bond bill that Governor Patrick signed into law just last week ? Later in his letter King says that “the group felt that Walsh was more responsive to its concerns.” Not true of the affordable housing issue.

3.King then says, “Having encouraged these young adults to do this analysis, I joined with them.” King then talks about watching Walsh, at several rallies : “I saw evidence of ways Walsh’s campaign included people.” True enough; but did King not manage to see a few of John Connolly’s rallies ? If not, why not ? It would be fascinating to know what inclusion King did NOT see at the Connolly rallies.

These questions merit answering. Can I start with the one thing, in King’s quote, that City Life does NOT do :  “…fighting alongside unions for construction jobs” ?

These seven words express the reason why King finally joined a group comprised chiefly of Felix G. Arroyo people, to endorse a man about whom this most original of Boston citizens had nothing original to say…

Construction jobs and unions were Walsh’s cliche. The Construction Chief’s campaign piled forty stories of Mayor-initiative atop that cliche, space well built and beautifully appointed by 600 architects of policy hired for the job. The cliche is what King clings to.

Time is coming soon now when that policy building will have to be built. Will it be ? CAN it be ?

Walsh is hemmed in by his union support even more than he is empowered by it. If he favors his unions supporters too obviously, he will hand a perfect “See ? we told you so” issue to a 2017 opponent. If he cracks at the next City union contract crunch time… or, if he pushes back against the City unions, as he did against the school bus drivers… If he proceeds with the infamous House Bill 2467…or if that bill is never heard from again : whichever way Walsh chooses, either the opposition will gain or his supporters will complain. Which is it to be ?

Implementing even a fraction of the 40 policy initiatives that his campaign crafted and published will require intricate management. Compromise and collaboration won’t suffice. Every one of Walsh’s policy proposals shifts the job descriptions of those who will have to carry them out. City employees, like union workers, resist work rule changes. gho will assure that the city employees tasked to carry out Walsh’s initiatives will comply ? Will feel enthusiastic about it ?

Enter, perhaps, some of those business, university, and Union partnerships that Walsh talked of during the campaign.

And then comes the Boston Public Schools, which, according to State evaluation, appear able to educate properly barely half their students.

Easier for Walsh will be what he is already masterful at, with long partnerships in place : continuing the Boston building boom. And ramping it up. The Building trades people and the developers who accord them a living can expect to work the BRA a lot more invitingly than they did under Mayor Menino. City hall plaza — a good idea, if rather impracticable — and hotels galore, new school buildings, Downtown Crossing, Dudley Square, Jackson Square — and more. The next few years will surely be a field day for Boston construction. Probably, also, for workers from the City’s communities of color, whose entry into the Building trades Walsh has long sought, with less success than he would like.

This is one deal that Walsh can definitely close.

It seems, however, that Walsh and his team want to say and do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from this deal. The Walsh Mayoralty, in their talk and print, puts on an ear-ful of masquerade. Is there a reason why the Walsh team so gilds their developer-deal lily ? Certainly it’s not that building trades jobs are a bad thing. They’re very much a good thing. Then what IS it that they are cos-playing about ? Do I sense a price tag dressed in domino in the background ? (Yes, I am thinking Venice here — an echo only, since we won’t be getting a Venetian casino, sigh.) Perhaps when we find out who the “One Boston PAC” is — the half-million bucks that Joce Hutt is harlequin-ing for — we’ll find out who is carnivalling in Walsh’s political pasquinade.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR : MEL KING ENDORSES MARTY WALSH

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^ 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

BOSTON MAYOR FINAL : THE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR COME OF AGE POLITICALLY

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^ a classic stump speech ; Clayton Turnbull saying it real for John Connolly

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Boston’s voters of color — black, brown, or yellow — have come of age in this campaign like never before. Whoever wins on November 5th, the breadth and sophistication of participation in it by voters Black, Hispanic, Caribbean, or Asian far surpasses anything that Boston has seen at least since the Abolitionist Era. Yes, you can say that these voters’ participation in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 (and in 2012) was strong, broad, and passionate. But Obama is himself a person of color. The participation this time is to the campaigns of two “white guys.” One man fairly well known, the other hardly at all.

