On the Campaign Trail

October 9, 2009
By

John Ruch

Flaherty is pro-trolley; McCrea talks radio

Mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty supports the restoration of trolley service on S. Huntington Avenue and Centre/South streets in Jamaica Plain, the Gazette has learned.

In other campaign news, former mayoral candidate Kevin McCrea is considering becoming a talk radio host or reporter, he told the Gazette.

Meanwhile, local City Councilor John Tobin subjected himself to a comedy-show roast. And at-large City Council candidate Doug Bennett survived the preliminary to continue campaigning via alternative transportation—a scooter—though
the Gazette has observed him playing loose with traffic laws.

Flaherty for trolleys

The Gazette learned from a source last month that Flaherty supports the restoration of MBTA Green Line trolley service between Heath Street and the Forest Hills T Station. When asked if that is true, Flaherty spokesperson Natasha Perez said simply and directly, “Yes.”

She added that Flaherty supports light rail in general and JP’s so-called Arborway Line in particular.

Arborway Line trolleys stopped running in 1985 and have been the subject of controversial restoration efforts ever since. The restoration effort is now being kept alive only by a lawsuit, filed by the local Arborway Committee organization, that is currently under appeal.

Menino was a prominent opponent of trolley restoration, saying it would block cars and emergency vehicles, and that it could endanger bicyclists and pedestrians.

“If we had trolleys, a lot of folks wouldn’t want to drive down Centre Street,” Menino told the Gazette during his 2005 campaign. “I want people to drive by those stores along there and stop in.”

Franklyn Salimbene, head of the Arborway Committee, said he never heard of any pro-trolley commitment from Flaherty. But, Salimbene noted, all four mayoral candidates this year said in a Back Bay Neighborhood Association questionnaire that they support light-rail public transit. Only McCrea specified the Arborway Line trolleys on the questionnaire, he said.
Press pass for McCrea?

McCrea, whose day job is as a construction contractor and developer, was briefly a columnist for the South End News before joining the mayoral race. With his blog (ElectKevin.blogspot.com), he essentially became one of the top reporters on his own race, frequently questioning workers on his opponents’ campaigns, and posting information that led to several Boston Globe articles about questionable city deals.

Now McCrea is considering joining the media and has had discussions with unspecified media outlets, he told the Gazette.

“My natural sort of genetic code is pretty much as an investigative reporter,” McCrea said. “I thought about trying to get into talk radio. I think it would be a good medium for me.”

Meanwhile, he was back on the construction job at 7 a.m. the day after the preliminary election.

Tobin roast

Facing no opposition in this year’s race, local District 6 City Councilor John Tobin—who also operates downtown comedy clubs—instead subjected himself to a comedy roast by fellow elected officials, including Menino and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. The Sept. 16 event, held in West Roxbury, also served as Tobin’s 40th birthday party and as a fund-raiser for child dental programs at area health clinics, including JP’s Brookside Community Health Center.

As seen in video clips from the roast, available at www.VoteJohnTobin.com, roasters mocked Tobin for the sometimes small-scale work of a city councilor, and for Tobin’s knack for getting quick-witted quotes into newspaper articles.

City Councilor Rob Consalvo held up what he claimed was “an ordinance John filed to ban cell phones from ringing” in public places.

Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, a JP resident, produced a Boston Herald archive search that showed Tobin quoted in 180 articles. “He’s the media equivalent of a rimshot,” she said.

City Council President Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square, held up a supposed photo of Tobin’s bookshelf and pointed out such titles as, “How to Set Yourself on Fire and Other Ways of Getting the Media’s Attention.”

Menino roasted himself a bit, joking about his administration’s ongoing scandal involving the deletion of e-mails that are public records. [See related article.]

“It’s not unusual to speak in front of not that many people,” Tobin said, finally addressing the crowd at the end of the evening. “We do that every Wednesday in front of the Boston City Council.”

Some of the officials in attendance worked earlier this year to save the Boston Park Rangers horse unit from budget cuts. A preview video for the roast, shot at Jamaica Pond Park, showed the utility of horse-mounted rangers. As shown in the video, one of them caught comedian Tony V, the roast’s host, clambering up a tree in the park, and ordered him down.

Scooter campaign

At-large City Council candidate Doug Bennett hails from Nantucket, but managed to pull more than 10,000 votes in the preliminary election on the strength of a marathon door-knocking campaign. He claims to have visited more than 80,000 Boston homes so far.

The environment is one of Bennett’s main issues, with his web site saying the green economy could turn Boston into the “Silicone Valley” (sic) of the Northeast. But Bennett has not touted the fact that his door-knocking campaign has been conducted by alternative transportation—a motor scooter.

Motor scooters have become popular in JP and nationwide as urban transportation that uses less gas than cars. The influx of scooters in Boston became an issue for the City Council earlier this year, which discussed whether scooter drivers should be allowed to park on sidewalks. Tobin sponsored that hearing order.

The downside of Bennett’s scooter campaigning, at least in JP, is that he appears to play loose with traffic rules. Over the Fourth of July weekend this year, the Gazette observed a helmet-wearing scooter driver—apparently Bennett himself—dropping off Bennett campaign literature. The driver left the scooter running in the center of Bardwell Street for about 10 minutes, then drove the wrong way on one-way Custer Street before parking in a no-parking area.

Bennett did not return a Gazette phone call for this article.