If Tuesday’s community meeting at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester was indeed an “official” congregation of the Boston City Council Post-Audit and Oversight Committee – as was alleged in a press release from Councilor Sam Yoon’s office – then I assume nobody told councilors Connolly, Feeney, LaMattina, Murphy, Turner, and Tobin.
Though the aforementioned councilors sit on the post-audit committee, none attended the Yoon-sponsored event, which was billed as an opportunity for community members to review recent budget recommendations made by the state-funded Boston Finance Commission.
I might get off my lazy ass and call some councilors tomorrow, but for now I’ll assume that their absence was due to logical speculation that the hearing was little more than a poorly veiled Yoon for Mayor campaign event paid for with city dollars. That’s certainly the message that got through to aspiring officeholders.
Hardcore city councilor-at-large candidate Doug Bennett hit the scene to press some flesh; the young man works hard – according to his own numbers, he’s nearly half way to his goal of knocking on 100,000 doors before the Democratic primary (oops - I screwed that one up - just check Frank's comment below. He doesn't like me much). One funny thing I overheard: Bennett asked a woman if he’s been to her house yet, and she replied: “Not that I know of.”
Long shot mayoral hopeful Kevin McCrea was also in the house; when I got there enough of his supporters were out front that it could have been mistaken for one of his events.
By the time Yoon got rolling at 6:30, the joint was stuffed with random groups of young people, the usual grassroots organizers, and, for good measure, a few old school red-faced Dorchester whiteys.
Working the room with the charisma of a rusty boot (to be fair, the councilor's voice was compromised by allergies), Yoon began by apologizing for the health center’s not being wheelchair accessible because of its historic status. Have no fear though Bostonians – first thing tomorrow morning the good councilor is filing legislation to ramp up such properties.
Then came Yoon’s abridged presentation of the finance commission report, which could be titled: “Fourteen Reasons Mayor Tom Menino Sucks.” Yoon didn’t have to shoot directly at his target; every gripe he raised not-so-surreptitiously railed the current administration.
The first slide noted the commission’s concern that wage freezes (as in the one proposed by Menino) are mere temporary solutions. Slide two: “End the abuse of overtime” (you know – like the abuses that Menino’s cop son allegedly feasts on).
Then came the second most awkward moment of the evening, when Yoon stated that firefighters are his heroes, and then proceeded to chide the Boston Fire Department for its excessive salaries among other things. The first most awkward moment of the night: when Boston Firefighters Local 718 Vice President Richard Paris dropped at least three bombs on the councilor, and encored with news that the overpaid administrator Yoon spoke of died last year.
The highlight, though, came when Menino’s Chief of Staff Judith Kurland went to bat. Yoon only gave her five minutes, but she took at least ten to slap the councilor around.
After reminding the crowd that Menino has yet to even submit his new budget, Kurland went right after Yoon’s venue fumble, saying that her office only holds meetings in handicap accessible buildings. She then dug at Yoon’s inexperience by saying that he requested a ramp on Monday, even though it takes three to seven days to produce such amenities (what wasn’t addressed, however, was why a major city takes up to a week to build a ramp).
Although her polite ambush was mostly well-executed, Kurland lost some steam when she claimed that her office has already acted on several of the commission’s suggestions. True or not, it came off like smoke – after all, we’re talking about some recommendations that have been ignored for more than a decade.
The rest – as long as I stayed – was rather civilized. Councilor Yancey showed up an hour late to join Yoon up front and thank a bunch of people, and a delegate for Councilor Ciommo served some canned dinner of his own. There was no visible outrage, though I suspect Yoon will hear about his wheelchair inaccessible hearing in the future.
There’s nothing outrageous about any sitting officeholder using questionable resources to promote his or her campaign; hell – in a way Menino does it every time he leaves his office. Still – even if it was technically in-line with council rules – Yoon’s rally, err, community meeting, was still one of those tricky hybrids that is sure to draw criticism from colleagues, opponents, and asshole reporters with nothing better to complain about.
And one more thing: at one point in the conversation, Yoon said he wasn’t sure if former Mayor Curley ever lived in the Curley Mansion. Yes – Curley lived there (kind of like that Grant’s tomb thing), and there’s a great story behind the situation that ends with the punchline: “It’s the only house that Boston’s ever bought twice.” The councilor should probably read up on the city that he wishes to preside over, or at least take a Duck Tour or something.