After 16 years of Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston hangs at a standstill in terms of progress. A city once rooted in a history of tradition, it transforms more and more every year as colleges grow and diversity flourishes. Frankly, Menino has become an anachronism. Unable to modernize in step with the rapidly changing city in which he has stood at the helm for four consecutive terms, Menino’s appeal expires in the eyes of both young and old Boston. In the same way that America was ready for a change when it turned its back on the conservative Republicans in last year’s presidential election, Bostonians are similarly looking to the 2009 mayoral elections for a breath of fresh air. The question to be answered is a question of risk: Who would make a sensible alternative to Menino without going too far? The answers lie in the two most middling candidates: City Councilors-At-Large Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon.
While their competitor, dark horse candidate and businessman Kevin McCrea, represents change in the most extreme degree, he is not a viable candidate based on his lack of experience and unwillingness to accept the unfortunate responsibility of having to become something of a politician in order to become a successful public figure like the mayor. So staunchly against politics, McCrea doesn’t present the flexibility or agility to establish a working equilibrium between political player and intelligent independent. If McCrea were is to represent the city of Boston and assume all of the responsibilities that come along with becoming mayor, he would need to integrate himself into the existing political atmosphere and work to slowly change it to a more independent, less centralized one.
But McCrea, aside from his sharp insights, evolved mind for business and outstanding plans for transparency and education, would never be able to achieve his aspirations without giving a little politically. He would have to put on the face of Boston, so to speak, and create a synthesis between himself and the politics currently in motion within the city in order to instigate successful change. But given his demeanor throughout the campaign, McCrea doesn’t seem up to the challenge.
Where Menino leaves a void and McCrea flaunts excess, Flaherty and Yoon exhibit as close to a golden mean as voters will be able to get in the 2009 mayoral elections. Flaherty, primarily, is most prepared to pick up where Menino leaves off. With a sort of progressive levelheadedness, Flaherty is a man with sensible goals and the numbers, plans and solutions to back them up. For example, he is against the Biosafety Level-4 laboratory unless a suitable emergency protocol is devised prior to its opening. Also, he is against backroom deals and the continuation of secret city government meetings without the development of a system of transparency relying on Internet and television broadcasts, so as to open up government proceedings that affect the entire city to the entire city.
While Flaherty doesn’t make college students his priority, he does make Boston his priority, and that is what is really important in this race. Flaherty’s ability to cover both sides of an issue, analyze it and solve it based on facts and figures, all the while not pretending not to be a politician, makes him seem like the next logical step after Menino. He makes campaign claims, and then keeps them without swaying based on his company, and he maintains a sense of professional approachability ‘- experienced yet with a keen eye on progress ‘- that makes him not only an attractive choice but also a realistic one.
As for Sam Yoon, it is his honesty and integrity that set him apart from his competitors throughout the race. Most impressive about Yoon is his commitment to political realism ‘- he knows Boston’s bigoted past, he admits that the city and its neighborhoods are strikingly stratified based on class and ethnicity, and he’s aware that traditionally, the city government has favored the higher among these castes and neglected the lower. As a minority himself and a City Councilor-At-Large who specializes in helping the more disadvantaged communities throughout the city, Yoon would best represent the very Bostonians who need representation the most. That would be a very significant change from Menino’s regime.
In addition to working for the underrepresented Bostonian, Yoon also stands out in his commitment to work for the individual over the group. And after 16 years of big government, a new focus on the spokes of the city rather than its hub would be a refreshing and progressive digression. Though a long shot with a penchant to pander and with considerably less political clout than Flaherty, Yoon is a perfect example of a sensible risk.
If Flaherty is an updated, modernized Menino suited for the new Boston, Yoon is the anomaly with Obama-esque charm, a less rogue but no less novel McCrea. If Flaherty is the darling, Yoon is a more-gray-than-dark horse. Both of them divert from Menino’s long-trodden path, making them risks, but neither of them lose sight of Boston’s fundamental political atmosphere. Most importantly, both candidates have unique and feasible ideas on how to first fit into the mayoral seat and then change it for the better.