Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

The Mayor is Dead. Long Live the Mayor.

November 22nd, 2014

clearytreeIt’s the season or at least a season. The recently retired and more recently dead former Mayor Tom Menino clearly had a big saved spot in his big old heart for Christmas and its leading events. He went by Escalade from one Boston neighborhood to another, shameless in his enjoyment of the holiday trolleys and tree lightings. He seemed to be everyone’s dad or granddad.

I can only recall him once missing the lighting of the Anderson tree in our shared Hyde Park neighborhood. He was too feeble that year. His wife Angela stood on the platform for him and performed his greetings and wishes. That itself was remarkable.

For decades, she had preferred to have her people-loving hubby meet-and-greet. Even on the annual July 12th block party celebrating the city while celebrating Tom’s ascendancy to the mayoralty when Ray Flynn scurried off to the Vatican with delusions of legacy and maybe even closeness to God, Angela absented herself while Tom stood in the street glad-handling and chatting up us all.

Yet when needed, she did not let her husband down. She became the first lady of the city.

Now Martin J. (Marty) Walsh rolls into Menino-land in eight days to figuratively flip the switch and by so doing stake a local claim. I”ll be there to see how he carries himself.

So far, the new version of Da Mare has not been as visible in these parts and certainly has not brought the personable Menino character. I’ve observed him at several events and found him rather dour in contrast to the avuncular Menino.  There may be some jollity in him, but he doesn’t let it out much.

walsh1I admit that to Tom Menino I was a constituent. He treated me as such. I had many contracts with him, at political events, when he was a guest on my Left Ahead podcast, when I advocated for or thanked him for bicycle doings, at business openings, in random meetings, and of course at the annual tree lighting.

He remembered…my name, my precinct, that I was a poll warden, that I shared his love of cycling, that I’d  moved from JP to HP (the proper order of things in his judgment, that I had healed from a badly broken leg when he was having his own nether region problems, what my sons had been about. In other words, he was both an empathetic guy and a skilled pol.

I never saw the allegedly hard-boiled Mr. Mayor. I thought of that recently when a police officer who had been one of his union’s officials involved in contract negotiations fairly snorted at the lore of the late Mayor. He saw the thunderbolts and said there definitely were two distinct sides to him.

So hail Marty Walsh, the obscure state rep following the longest serving, fervently popular chief exec of Boston. He inherited the stereotypical urban ills of crime and unemployment, but primarily a city in very good shape. Now what?

Tom Menino always seems to have been Tom Menino. He was personable and above all else loved both his city and its residents. He seemed to recharge with every moment taking your hand or learning more about you — interests, problems, anything.

So far, Walsh has lacked the tiny, constant Menino touches. For one, as a long-time poll worker, I think of the preliminary, primary and general election days. A few pols, like Rep. Liz Malia, show up at polling places with coffee, doughnuts or sandwiches for those of us who spend 14 or 25 hours there. Menino’s people never missed an election or a polling place.

I thought too of the day of Menino’s sudden death announcement. Coincidentally, Walsh was scheduled to appear on River Street in Hyde Park to dedicate a pocket park, really a dreadful patch of paving stones next to a convenience store, badly in need of what my grandmother would have called a bum bench. Walsh didn’t show. The half dozen of us there in case he did were not surprised. On the other hand, Tom Menino would never have left constituents hanging. He either would have had an aide appear to announce a postponement or would have gotten a cop from the station across the street to do that.

I’ll be fascinated to see how the new Mayor handles hoi polloi.

 

A Bigger Boston? Yes, Says Mayor Walsh

October 15th, 2014

At the less dewalsh1pressed and threatening Dudley Square, I elbowed into the jammed-to-sweating announcement this afternoon. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh opened the first of three outposts of his Office of Financial Empowerment. (Click the link to catch key details and the players.)

The big idea is that many of what our Sen. Elizabeth Warren would say are living on the ragged edge of the middle class (her fave expression and an apt one here) don’t have to be. They can learn smarter ways to manage money, particularly with:

  • financial education and coaching
  • credit counseling and “repair” of credit score
  • workforce development, education and training
  • job search support services
  • tax prep and earned-income tax credit guidance

Most of the funding for the effort comes from the United Way and LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation). Boston isn’t the first to get one of these. Locally Lynn, Lawrence and Chelsea already have the the program should open a total of 10 here. Cities in other states have theirs working.

What caught my attention most though was Walsh’s comments about growing our static burg. We’ve hovered around 600,000 for several decades, recently edging up to maybe 636.000. Note that 60 years ago, the population was above 800,000.

Walsh would like to see the actual city above 700.000. He said today that a big factor there would be providing more and more affordable housing. That would be 50,000 to 60.000 units to support the growth.

It’s no coincidence that a couple of candidates whom Walsh defeated in his mayoral run proposed similar goals and figures. The fascinating part of today’s gathering was that he has not backed away from the goal.

I’ll try to get him to come on Left Ahead again to detail his plans.

Tito’s Turkey Power

May 24th, 2014

If you’re running for office in Boston or statewide, you’re smart to show for City Councilor Tito Jackson’s annual turkey fry. Most gubernatorial contenders showed, among others, for this sixth version.

For you left-brain types and other quibblers, yes, there’s a lot more than turkey, like burgers, dogs, BBQ, a few non-meat offerings, sodas and water (no alcohol), ice cream and ta da, a snow-cone machine. Oh, and while Tito is a big guy, he had four loudspeakers in the street, each of which was bigger than he. The music kept people dancing, swaying, eating to the beat, and shouting to be heard. Sweet.

Mostly, this is a street party for the Roxbury neighborhood above Seaver Street. Plus the pols get to mingle while they and their minions pitch planks and promises.  There are surprisingly few events so casual and low-key where pols can have several easy hours chatting up black and Latino voters outside a dais/chair venue.

I tried to behave well, not dominating time with pols nor even taking pix of all of them. Many have been guests on my Left Ahead show. I’d already met nearly all of them and it was a chance to touch hands again. In some cases, we swapped cards and agreed the candidate should come on the show or come on again.

The following are a few images with comments. Among other pols there were Don Berwick and Joe Avellone (governor), Leland Cheung (looey) and Maura Healey (AG). I was there for nearly three hours and saw nothing of a certain Martha Coakley nor any of her lackeys. (Sunday update: I see on Tito’s FB feed that she did show late, after I left.)

Pix clix: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

Long-term State Rep. Gloria Fox (since 1986) was a crowd please. She asked for support, noting, “I do not play. This is a diverse district (Suffolk 7) and I handle it well.'” GloriaFox
FDarroyo1 Another familiar face and voice was Felix D. Arroyo, former Councilor, father of a current councilor, and candidate for register of probate and family court. He’s always delightful and to us boomers sounds refreshingly like Ricky Ricardo. In fact, he noted that when he first ran for office many years ago, his accent was stronger.He asked one thing of the voters before him, on the Sept. 9th primary, his office will be down at the bottom of a long ballot, he wants to make sure people get all the way down there and finish the job.
Not everything was smiles and sandwiches. The Suffolk sheriff crew showed up with a police-dog demo. Adults a bit, but mostly the kids were impressed at the tenaciousness and training. Titodog
Falchuk Evan Falchuk (governor on the United Independent Party and sure to be on the November ballot) noted both in his remarks and to me that he considers it his job to discomfort the other candidates and raise key issues. In a deep nod to the Roxbury locale, he said that carried over, not so much to where the party was but to where he lives (Newton). He noted that his daughter and her classmates didn’t get the BPS-style warnings about how to behave when confronted by police. He said he regularly draws attention to the contradiction with urban communities of color.
Here’s a small subset of the several hundred at chez Jackson. (Right in the middle is Leland Cheung ([t. gov.] who didn’t want to give up his baby.) Titofront
Tolman Warren Tolman (lAG) pitched specific planks, like support for smart-gun technology.
 In a turnabout that borders on irony, gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman immediately went to the ice cream table — but to server rather than eat. He loves ice cream but is willing to share.By the bye, he said he wasn’t disturbed ty the recent poll that showed rival Coakley well ahead of all contenders. He noted his campaign had not spent a dime on ads and when it started, the field would level. Moreover, the thought the poll was an outlier. Grossmandip

 

Warren’s Roxbury Show and Tell

January 6th, 2013

Not exactly an Andrew Jackson moment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ceremonial ceremony had little pomp, no fluff and lots of celebrity pols. The conceit was that while she had already legally taken the oath, a show version in Boston would reinforce her populist cred. It worked.

