Monday, October 29, 2007

Ward 21 Democratic Committee Endorses Ciommo, Arroyo, Connolly, and Yoon for City Council

The Ward 21 Democratic Committee met two weeks ago to consider endorsements in the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor and Boston City Councilor-At-Large races.

Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor

In A-B, they had endorsed Tim Schofield in September, but he took third place in the September 25th election thereby failing to make the final election. This time around, the Ward 21 committee endorsed Mark Ciommo. Their selection is not surprising, since Greg Glennon was yet another no-show -- this time not even responding to the committee's invitations to meet with them. You would think Glennon would learn how to send a nice letter, email, or phone call saying, "I'm sorry, but I will unfortunately have to decline your invitation to meet with you." That kind of politeness is standard teaching in charm school, be it in Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.

Attendance wasn't the only thing leading to their endorsement; the issues also mattered. Nan Evans, acting chair of the Ward 21 committee, said that Ciommo "has a record of accomplishments in the A-B community, and his basic political orientation is compatible with that of the [Ward 21 committee] members." As for Glennon's stance on the issues, she was more harsh, saying that Glennon "appears to prefer the goals of Bush Republicans to those of most Democrats."

Boston City Councilor-At-Large

Residents will have the opportunity on November 6th to vote for up to four candidates for Boston City Councilor-At-Large. There are nine candidates on the ballot.

The Ward 21 committee chose to endorse three candidates for the seats: Councilor Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, and Councilor Sam Yoon.

There were not quite enough votes to make a fourth endorsement; the leading contenders for that slot, Councilors Stephen Murphy and Michael Flaherty, appear to have lingering issues with some members of the committee, although the exact nature of that history is not clear.

When looking at those three endorsements, one thing struck me as odd: Councilor Arroyo (more so than Councilor Yoon) has many positions on the issues that are at odds with John Connolly.

In particular, Connolly is a vocal cheerleader for returning to neighborhood schools, while Councilor Arroyo opposes it in favor of the current system (with minimum 50% walk-zone). Connolly favors casino gambling -- including within Boston's city limits, albeit only after the input from East Boston residents -- while Councilor Arroyo opposes casinos, full stop. Councilor Arroyo proposed to split of the planning responsibilities from the BRA and instead create a city planning department, but Connolly opposes this plan.

If I kept researching the candidates and the issues, I am willing to bet I would continue to find many more issues on which they disagree. Councilor Arroyo is Boston's leading populist in politics, and is a rallying point for the city's minority and immigrant communities. Connolly, on the other hand, represents an older Boston full of Irish Catholics and political dynasties -- his father was, after all, the long-time Secretary of the Commonwealth. Connolly and Councilor Arroyo's stances on neighborhood schools is a classic confrontation between old and new Boston, representing the schism that engulfed the city in the 1970s over desegration and busing. It is an argument over issues like the "white flight" to the suburbs and making the schools serve every child -- no matter their race or economic background.

Why would the committee simultaneously endorse two candidates with such substantive differences?

Acting Committee Chair Nan Evans's Answer: "The decisions were not based on single issues, but on records as a whole (with the known candidates [e.g., Councilor Arroyo]) and the perception of potential (with those who have not yet held office [e.g., Connolly])."

My Answer: Connolly is a law partner of Schofield; the latter temporarily stepped down as chair of the Ward 21 committee while running for City Council. It is simply a lot easier to endorse Connolly when he is the friend and colleague of a guy you trust. But they could also have been making a more politically-adept move, as suggested by one committee member: if elected, Connolly might be more accessible to members of the Ward 21 committee due to their connection to him through Schofield.

Access buys a lot. The Ward 21 Democratic Committee got none with Glennon and therefore endorsed his opponent; the same committee appears to have picked character and access, rather than the issues, when they chose to endorse Connolly.

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