Sometimes elections are about sending people to office. Sometimes they’re about sending messages. Tuesday’s mayoral election is about the latter.
It’s all but certain that Mayor Tom Menino will win re-election on Tuesday. But voters who care about the future of the city have an opportunity to register their dissatisfaction with his performance by voting for Peggy Davis-Mullen on November 6.
Before being elected to the city council, Davis-Mullen served on the elected school committee. She has been a voice of reason in the neighborhood-schools debate. She showed political growth in the mid ’90s by taking a stand in favor of domestic-partnership rights for gay and lesbian municipal employees. That position isn’t seen as courageous today, but it was when she took it, especially considering her political base in conservative South Boston. She has spoken up on behalf of neighborhoods in development debates — yet understands the need to work with downtown business interests.
This year, as chairwoman of the city council’s Ways and Means Committee, Davis-Mullen held hearings on the budget, the first time the committee’s head has ever met formally with city department heads before the release of the mayor’s budget. That initiative shows what the council can do but often doesn’t. She’s been a staunch critic of the mayor’s plans to give $200 million to the Boston Red Sox for a new ballpark, and she frequently points out that affordable housing remains scarce in the city. And she has been a consistent champion of the arts (particularly Shakespeare on the Common), a stance that is much welcomed in a city almost devoid of such advocacy.
Menino, by contrast, has given us eight years of broken promises. During his first State of the City address, in 1994, Menino asked voters to judge his tenure by the performance of the Boston Public Schools. Seven years later, the best thing that can be said about Menino’s job there is that he hired Thomas Payzant as schools superintendent. In the meantime, the mayor missed a crucial opportunity to impose real reform on the schools during last year’s negotiations with the Boston Teachers Union.
Over the past four years, after being elected to a second term without opposition, the mayor has made development a higher priority than the schools. He’s charging ahead with a new convention center on the waterfront, even though the deal looks more and more like a boondoggle with each passing day. The project is already over budget and behind schedule. The market for such a facility has collapsed — not just locally, but nationwide. And the tactics the mayor used to get South Boston to approve the project in the first place showed a shocking disregard for the rest of the city’s residents. In 1998, Tom O’Brien, then the head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (and one of Menino’s top appointees), acted with the mayor’s blessings to sign off on a deal with South Boston politicians that would have seen 51 percent of the money raised via development linkage fees go directly to the neighborhood. Typically, a community affected by development sees just 10 to 20 percent of these funds; the rest are dispersed throughout the city. When the deal was made public, the mayor walked away from it. But it never should have been made to begin with.
Then there’s the mayor’s insistence that the Red Sox build a new baseball park in the Fenway — not because it’s the best place for such a project, but because he feared the opposition of voter-rich South Boston, which was and probably still is the neighborhood best suited for it. (The offices of the Boston Phoenix at 126 Brookline Avenue would be displaced by a new Fenway ballpark. To read our coverage of the issue, visit www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/features/fenway.html.) What we have now is a stalled project that will probably never be built, confusion over where the park can and should be built, and — with new ownership of the Sox just around the corner — the slim possibility that a new park could be constructed outside the city. In the meantime, continuing uncertainty has caused economic hardship in the Fenway as tenants refuse to sign long-term leases.
Beyond these issues, the lack of affordable housing in the city remains a serious problem (see "Taxing Questions," page 24), and the rate of crime is inching upward. As of October 30, 58 people had been murdered in Boston in 2001. Last year, there were just 40 such crimes; the year before, only 31. During his debate with Davis-Mullen, Menino brushed off concerns by saying that most of these crimes took place in buildings, not on the streets. He also added that many murders were crimes of domestic violence. We’re not sure who the mayor thought would be comforted by such observations. And no one will soon forget the mayor’s remarks, just days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, that the resulting decline in business at Logan Airport meant that there was no need for an additional airport runway. If using an unprecedented national tragedy for advantage in a long-simmering local political fight isn’t craven, then nothing is.