The drama on stage was largely unspoken. Senior Senator for the moment John Kerry towered politically as well as physically. The always funny and nearly as candid as Barney Frank Sheriff Andrea Cabral (check her wonderful lacy black fan she kept flapping) started with the virtual certainty that Kerry will become Secretary of State. Kerry himself said that should that happen, Warren will be the Junior Senator for about three legislative days, as opposed to his 26 years behind Ted Kennedy.

What didn’t happen was anyone overtly pitching for either the resulting interim Senate spot or for the permanent spot to be decided in a special election, likely in June. The tension was there though, with so many possibles within a few yards of each other and sometimes in adjacent seats on stage.

Frank already made his lust known on the Morning Joe Show. He said he told Gov. Deval Patrick he would like the appointment. In his usual straight ahead style, he said, “I’m not going to be coy. It’s not something I’ve ever been good at. I’ve told the governor that I would now like frankly to do that because I would like to be a part of that. It’s only a three-month period; I wouldn’t want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again…Coach, put me in!” With all the looming fiscal conflicts and crises to resolve in Congress, Frank figures he decades of expertise there make him the right temp for the job.

While I saw the two huddling to one side of the stage before showtime, no one could hear, there were no bear hugs following, and Patrick has never indicated approval of the plug-in. MA political gossips instead latched onto yesterday morning’s tweet from Patrick’s campaign demigod, Doug Rubin. While Rubin noted later he was typing only for himself, he did tweet, “I respect Cong. Frank and what he has accomplished, but there are better options for MA Senate interim appointment.”

Rubin is always smart and often right. I lean with Frank on this one. The interim Senate seat is a specialized one for the fiscal expertise and negotiating skills it will require. Frank knows the devil out of the money and tax aspects, as well as the reality of Congressional dealings.

Likewise, no one spoke to the special election. At hand were Rep. Ed Markey, who not only announced first, but quickly got oral support from several MA pols. Most significantly was Kerry.

Yet Congressmen Mike Capuano and Steve Lynch are likely to make plays. Also MA Sen. Ben Dowling was there and could well go for the special election. They milled around the stage, shook hands, hugged the women pols, and tried not to look too eager or needy. As an interesting sidelight, when the college president was calling out the officials there, Capuano was the only Congressman who got big cheers and applause. He truly is the working voters’ champion that ex-Sen. Scott Brown pretended to be. That plays well, at least in the Boston area.

Not surprisingly, over at the Herald, in several posts related to the ceremony, the negativity was predictable. The commenters large dislike liberals, disrespect women, and detest progressives. The usual clowns who ride the fantasy pony of Warren gaining some advantage after the fact from her slight Native American heritage, continued to rant about certain debt and death of honesty via her. A few did manage to note that yesterday’s show swearing in was apt for someone they continue to define as a fake Indian. A lefty woman will never, ever suit them.They become pebbles washed up on the banks as the river flows on.

My mini-rant is one of amusement rather than disdain. Warren believes she is a true egalitarian. Certainly her writings and public service indicate that. Yet the upper distant half of the auditorium of perhaps 1000 seats was for us plebes. Thus, the shots that follow are from over 100 feet away and not all that clear.

Lower seats were for pols not important enough to be on stage, yet more important an ordinary voters. There were press rows, chosen campaign workers and such. No guards kept hoi polloi away, but there was a decided caste system in play. Again, her heart and head are aware, but this was no Andrew Jackson, let-the-rabble-in moment.

