BOSTON MAYOR : A STUNNING SHIFT — AND WHAT PORTENDS ; THE CASINO PERPLEX

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^ New Boston versus a revolutionary “old Boston’ alliance : breakdown of Tuesday’s vote by WBUR

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Thanks to the superb interactive map posted by WBUR, my final article about the Boston mayor race that elected Marty Walsh two days ago is made simple. All of my readers should look at the WBUR map and study it. The whole story is in it.

But now to my final thoughts :

1.Marty Walsh achieved office by revolutionizing Boston’s political alliances.

Always heretofore, Boston’s communities of color had voted in alliance with the City’s patrician, high minded, urban reformers, based historically in Beacon Hill, Bay Village, and the Back Bay. This alliance was the core of the old Republican party grounded in Abolition, a GOP that has just about vanished from the scene. It had, until Tuesday, lived on strongly in Boston city politics, even though now entirely within the Democratic party, at least since the 2000 election.

Walsh succeeded at breaking this alliance. Though he won almost no votes among high minded urban reformers — Ward 5 (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Bay Village) was his worst in the City, worse for him even than John Connolly’s home ward — Walsh won the City’s Wards of color decisively, every single one of them. (I can, in fact, find only one majority black precinct that Connolly carried : Fort Hill in Roxbury).

Never before in a city election had Boston’s wards of color voted with the City’s “old Irish’ wards of which Walsh is the epitome. An abyss of contention divided the two communities. To win one was almost to guarantee losing the other. Attempts were made; but none succeeded as did Walsh’s work. The divide transcended party. Walsh’s base is the most Republican-voting part of Boston, the wards of color the most Democratic. Yet on Tuesday the two areas joined up to give Walsh his unprecedented win.

Of course the Republican votes of today’s South Boston and “Irish” Dorchester are completely different from the Republican votes of forty, sixty, 100 years ago. This is pro-life, socially conservative Republicanism, not Abolition and high-minded reform. And of course, the voters of color who moved their wards to Walsh aren’t the old, high-minded, enterprising, church-based descendants of Abolition and reform; they are union workers and those who seek to be. And of course, that is the connection : it was union labor politics that has brought the two communities together — an achievement that Marty Walsh can claim as his unique contribution. I seriously doubt that any other labor union politician could have done it. None is trusted as profoundly as is Walsh, both within union politics and without.

2. High-minded urban reform is far from defeated; indeed, it is Boston’s fastest growing political movement.

Led by John Connolly, who practically created the new version of it by his campaign, high-minded, urban reform all but captured City hall on its first try. The movement forged a base more solid than even Walsh’s and moved to its side one part — Charlestown — of the old “Irish” Boston that would have once been Walsh’s for the taking. And in fact, though a smaller achievement numerically than Walsh’s, the move of Charlestown into the urban reform camp proved just as formidable. Only Ward 5 and one other ward of the City produced a larger percentage increase in voter turnout from the primary. (More about that ward later.)

The new urban reform movement — “NURM,” let us call it — with its agenda of school transformation, enterprise innovation, bicycles and parks, public safety, and the importance of listening to those who are crying out — has firmly taken hold of all of the Downtown core of Boston : ( 1 ) Chinatown ( 2 ) the Waterfront (3) the Seaport (4) the North End (5) all of the South End, including its extension beyond Massachusetts Avenue into what used to be called “Lower Roxbury” and (6) all of Ward 5. And, as I said, Charlestown too.

Add to this the half of East Boston from Day Square to the Harbor; Jamaica Plain west of the Orange Line; Allston and almost all of Brighton; and a strong majority of West Roxbury and a smaller but still majority of Roslindale, and you have a significant voting bloc. And please note : NURM Boston is growing, while the areas in Marty Walsh’s coalition are receding. Case in point : that Fort Hill precinct. Roxbury is changing. it is becoming more entrepreneurial, racially mixed, socially connected to itself. Four years from now — eight, twelve — much of Roxbury will be voting with the South End. The same can be said of South Boston. From primary to final, John Connolly improved his percentage of the vote in the South Boston precincts closer to the Seaport. Four to 12 years from now much of South Boston will be voting like the Seaport, not against it.

Entrepreneurs both white and Black were the vanguard of John Connolly’s urban reform voting bloc. They weren’t just donors to his funds. They took leadership roles on the front lines of getting votes. from Greg Selkoe to Darryl Settles, Clayton Turnbull to BostInno, Akrobatik to Phil Frattaroli, business innovators fought and often won the battle, in a way that I had not seen since the late 1960s.

Their numbers will grow. I suspect too that so will their front line activism.

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^ the Hyde park part of ward 18 : where the Connolly campaign was beaten

3. Ward 18 proved decisive, although it needn’t have.

The Connolly campaign got out-manoeuvered badly in ward 18 — 75,000 people, the largest ward in the City : all of Hyde Park and Mattapan and a part of Roslindale — and ended up losing every one of its 23 precincts.

Granted that none of Ward 18 is “new Boston” in any way, it was not at all assured to Marty Walsh.

Connolly’s problems in the ward began early. Because he announced his campaign while it still looked as if Tom Menino — who lives in ward 18 and was once its District Councillor — would run again, Connolly accorded the ward a lesser priority. Then, when Menino announced that he would not be running again, the area’s current Councillor, Rob Consalvo, stepped up. In the final, the area’s State Representative, Angelo Scaccia, endorsed Marty Walsh, along with several other local political leaders. And John Connolly ? He concentrated his effort so aggressively on the wards of color that, somehow, the power part of Ward 18 got back-burnered.

It should never have been thus. How can you plan to run for Mayor, even against a ward 18 man, and not assemble a ward 18 team early on ? Angelo Scaccia is not all-conquering. He has had many very close elections in his long career. So yes, you talk to Chris Donato, who almost defeated Scaccia not too many years ago. And yes, you pay a visit to Pat Tierney up on Fairmount Hill; you ask if her famous actress daughter Maura Tierney will consider doing a video in support of you. You go to Maureen Costello, Jack Scully, Paul Loconte, Bill Sinnott, Brad White, John Grady, Bill Broderick Jr., Tony Ferzoco, Al Thomas, Tim Lowney, Donny at the Bowling Alley, Joseph Pulgini (who ended up with Walsh, early too) — all whom I respected back in the day; probably I am missing many — and you say, “OK, I understand that you might not be with me if Tom runs but if he doesn’t run, are you with me ?” You do it early and you do it aggressively. And maybe many of the people I have named don’t join you; but some will. So, you build a team in the City’s largest Ward and you keep on building it.

John Connolly may have done some or even all of the above. But I saw no evidence of it. Connolly did, after the Primary, bring to his side Dave Vittorini, Councillor Consalvo’s aide; and Vittorini knows tons of people; but this was the Charlotte Golar-Richie situation all over again : the candidate’s workers went to Connolly, but the candidate him or herself either went to Walsh or stayed neutral.

Little wonder that Vittorini’s efforts were not at all enough to dent Marty Walsh’s Ward 18 campaign. Walsh brought Congressman Mike Capuano all the way from Somerville to Hyde Park to do his endorsement press conference. The Ward’s many BTU people — who loved Consalvo’s “the BTU agenda is my agenda” message — chose Walsh, of course. Thus it came about that on Tuesday Marty Walsh won ward 18 by at least 12 points. Won every precinct of it.

And now to the casino vote. Ward 1 — East Boston — almost doubled its primary vote total as 7324 voters cast casino yea or nay ballots. The nays had it. How was this possible ? How did a majority of people vote against jobs and money ? Who organized and paid for the “no casino’ campaign ?

The answer should be as obvious as the bad breath of a wino. Steve Wynn did it. I have no proof; nor do I need any. It was hugely in Wynn’s interest not to have a possible contending casino applicant right next door to his planned Everett casino — overwhelmingly approved by Everett voters. It would be malpractice for Wynn NOT to fund a “no casino” campaign in East Boston and, I have no doubt, to promise its organizers that there will be lots of juicy jobs in his Everett casino if the East Boston vote went to the “no” side. As it did.

