Sunday, September 06, 2009

Yoon in Byzantium.

Sam Yoon is the thinking person's candidate for the position of Boston's Mayor. He graduated with a major in philosophy, so that qualifies him as an egghead. Yoon brings a lot of fresh ideas and out-of -the-usual-box thinking to how to run Boston. Not all of it is original and not all of it will play well in a place so entrenched in habits, but it is refreshing to see it out in the open, challenging the status quo.

Mr. Yoon has a good head on his shoulders. The proof: he lives in Dorchester. Though he's a brainiac, he sleeps in a neighborhood where people have dirt under thier nails. Though he's spent his time in an ivory tower and certainly more hours than I would want to in an office in City Hall, he is grounded in the world of the hoi polloi. He's no elitist and he has certainly experienced some of the inconveniences most regular Bostonians do, whether they live in the Dot or one of the outer neighborhoods. Most Bostonians live in the outer neighborhoods. It has been a long time since Southie had any rough and tumble street cred.

I was going to write about Boston's mayoral election today and, in a rare move I had written the editorial the day before. In another rare turn of events, I bought the Sunday Boston Globe (I read the weekday editions) and they published an article about this upstart candidate. Oh well, back to the drawing board to make everything up-to-date and relevant.

To extract a short quote from the Globe's article: “... to say that I don’t understand Boston politics means that basically half of the city doesn't understand Boston politics.’’ I'm with ya there, Yoon. I've only lived here two years and many Bostonians are DBC or another neighborhood By Choice. I can't make heads nor tails about how the city is run except that it is constipated. There's no shame in admitting it. Boston is the not just the Athens of America, it is the Constantinople of America also. The byzantine structure of city government and the cross currents and back stabbing boggles an observer's mind. I think the only person who understands how things work is the puppetmaster at the top of the hierarchy.

If voters are disinterested, they can hardly be blamed. It's like learning chess without being able to see the board.

I will take a moment to again disagree with Mr. Yoon about one thing, and that is his weak mayor platform. I invite Mr. Yoon, if elected, to bring more transparency to the process of government and to rely on proven processes while using his sharp mind to invent new ones. If I vote for him, however, I want him to use every tool in his kit to bring about our shared vision of what the future Boston can be. I do not want him to handicap himself by delegating responsibility to an already far too powerful web of interest groups and agencies. I think a city's mayor should hold the reins tightly and choose the course without caving to too many opposing voices which often shout at cross purposes. If I disagree with the mayor I'll voice my opposition, but I only get to vote for him once. After the election, he is free to choose his policy directions until the next cycle and come Hell or high water, he should stick to his vision. If it veers from what I initially believed, shame on me; not shame on him. I was the poor judge of the candidates character.

Like Mr. Yoon wants to fix what's broken in Boston, I'm going to change my brake pads tomorrow, Labor Day being a fitting day to engage in some minor mechanics. I'm not approaching the task by saying I won't use a wrench. I'm going to drag every crescent and socket and monkey wrench I have in my toolbox into handy reaching distance, and many other things besides, in order to make sure I have what I need to get the job done. A mayor should likewise have everything available at this disposal to make things work as snag-free as possible.

I don't think anyone has misjudged Sam Yoon's character so far. The candidate has garnered almost universal respect as someone who brings a lot of book smarts and earnest charisma to the election.

Here is Sam Yoon's website so you can get his viewpoint straight from the horse's mouth.

Here is the incumbent's website, so you can see what the challenger is up against.

You'll have to look up Flaherty's website yourself. This candidate doesn't interest me as an agent of progress. I intend no offense to the man himself, but he seems more business as usual. As he says in his posters, Menino was good in 1996 and Flaherty is better in 2008. So what? I don't want a new model. I want a new machine. Yes, I used the word machine intentionally when discussing Candidate Flaherty. The Firefighter's Union endorsement doesn't help him in my eyes, though it probably ensures him a predictable number of votes.

You'll also have to look up McCrea's website yourself. Though I have nothing but respect for Kevin McCrea and I think he is a valuable piece of the puzzle that shines light into dark cracks of the current administration, I feel a full term of McCrea as mayor would be too much of a good thing. I think he belongs more on a soapbox rather than behind the center desk in the mayoral suite. I may be wrong and he may be just what Boston needs at the top, but I tend to think not, my respect for his opinions and due diligence notwithstanding.

In the spirit of fairness, I will be pondering the pros and cons of the incumbent and reporting them next Sunday. I don't think the incumbent is a bad mayor. I think, as he likes to allude to himself, he is an able urban mechanic and he has served Boston well during his tenure. Five terms though, seems like two too many.

Until then, read the papers, watch the candidates and come Election Day, vote for whom you think is best suited to lead Boston into the future.

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