No one seemed to notice or mind. In fact, at the following reception in the student cafeteria, hundreds dutifully lined up in airline-ticket-style rows to get pix taken with her, her husband and Justice Kagan. People wanted to be part of their populist Senator’s day.

browniepledge The cute quotient came via the Cohasset Girl Scout, including the short end. They led the pledge of allegiance. Towering pols behind them, Steve Murphy and Andrea Cabral had to nudge the girls off stage as they became stunned by the clapping, cheering audience.
MA Treasurer/Receiver General and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, The latter, publicly at least, gave his Senatorial ambitions a rest for the afternoon. grossmanmarkety
bumpcoakley MA Auditor Suzanne Bump and AG Martha Coakley also got spots on stage and were very busy before showtime. Neither allegedly wants to pending open Senate seat.
On the other hand, whatever Bump had to say to Boston City Council President Steve Murphy kept his constantly amused. murphybump
cabralfan My nominee for best accessory of the day was Sheriff Andrea Cabral’s lacy black fan. She gave it a real workout.
Gov. Patrick stifled himself. Warren praised him and his wife for their support and advice. He said nothing to us about the coming interim or replacement Senate spots. devalmic
kerrymic Kerry managed to speak of his near certain move to Secretary of State in theoretical terms. He did seem elated at the idea though.
Warren as always had the crowd with her populist messages, such as everyone paying fair taxes and government cuts starting, not with Social Security, but with big agriculture and big oil.

She concluded by saying she hoped to be able to live to up Ted Kennedy’s legacy. “As I take this oath of office, I make this sacred promise to each and everyone of you that’s here today witnessing, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as your Senator, I am grateful for your hard work and support, I am deeply touched by the faith and trust you have put in me, and I pledge today that I will  never, never stop fighting for you.”

warrengesture

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once.

 

What George Taught Me

October 21st, 2012

Without ever meeting me, George McGovern taught me a lesson I’ve kept in mind since 1972. Even back in the grim and exciting days of the Vietnam War era, I interviewed other pols, including similarly anti-war U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse.  As newspaper reporter and editor, I was eager to speak with pols.

Yet the lesson McGovern coincidentally revealed was news I could and can use.

In 1972, I lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, long before Yuppies or hipsters. Instead, it was the Hell’s Angels, many Russian and Ukrainian elderly women (hubby had died), junkies, and immigrants using the area of cheap apartments as staging ground for becoming Americans and maybe even wealthy.

In some political ways, I felt a bit like I was back in South Carolina. There, I had been a hippie peacenik sort. That was a decided minority persona. Back on East 3rd and 9th Streets, I sensed the conservative vibes all around.

Russian and Ukrainian greetings and conversations were ubiquitous. Even the tiny A&P on First Avenue was an Eastern European outpost. It sold those deceptive loaves of black bread that weighed two or three times what sandwich loaves the same size did. The old women chatted with clerks and each other in their native tongues, even though many had been in the neighborhood since the 1917 Revolution. I recalled enough of my college Russian to understand the gist.

To a one, the old women seemed dour and sour. I even recall seeing one stumble and fall, spilling her bag of groceries. I helped her up and repacked her bag. I told her in Russian that I’d help her home, but she snatched the brown bag from me and looked terrified as she limped home with her bloody knee. Trust of the other was not big outside of that community.

I thus knew it was surely a fool’s errand to canvass for pinko McGovern in my precinct. I knew Nixon decidedly wasn’t THE ONE as his campaign claimed but rang the bells anyway.

The old women who filled the apartment buildings (one to five story humble dwellings, as was my own) would not have rung me in. However, as was and is the standard NYC practice, I’d just go in when someone else opened the door to enter or exit. Once I was inside, I did get a face-to-face hearing after the woman had looked through the door peephole.

They were stunningly unresponsive. I gave my pitch about the pivotal election and hopes for peace and equality via a McGovern administration.

Sometimes I threw in a little Russian, always being careful to avoid such loaded terms as товарищ (comrade), far too risky I knew. They invariably remained impassive. They certainly were not like the Swiss, who quickly forgive poor pronunciation of any of their three languages or the Japanese or Chinese, who largely sincerely appreciate any effort to speak even a few words in their language. Instead, I saw the same stone faces, never smiling nor nodding nor asking anything.

After several weeks of doing this in the evenings, I had covered the precinct, but was deeply disheartened. Clearly my audience was conservative, unswayed by McGovern’s messages or at least my delivery of them. I had done the right thing in the cause noble, but to what effect?

I had a keen bead on my target voters. They were not buying what I was selling.

Come Wednesday, November 8th, the day after the election, I had an awful acknowledgement and a shock. First, Nixon had crushed my man. Only Massachusetts went for McGovern. Yet, yet…when the precinct results appeared in the papers later, mine had gone overwhelmingly for McGovern. I think it had the highest percentage in the city and state. Those sour elderly women were not at all as I knew them to be.

They didn’t make a deal out of their leftist leanings. They didn’t show them, at least to me. Those many Russian and Ukrainian elders did want what McGovern offered. Perhaps they had experienced enough war and violence and death and instability in their earlier years. Perhaps this or perhaps that. Regardless, they voted as I.

So I learned and have remembered. When I’m cocksure that my assumptions are absolutely correct, that’s far, far less important than reality. You need to ask, to make your pitch, to expose yourself, to be open to the obvious or even the eventual responses of others.

As my mother told me many times, ask, the worst you can hear is, “No.”

MA Election-Day Tricks

February 16th, 2012

Getting my warden training for working the polls in Boston for the March 6th primary, I’m glad the turnout will likely we wee. I normally hope and advocate for lots of voters, even though it’s more work for elections folk. This time though, oddments are going to force explanations to voters and poll workers alike.

Worst, consider that voters have a single shot at requesting a ballot. A majority are unenrolled. In these party-based primaries, that means each one will have to choose a single ballot from, this time, Democrat, Republican or Green-Rainbow. What could be so simple, eh?

There shall be gnashing of teeth and mutterings of offense. Consider:

  • Unenrolled voters typically proclaim they are independent. Not only is there no such designation in MA, but not belonging to any party does not give them the right to a single ballot of all the candidates of all parties on it. Year after year, primary after primary, people don’t understand that and get pretty belligerent.
  • Everybody gets one ballot for just one of the parties. If you are registered in one of the three this time, you must take the ballot for that party. Yesterday was the last day to change party affiliation or switch to unenrolled. No one in elections, at the poll or City Hall or the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, can let you change on election day. Live it or live with it
  • At the check-in table, poll workers use the voter list book, which has the party affiliation. They will mark in the book for each unenrolled voter which ballot was requested.
  • We have to mark this choice in red ink. Once you choose, that’s that. Even seconds later, you can’t get a different party ballot. Live it or live with it.
  • Choosing a party ballot for a primary does not, does not, does not change your party registration if you are unenrolled. Downtown at Elections, worker bees go through the check-in/check-out books and record party votes for data gathering. Unenrolled voters don’t have to do anything to retain their status for future elections of any type. Only if they want to register with a party do they fill in a new voter registration form to do this. We will explain this hundreds of times on March 6th and each future primary election. Older voters remember many years ago when you would have to re-register as unenrolled after a primary.
  • Yes, the letter for the Green-Rainbow party is J. Sure, D is Democrat and R Republican, but G had already been reserved for the Green Party USA, and remains so even when they are not on the ballot. J was the next free acceptable letter.

Another oddment that voters don’t know yet is that the September primary election will almost certainly not be on the logical second Tuesday. Because Labor Day is the previous week and many travel before or even during that time, the second Tuesday is the normal one. However, this year, it would be 9/11, a date fraught with history and emotion.

We heard yesterday that Secretary William Galvin thinks voting on that anniversary would be inappropriate. Our trainer disagrees. He believes the patriotism roused on that day would inspire better turnout. He, however, was resigned.

Would-Be POTUS, Even in MA

January 10th, 2012

Faint rustling of papers, coupled with an occasional phone call means (ta da), yes, we’ll have a Presidential primary in the Bay State. In 42 days, we get to play too. Tuesday, March 6th is the commonwealth’s go.

I got a call today to confirm my availability. I’ll be warden at precinct 19 ward 12 again, the Woodbourne Apartments at the bottom of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Because the field should be pretty well decided by then, we don’t have the drama of the early states, not even the quasi-plebiscite of Iowa’s GOP caucus. Yet, knowing we’re finally closing in on action is like being in a long stalled car that is at least trying to turn over.

I’ve been lucky to fill in my political dance card a bit. We have two announced candidates for Mayor in 2013. I’ve been having a good time with one of them, who actually has started his campaign. He may not be at all premature on this, if our longest-serving ever Mayor, Tom Menino, decides to give it a go for a sixth four-year term.

Otherwise, we have some time before the biggies  here. Among those will be the seminal battle for a U.S. Senate seat. Party candidates have until June 5th to make their final filings for that, and non-party ones until August 28th. Both have to turn in the initial papers four weeks earlier.  The state primary is September 6th. Of course, the MA and U.S. election is November 6th.

In other words, if we didn’t have a March Presidential-primary vote, it would seem a devil of a long time to have been sitting still.

We poll lackeys can be pretty sure of very different elections, March, September and November. They should run the spectrum from boredom to death march.

From previous elections when few showed, we would fret and exercise our well-honed blades of self-righteousness. Voting is a fundamental duty, privilege and function of democracy. How could only 11% or 14% or whatever vote? Harrumph, as the expression goes.

We make sure to have reading material. We tell voters to send their neighbors. We constantly keep running tallies per page to make end-of-night verification easier. We make sure the inspectors and clerk get plenty of breaks. We look for the possible coffee or sandwich delivery from some campaign. We pick at voters who break the rules by displaying campaign literature inside.

On the other hand, a huge turnout, as we had with the 2008 Obama/McCain election, we’re flat out. The first-time, recently moved, and befuddled voters come like phalanxes of attacking soldiers.

  • Some are absolutely positive they have always voted there, until the warden or clerk checks their address and personal information with Elections to find that they’ve always voted two miles away.
  • Some did not send in the annual voter form mailed and then checked by phone or personal visit. So they are marked *I* for inactive and require showing ID and filling out several forms.
  • Occasionally, someone has mistakenly been marked as deceased. That also requires ID, a call to Elections and more forms.
  • Commonly someone moved one, two or even five years before, had not voted since, and never notified Elections of the new address. That’s another big deal of calls, ID, forms, and the dreaded Provisional Ballot. That goes into the Clerk’s Book, all the paperwork gets its own envelope, and Elections hand-checks the documents that night to see whether the vote will count.

To their credit, most voters really want their ballot to count once they’ve made it to the poll. They’ll fill out the form, produce identification, and sit the extra two minutes on top to fill out a new voter-registration card to make sure they’ll be right in the computer the next time. First-timers, typically students, seem grateful that someone explains the process and helps them fill out the right forms to get in the system.

Sometimes though, middle-aged sorts are indignant that all-powerful, all-knowing city hall did not magically move their address or understand that even if they didn’t return the annual questionnaire that they would certainly vote in the next election. That too can have bits of humor, as when a woman began to scream that she knew for certain that she had filled in the annual form and returned it. Her honorable and brave son was with her and to his credit he admitted that she had indeed filled it out, but he decided it was too much trouble to mail it. She never apologized to me, but her look to him could have stripped paint from the door. That was not the first time he’d seen that gaze and he winked at me and smiled as they left.

We arrive on election days at 6 AM and take a full hour to set up the tables, signs, voting machine and on and on for the 7 AM. Polls close at 8 PM, but we’re not done. We have to reconcile the voter lists at the check-in and check-out tables, as well as match the machine counts exactly. That involves:

  • Pre-counts (done by hand) of all ballots that arrive
  • Counting all absentee ballots that arrive with the police officer as well as throughout the day, feeding those into the scanner after checking them in and out
  • Accounting for all spoiled ballots and provisional ones
  • Recounting all unused ballots
  • Clearing the voting machine (throughout the day if it clogs) of ballots
  • Checking ballots for write-in votes and recording each (even for Mickey Mouse) in the clerk’s book
  • Entering columns of votes (by party for primaries) for each office, candidate, ballot question, and tallying each until they come out perfectly

We are not allowed a single mistake or seemingly missing ballot. What we got over the day had to be exactly what goes back to Elections. There’s the extra fun of Elections giving us packets of ballots in 50 or 200, depending on the election, and a single one for the general or two to four sets for primaries. Down at city hall, they weigh them, which means packets can vary by four ballots and that inspector’s hand counts morning and night have to be perfect and recorded accurately. A single error can mean that 8 PM becomes 8:30 or 9 or later until counts are perfect.

There’s the removal of all signs and other materials, returning all materials into the proper one of two big boxes, plus the magic blue bag that the police officer carries separately when he or she checks in at city hall.

Maybe it’s like a circus. Someone has to set up the big tent, there are the various workers and performers, and someone has to clean up after the elephants as well as strike the tent.

Come 6 PM to 9 PM on September 6th, I’ll likely be cranky and wonder why I keep doing this. Till then though, I can’t wait.

Angry, Who Me?

August 20th, 2011

Multiple mentions of physically dark folk not wanting to appear emotionally dark caught me this week. The perceived political wisdom that black or Latino men should not turn off voters is at once obvious and befuddling.

I recall Black Panthers and others who seriously expressed anger. Speeches included calls to kill whitey, plain folk as well as cops. There’s some threatening anger.

For two examples this week, consider:

  • Very savvy image consultant Dorie Clark was on WGBH’s Callie Crossley show again. She noted in a segment asking whether Barack Obama could win a second term that the POTUS was caught in the vise. Angry black men can freak constituents.
  • This morning’s Financial Times had a similar treatment in their generally LITE Lunch with… series, this time with San Antonia Mayor Julián Castro. He spoke of the immigration backlash against Hispanics and its racist aspects. Yet, as Richard McGregor wrote, “He admits he is conscious not to sound angry. Obama has exercised a similar discipline. It seems to be a rule of American politics that an angry black or Hispanic man does not play well with the broader electorate.”

angryYet all but those in comas here are aware of angry white folk. Many in Congress, the Tea Party and winger spokesmen (screams-men?) and lobbying and interest groups are mad as hell about this, that and the other. They yell, they defame, they lie at high volume and with repetition, and some even threaten violence.

It all makes me wonder that if the timorous and accommodating POTUS displayed real anger that really would be so bad. As a nation, we certainly have expected our top leaders to express outrage and anger befitting the situation. Is it really true that our first black President has a separate set of behaviors?

The recent, prolonged GOP debt, spending and tax disgrace just had to make him furious. Even many voters in that party expressed and continue to express fury at the continued insistence on transferring wealth to the super-rich from the middle and lower classes. Yet, the POTUS spoke of disappointment.

Disappointment?! That’s when the ice-cream shop is out of the flavor you drove 10 miles to taste.

Rage should come when confronting ideologues who would steal from tens of millions of oldsters to increase benefits for multi-millionaires and billionaires. If that doesn’t make even the most mild-mannered black man angry, something’s wrong here.

To turn this from political to personal, this has reminded me of way back in my single days. I was keeping company with a fairly volatile woman, who would blow up and yell sometimes, including at me.

A mutual friend, a psychologist, noted how even tempered I was and how I grew up in a home where people didn’t act out. He asked how I reacted when she was like that. I said I let her run through the course. He asked then what I thought would happen if I yelled back. I said I hadn’t thought about it and he went on to ask (with a smile) whether I figured that would destroy the relationship. I replied that I thought it would.

He had known her for a long time and said it would not. He advised yelling back. She did. I did. Not only did nothing bad happened, she was much less likely to flip out around me. Things got better. She acted more like I and I didn’t have to yell back again.a

That’s not to say that if Obama displays justifiable anger some people won’t diss him. Hell, they already do. Plus, he has the big bunch of progressives who are on him for not being strong enough to demand fair negotiation from the wingers.

Conciliation doesn’t seem to be the best approach here and now. It’s time for our President to yell back.

Passing of a Daily Acquaintance

June 13th, 2011

Charming, scrawny, engaged John Abany is dead. It’s not a death in the family, but not that far off. He was our letter carrier for our two year here on Fairmount Hill. His obituary says he was a letter carrier for 38 years. Today’s notice from the HP post office said he’d been on our route for 28 years.

I knew John from regular conversations on the doorstep and in the polling place. He had that rare in-the-moment presence that delights us all. He paid attention to others.

John never missed an election — preliminary, primary, special or general. As a clerk or warden down at the Roosevelt School, I recognize and appreciate the regulars, those who say voting is a privilege. Moreover, he always sought me out and we’d chat there too.

He’d tell the poll workers that ours was the last house on his route. He’d often get there late and see through an open window by the mail box that we’d be setting the table or preparing a meal together or even having an early dinner. He said not too many families he knew ate together and he liked that we did.

When I didn’t see him for a couple of weeks, I figured he was on an early vacation. Eventually, I walked up to a substitute carrier’s truck to ask about him. She said he got a sudden diagnosis of a serious disease and retired immediately.