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^ the way it’s done — but until this year, not so much : State Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry going all out for Marty Walsh (with Felix G. arroyo at his side)

Not only the community leaders have participated, though they have upped their game in this respect. The new development is the participation of every sort of voter of color : union activists, church congregations, business leaders, hip hop DJs, restaurant and club promoters, artists, social networks, political operatives, contractors, and just plain folks. And not only are they participating; they are doing so with an issues agenda. On twitter and at facebook I have read their posts about the contest. Their observations show a knowledge of what’s at stake, and what’s behind the scenes, that matches anything I’ve read by anyone who isn’t a media pro — and show as shrewd a knowledge of the politics as even some media people. Nor is the participation in communities of color merely social mediating. Large numbers of folks are door-knocking, doing meet and greets (i.e., house parties), phone-banking, even fund-raising — for these two white guys who would be Mayor.

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^ into the heart of the matter : Pastor Bruce Wall and friends stand with John Connolly

As one who, back in his political operative days in Boston, was often given the task of co-ordinating the City’s Black wards (in those days it was 9, 12, 14 and part of 13 and 15), I well remember when Black participation — the City then had few Hispanic or Viet Namese voters, and Chinatown was an entirely different matter — in a major city election consisted of paying hired volunteers “walking money” to pay to people who would stand at the polling places on election day and hold a sign or pass out palm cards. The candidate himself would rarely visit the Black wards, and what Black leaders there were did not protest this. They expected it. The candidate really had no reason to visit. “Covering the polls” on election day, if you could actually get it done in most of those 40 or so precincts, was usually good enough to win the day. And after that, it was usually good enough for a Mayor to hire a couple of Black ward leaders, to appoint one as an election commissioner, and, eventually, to hire Black youth workers. Even after the horrific crisis over school busing, in the mid-1970s, this situation prevailed.

Change began with Mel King’s campaign in 1983. King was then a state Representative, but not just that. He had a long history of involvement with progressive (indeed, very Left-wing) activism in Boston running back to the 1960s with the implementation, in Boston, of a local adjunct of President Johnson ‘s anti=poverty programs. King had a large following ranging from Robert Kennedy-inspired “white progressives” to activists in the black community, and, with their support and votes King reached the Final election — the first Mayoral Black candidate to do so. Ray Flynn, of South Boston, eventually won the election; but he made a serious effort to visit Boston’s Black neighborhoods and to connect with its leaders. Few votes for him resulted, but there were some; and there were activists who supported him, some quite vigorously. Once elected, Flynn brought those activists into City government. And more : he added Felix D. Arroyo — father of Felix G. Arroyo — into his administration at a high level and also connected as widely as he could with King supporters.

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^ what Ray Flynn started with Felix D. Arroyo, Marty Walsh has summed up with Felix G. Arroyo.

What Flynn began, Menino built upon; but his building work was administrative. It remained electorally untested, for the most part. That phase has now definitively ended. Boston’s communities of color — and communities of new immigrants — are stepping now into the contact sport that is election politics and are being wooed by both Walsh and Connolly with an intensity that assures that henceforth the “communities of color” vote will be as necessary a part of any City campaign as “the Italian vote” has been for the past 60 years.

The prejudice evident in the Sacco-Vanzetti crisis of the 1920s, and its tragic end, made integration of Boston’s Italian vote into city politics a necessary goal. It took 30 years to complete that process. It has taken the city almost 40 years, after the “busing” crisis, to integrate its “communities of color” vote similarly, but it has now been done.

If nothing else comes out of this intense and sometimes nasty campaign, the work of integrating communities of color into Boston’s political establishment is an victory the city can take pride in.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : PRESSURE POLITICS TAKE OVER

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^ crunch time numbers cruncher : Charlotte Golar-Richie

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The City’s Black political leaders are gathering, it is reported, to try pushing some of the candidates of color out of the race for Mayor. This comes as no surprise. The surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner. Or even that it was needed at all. it should have been obvious to every one of Boston’s six candidates of color that if there were more than two, none would make it to November. Even with only two, it’s no guarantee. But with six ? And so the pressure begins to get to the obvious : have the “extras” drop out and endorse Charlotte Golar-Richie.

