Politics as Unusual: A look in the mayoral mailbag

August 6, 2013
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Just a few weeks ago, it seemed like not too many people gave a damn about the Boston mayoral race. Even media experts on the local PBS show “Beat the Press” addressed the severe lack of coverage in our slog of a contest. Following the marathon bombing, the Senate rumble and a flood of other headlines, there seemed to be little appetite left in voters or reporters.

Oh my, how things have suddenly changed.

Swooping in to the rescue, the Globe is digging deep on nearly every issue, while columnists there and at the Herald have jumped headfirst into the scrum. Even reporters at NECN, best known for testing infomercial products and commenting on YouTube videos, are playing an important role, from their breakfast interviews with candidates to “Broadside”’s nightly commentary.

This notable response is due to Boston having an exhilarating race in play. After months of selling little more than boilerplate baloney, many candidates are now delivering policy points, showing attitude, and issuing proposals—along with a torrent of press releases. Vague yapping points will inevitably endure; retail politics are critical, and it’s difficult to cram a multilateral approach to crime prevention into a radio ad. Still, these hopefuls are hustling, and deserve some kudos for finally giving voters headlines to babble about, and reporters meat to cleave upon.

With so much happening, it’s hard for the average resident to track all of the campaigns as they bounce from house to house, forum to fundraiser. Bostonians who move actively around town are likely to encounter candidates at random. Anyone who passed by City Hall on Monday afternoon, for example, would have seen City Councilor Charles Yancey and Codman Square Health Center co-founder Bill Walczak rallying against violence. Nevertheless, since it’s difficult to keep tabs on the increasingly exciting political scene, I sifted through the mayoral mailbag, and stitched together highlights from some recent happenings.

On the neighborhood front, an Aug. 5 “FELIX IN THE FIELD” update noted that City Councilor-At-Large Felix G. Arroyo and his volunteers canvassed from East Boston to Hyde Park last weekend, knocking on more than 2,500 doors. Press memos tend to exaggerate these things, but anyone who discounts his claim that “Door to door is how we’ll win!” must have paid nil attention to how Arroyo snagged his current seat in the first place. To boot, the councilor also released a well-sourced and seemingly rational “Plan to Close the Achievement Gap in the Boston Public Schools.”

Reaching back into my inbox, there’s a trove of cheery news from the Charlotte Golar Richie camp, which “officially kicked off her campaign at the historic Hibernian Hall in Roxbury last Wednesday.” For anyone who couldn’t join the “hundreds [who] turned out to hear Richie’s vision, experience and plans for Boston as Mayor,” there are plenty of pics and even a video to catch up. Richie still has yet to outline policy proposals on her website, but we can probably expect a follow-up email with some details any day now.

In other news, the campaign of City Councilor Mike Ross has released a dizzyingly deep public safety plan, and I’m not just saying that because they have declared it “the most comprehensive plan released by any of the candidates.” The 19-page document, which was unveiled at a peace celebration in Dorchester last Friday, reaches far outside of the proverbial policy box, proposing everything from new and creative domestic violence prevention strategies to undercover stings at gun shows.

For those who missed his moment in the sun last week, District Attorney Dan Conley emailed out his bold remarks on the Great East Boston Casino Quagmire. Whether it was pure political theater—or even just posturing to deflect attention from an extraordinarily violent summer—Conley took a strong and prudent stand, and as such, his team was sure to amplify his straight talk: “Given its potential costs, the proposal to locate a casino in East Boston is one of the most consequential economic decisions in the history of our city.  So far, there has not been one credible argument put forward by any of the candidates arguing that the impact of the casino would end at the boundary lines of East Boston.”

Look hard enough, and there’s electoral action underway in all corners of the Hub. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Director John Barros just hosted a volunteer kickoff event, and put forth his ideas for bolstering environmental sustainability. At the same time, state Rep. Marty Walsh was busy recommending his School Building Oversight Council and accepting an endorsement from the United Steelworkers (USW) union—and that’s all in addition to recent forums and the countless goodwill stops that candidates have already made this month. Say what you will about this mayoral race, but if you say it isn’t bustling, then maybe it’s time to sign up for some lists and accumulate a mailbag of your own.

Chris Faraone is a former Boston Phoenix reporter and author of “99 Nights with the 99 Percent” and the upcoming “I Killed Breitbart.” He lives in Jamaica Plain.