I attended the DOT OUT forum tonight that was the first occasion at which the four Mayoral candidates were in the room at the same time. It was an excellent example of political advance groundwork and Menino and Flaherty lead at this category. There were a number of people there with Menino rainbow stickers and Flaherty stickers. I arrived solo, and with my limited campaign staff and accounts had not had the opportunity to reach out to members of DOT OUT. Yoon arrived late.
We spoke in order of ballot position so I went first, then Yoon, Flaherty and Menino. I didn't think I did a particularly good job although it was well received (see Universal Hub and John Keith-a Flaherty supporter until I can convert him!) Yoon gave his standard stump speech about being an immigrant and Boston is a city of immigrants. He was asked why he marched in the St. Patrick's day parade and gave his standard answer to this question about having to represent all the neighborhoods as a city wide councilor. He was asked if he would participate in the parade if it banned Blacks, or Jews or Asians? He acknowledged this would be a Civil Rights issue and that he couldn't fully have the same feelings as the GLBT community on the issue. The answer did not seem to be well received.
Flaherty then spoke and he gently talked about needing a change a city hall, and about his Uncle who was a closeted gay who was murdered. He spoke about the poor state of the Boston Public Schools and how families aren't getting their top 3 choices of schools and are having to move out. He clearly is positioning himself as the kindler, gentler more modern Mayor. Menino then spoke in what is clearly a preview of his debate performance Wednesday night. He spoke about frustration with the slow pace of reform in the schools as the excuse to put in Charters. He is going to mention his Iphone application and how you can send a picture into City Hall and it will get fixed. (Right, see my earlier blog about the street work on my street)
Neither Menino nor Flaherty directly answered why they favored charters. Menino contradicted himself in his answer, saying that we needed Charters to get access to the Federal Obama money and that we couldn't get any now. Then later he said he got $25 million in Federal funds for the schools to protect jobs. Which is it? Surprisingly, no one asked Flaherty about marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
A 2/3 vote was required for Endorsement. The first round went Menino 55, Flaherty 35, McCrea 8, Yoon 2. Menino was never able to get 2/3 of the vote so no endorsement was given. I was pleased I went in cold to the meeting and was able to get some support, and the people were very kind. One gentleman came up and asked for a pin to show his support and then whispered "I live right near Yoon and I want to wear it around".
This was quite surprising that Menino who has been great on GLBT issues couldn't get 2/3's of the vote against someone who marches in the St. Patick's day parade. Winds of change are in the air.
I left before the voting was over so missed the fireworks of Menino yelling at a Flaherty supporter. (Again see Universal Hub)
Next, I went to the City Council at large candidates forum at Freedom Hall. It was packed and all 15 candidates were there. I caught the last round which was the closing statement of each. Judging by audience response I would say that Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Arroyo, Mr. Jackson, and Ms. Pressley were well received or supported. However, all the candidates got good rounds of applause. I was in the entrance hallway as it was SRO. A woman said to me that she liked Sean Ryan because he was the only one who seemed to be telling it like it is. I almost fell out of my chair when Steve Murphy started talking about how he sponsored legislation about Transparency!! Politicians have no shame.
I was very impressed at how different the event looked from the one I was in 4 years ago where the only minorities were Felix Arroyo and Sam Yoon, and the field was packed with political legacies: Connolly, Flynn, White, Flaherty. I think the candidates may still be quite light on the issues, with a number of empty banalities about being accountable, accessible, needing a change, and putting in safe streets and good schools BUT I am genuinely impressed and hopeful at the positive change going on in the City with a truly diverse group of candidates.
Finally a tale about a Menino campaign worker. A few weeks ago I got a knock on my door near the end of the day. A young man introduced himself as working for the Menino campaign and then noticed the button on my shirt. He had never heard of me. I asked him why he was volunteering, what he liked about the Mayor. He said he just answered an ad and that he did it because they feed him pizza. I asked what good things the Mayor had done and he said 'the schools'. I asked if he thought the schools were good and said 'not really'. We sat down and had a talk. I asked his background. He is an immigrant to the is country and he talked about how the schools in his third world (maybe second world) country were better than here, and that when he got here he tested ahead of his grade level and quickly got into Boston Latin. He wasn't all that impressed with Latin either, but he won a scholarship to one of our local big universities where he recently graduated. But, he hasn't been able to find a job in his profession in our fair city so he is doing Menino grunt work. After explaining a bit about myself and promising him I wouldn't use his name in my blog (he was afraid he was going to lose his unpaid internship!) we shook hands to part ways.
As he was leaving, I asked who he was going to vote for? He turned around and said to me "oh I don't vote, all politicians are criminals!"
Isn't it nice to know that an immigrant who came to this country from a destitute country, lived all his life in America with Menino as his Mayor, went to the BPS, has been so inspired by our local politicians to decide at age 22 or 23 to not vote, even if he is working on a campaign as a resume builder.
We have a lot of work to do to inspire our youth.