So, What's My Deal?

In response to my earlier snide and snarky post, "Activista" writes a perfectly reasonable comment asking, in essence, what my deal is. She takes politics quite seriously, and seems to suggest that if I'm really so cynical and harsh about it all, perhaps I should make way for someone a little less critical and dismissive.

She then asks:

Could you name a politician you do like? Name some issues you want pushed? The more and more I read these columns the more cynical you seem to be and that's already prevalent in Boston Politics I feel we don't need it reflected in our journalist too.

What is YOUR background in Boston? Where are you from? What issues in the Boston community deeply affect you? I dont mean to come off as angry or upset but Im just realizing more and more that you blogs tend to lack substance and are often you staring at some sort of crystal ball and usually predicting rather then informing.

So, here's my deal.

I take politics very seriously. I have lived in Boston since 1985, having come from Phoenix, Arizona to study political science at Tufts University. Fell in love with the city, and stayed. Went into journalism after college, and have stuck with it ever since. Joined the Phoenix in 2003, to cover politics, policy, social justice, and related issues.

One of the things I love about the Phoenix is that we do what I would call advocacy journalism -- serious, first-rate journalism, but with an eye toward the stories that need to be told, the injustices that should be addressed, and the ways that things could be made better.

I've written about prisoner abuse; police and prosecutorial misconduct; the Hispanic dropout problem; environmental damage; street violence; domestic violence; and other topics.

I believe, sincerely, that politics is a crucial avenue toward improving people's lives, in these and many other respects. I believe that public service is a noble pursuit. I have found that most people in office (and their staffs) are well-intentioned, serious, and want to do good for their constituents. Unfortunately, that is not always enough to make one a good elected official. (For example, I think that nobody in this city loves Boston -- all of it, every nook and cranny -- more than Tom Menino. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he's a good mayor.)

I also love the sport of politics -- which, I happen to believe, is inextricably linked with the practice of politics. How people get elected, what relationships they have with other pols, who works for them, what they're involved with, who gets what chairmanships, what they want to run for next -- all of this affects what they can and will do in office.

And finally, I like to joke around and poke fun and get a good laugh out of politics, particularly on the blog, because that's how I am, and because that's how I keep people who aren't as wonky as I am about politics from tuning out.

And also, these politicians badly need to have their bubbles burst and their foibles exposed from time to time.

Here's a very recent example. The other day I called Tom Menino "Chicken-Mayor" for not announcing his intention to run for re-election. Real mature of me. I don't actually think Menino is afraid of Flaherty, Yoon, and McCrea; I actually think he's making a very smart strategic decision. By delaying his announcement as long as possible, he shortens the amount of time that the campaign is a "high-profile" public story dominating the city. That makes it harder for the challengers to raise money, to get press, to draw large crowds, to challenge him to debates, and to drive issues into the public mind-set -- for instance, the difficult budget decisions he'll be dealing with for the next few of months.

Smart for Menino -- but bad for the city, in my opinion. We should have a high-profile, contentious public debate about the budget, and all the other important issues the city is facing. We should have as much of it as possible, which means it should start as soon as possible.

So, I will razz Menino in my own, small, childish way, which at the moment means calling him Chicken-Mayor. It may not be much, but it's what I got for now.

Oh, and you asked which politicians I like. I like a lot of them. I like a lot of them of very different political ideologies. I like many who I think are lousy politicians, and I dislike some who I think are very good politicians. I like some who think I hate them (Felix Arroyo Sr. falls into that category.)

The important thing is, I try to treat them all fairly, whether I like them or not -- but that doesn't mean dispassionately. And, in my analysis, I call things as I see them, not how I want them to be.

I hope that helps answer your questions. And I'd be glad to hear from anyone else as well. Thanks!

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