Davis-Mullen’s campaign never got off the ground. She was essentially ignored by the two major dailies (though the Globe ran a profile on Tuesday). Stories about tax liens and defaulted student loans, though they slid off the back of Stephen Lynch when he was a congressional candidate, clung to Davis-Mullen like Krazy Glue. She couldn’t raise money — in part, many believe, because big donors feared reprisals from the notoriously grudge-happy Menino. None of this is fair. It certainly isn’t right. And the city is worse off for it — at minimum, we deserved more debate between the two candidates. But what ultimately counts is the tally on Election Day. Vote for Davis-Mullen on November 6.
Boston City Council
Of the at-large candidates, the Phoenix endorses two: Maura Hennigan and Felix Arroyo. Hennigan is a 20-year veteran from Jamaica Plain who’s leaving her district seat to run citywide. In the past few years, she has shown an increased interest in citywide development issues, and she was a leader in fighting the mayor’s plan to build a new baseball park in the Fenway. As a district councilor, Hennigan showed a creative ability to balance the needs of liberal Jamaica Plain and more conservative West Roxbury. As an at-large councilor, she’ll be sure to do the same for the entire city.
Felix Arroyo brings an extraordinary breadth of experience to his candidacy. He is a pastor and an accomplished grassroots activist with 25 years of service to the city, particularly in education: during the 1990s, he spent eight years on the Boston School Committee. Arroyo’s election would complement the infusion of energy that Councilor Chuck Turner brought two years ago.
In District Two (South Boston, Chinatown, South End), Rich Evans, a manager for the MBTA, is running against 18-year incumbent James Kelly. Where Kelly is a conservative, Evans is a moderate; he sent a strong signal by hosting a campaign-kickoff party at Flash’s, a South End bar. He won the endorsement of the Massachusetts Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Political Alliance. A South Boston native, he wants to get more affordable housing built in his neighborhood.
In District Six (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), the Phoenix endorses John Tobin. Tobin is an appealing two-time candidate with a big-picture view of the city: he questions the wisdom of continuing the convention-center project, and he supports building a new park for the Red Sox in South Boston.
In District Seven (Roxbury, South End), the Phoenix supports incumbent Chuck Turner. Since his election two years ago, Turner has shown how to make good use of the office. He has demanded to know why minority voters faced unusually long lines at the polls during last November’s presidential election. He has been consistently against the mayor’s plan to build a new park for the Red Sox.
In District Four (Mattapan), the Phoenix supports council president Charles Yancey, a hard-working district councilor who’s shown leadership on citywide issues. He also opposes the Red Sox’ Fenway plan.
Incumbents Paul Scapicchio (North End), Michael Ross (Fenway, Back Bay, Mission Hill), Dan Conley ( Roslindale, Hyde Park, West Roxbury), and Brian Honan (Allston/Brighton) are running unopposed. This is a shame. Challenges give voters a choice and keep incumbents honest. Especially in Ross’s district, voters (and probably the candidate himself) would have benefited from a challenger. Ross could use some political seasoning; he showed especially poor judgment with his ill-thought-out, knee-jerk support of the mayor’s plans to replace news boxes throughout the city with uniform "condominium" boxes.
Polls are open this Tuesday, November 6, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Phoenix recommends six of the 19 candidates running for the nine-member board — incumbents Marjorie Decker, Ken Reeves, and Anthony Galluccio and newcomers Denise Simmons, Brian Murphy, and John Pitkin.
A progressive with energy, Decker shines at keeping Harvard University in check. Reeves is a long-established progressive. Galluccio is a moderate (by Cambridge standards) who, as we’ve pointed out in the past, serves as a bridge between the city’s more conservative pockets and its liberal base.
Simmons is a 10-year veteran of the Cambridge School Committee. A tough campaigner and smart politician, she comes to the council with experience, savvy, and progressive values. Murphy is a seasoned Democratic progressive who’s worked on campaigns for Lois Pines, Jarrett Barrios, and Alice Wolf. Pitkin is a devoted Cambridge activist who’s served the liberal Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association for 28 years.
Polls are open this Tuesday, November 6, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Phoenix enthusiastically endorses incumbent mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay, who has been a refreshing change in Somerville politics. Although she’s come under fierce criticism for her handling of plans for Assembly Square, Kelly Gay has done what her predecessor Michael Capuano refused to do: truly open up the process to residents. It’s no doubt slowed down much-needed development in the area, but it will ultimately result in better development.
Polls are open this Tuesday, November 6, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What do you think? Send us an e-mail at letters[a]phx.com