Caucus Roundup #3: Wards 11 & 22
I could not attend Ward 13’s caucus, held on Monday, February 26, due to a professional commitment. Work also prevented me from attending Ward 17 on Tuesday, February 27. Ward 11’s caucus was to be held only a few days later, though – on Saturday, March 3 – so I eagerly anticipated the upcoming weekend. I planned to run for delegate to the convention and had also volunteered to cook breakfast for the morning’s caucus attendees. On March 1, the Thursday before the caucus, I had an interesting and productive meeting with Christopher A. Iannella, Jr. of Jamaica Plain: attorney, Governor’s Councillor for the 4th District, son of Christopher A. Iannella, Sr. and brother of Richard Iannella, former Register of Probate and Boston City Councillor. We discussed my law school prospects and he broke down some of the several Democrat primary fields now taking shape in Boston. He was especially perceptive when it came to the District Attorney race, predicting the entry of an assistant DA. Iannella proved prescient when, only a few days later, Greg Henning of Dorchester, ADA in charge of the gang unit, declared his candidacy for Suffolk County District Attorney.
I made myself available on the evening of Friday March 2, in order to move chairs from the Egleston Square YMCA’s gym down a set of back stairs to the multi-purpose meeting room Ward 11 used for this year’s caucus. In past years, Ward 11 has held its caucus at the Farnsworth House assisted living facility on South Street in Jamaica Plain: this is also where we have our regular committee meetings, usually held on the 4th Monday of the month. This year, however, the Egleston Square YMCA was chosen to host the event, in a short but notable move to the northern end of the ward in Roxbury. The Massachusetts Democratic Party goes to great lengths to include in the political process people of diverse backgrounds, and the caucus attendance in Ward 11 reflected the diversity of the party and of the ward.
On the morning of the caucus, I rose early and began the preparations necessary for breakfast. The menu included scrambled eggs, hash browns, grass-fed lamb and vegetarian sausages, and homemade buttermilk waffles. I hoped to run out of food, so I cooked enough for about 40 people. I was kindly assisted by a fellow ward member, Mark, and by a friend and Ward 19 resident, Matt. I was fortunate also to be joined by my mother and brother, who helped finish and transport the meal from my apartment, after most of the attendees had arrived and were in the process of registering. I wanted to circulate during breakfast, in order to greet attendees and ask for their votes: so I delegated all service responsibilities to my family members, once the breakfast station was fully armed and operational. I brought two coffee makers, jugs of water, and several pounds of freshly-ground premium beans, to ensure that no one went without the world’s most popular AM stimulant.
While circumnavigating, I was happy to greet several longtime JP residents with whose children I was raised. I was pleased to see a friend’s mom whom I had previously greeted one month earlier, at the Ward 19 caucus: a Ward 11 resident, she was now eligible to vote. I was especially glad to see my sister, delegate to the convention from Ward 19, and Artist Resource Manager for the City of Boston. I took time to view a copy of the list the Ward 11 Committee had prepared of the 9 male and 9 female committee members who planned to run for delegate that morning: I said hello and asked for their votes. I appreciated being included on the Ward 11 “slate,” since I had noted the presence of Joyce Linehan of Dorchester, one of Marty Walsh’s top organizers: a sure indication that the Mayor was making an effort of his own.
Candidates and elected officials were allowed to speak first. I was happy to help Liz Malia, my state Representative and a member of the Ward 11 Committee, with social media. On Saturday, March 3, she was running for re-election unopposed. Since then, another member of the Ward 11 Committee, Ture Turnbull of Jamaica Plain, has declared himself a candidate in the Democrat primary for the 11th Suffolk District seat. Liz has been our State Representative since 1998, and has defeated periodic challenges, including one in 2016 by Democrat Charles Clemons of Dorchester. Here, she delivers remarks flanked by two of Jamaica Plain’s other leading ladies: Ward 11 co-chairs Marie Turley and Annie Rousseau.
Elections for female delegate were held first. These were very competitive. There was a tie for the final delegate slot between two young ladies: one a member of the Ward 11 Committee, the other a member of the Mayor’s slate. At the appropriate moment, the Mayor’s candidate was instructed to withdraw: so that the final delegate slot would go to a member of the ward committee. As it happened, a similar situation arose later that morning, when there was a tie for the final male alternate delegate slot. Since this would be the last seat available on the bus from Ward 11 to Worcester (not counting “add-on” delegates), the Mayor’s candidate again withdrew: respectfully clearing the way for the ward committee member.
I was fortunate to be elected to one of the 9 delegate seats available for males, from a field of 15. After cleaning up and saying good-byes, I brought my supplies back to headquarters and left Roxbury, bound for Boston’s Brighton neighborhood and the Ward 22 caucus. I hoped to see Brighton resident and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, who is running for re-election and facing Democrat challenger Josh Zakim of the Back Bay, Boston City Councillor for District 8 (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Kenmore, Mission Hill, Audubon Circle, and the West End).
Ward 22 consists of the northwestern portion of Allston/Brighton, itself an isolated area of Boston bounded by the Charles River to the north, the City of Newton to the west, and the Town of Brookline to the south. Allston/Brighton is connected to the rest of Boston by a narrow isthmus: a strip of the Boston University campus north of Commonwealth Avenue and south of the Charles River. I have never campaigned in Brighton, but through my interest in politics, I had heard the names of some of the more prominent local participants. These included the Tolman brothers: the younger of whom, an attorney and former state Representative and Senator, ran recently for Attorney General, in a primary contest won by Maura Healey of Charlestown; the elder, also a former State Representative and Senator, serving currently as President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
I arrived at the Veronica B Smith Senior Center and was happy to see my friend Jeff Ross, chair of Ward 9. I was pleased to greet John Vitale, whom I initially mistook for Henry Vitale, his identical twin brother. I was also honored to meet Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, who had organized a strong showing of his local supporters, many of whom sported stickers with a bubbled font just retro enough to be eye-catching. I introduced myself to him as a delegate from Ward 11, and he asked me for my support at the convention. I was happy to see Andrea Burns, organizer for gubernatorial candidate Bob Massie, who was kind enough to capture a picture of me with my new friend, Steve Tolman.
Upon meeting the man, I realized that I had once parked his car, a black Ford, during dinner service at a small Italian restaurant in the North End. On that night, I was paired with an Ethiopian gentleman whose name I have long forgotten, but whom I instructed to address our customer as Senator. As a member of UNITE HERE, and former member of the Boston Teachers Union, I am familiar with the benefits provided to employees by membership in workers’ associations, as well as the ways in which unions can delay or prevent organizational restructurings of the kind that are sometimes necessary. I have witnessed two attempts by the Teamsters to organize Boston’s valets: due to the nature of the work, however, valets might better ally themselves with tipped servers and other upscale restaurant industry workers, as opposed to truck drivers, operators of heavy machinery, etc. When I follow up with Mr. Tolman, I will mention to him my idea for just such an entity: UPSCALE – the Union of Professional Servers, Curb Attendants, and Line Employees.