In Massachusetts we elect our state records keeper. We call him the “Secretary of the Commonwealth.” You may have visited its office, on the 17th floor of the Ashburton Place state office building. Probably if you did so it was to file corporation papers or to search an election tally on behalf of a candidate. The Secretary of the Commonwealth keeps both.
Anyhow, it’s 2014, and this year — every fourth year — we elect who that records keeper will be. For the past 20 years or so Bill Galvin has been the man. Once a state legislator from Boston’s Brighton section, Galvin developed a reputation as the man most knowledgeable about Massachusetts election statistics and laws and used that reputation to win the records keeper job. He has not been seriously challenged since — or, if he has, I cannot recall it.
This year Galvin finally has a meaningful challenger, Malden City Councillor David D’Arcangelo. Davis the 44 year old son of Tony D’Arcangelo, who in the 1960s was a protege of then Governor John Volpe, living in East Boston and, in 1968, running fir state Representative in “Eastie,’ a campaign that I, then just a kid, worked on — and reported from, as a stringer or AVATAR, then Boston’s outrageous alternative weekly.
David D’Arcangelo talked at length recently about his late Dad — a pixie of a man but tough as they came — and then about his own race this year against Secretary Galvin. It hasn’t been easy and isn’t easy now. The media, he says, aren’t interested, and there isn’t much money. He is right about that. OCPF reports through June 30, 2014 show D’arcangelo raising a total of $ 19,856, with $ 4,185 on hand; meanwhile Bill Galvin has raised about $ 68,000 in the same period and has $ 641,969.33 iun his account.
Still, the voters don’t know or care much which of Galvin and D’Arcangelo is the rich guy and which the poor boy. If Galvin is doing a good job, as the voters see it, he gets re-elected. If not ? Then D’Arcangelo has a chance. And a chance he does have, because as D’Arcangelo points out, the Secretary’s website is as opaque as it gets, offering both too much information and too little and very hard to navigate from its dense and non-transparent front page.
“The people have a right to transparency,’ says D’Arcangelo, using one of this year’s election’s most popular campaign themes. “The state’s websites don ;t work, or they’re hard to figure out, difficult to navigate. The Secretary’s is one of the worst. We deserve better. it’s 2014 !”
D’Arcangelo is right. So, what will he do about it ? “You ‘ll see an entirely new website built,’ he says. “using current technology. The Secretary should have a facebook page and a twitter presence. Does Galvin have these ? Not that i can see.”
Of course D’Arcangelo is right; in 2014 any elected official should communicate directly with the public on facebook, twitter, even — says D’Arcangelo — via instagram.
D’Arcangelo expands upon the transparency theme. “Galvin has purchased substantial public service announcements, but you can’t find out what he paid for them the source of the funds, or even see the announcements themselves. These are public records and should be accessible to all. If i am elected, they will be !”
Again, D’Arcangelo is right. The Secretary’s public service announcements are public records, easily abused by an elected office holder wielding them to promote his name. It’s a borderline decision, and one I do not second guess for any public official. Still, the public has a right to know their cost and who produced them, and to see the announcement tapes.
Transparency and modernization may not seem sexy to the average voter, but communication immediacy is how we live in the age of facebook and twitter, and most voters do get that. If D’Arcangelo can capture even a minute or two of the public’s attention, he can put Secretary Galvin’s continued election to office seriously at risk. And get some answers to his challenges.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere