Election Day in Boston: Will the unions rule?

Since my pick for Mayor, Charlotte Golar Richie is not in the final, I will vote for Marty Walsh.  Some of the reasons are in Kevin Cullen’s column in today’s Boston Globe.  [Warning:  This is a subscriber link so I will quote more of it than I normally would.]

Mercifully, the campaign for mayor of Boston is over, and while I have no idea who will emerge the winner at the polls, I am quite certain who lost most in this race: union workers.

If there was a message, both explicit and subliminal, in all the debates and some of the news coverage, it’s that the city’s unions and unions in general are peopled by greedy, unreasonable, insatiable Bolsheviks who would gladly make Boston go the way of Detroit as long as they can get Bunker Hill Day off.

Funny, but I don’t know union workers who think like that, but then I’m in the tank.

My father was able to raise a family, and my mother was able to be a stay-at-home mom, because he belonged to a union. I belong to a union, and at one point, for reasons that remain a mystery, was elected president of the editorial workers at the Boston Herald back when Ronald Reagan became the darling of free marketeers everywhere by busting up the air traffic controllers union.

I grew up in a union household.  We were taught not to cross picket lines.  I joined SEIU 888 when I had the opportunity and helped negotiate one contract with the City of Boston.  I’m with Kevin.

With all due respect to Tommy Nee from the patrolman’s association and Richie Paris of Local 718 of the firefighters, if they think they had it hard with Tommy Menino’s minions, try negotiating a contract with the union-busting lawyers Rupert Murdoch flew in and sicced on us at Herald Square back in the day. I was just a kid and naively suggested to one of those Armani-clad lawyers my earnest wish that we could agree to add a dental plan because many of my members didn’t earn enough to get their cavities filled. He looked down his glasses at me and sniffed, “Maybe they should get a second job.”

That’s exactly the attitude of McDonald’s and Walmart and any number of corporations that pay their leaders millions and their workers so little that they have to get a second job or, in many cases, file for government assistance. Taxpayers subsidize corporations that pay their people off in the dark.

“Look,” Tommy Nee was saying, “unions built this country. They built this city. And right now union members make up a big chunk of the middle class in Boston. But they are stereotyped and disparaged in a way that would be considered deeply unfair if you were talking about any other group.”

I’m not sure that people know that if you work for the City you have to live in the City for at least the first ten years of your employment, but if you are priced out of the housing market, it can get tough.

The Globe and the Herald editorial pages can’t agree on what time it is, but they agree on the danger of electing a mayor who is a union activist.

It’s perfectly legitimate to ask if Marty Walsh would be beholden to unions, especially given the amount of money that unions have given his campaign, but both candidates should have been asked just as often if they’d be beholden to developers or law firms or any number of other monied interests.

The emphasis on the threat that unions pose to the future of the city left many union workers wishing they were only half as powerful as their critics believe them to be.

Martin J. Walsh at a Central Boston Elder Services meeting Thursday in Roxbury,

Martin J. Walsh at a Central Boston Elder Services meeting Thursday in Roxbury,

But I’m not just voting for Walsh because he is a union man.  I like his proposal to re-do the Boston Redevelopment Authority and what he has said about changes to education. There is also evidence from his time in the state legislature that he knows how to built coalitions.

I don’t know if Walsh can win, but I think he is the best man to make changes that will transition the City from the Menino Era.

Photograph:  Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe

The daughters of Nancy Pelosi

I’ve always thought Nancy Pelosi was one tough woman.  She would never have allowed her caucus to do to her what is happening to John Boehner and she knows how to count her votes.  I remember watching C-SPAN during the votes for health care – that was a cliff hanger – but I knew that before it came to the follower Speaker Pelosi had counted her votes.  Maybe it would be close, but it would pass.  I don’t know if she will want to stick around long enough for the Democrats to take back the majority again, but she has women coming up behind her.  I’m not talking members of Congress here like Patty Murray and Tammy Duckworth,  to name only two of many, but at the state and local level.

I was reminded of this by a story in the Daily Beast yesterday.    What first caught my eye was that one of the pictures is of my former boss and current Boston Mayoral candidate, Charlotte Golar Richie.

Dem WomenCharlotte is in the upper left.

