Politics as Unusual: In a dream city gov’t, most candidates would have key jobs

September 13, 2013
By

I’ve already said this an embarrassing number of times in the past several months, but the pool of candidates pitching to be the next mayor of Boston is an extraordinarily gifted gaggle. Even as someone who takes pride in his significant disdain for anybody arrogant enough to seek such a mighty crown, I’ve found that many of the Hub’s hopefuls are among the remaining few clever and caring folks out there who wish to serve the public with their talents. Other than the pro-life propaganda-peddling Roxbury Republican David James Wyatt and Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley—the latter of whom held up the stop-and-frisk metropolis of New York as an example of a city that protects civil liberties in this week’s televised debate—it would be a blessing to have every one of these men and woman work in the next administration.

Since the race for City Hall kicked into overdrive in late March, we’ve heard endless notes about how these candidates see the utmost potential in Boston, how they adore this town, yadda, yadda, yadda. But following the Sept. 24 preliminary contest—through which only two will prevail—it’s frightening to think that most of the dynamic and incredible ideas they’ve offered will slip into the ether. Whether City Councilor-At-Large Felix G. Arroyo’s Invest in Boston initiative, which would divest public monies from degenerate lenders, or any of the many stellar plans for sustainable job and building development brought by District Councilor Mike Ross, this race has incubated a veritable think tank through which we can now effectively transition out of our current monarchy and into this century.

With all of that said, for this second-to last-installment of “Politics as Unusual” before the prelim, I’ve designed a city government fueled by the ingenuity we’ve seen in so many platforms. Particularly as this race has already lured some of our most promising leaders off of the city council—of five councilors vying for the mayorship, only Charles Yancey is simultaneously running for his district seat—it would be an utter shame to let these problem-solvers retreat into the private sector, or worse yet, be run out of Boston like Sam Yoon, who dared to challenge the incumbency of Mayor Tom Menino. This is hopeful thinking, of course, as most contenders will likely begin planning a 2016 run on Sept. 25; but considering how much rhetoric we’ve heard about how they adore the Hub, here’s how they all might be able to better Boston from inside City Hall.

While there’s a good chance that Marty Walsh could take the big prize—polls have certainly suggested such, as did the crush of supporters who turned out for him in Downtown Crossing yesterday—the Dorchester state rep could also serve as an ace chief of personnel and labor relations. It’s depressing that he may actually be one of the few public servants who is capable of communicating with organized workers, but that does seem to be the case, so we might as well leverage his abilities. As a former union worker and official who knows his way around municipal budgets and balance sheets, Walsh is the candidate most likely to consider everybody’s best interests at the bargaining table.

Next up is John Connolly. Despite his “education mayor” schtick, the at-large city councilor from West Roxbury should be kept as far away from schools as possible; though he rejected outside spending by corporate ed reform groups under pressure, there’s no insurance that Connolly wouldn’t sell Boston Public to the highest bidder. With that said, he is one of the strongest candidates on the environment, and as such should be put in charge of environmental and energy services. A tireless worker who can handle multiple roles, it would also be beneficial to have Connolly take over consumer affairs and licensing, where he could implement his concept for how City Hall should work more like the Apple Store, sick as the public may be of hearing that line.

It goes without saying that the incredibly competent former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie could hold down virtually any department. Nevertheless, it’s become clear throughout the race that she is most passionate about housing, an issue that Golar Richie honed her insight on as an executive director of the Department of Neighborhood Development under Menino. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Executive Director John Barros would also do a stellar job in that spot—his experience working with the city to build affordable housing is real—but considering his in-depth knowledge of the start-up world and access to potential outside tech collaborators, we’ll need him to serve as chief information officer.

While there’s obviously a lot of brains among the candidates, even most of them would probably point to Bill Walczak’s superior intelligence. The Codman Square Health Center co-founder and longtime all-around advocate has probably lost some votes due to his smarts—he actually used the word “obstetrics” in the debate this week—but Walczak has proven that he can heal communities, and as such should be put in charge of public health and human services. Yancey will probably retain his district seat, but having toiled in the city’s most depressed pockets for so long, he could also bring a vision to help the most vulnerable residents.

Rounding off the new administration, current District Councilor Rob Consalvo could and should be trusted to uphold the proud traditions of the Mayor’s Youth Council. His ideas to launch a youth jobs initiative that better taps into private, public and faith-based resources has merit and should be implemented. The same goes for Arroyo’s aforementioned divestment ideas, which he’d enforce as Boston’s chief economic development officer. In that position Arroyo could connect with Mike Ross, whose willingness to hold the City accountable for MBTA service makes him the most qualified to head streets and transportation. Finally, with the conversational chops he demonstrated last night, former beat cop and current talk radio host Charles Clemons may be the most socially adept of the bunch, and would make for one heck of a media relations flack for the new mayor. It will take a seriously religious man to tame so many god complexes, and Brother Charles seems up to the task.

A former Boston Phoenix staff writer, Chris Faraone is now contributing editor at DigBoston.