Tuesday was a very very good day for Steve Wynn. Very good indeed.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON PRIMARY DAY : TURNOUT ?

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^ In case you hadn’t noticed ….
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The polls for Boston’s big Mayor Primary open in about twenty hours.

So who will vote tomorrow ? Most likely, those who have voted in the past City elections. Voting patterns change remarkably slowly. Universal suffrage really IS the conservative political factor that its first advocates, back in the 1870s — Otto von Bismarck of Germany and the UK’s Benjamin Disraeli — expected it would be.

Yet Boston has changed significantly since the last open Mayor election in 1993. “New Boston” has expanded beyond all expectation back then, bringing in thousands of young technology-oriented people — and those who operate or staff businesses catering to them. Wards 3, 4, 5, and 9 look nothing like what they did 20 years ago. Even Ward 11 looks different, and Wards 2 and 6 are changing quickly, albeit only recently.

Still, a citizen’s likelihood of registering to vote, and actually voting, in a Mayor election varies almost directly with two factors : ( 1 ) length of permannent residence in the City and ( 2 ) a feeling of connectedness to City government. In most elections, the income level of a person is also a factor. Not so in Boston City elections. Lower income people in “connected” neighborhoods are quite more likely to vote in a Mayor race than even high-income people in less “connected” neighborhoods.

The City’s most “connected” neighborhoods are Charlestown, South Boston, Ward 16 of Dorchester, and West Roxbury/Roslindale. Together, their population totals about 120,000 — one sixth of the whole City. Now look at some facts :

1. In the 2011 City Council-only FINAL, Charlestown (2309 votes) almost out voted East Boston (2334), a neighborhood two and a half times a populous.

2. In that election, Ward 20 (West Roxbury/Roslindale) outvoted (7166) Ward 18 (6623) substantially — even though Ward 16 is 50 % more populous than Ward 20.

3.In that same election, the “connected” neighborhoods that total one-sixth of the City’s people provided FORTY percent of the total votes cast.

3.In the last Mayor election PRIMARY, in 2009, an electorate not much different from tomorrow’s voted thus :

Total turnout — 81,766. Charlestown total : 2788. South Boston total : 7689 Ward 16 total : 4927
Ward 20 Total 9402.

Ward 20, with 9407 votes cast, almost outvoted 50 percent larger Ward 18 (9880). With 6.5 % of Boston’s people it cast 11.5 % of the City’s vote.

South Boston, with about 5 % of Boston people, cast 9 % of the total vote. Charlestown, comprising about 2 % of Boston people, cast 3.5 % of the total vote. Meanwhile, Ward 21, with 5 % of Boston people, cast 3.5 % of its vote, and Ward 15, home to about 4 % of Bostonians, cast 2.4 % of the vote. Most striking : high-income ward 5, home to almost 6 % of Boston folks, cast less than 4 % of the vote.

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^ 119,000 pairs of legs will walk or wheel-chair into Boston’s 254 voting precincts. We predict it.

Turnout in this Mayor Primary will surely go much higher than 2009’s 81,766. Three Council Districts (4th, 5th, and 8th) have District Council race primaries too. My prediction is that 119,000 voters will cast ballots. Want to see how I get my numbers ? Here they are (and percent of total) :