The story by Patricia Murphy begins

They’re fierce, they’re fearless, and they’re shaking up races and state houses across the country. Meet the new breed of Democratic women who make no apologies for themselves, their beliefs, or their party.

The article says this about Charlotte

In 2000 The Boston Globe wrote, “People who matter in politics predict that Charlotte Golar Richie will be the first black mayor of Boston.” Thirteen years later the former adviser to Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick, onetime state legislator, and nonprofit executive is finally making a run at the Globe’s prediction in a crowded Democratic field. At a recent campaign rally, she danced herself onto the stage and told the crowd, “If you really want to make change, you can’t be sitting on the sidelines, people! You’ve got to be in it to win it. And I’m in it.” As for the chance to be the first woman to run the city, Golar Richie said, “Women in politics have been dutiful followers. Now it’s my turn. It’s our turn.”

As with the two others in the top row with her, Alison Lundergan Grimes and Wendy Davis,  Charlotte is in a tough race.  Actually Davis hasn’t said yet if she is running for re-election as Texas state rep or will run for governor, but Lundergan Grimes is taking on Mitch McConnell in Kentucky.

Like Christine Quinn who is running for mayor in New York City (bottom right), Charlotte is the woman in a race for with a lot of the candidates – all men.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if New York and Boston both elect their first women mayors this year?  Nancy Pelosi will be proud and the Republicans who like to rail against her will have lost again.

The Mayor retires

He is 70 years old and has had health problems, but the big reason he is leaving is because he can’t get out and meet people the way he always has.  The New York Times put it this way

At an emotional announcement Thursday inside Faneuil Hall, Mr. Menino slowly navigated his way up the center aisle with his wife, Angela, to the thunderous applause from official Boston as well as city workers and admirers from the neighborhoods. Over the loudspeaker, Frank Sinatra crooned his defiant anthem, “My Way.”

“I am here with the people I love, to tell the city I love, that I will leave the job that I love,” Mr. Menino, 70, the city’s longest-serving mayor, told the standing-room-only crowd of well-wishers. He said essentially that he was not up to the job, at least not the way he wanted to do it. After illnesses last year that left him hospitalized for two months, he said he could not keep up his schedule of attending every ribbon-cutting, every dinner for a new homeowner, every school play — the small events that filled his days and threaded him to the city’s residents.

Thomas M. Menino says has met over 50% of the residents in Boston, a city of over 625,000 at last census.  No one will argue with that.  He’s been Mayor for 20 years.  Kevin Cullen has a slightly different take on this in today’s Boston Globe.

He talked about how he’s met half the people who live in Boston. That’s a great line, too, but it is misleading if you’re trying to figure out Tom Menino’s ability to hang onto a job for 20 years in a tough, unforgiving game. He may have met half the people who live in the city, but he’s met all the people who vote.

Eveyone has their favorite Menino moment.  I worked for the City of Boston for about 14 years.  I wrote talking points for him, letters for his signature, served on committees years before I started working for the city.  We would get the word that TMM needed something and knew it was the signal to drop everything else.  But my favorite Menino moment has little to do with my work.  Oh, I was at the event because of work, yes, but that isn’t the important part.

Thomas M. Menino spoke some comforting words to a Mattapan’s Edrei Olivero during a neighborhood walkthough.

Thomas M. Menino spoke some comforting words to a Mattapan’s Edrei Olivero during a neighborhood walkthough.

I was working at the Boston Housing Authority and everyone on executive staff had to attend some communities days.  Community days were when the residents of a public housing complex got together to socialize, picnic, and have fun.  They began as part of the push to make integration go more smoothly and to ease racial tension.  I did my share.  At one, I was helping a little girl of about 4 get an ice cream cone.  After standing in line, she got her cone.  We we walking back to where her mother was waiting and the ice cream plopped out of her cone onto the ground.  We were right in front of the Mayor.  Of course, the little girl started to cry.  Mayor Menino bent down and took her by the hand saying, “Don’t worry.  I’ll get you another one.”  And being the Mayor, he got right in front of the line and got her another cone.  We then walked  her back to her mother.  Maybe that little girl remembers the man who got her an ice cream but even if she doesn’t, I remember.  It remains my favorite Menino moment.

