03 November 2009

Tomorrow the Race Begins...

Certainly nothing is over until the polls close at 8 pm, but lacking a political earthquake, the proverbial fat lady is warming her vocals chords in Boston.  According to most polling, only two of the four at-large council seats look remotely competitive. None of the district seats are competitive. While vigorous, the contest for Mayor seems to have come down to a question of margin of victory more so than victor.

While this last round of mayoral campaigning has been more spirited it has hardly been substantive. On one side we had Menino = Good, Floon = Better? Albeit, seasoned with a few mini-scandals and certain union of public servants getting feisty. The other side, well 60% of Bostonians have met (and according polling support/like). Not that he doesn't rub a good many the wrong way it seems. 

BUT, in a year of "change," none of the challengers (here at least) have been all that convincing about the change they envision, let alone their capacity to make it happen. So aside from some fresh faces on council, Boston will likely make history and extend tenure of Thomas Menino. 

Urban Mechanic (no relation to Mayor Thomas Menino) bets the real race begins after today. Legacy building for some? Vying for 2013 for others? The question is, what ideas will come forth? What dialog will take place, and whom will it include? 

How do we fix urban schools? Even with its progress over the past decade, the system, like any other large system in the country fails too many. What about youth jobs?

With the Big Dig behind us, what potential is there to really think about transit and transportation in the city? Boston may have built the country's first subway, but other cities such as Denver, Portland, and even LA are taking ambitious steps towards investing in and building transit not just commuter rail, but urban transit while we languish over half-finished BRT lines that aren't really all that "rapid."

How about someone looking at Greater Boston? While we're not likely to erase century's-old boundaries are there ways the more built-up areas like Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline and the remains of Suffolk (that isn't Boston) could leverage their weight with ideas such as cost-sharing or with the legislature or even abroad?

What about rethinking zoning, with 21st century industry, residential, commercial, and common considerations? How could the city turn its massive stock of schools, community centers, and other public facilities into 21st century public assets but green assets?

Should Boston (or the Commonwealth for that matter) have professional legislators (city councilors) or citizen servants? What about local campaign finance reform? Where does civic engagement really meet political engagement in Boston?

These are the questions, and so many more, that Urban Mechanic hopes to see come front and center starting tomorrow and beyond towards 2013. There are bold, innovative ideas percolating out there that need to come forth. The get elected, and your in for life system might not change (at least any time soon) here in the MA, but now's the time to focus on who will be elected next.

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