Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Flaherty and the bell curve

Michael Flaherty supporters were out in force to support their mayoral candidate on every corner of Edward Everett Square's many converging sidewalks this afternoon sporting signs. They weren't really engaging the public when I passed, just chatting amongst themselves in tightly knit knots leaning against their sign supports. It wasn't so much a revolution as a layabout.

This busy intersection is just outside the current City Councillor's political stronghold of South Boston, Southie, in which you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a campaign sign stuck in available dirt. Everett Square is in N'orchester and while there are some Flaherty signs in lawns and porch windows, there are also signs for Yoon and the incumbent. Not so many for McCrea. From a conventional viewpoint Flaherty has an upper hand among the challengers. The incumbent, of course, holds most of the cards and most of those are pressed close to his chest and he's not debating about whether he holds a winner.

Flaherty is the strongest candidate because he is the most entrenched in Boston's government echelons. I understand he has been in office a long time. The argument can be made that Michael Flaherty can walk down any City Hall corridor and say hello to the marriage license clerks he passes and ask about their grand kids. He has a long-employed staff that can do the same, so Mr. Flaherty's support network is well connected with the pistons and gears that keep the city running. Much like the current mayor he has the advantage of incumbancy and familiarity. These are not really ingredients one looks for in a recipe for change.

Boston isn't broken. It hums along well enough, making incremental progress. It is still a provincial city with a world-class reputation. The tourists keep coming and the hospitals and universities still make the news and employ citizens and keep the urban economic engine chugging along, chuff, chuff, chuff.... Leadership? Vision? Promise? I don't see much of these things at play in the current political ring.

I like Yoon. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, a mensch, and he's got his policy and his poli-sci down cold. McCrae, the dark horse in this race, likewise has good ideas, but again, most of them are about how to govern, not about why. More openess in the goverment process and trimming the budget a smidge here and there are commendable goals. Boston's government should be more efficient and accountable, but I would like a candidate to tell me what Boston should be besides more efficient and honest. I'm all for crooked government if it brings results and I won't ask any questions if everyone gets their slice of the pie, myself included, and every other tax-paying, voting citizen. If there is gravy to spread around spread it thick and even. Even a thief can be elected time and time again to the top office. Mayor Curley knew this and he knew how to do it: vision and results.

To my mind, Flaherty is another incumbent. A schlub who can organize people to stand lackadasically on streetcorners as human signposts. They may be volunteers but if that's the case they will be paid one way or the other in the end. I passed through another Flaherty sign-bearing posse in Roslindale a few weeks ago on an errand, they seemed as disinterested in campaigning as today's squadron in Everett Square, enjoying the weather and each other's company but not much else. I haven't seen any Yoon supporters on the streets, but I don't usually stray too much from my commuter route and Yoon seems to have my part of town, if not sewn up, then solidly behind him.

I've never seen a McCrae rally. I've gotten emails from his campaign, all of them as dull as dishwater pretty much just asking me to attend a speaking event or contribute money. I read McCrae's emails and I think, "Weeeeelllllll, maybe I should get more involved." Then I think I'll just be guilted into giving a donation and asked to help someone who isn't really helping himself. I think again: "Probably not. If I don't have nothing else to do, I'll go to what McCrae is hosting." Well, I haven't seen the man yet in person nor any of his cheerleaders. I always have something else to do that takes precedence. Believe me, its nothing that can't be put off til tomorrow. I like his honesty but he doesn't tempt me. It's too bad, because I think he is the best person for the job. I relish a businessman used to looking at the bottom line in office, delivering the best services possible. I'm not convinced McCrae is focused on the city's bottom line as he would be for his company. He seems to be hamstrung about accountability. It's important, but delivery is more imporatant. Accountability doesn't matter if everyone is content. McCrae seems to be a share-all, public business zealot, a goo-goo. There is nothing wrong with that if the city works, but the focus is on something other than what I care about: the working. I don't think he's as nimble and sharp as Yoon, who I have also never met. Yoon is the better politician.

Wheels within wheels and Boston's future direction at stake. I don't think this city will change course after the upcoming election from what I've seen so far. Another Menino term, anyone? The odds are in the incumbent's favor. He doesn't do a bad job and middling is better than disaster. A cheery prospect: more mediocrity. Well, there is nothing wrong with being in the middle of the bell curve.


Jonathan said...

I think you're right on about Michael Flaherty. He'd just be another Menino, as far as I'm concerned. I like to think of him as the "republican" in the race--more conservative with a base of white well-off folks. Kevin McCrea I frankly don't know much about, except that he's a businessman and mostly self-financed.

I'm with you on Yoon. I've met him personally, and thought he was a fantastic guy. I have seen a Yoon sign-holding (near where I live in JP) and was impressed. The volunteers where waving and cheering when I drove past. It was a neat surprise to see such interested folks in city politics.

Whalehead King said...

The more I think about it and the more I weigh the candidates, the more I'm a Yoon man, obviously. I have nothing against the incumbent but sometimes you have to say enough is enough. Of the three contenders, Yoon and McCrae are fresh. Flaherty is today's cereal in a new yet similar box. Sure it's got vitamins and fiber but how is it different from what was on the shelf yesterday? A new prize?

Thanks Jonathan. Your vote counts.


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