Good luck with that. Why should John Barros, her chief competitor within the Black community, drop out and endorse her ? His vision is very different from hers, his connections more like Connolly”s or Mike Ross’s. As for Charles Yancey and Charles Clemons, each has his own agendas that will seem better served by remaining in the race.

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^  John barros (on left) : crunched out ? probably not

The intended recipient of said endorsements claims no part in this effort. That’s wise. No voter likes having a candidate trying to limit a voter’s range of choices. Yet Golar-Richie has been making a dedicated effort of late to bring Boston’s Black political “heavies” into her campaign and has had notable success doing so. She knows better than anyone that if six candidates of color remain in contention on September 24, it will be next to impossible for her to get the 22 % of the vote that some wise heads say will be the November entry point. And so the pressure, by her key supporters, if not by her, cannot be avoided.

Golar-Richie is hardly the only contender using pressure right now. Marty Walsh used the Greater Boston AFL-CIO’s annual Labor day breakfast to make his Labor banner a must for as many union activists as possible. Walsh’s chief rival, John Connolly, has brought forth several endorsements of note, the latest being State Representative Nick Collins of South Boston, who just this morning announced his formal support for Connolly at a press conference in front of the Perry K to 8 school on east Seventh Street in South Boston. At that conference Collins and Connolly emphasized the pair’s long collaboration on Boston Public School reform. Both also emphasized the needed for much more transparent city administration and a dedication to safe neighborhoods — a topic gruseomely dumped into South Boston affairs this past year.

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^ John Connolly with Rep. Nick Collins’s brother and Charles Levin at a recent South Booston Leadership conference. His endorsement by Nick Collins seemed likely, soon after this.

Connolly has made much, too, of endorsement by State Representatives Jay Livingstone (Back Bay, Beacon Hill), Carlo Basile (east Boston), and Ed Coppinger (West Roxbury). As his main competitor, Marty Walsh, is a State Representative too, these endorsements hurt Walsh as much as they aid Connolly. (Walsh, meanwhile, has the open support of State Rep Liz Malia and former State Senator Jack Hart.) But the main effect of these endorsements — none of which have yet gone to Dan Conley, who polls a strong third on most lists; will he get any ? — is to pressure the voters. If the pollsters are right, that fully one-third of all who are likely to vote remain undecided about who to choose, endorsements by elected Representatives are intended to push those undecideds to make up their minds. It will surely do that, at least for some.

There will be much more of this pressure coming. Boston’s State Senators ( Chang-Diaz, Dorcena-Forry, Brian Joyce, Mike Rush, Petrucelli ) have yet to choose. Congressmen Lynch and Capuano may weigh in. So might past legislators and major Boston civic associations. As long as the undecided vote remains sizeable, endorsements will be asked for- and probably given. The pressure is on now — on the voters, to decide, once and for all, who to send to the November final.

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^ Dan Conley : strong third in polls, but no big endorsements yet

The pressure is also on the twelve contenders. Surely all of them know that they either have a good chance of making “the cut,” are losing ground, or are as out of the running as can be. The candidates out of the running can shrug it off and enjoy two and a half weeks more of forums and speaking on the issues. The candidates one feels for are those who are losing ground. Mike Ross, Felix Arroyo, and Rob Consalvo all, at one time, looked strongly in contention. All have found themselves blocked, however — Arroyo by not receiving union endorsements he might have won, Consalvo by too small a base, Ross by not having command of his own, zipcar-bicycle-restaurants base — and, in Arroyo’s case, passed over by leaders and political activists who made his father a political success and did the same, at the Council level, for the son. Arroyo, Consalvo, and Ross have had to learn, perhaps painfully, that when one is running to be Boston’s all-the-marbles Mayor, people make an all-the-marbles choice of whom to be with.

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^ Mel King : should, by all philosophical coincidence, be with Felix Arroyo, but it appears that he isn’t.

And so, as we head into the typhoon of pressure, four boats remain afloat : Connolly, Walsh, Golar-Richie, and Dan Conley. Boston’s next Mayor will be one of these. The voters are beginning to realize it and to decide just who it is that they like.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE FIGHT FOR VOTES

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^ The top two continue to be the top two.

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Yesterday was a holiday, Labor Day.

Oh really ? Not for the serious candidates for Mayor, it wasn’t. They knocked on doors, stood out at supermakets meeting and greeting, held fund-raiders, made speeches. Still, it wasn’t as simple as that. There was method in their movements. they “worked their base.”

Marty Walsh, who has made every effort in this campaign to live up to his being a “son of labor,” gave a declaration-of-agenda speech at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual labor day breakfast.

Felix Arroyo, who has campaigned as tribune of the city’s needy, outlined his “pathways out of poverty” in a speech to public housing residents in South Boston.

John Connolly, of West Roxbury, greeted shoppers for ten hours at Roche Brothers on Centre street.

Charlotte Golar-Richie firmed up her support among the City’s old-line Black leadership.

Dan Conley schmoozed with a fellow District Attorney.

Rob Consalvo, of Hyde Park, held a huge bash in…Hyde Park.

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^ Felix Arroyo : is his “base” big enough ? Will it turn out in big enough numbers ?

That these folks campaigned to their “base” is no mistake. With three weeks left until Primary Day, and at least sevEn potential winners running, the time for Mayor hopefuls to campaign all across Boston has ended. They’d be kidding themselves if not. By now, the voters who are going to actually vote on September 24th have gotten to know many of the serious candidates fairly well. they probably like several. But a candidate can’t settle for being liked along with others. It is time now to assure the votes of those who know the candidate best — to “bank” them (as we used to say; and to keep those votes away from all rivals. That means visiting the “base” a lot now — again and again.

Still, no candidate with a serious chance of making it to the November final can afford to forget voters not in his or her “base.” Second-choice votes may well make the difference between making it to November and not. Consider, too, that even the two finalists will likely not get more than 20% of the Primary vote. Which means that the ultimate winner in November will owe a majority of his November vote to people who did NOT vote for him or her in the Primary. A serious candidate must work to become many voters’ second choice even now, before they will actually vote for that candidate. Fascinating !

Working for second-choice votes requires a candidate to not get too narrow with his or her theme. Narrow themes, like Bill Walczak’s “no casino” mantra, may win some first-choice votes, but they don;t sow many second-choice seeds. (Example : Mel King in 1983. He voiced the far left’a agenda as stridently as today’s Tea voices the far right.. Far left purism got King to the final but guaranteed his November defeat.) Several of the candidates in this Primary have voiced narrow themes, though none so stridently as King in 1983.

We have talked of a candidate’s “base.” What of their count ? At this point, the candidates’ bases can be counted with some confidence :

Marty Walsh has the largest base : organized Labor — to the extent that its members live in the City ; many don’t — and much of Dorchester, a strong showing in South Boston, and no less than second in Charlestown.

John Connolly has the next largest base : school reform-minded parents — and West Roxbury-Roslindale, which by itself will likely total 10 % of the city’s primary vote.

Consalvo Mayor

Rob Consalvo : loss of vision or clarity ?

All of the other candidates all have problems gathering a base big enough to measure up to Connolly or Walsh. There is, actually no way that Conley, Arroyo, Golar-Richie, Ross, or Consalvo can win the Primary on base votes only. Each draws significantly from the others — less so from Walsh and Connolly, because Walsh and Connolly are now perceived by many voters as likely to win the Primary; and voters who like one or both of Walsh and Connolly, as well as some of the other contenders, would defy voting behavior were they to vote for someone they perceive as not likely to win.

Of all the candidates trying to catch Connolly or Walsh, the one who has the strongest chance is Golar-Richie. As the only woman in the race, she has unique appeal to Boston voters, most of whom are female. Arroyo must win to nhis side many voters who do not often vote in City Primaries. Consalvo needs to find a campaign rationale. Dan Conley suffers from simply being too much like Connolly or Walsh in outlook and image. As for Mike Ross, he doesn’t have a message that resonates much beyond Downtown life.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : do not count her out. And if she makes it to November…..

For Walsh and Connolly, the task now is to speak broad themes, inclusive themes, and look as well as talk as Boston’s visionary and also ambassador to the entire economic world. They must talk big in magnet words and make voters look to a brighter day.

The chasers need to attack the leaders, question their themes, dispute their ability to do what they say they will do — and to show how they, the chasers, can do the big stuff better.

Soon we will see if they can do that.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere