Boston's Big Choice

In an off-year without many campaign horse-races, Boston is hitting an electoral cross-roads. Boston Mayor Tom Menino, an establishment, machine politician of 16 years is facing the first real challenge of his career.

And it couldn't be more refreshing. Boston is starving for some energy and innovation. The budget process is hashed out in secret; the transportation system is dated and unimaginative; and Boston (the "Athens of America") is somehow behind the curve in green technology. And while the Democratic Party has been renewed nationwide, Boston (a bastion for the Democratic party) is still stuck in the same tired, machine-driven politics of the past. Menino relies on his relationships, not his record.

16 years is long enough for anyone . What we need are people with fresh ideas, who bring energy and openess to city government. City Councilor at-large Sam Yoon has more than a real shot to defeat Menino – he's young, energetic and innovative.  Sam is the right leader, with the vision to transform Boston – its economy, politics and infrastructure and involve the citizens of Boston and their ideas in the effort.

Bostonians are taking notice and so is The New Republic:

Of the two city council members who are running for mayor, Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, it's Yoon who appears to be the more formidable challenger. While the 40-year-old Flaherty has a sizable war chest and deep roots in the vote-rich Irish enclave of South Boston, he often comes across as merely a less tongue-tied version20of Menino. Indeed, Flaherty was once considered Menino's chosen successor, until he evidently tired of waiting for his turn and challenged his mentor. But, if Flaherty represents a difference in degree from the current mayor, Yoon represents a difference in kind.

Born in South Korea and raised in Amish country in Pennsylvania, Yoon first came to Boston in 1993 to get his master's degree at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. (He attended Princeton for undergrad.) After Harvard, he spent the next ten years as a community organizer in Boston before becoming the first Asian American in the city's history to run for public office. His election to the city council in 2005 prompted The Boston Globe Magazine to name him one of its people of the year, declaring: "The best thing about Sam Yoon is not just that he makes us look good. He makes us feel good."

Yoon is now hoping there are enough Bostonians looking for that sort of uplift to propel him to the mayor's office. An earnest wonk who frequently feels the need to mention that he is 39—not to emphasize his youth but to reassure people he's not still in college—Yoon is counting on minority voters and, more importantly, those who (like him) are newer arrivals to the city, lured by jobs in academia, medicine, and finance. In short, yuppies. "At a certain point, there will be more and more people here who have lived in the city for less than twenty years or less than t en years," Yoon told me one recent evening, as he sat on the patio of an upscale pizzeria in the city's hipper-than-thou South End neighborhood.

Yoon's platform seems designed to stroke these voters' erogenous zones: building educational partnerships between the city's public schools and local universities like Harvard and MIT; creating a 311 number to call for non-emergency municipal services; replacing the city's motor fleet with Zipcars; and, in general, looking to Seattle as a model for urban policy. "There is more to governing than just handshaking and ribbon-cutting and going to neighborhood barbeques," he told me. Later that evening, Yoon said to a group of supporters who'd gathered over hummus and beers at a home in a gentrifying section of the Roxbury neighborhood, "Our city needs to make a fundamental, systemic change to bring our city government into the twenty-first century, because we are really stuck, we're still operating like it's 1945."

I'm a big supporter of Sam. If you have not signed up yet, join his campaign at

(Full disclosure: I have received a small retainer from the Yoon campaign.  This is a huge opportunity for Boston and I'm excited to be a part of it - doing whatever I can to help Sam.)

Tags: boston, MA, Menino, Yoon (all tags)



Re: Boston's Big Choice

Amen! As a Boston resident I'm tired of the same old politics.  It's time for new ideas and fresh leadership.  

by behappy 2009-07-07 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Boston's Big Choice

I'm not really from the area, but I've been hearing some good stuff about this race. Looks like one to keep following.

by ff2009 2009-07-07 09:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Boston's Big Choice

Well said Joe. This race really is about taking down a patronage-filled machine politician and putting a real progressive into City Hall. We need that change in Boston.

by OneWordForThat 2009-07-07 09:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Boston's Big Choice

Is he an economic radical?  Is he pro-business or pro-labor?  

by demjim 2009-07-07 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Boston's Big Choice

Sounds like one to watch.

by Charles Lemos 2009-07-07 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Boston's Big Choice

What exactly is wrong with Menino using his relationships in the legislature and with the Boston Business Community for the greater good of a city the man clearly loves?

Aside from his lack of eloquence for which he is much ridiculed and derided, he's been an effective mayor of Boston. Do I believe he should serve forever? No, but given the choices in this race, I'm very happy with the prospect of another Menino term.

To be truthful, I'm not very impressed with either Flaherty or Yoon. Not enough to cast aside a Mayor that I am satisified with.

I understand Mr. Trippi's need to use incendiary language about a candidate of his party in a city he does not live in, in order to create a compelling narrative for a candidate he's receiving a "small retainer" from to "help". Luckily, I can take comfort in looking at his track record, particularly in the 2008 presidential contest, and know that Mayor Menino can look eagerly toward his 5th term.

by Practical Progressive 2009-07-07 05:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Boston's Big Choice

Menino has been a pretty decent mayor and his administration has been competent.  He's pretty moderate and he doesn't aspire to anything much more than being Mayor.  Back in the days when he was on the City Council he represented the least urban of the Council districts and was not particularly progressive (never supported tenants' rights).  When he took over from Ray Flynn he didn't do too much radical with the city's policies and stuck to his knitting.  There was room for progressives within City Hall and many have made a full career of it and done good work.

Boston politics has always been about relationships more than ideology.  That being said, Menino's coziness with the City is probably getting a little stale.  The city unions, particularly the Firefighters Union, are getting restless.  The budget problems have highlighted a lack of transparency. Change could be a healthy thing.

I'm glad Menino is getting a challenge.  I'll definitely take a look at Sam Yoon.  

by granty43 2009-07-08 06:26AM | 0 recs
Hmmm.......... Where have I read this before?

You could have at least changed the title.

I like Sam Yoon. I like you Mr. Trippi, I really do. You've done some great things. I am not sure spamming web sites is one of them.

I have read this article before, looks about word for word, over at Kos ( 50887/-Bostons-Big-Choice). And how many of these fresh new commenters did you bring with you?

With all the rain around Boston lately you don't need astroturf. Sod will grow. So will real grassroots.

Let's go with FULL disclosure: exactly how much is Sam paying you for this?

by meddembob 2009-07-08 07:37AM | 0 recs


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