From our Late to the Party desk: This was actually written three days ago, but we misplaced it.
Well the hardworking staff trundled down to the Ford Hall Forum last [Thursday] for The Menino Legacy: Down to the Wire and, say, it was swell.
The panelists were Boston political Rain Man Larry DiCara, Boston political rainmaker Mary Anne Marsh, Boston Globe Op-It Gal Joan Vennochi, and Suffolk University’s Boston Herald embed John Nucci.
We originally considered doing this summary Gangnam-style, but came to our senses and switched to Shorthand-style, with a liberal dose of paraphrasing.
The conversation started out with this week’s preliminary election, which drew a 31% turnout.
Larry DiCara: In 2012 255,000 in Boston voted for Barack Obama. This week 113,000 voted in the prelim, similar to 1993 and 2009. Smaller turnout meant the voters were older, whiter, more Catholic, and more public workers – more like the Old Boston. That number will probably go up to 150,000 in the general.
John Nucci: Despite that voter profile, Marty Walsh and John Connolly are not Old Boston – both are progressives. But the prelim was Old Boston in geographical turnout: for Walsh in Dorchester and South Boston; for Connolly in in West Roxbury, although he drew from a broader base of support overall.
Joan Vennochi: Those two are no more progressive than Tom Menino.
Mary Anne Marsh: But they were the two that were best prepared. Both have wanted to be mayor for a long time. They have been at it for years, laying the groundwork.
JN: New Boston: East Boston has gone from Italian to Latino, South Boston has more young progressives, Charlestown dramatically changed.
JV: And there was no East Boston turnout.
LD: Because so many Latinos in East Boston are not citizens. Overall one in six residents of Boston is not a citizen.
JV: Identity politics was not a defining theme in this race.
MM: Charlotte Golar Richie gave herself 20 weeks to run. Considering she didn’t prepare in advance, she didn’t do badly. But you need to be out there all the time ahead of time if you want to succeed – like Tito Jackson, Linda Dorcena Forry, Ayanna Pressley, and now now Michelle Wu.
LD: In 1983 Kevin White didn’t announce he wasn’t running for reelection until the Friday before Memorial Day. But others were already out there – Ray Flynn, Mel King, me, Dennis Kearney, David Finnegan . . .
MM: Even if there had only been one black candidate in the race, it wouldn’t have made a difference. You have to be ready, and Charlotte Golar Richie didn’t have the orgnization.
LD: She didn’t give a reason to vote for her.
JV: I think CGR was hurt more than helped by the effort to clear the field.
LD: Now the two finalists have to pursue the supporters of the losing candidates. They need to reach out to community leaders, stand in the neighborhoods. In the finals, Kevin White won every minority precinct. The same essentially for Ray Flynn and Tom Menino in their finals.
JV: The schools issue could help Connolly in those communities because it cuts across almost all demographic lines.
JN: Connolly dida good job of organizing parents, but will minority voters come out for the general?
LD: And could a low minority turnout hurt Ayanna Pressley in the City Council race?
MM: The general could be an epic battle of big business vs. big labor. That’s why Connolly focuses on schools to distance himself from corporate ties, and Walsh talks about the middle class to distance himself from labor ties.
JV: Well, this will be an epic battle in a very small slice of Boston. We had all the candidates come to Globe forums and all their attempts to appeal to the young professional crowd, all their talk of food trucks and micro units, and happy hour did them no good. They’re not getting that demographic.
(At that point the conversation turned to Tom Menino’s legacy, which after all was the purported topic of the forum.)
JN: This is a guy with a 75-80% popularity rating after 20 years. That’s remarkable. Signature features? He made city residents feel good about city services – street cleaning, garbage pickup, snow removal.He was an urban mechanic, yes, but with a vision – just look at the South Boston Innovation Distict or the Boston skyline.
LD: He leaves the city in its best financial shape in probably a hundred years. When he started Boston was compared to Detroit and St. Louis. You don’t hear this comparisons anymore. Number two: No one’s gone to jail. Think about it: they went to jail in the White administration, they went to jail in Flynn’s terms. Guys in office for a long time start to take their eye off the ball. Tom Menino never took his eye off the ball.
(Mercifully, Joan Vennochi then jumped in to introduce the reality-check portion of the evening.)
JV: On the positive side he loved the job, he was accessible and authentic, and he did good by Italians – which is another way of saying no one went to jail. But regarding the schools I’d give him a grade of C, and some parents and students would grade him even lower. As for development, remember – the waterfront was originally seen as a neighborhood. What it is now is restaurants, hotels, and a convention center. Beyond that, diversity was low in the Menino administration and inclusivity scarce – he kept a very small inner circle.
(Various and sundry harrumphs here.)
MM: Well, no one in 2013 is campaigning on change.
LD: In 1983, only 18% wanted Kevin White to run for reelection – that’s about the nmber of people on his payroll. It’s a very different end with Tom Menino.
(Then came the Q&A, which the hardwriting staff forgot to listen to.)
One last fun fact to know and tell, courtesy of Mary Anne Marsh:
Eugene Rivers – you know, the guy who made a big deal in yesterday’s Boston Herald about the failure of Boston’s black leadership to maximize the minority community’s clout in the mayoral race – didn’t vote on Tuesday.
Like my old man used to say, a real operator.