Ward 1 (East Boston) — 6200 ( 5.1 %) — intense battle between walsh, Consalvo, Connolly, Arroyo
Ward 2 (Charlestown) — 5100 (4.3 %) — big increase, for home boy Jack Kelly’s Council race
Ward 3 (North End & Downtown) — 6500 (5.5 %) — many new residents —
Ward 4 South End — 4500 (3.8 %)
Ward 5 (Baack Bay, Beacon Hill) — 6500 (5.5 %) — big Council race; Mike Ross’s home district —
Wards 6 & 7 (South Boston & Seaport) —- 12,000 (10.1 %)
Wards 8 & 9 (Lower Roxbury & South End) — 6000 (5.05 %)
Wards 10 & 11 (Mission Hill, Hyde Square, Eastern J.P.) —- 8000 (7.075 %)
Ward 12 (upper Roxbury) — 5000 (4.2 %) — big for Golar Richie —
Ward 13 (Uphams Corner, Savin Hill) —- 5500 (4.7 %) — big increase in Walsh’s home area —
Ward 14 (Blue Hill Avenue) —- 6500 (5.5 %) — see remarks on ward 12 —-
Ward 15 (Bowdoin/Geneva) — 3300 (2.8 %)
Ward 16 (South Dorchester — 8100 (7.1 %) — see ward 13 remarks —
Ward 17 (Codman square, Lower Mills) — 6000 (5.05 %) — Walczak brings out the vote —
Ward 18 (Mattapan, Hyde Park) —- 15,000 (12.8 %) — Consalvo and Conley compete —
Ward 19 (Jamaica Plain, Rossie Square) — 8000 (7.075 %)
Ward 20 (West Roxbury/Roslindale) — 14,500 (12.2 %) — Connolly’s home Ward —
Ward 21 (Allston, Comm Avenue) — 4000 (3.3 %)
Ward 22 (Brighton, North Allston) — 5000 (4.7 %)

So yes :  “new Boston” will up its grammar. To maybe 45 % of the total. But not anywhere near enough to render “traditional” Boston a past participle.

Wednesday morning we will know if this is the IT or just a will o’ the wisp.

—- Mkichael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE TRIAL OF WHITEY BULGER : THE HORROR AND THE HATE

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^ the many years of James “Whitey” Bulger

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Watching the long parade of thugs, pugs, and lugs walking up to and planting themselves in the witness chair at Federal Court these past three weeks has put this writer into the paranormal. i lived and did political work in the city these fellows dented. Though my center of gravity lay several fenders to the southwest — in Roslindale, west Roxbury, and Hyde park — I had begun my roadwork in Dorchester — Upham’s Corner to be exact — and spent many hours, days, and weeks working Dorchester campaigns and activities. The South Boston these fellows destructo’d lay only a mile or two to the north, and at many many Dorchester events the vinegar of South Boston was often tasted. And occasionally I ventured into Southie itself.

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^ Southie : corner of Broadway and Dorchester Street

We knew what that meant. We were not fools or naive. It was always there, the under-rumble of hard nose. Later, as William Bulger began his political rise, we could feel the Bulger shoulder, hear its footstep, see its shock wave. There were stories, too, about both brothers — each different yet both of one brick. Of those stories I am not sure that i should write even now, decades after; suffice it to say that one very powerful politician from “Southie” had his life crunched pretty good by the Bulgers, according to what we heard.

It started way back, in 1972, when a certain associate of Whitey Bulger’s brother Billy, one Joe Toomey, was a Democratic state Committeeman from the then still intact South Boston Senate District. Joseph Moakley, who was then the senator, had already announced that he was challenging Louise Day Hicks for the “South Boston Congress” seat — he went on to win it that Fall. Anyway, in the 1972 Presidential Primary — which is when State Committee people are elected — in march, an associate of my political sponsor — who has long since passed — decided to run against Toomey. He lived in “Southie,” of course, and had become best pals with my sponsor: they had served in the Legislature together.

As it turned out, my sponsor’s friend lost to Toomey by only a handful of votes. Never will I forget the faces we saw when we went to Toomey’s headquarters that night to congratulate hi,m. the faces were hard as longshore piers, the bodies stocky as cinder block walls. The air was so angry you could almost see it froth at the mouth. Hate was here, and we knew it, and very quickly left.

