April 1st, 2009

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Political Endorsements

As many of you know, I'm very involved in local politics in my adopted hometown of Brookline. Since 2001 I've served as a Town Meeting Member from precinct 9, and since 2004 I've also served as a Trustee of the Public Library of Brookline. Both of these are elected positions, and so I face re-election to each office every three years.

As a Library Trustee, I'm in the second year of my second term, so I don't have to worry about re-election until 2010. But as a Town Meeting Member, this year is an interesting one for me. My current term expires this year, and so I would normally be running for re-election...except that in December Nomi and I bought a condominium in precinct 12, so I now have to run as a new candidate in our new precinct.

Conveniently enough, though, we happened to buy the condominium of a Town Meeting Member whose term also expired in 2009 and who was moving out of the town, thus leaving an open seat from our new precinct. I breathed a sigh of relief at this turn of events, because to be perfectly honest I don't like challenging incumbents unless I feel very strongly that they're not the folks for the job. This way, I could file papers as a candidate and not feel like I was challenging anyone already present.

(Brief explanation: each precinct has 15 TMMs representing it, in staggered three-year terms. So this year, there are five TMM seats to be filled from each precinct.)

As it turned out, one of the other incumbents chose not to run, meaning that only three incumbents were running for re-election. But then beside me, three other residents of the precinct decided to run, meaning that there would now be a challenged election, seven people running for five positions.

In a race like this one, it's always good if you can get endorsements, and I'm pleased to be able to announce two endorsements for my candidacy.

The first endorsement has come from Neighbors Building Brookline, a coalition of precinct 12 residents who first came together in 1994 to support an override. I already knew some members of the coalition through my work in town politics, and I was hoping for their endorsement. The simple fact of this year, though, is that all seven candidates from precinct 12 are excellent candidates. So when I met with NBB earlier this week, I knew that I couldn't take their endorsement for granted. I very much appreciate the difficult job they must have had in picking their candidates, and I am delighted that they saw fit to endorse me. Assuming I am elected, I plan to be an active member of the coalition, meeting with them to dissect the warrant as they do in the weeks before every Town Meeting.

One notable thing about NBB is that they don't actually take positions on the warrant. The people in the group span the political spectrum, but they're all dedicated to doing as good a job as possible understanding the articles that come before Town Meeting, so they can cast educated votes on the issues. As someone who always wants to hear the opposition's point of view on an issue before casting my own vote, I'm looking forward to these discussions.

(As an aside, although the Town Meeting Members of precinct 9 all knew each other, we generally didn't get together to discuss the warrant beforehand. But we did often email each other.)

My second endorsement was not entirely unexpected, but one that still pleases me nevertheless. Once again Brookline PAX, a local political action group, has chosen to endorse me for Town Meeting. Brookline PAX has actually endorsed me in every local race I've been in, and I hope they've been satisfied with my work as I've fought for better library services and good development for the town.

Election day is May 5; for the next month or so, other than observing Passover, I'll be working toward convincing my new neighbors that I would be as good a Town Meeting Member for them as I was for my previous neighbors from precinct 9. If you're reading this and you're a registered voter from precinct 12, please consider casting your vote for me on May 5.
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Mayor Menino

As a Brookline resident I don't get to vote in Boston municipal elections, but since we're surrounded by Boston on three sides I tend to try to stay plugged into Boston's politics as much as I can. (Also, six days a week I find myself in Boston.)

Over the years, I've come to be impressed by Mayor Thomas Menino (although I will note that I do have friends who disagree with me). In my humble view, Menino presents himself as a caretaker mayor who wants to make sure that life is made as easy as possible for the residents of his city. He's not someone who has a grand political vision and wants to push it through; his vision for the city is to make it a place of simple livability.

It seems to be a common impression, and now I know why. It's because that really is how Menino does his job. And here are two pieces of proof.

Firstly, there's this column from today's Boston Globe: Mayor Menino, at your service by Yvonne Abraham. I highly recommend that people interested in local politics read the whole article.

(Aside: speaking as a writer and editor, I find Abraham's article a delight to read.)

Apparently, Menino holds regular receptions for new homeowners, during which he shows genuine interest in his citizens' lives and looks for ways to help them out. Abraham presents one specific case in which Menino connected a new homeowner who just lost his job with a city housing expert working to stop foreclosures. In another case, Menino actually knew one homeowner's father, a Boston cop, and details about her new neighborhood.

(Another aside: columns like these present most eloquently the reason why we need newspapers to stay in business.)

Menino may not be a great orator, Abraham points out, but he clearly cares about your problems.

Which leads me to the second thing.

Some of the members of our synagogue, Kadimah-Toras Moshe, have been dealing with the issue of Boston College's expansion plans into their neighborhood. Originally, a public hearing and presentation to the Zoning Commission had been scheduled for the evening of April 8, which this year is the night of the first Passover seder. Members of the community wrote to Mayor Menino and other politicians, pointing out this conflict and imploring them to take action. This resulted in a letter sent yesterday from Menino to Robert Fondren, the chairman of the Zoning Commission, in which Menino asks him to postpone the meeting to a later date. And that led to an announcement today that the hearing will in fact be postponed.

I grew up in New York City, and I understand that the mayor of New York has a much bigger job to do than the mayor of almost any other city in the United States. But I never got the feeling that any of New York's mayors had the same personal connection with his city's residents as does Mayor Menino of Boston.