He never too me up on my invitation to eat with us.

Rewardin’ the Warden

November 4th, 2010

hp18Sometimes the fatigue and torpor of a 15-hour day seem a bit much to poll workers — the inspectors, clerks and wardens. We carped during the September primary at the low turnout and too little to do and we were flat out this week for the general with triple the voters.

Yet, Tuesday brought its sweet, high-democracy moments. As warden at a Boston precinct, I had the worst duties and got the best rewards. I was the troubleshooter, the fixer.

The irate senior who answered every question at the check-in table with a shout and insult was mine to mollify. The mid-aged lawyer who swore that she had voting at that school for years was mine to locate her real polling place and provide directions. The several who were simply not in the voter book each needed investigation, sometimes among their wallet ID and others in a long call to the elections department for database or paper registration files.

A couple of young men who could have been really nasty about their problems turned out to be the nicest and most reasonable. As a father of three boys, two of voting age, and someone who has more than once railed against poor manners and irrationality here in the Hub of the Universe, I was very pleasantly surprised. These guys worked with me, filled out the necessary paperwork, stated how much they wanted to vote, and then shook my hand and thanked me for helping them.

All right!

One want-to-vote guy had moved from Bedford back to Hyde Park. He had changed his drivers-license and updated the city voter census annual form. He figured he was covered. Of course, while those are reasonable assumptions, we don’t link the license and voter databases as many states do. We expect voters to get a reg card online or at various government offices or less commonly at temporary sign-up tables in public places. Filling out a card for even the slightest change is always safest, but even that doesn’t always mean you’ll be the check-in book when you arrive.

For the fellow from Bedford, I called elections to find that the Boston lists did not include him. He was still game when I explained that we could do a provisional ballot, which required him (and me) to fill out several forms. Then it would go to elections at city hall, where they would research it. If they agreed that he was qualified, they’d count his vote.

Doing that required him to fill out the application provisional ballot, show me ID with his current address and mark a ballot on which I had written PROVISIONAL. I filled in the lower half of his form, created a provisional ballot ID and prepared his pink sheet, with information identifying his code number and giving him a phone number at elections to call no sooner than 7 or more than 20 days later to see if his vote counted.

He returned the marked ballot, which I inserted into its own envelope marked with his unique number. He then filled in a voter registration card on the spot. I put his sealed ballot envelope into Envelope B for such research downtown. He got the pink sheet. His reg card and provisional ballot application went into Envelope A, along with the log of all provisional ballots issued that day from that precinct. His choices remained private, with the ballot available for recording if the researchers found that he was qualified. They saw the name and address, but not the ballot itself.

While elaborate, that does uphold the letter and spirit of voting laws, including ballot privacy.

One might think that an 18 or 19 year old could find all this was not worth the trouble. Some older adults have walked away rather than work 15 or more minutes on forms. Of course, several older adults also walked away after learning they needed to drive two or three miles to their proper polling place.

The young men who were voting for the first time were not deterred though. They plugged away, while I stayed close and help explain some of the blanks they had to fill in on this form or that.

Then came the reward. After all they had been through, each stuck out his hand, pumped mine, and thanked me sincerely and vigorously. The only reward we can offer is a small oval I VOTED sticker. They took that with smiles as well.

I’ve been voting for decades and have rarely missed any election, primary, preliminary, special or general, once when I was suddenly sick and once when I got sent out of town on business with no time to get an absentee ballot. I confess that I can still get blasé or at least take it for granted that I’ll be able to vote.

Now having worked elections for years at three different precincts in Boston, I pretty much know the rules and how to avoid problems. I’m quick to fill in the annual voter census, I complete a reg card when I move, and so forth.

I do admire the determination of those caught in the intricacies of registration. Those who arrive ready to be a citizen only to hear they aren’t in the book, were deleted by mistake (one of those in my precinct this year), were never moved from the old ward and precinct to the new one, or the many who are marked *I* (inactive) and having to show one of the few forms of accepted ID, fill out a form, and literally take an oath that they are who they say.

I salute those young men who went through all the clerical work in their disappointment. They wanted to vote, we made it happen, even knowing they were not positive that ballot would count, and to top it off, they thanked me. Good stuff — almost worth a 15-hour day right there.

Tags: ,