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If only we had known the whole story ? HaHa, only I did not. My sponsor’s associate knew it well; but his ordeal was just beginning. Two years later, during the crisis and riots brought on by Federal Judge Arthur Garrity’s order that Boston schools be integrated — including the schools of “Southie” — my sponsor’s friend did hos best to calm the situation, to bring people together, to have conversations, not confrontation. The Bulgers were having none of it. Billy, now a State Senator, made the Globe and Herald his enemies; accused them of bias against “Southie”; opposed all efforts at compromise.

As for Whitey ? Nothing can be proved, but we all heard the stories : of how my sponsor’s Southie friend had been run off the road, how he had been forced to flee his South Boston home — he and his wife and kids — and live for a time in Quincy or somewhere. We heard these stories, and we believed them.

Later on both my friend’s friend and Whitey Bulger — and now Bill Bulger too — became much more powerful; more caustic still the brothers’ hate for the man i am thinking of. How palpable was this ? I will never forget one of Bill Bulger’s Saint Patrick’s Morning breakfasts, political as politics can politic — he started the affair, now a Southie must-be-at, for pols and soon-to-be pols, hosted by whoever is South Boston’s State Senator . So there I was, standing in the crowd of “repS’ and City Councillors, campaigners and election junkies, and they and I were watching Bill Bulger do his do on the front stage. Behind him stood a row of the respectful. Prominent among them stood my sponsor’s buddy. Bluntly Bulger ignored his presence on the podium. Passed him by, did Bulger; and he sort of grinned it off, as if to say, “what do you hot-shots out there expect ? This is how it is over here.”

Bill Bulger puts on a time, he run s the time. And so he proceeded to  recognize everyone else on the podium by name. But not the man we were all looking at.

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^ State senator Bill Bulger : being paid respect to. at Breakfast.

It was said, when both Whitey the man snubbed by Billy were at the peak of their power, that Whitey warned him, after a particularly nasty exchange — with my sponsor’s friend now in a position to make daily life very difficult for Whitey and even more difficult for Whitey’s guys — that Whitey said to him, “I can’t kill you, but i can kill your friends.” And my sponsor’s friend’s close associates knew that Whitey meant it. It must have been hard for them. They enjoyed the strong protection of closeness to my sponsor’s friend, and still they had no protection at all — almost: for, after all, Whitey did not, despite the threat, kill any of them. But the man whose protection they should have enjoyed did just what Whitey had implied he should do. He went his way, paying no attention to Whitey, and not much to Billy, as he did his thing in Boston and for Boston — all of it, with honor and openness to all. As for Whitey — and for his Senate President brother Billy — they just kept on — amassing power : Billy collected political clout the ways some people collect stamps. As Senate President he controlled the State Budget, and he used that control to control, in part, the administration of the state’s courts. It was said that when Judge Ed Daher, then of the Boston Housing Court, objected to some job moves by Bill Bulger, he found the budget for his Court slashed. Was this so ? We sure thought it was.

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^ crossing State senate President Bill Bulger was no joke. And he knew who you were, believe me.

With Whitey, we know what the 1980s brought him. we know it now, that is. The murders and betrayals, extortions and beatings, the guns in mouths, the informing and being informed on. We learned the names and traits of John Martorano — feared relentless killer’; Kevin weeks, tough and snarly; Steve Flemmi — kill or watch a killing; the Winter Hill Gang — not in Southie but in the “‘Ville,” oddly enough;  and John Connolly — the FBI man among men (ya right) and his colleagues at what should have been called the Muff-BI. We hear the names of the killed, the extorted, the beaten, the deceived, the betrayed — and the innocent who happened to be in the line of — ping ! — a bullet or three.

We see the families of the killed, their brains stuck on vengeance — and who can blame them ? They lived, feared, ,loathed, and bled it.

Once I left the Dorchester offices where my roadwork started, I avoided South Boston entirely.  I had friends there, yes, and cherished them. They know who they are.

Some owned taverns that were riotous good fun to have a “frosty” in. Some worked the Lithuanian Club — always a good time on a night. Some ran funeral homes; others played Park League hockey, or baseball for the South Boston Chippewas. So,me worked at the South Boston District Court House on Broadway — a fun place to be on South Boston Parade day in March. Some were gorgeous, spunky gals one met at “happy hours” on Cape Cod — Clawson’s on a Sunday night was a favorite lawn to hit on — or at “Dot So Cha” reunions — big social mixers — featuring folks from Southie, Dorchester, and Charlestown: the Irish heartland of Boston, often held at the Victory Road Armory in Fields Corner.

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^ gals of Southie : jst as gorgeous spunky as in the 1970os-1980s

And some went on to political fortune : Ray Flynn, Jack Hart, Brian Wallace, Mike Flaherty, Steve Lynch — he by beating Bill Bulger’s son, no less, to win the State Rep seat left open when Jack Hart succeeded Bill Bulger as State Senator.

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^ Kevin O’Neil of Triple O’s — today, after the groove has gone.

I never did meet Kevin Weeks, though I did know — unforgettably — his brother Jack. Nor did I ever meet Kevin O’Neil,. or Pat Nee, or Billy Shea, or any of the other biggies of Whitey’s close circle. But watching them now, greying and aging, as they testify to what they did, saw, heard, and planned back when, I know that I easily could have known all of the, stood at a bar with them drinking “a frosty” or two, worked campaigns with them — and felt a touch of fear at what they might well have been like in a less celebratory or energetic corner of life. Almost all of us who lived in Boston then knew these guys or guys much like them. We knew the city that they helped scratch, the way a vandal would key a brand new Mercedes, only meaner — and dirtier — yet also, as is a vandal, occasionally fun to be around. In a cynical groove in a then inward-angled city that fortunately no longer exists, for me or for them. Or for the rest of us.

It is over now.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

CRIME : THE MURDER OF AMY LORD

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^ surveillance photo at Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, showing Amy Lord, in gym clothes, getting out of passenger side of her Jeep to withdraw money at ATM per her kidnapper’s orders.

Just when we in Boston have had about all that we can stand of murder most foul, of murder trials, of murder testimony and murder graphics, our city has awoken to the happening of yet another murder — one more than foul; a murder beyond explication. Amy E. Lord, a 24-year old gal living in South Boston — reputedly one of our safest neighborhoods — was, it appears, kidnapped by two men (the police think it was two — but see update at the end of this report), forced to withdraw her money at ATM’s, then stabbed to death and her corpse dumped in scruffy woods several miles away, in Boston’s Hyde Park section.

Lord grew up in Wilbraham, a flat-land suburb bordering Springfield, a once-booming, former mill city 100 miles west. She had moved to the “big city” — for Boston is that, to kids living in our state’s back areas — to make her way in the world; and was, it seems, doing so, as a web designer; not spectacularly but in an ordinary, tech-savvy, 21st century way. “If you had a daughter, you would want her to be like Amy,” her grandfather Donald Lord is quoted as saying. A great many daughters are, indeed, like Amy must have been. That is what most unsettles us. Murder beyond foul is not supposed to happen to daughters like Amy Lord.

Her killer or killers did not stand outside a seedy dive in Boston’s Theater district looking for streetwalkers to hijack — some killers do do that. The killer(s) did not break into a millionairess’s loft in the tony Back Bay, looking for jewels and riches — some killers do that, too. Nor were they, it seems, sexual predators on a rape spree — that, too, more than once happens, depressingly. These killers weren’t terrorists, or athletes night-shifting as gang-bangers, or big name mobsters — all of which are on trial, or soon to be on trial, right now in our city, living through our time as America’s Grand Central station of high-profile murder. Amy Lord was none of this. Nor were her killers. They, appear to have been as ordinary as she. This is what unsettles us most.

They (or he) wanted money, ordinary money; probably for drugs — an ordinary craving. They found an ordinary girl, forgetting, or not giving a damn, that ordinary people, too, have families and friends who care about them. People in crisis, like streetwalkers, have advocates. Millionairesses have big money lawyers and influential relatives. Attack a streetwalker or a millionairess, and you will face heavy, institutional retribution. This is known. But attack an ordinary person ? Who is there to defend her but her ordinary family ?