Kevin Cullen again

About 10 years ago, the mayor walked into a seminar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He searched for familiar faces, and he settled on mine and we laughed at the odds of a couple of knuckleheads like us being in the same room at Hahvahd.

An earnest young graduate student sheepishly interrupted our conversation and asked the mayor to explain his political success.

“I’m a Boston guy,” Tommy Menino told the kid, shrugging. “I’m just a Boston guy.”

His genius is making everyone feel they are from Boston, no matter where they came from.

Photograph Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff/file 2010

Race and Corruption

Both the State Senator, Dianne Wilkerson, and as of yesterday, our City Council member, Chuck Turner, have been accused by federal prosecutors of taking bribes and then lying about it.  Both were caught on tape in sting operations.   Chuck is a neighbor.   I know both and have worked with them on various projects including constituant services.  I have supported their campaigns.  So this is a major shock.  I have mixed feelings and a lot of questions about the situation. 

First, there is the question of how much we can trust the Boston FBI office.  This is the office that had agents in bed with the Winter Hill Gang and James Bulger.  One agent has just been convicted of murder and will probably finish his life in prison.  So when they produce evidence that two black politicians representing the largest concentration of African-Americans in the City of Boston I have to feel to some degree that this is racial, a singling out of two office holders who are black and trusted by the community.

Second, assuming that this was a trap set by the FBI why would either of these two intelligent people walk into the trap?  Have they taken bribes all along and just happened to get caught this time?  Why didn’t they refuse the offered money?

Third, why are they being prosecuted when the current Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, is suspected of rigging a state contract bid so a friend could benfit?  I do know the answer to that one:  The investigation of that situation is on-going with it just having been turned over to the Attorney General.

Finally, I want someone to do a study of all the African-American officials nationwide and through the last 40 years who have been brought down by scandal.  There has to be more than selective prosecution because of race.  Is there some feeling of entitlement that develops once they have been elected?  And they are all smart people who should have been able to learn from history.

The following quote from Chuck Turner in an interview conducted prior to his arrest which will be published in the Boston Globe Magazine tomorrow as part of a column by Tom Keane  I find troubling.

From an ethical standpoint, I don’t think the vast majority of Congress should be allowed to sit. Ethics should include a commitment to the needs of the people of this country which the Congress has not displayed. Given the fact that all our state governments and the federal government is controlled by money, I think it is hypocritical to talk about ethics when you talk about our political leaders or our business leaders, religious leaders, etc.

Its time for Americans to admit that ethics never have had a significant influence on American politics. If Americans cared about ethical behavior, why did slavery last for two hundred years and neo slavery last for another two hundred? Why does America have the weakest laws in the Western World to protect a working person right to have a fair return on their labor. Why were the Irish treated as animals when they were driven to America by the politics of the English ancestors of the Yankees who treated them as if they were black when they were driven here. I’m surprised Tom. I didn’t think you were in denial of the reality of the moral depravity of this country.

Is Chuck really saying that because the political system is controlled by money rather than by higher moral principles a green light to take a bribe?  Is this the “everyone else does it” excuse?

Yes, there is money in government.  Money gets spent and contracts get let.  That is how governement gets things done.  If he is talking about the election/campaign system being corruptive, there is truth there.  But I’m not sure that money is the only reason slavery persisted and is not the only reason government often fails to act.  Is the real issue that Turner and Wilkinson are still trapped in a world that sees everything as racial, everything though the eyes of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s while the world has moved on?

The Boston Globe quoted several young men who are likely to run for Turner’s seat.  Ego Ezedi, Carlos Henriquez, and Scotland Willis have all run unsuccessfully for City Council.  All expressed the same general idea that maybe it was time to move on.  That maybe it was time to stop looking constantly through a racial lens.  Ezedi in particular looks to Barak Obama:

Ego Ezedi, the executive director of the Roxbury YMCA who ran unsuccessfully for the City Council in 2003, said: “I am not a black politician. I have never represented myself as that. I’m a public servant who happens to be black.

“This is not a black-white issue; it’s an ethics issue,” he said of the arrests of Wilkerson and Turner.

Ezedi added that he draws more inspiration from the way Barack Obama’s campaign energized younger voters. “It’s important for all of us to transcend boundaries of race when it comes to politics,” he said, “and what better time than now, especially when you look at what’s happening nationally?”