So might think the killing mind, if it thinks at all when kidnapping, robbery and murder pushes it to act.

They kidnapped her at an ordinary time — 56AM — when many tech-ies are already awake and up, getting ready for work, which in many tech companies begins at 7 AM. They robbed her by ATM machines — as routine as money gets.

The robbing of ATM kiosks was over at 6,47, the BPMDtells us. 47 minutes. Not much longer than savoring a latte at Starbucks.

Everything about the murder of Amy Lord ws ordinary, as ordinary as life is good, which it ordinarily is, for most of us, even though it has its stressful stretches — and these stressful times are ordinary too. But that murder should be an ordinary part of an ordinary life, that is the shocking thing, the inexplicable, the frightful. It is not merely hyperbole to say that Amy Lord is us. She WAS us. Her murder murders a part of us too.

Let us grieve….

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE at 12.45 PM : Police have now concluded that it was only ONE man who kidnapped, robbed, and killed Amy Lord, and that he beat her seriously inside her apartment building before ordering her into her Jeep — which he hijacked — to withdraw money.

 

UPDATE # 2 :  Boston Police still are not ready to make an arrest, even though they have a suspect in custody in another South Boston mugging that occurred the same morning. It is thought that said suspect is involved in the Amy Lord murder.  This morning the suspect, one Edwin Alemany, age 28, was found mentally incapable of attending an arraignment. He is now at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, undergoing the standard 21-day psychiatric evaluation.   (This update at 8.40 P,M. 07/25/13)

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE 2ND MONTH STARTS

Boston Mayor 2013 – candidates of color

Whether 15 candidates qualify for the Primary ballot or some number less, it looks as though there’ll be far too many aspirants presenting themselves to Boston voters for anyone but political junkies to even know all the names, much less what they’re about.

Meanwhile, the primary vote, which will eliminate all but two candidates, takes place less than four months from now. This puts a premium on long connection; and long connection favors the most stable city communites. Hello, East Boston, much of Charlestown, Southie, South Dorchester; upper Roxbury, Readville, Fairmount Hill,Moss Hill,  White City, West Roxbury, Roslindale, Brighton; see ya, Allston, Fenway, Back bay, downtown, the South End, Mission Hill, north Dorchester (Blue Hill Avenue), Mattapan, and much of Jamaica Plain.

To put it on political junkie terms, Hello wards 1, half of Ward 2, 6,7, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, and 20; see ya, most of Wards 3 and 5 and almost all of Wards 4, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, and 21.

Given the huge field, those candidates who can add any significant bloc to his or her long connected base has a huge leg up in this situation. It can be a geographic bloc, an interest group — labor union, especially — or an “issues constituency.” So far, Dan Conley — presently Suffolk County District attorney — leads the issues campaign with two strong agenda points: gun control ordinances and a citywide casino vote. Meanwhile State Rep Martin J. Walsh and Councillors John R Connolly, Rob Consalvo, and Felix G Arroyo seem to be harvesting voters blocs outside their respective “base.” Arroyo has strong union support; Martin Walsh, the backing of progressive Jamaica Plain state Rep. Liz Malia; John Connolly, dots of strength all over the city. Rob Consalvo, an opening to East Boston, partly resulting from Dan Conley’s rejection of an East Boston-only casino vote.

As for Charlotte Golar Richie, currently an official in Governor Patrick’s administration, she has garnered significant bloc support outside her own base and also demonstrated an effective street-level campaign by collecting some 8,100 nomination signatures.

None of the above successes by these contenders should surprise. Conley, Consalvo, Connolly, Arroyo, Walsh, and Richie are the obvious leaders of the pack. Campaigns often reveal the “obvious leaders” to not be as leading as the common wisdom expected; in this election, the common wisdom so far has it right.

What of the other names that will surely be on the ballot ? Who is going to be voting for Bill Walczak, John F. Barros, John G. Laing, David G. Portnoy, Charles L. Clemons — and City Councillor Charles Yancey, if he runs ? And how about City Councillor Mike Ross, who by all measures looks less vote-getting than the six “majors” ? It’s hard to say what they will do, but one factor we know : all come from the 70% of the ciy that is “new Boston.” None of these other candidates, except possibly Bill Walczak, who is well known in the stretch of Dorchester between the Polish-American Club on Boston street and Codman Square — is likely to draw even a soupcon number of votes from the “traditional” candidates Walsh, Connolly, Conley, and Consalvo. To the extent that these “extra six” (or seven) candidates hurt anyone, it will be Arroyo and Richie.

Turnout will be a factor. With so many mayor hopefuls joined by a large crowd of candidates or city council, it would surprise few if 40% to 50% of Boston voters — say 125,000 to 160,000 — show up at the polls in September.

Supporters — including this writer — of “new Boston” finally having its turn to elect a mayor may not like this prospect. Not to worry: in recent years, turnout among people of color has risen sharply, in some cases surpassing the turnout percentage of “traditional” voters. There seems scant reason for a “new Boston’ candidate to feel bearish about who will vote in September. The major hurdle will be to convince “new Boston” voters that a “new Boston’ candidate can actually win . Candidates perceived as winnable generate much larger voter participation than candidates sen as losing.

So, can a “new Boston” hopeful win ? Yes, most definitely so.  Clearly Arroyo or Golar Richie have all that it takes to win the entire prize.

The only way that neither Arroyo and Richie get into the “final,’ as this writer sees it, is if they divide the “new’ vote fairly evenly while one or more of the “traditionals” generate a large voter turn out from their bases.

This outcome could happen. For example, there’s no candidate from South Boston. No region of the city turns out voters as numerously as Wards 6 and 7. Trust me: 8,000 votes in the “primary” from South Boston would surprise no one. If a “traditional” can dominate these 8,000 votes — nobody expects a “new Boston” candidate to do that — added to his base, he will surely win the “primary” and gather strong further support for the “final.”

It is THAT prospect that Walsh, Connolly, and Conley, especially, as Irish-name candidates, are now fighting for. It is why on April 30th, when Southie participated in electing a new State Senator for the First Suffolk District, Dan Conley spent the day greeting voters at Southie polling places. South Boston will get plenty of candidate attention during this next month.

But so will Mission Hill, the South End, Back Bay, and the new Downtown, Navy yard, and Seaport.  A gold mine number of voters — at least 40,000 total, in wards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 — resides here, many of them high income, highly educated — exactly the sort of motivated and progressive voters that any “new Boston’ candidate shares political DNA with. All that’;s needed is for “hew Boston” candidates and “new Boston” voters to find each other.

That is what the month of June will surely be about in the heart of our City.

After that, the campaign changes. It spreads out, putting a premium on large organizational effort. Many Boston people go to Cape Cod for the summer or on every summer weekend. Candidates will almost certainly be seen meeting and greeting at Falmouth happy hours, Hyannis lawn parties, and Dennis clam shacks. Sign holders will line the Sagamore and Bourne bridges and the sides of routes 28 and 6. Meanwhile, other volunteers will be canvassing stay-at-homes in the more voter- accessible neighborhoods, shaking hands at senior citizen centers, greeting revelers at outdoor festivals, and phone-banking the less accessible. Campaigns’ social media overseers will be working overtime. Here too, chance favors the “major” candidates. “Their” voters are used to seeing mayors and mayor hopefuls all the time and know who is who and who isn’t.

Enormously so. But that’s for July and August. Meanwhile there’s June, a month of campaigning everywhere inside the Boston city limits during which a last pre-primary effort will be made to reach out and touch voters not yet committed to, or even focused on, any candidate. Expect agenda announcements galore and the beginning of what will eventually be an avalanche of “key’ endorsements.

———- Michael Freedberg, “Here and Sphere”