Friday, September 08, 2006

Silbert and Murray: My Impressions

Of course, the fact that I like both of these candidates isn't really new. Heck, I even like Deb Goldberg. Well, tonight I got the chance to see both Murray and Silbert in person. What do I think? Both of them would make great Lt. Governors.

If readers follow the first link, you'll find that I've already voted - I voted for Silbert. Since then, I've gone back and forth between both Silbert and Murray, questioning whether or not I made a mistake. I still won't "endorse" either candidate; I may as well have flipped a coin when it came time to vote. It's a tough choice, but I'll try to give some semi-neutral advice.

Here's how the two candidates boil down:

I like Silbert because she's exceptionally polished and a great speaker. She has a fiery quality, yet doesn't come off like Tom Reilly (overly negative and not very nice). In fact, in some ways she's an even better speaker than Deval, especially in a Question/Answer forum such as tonight. She's great on jobs and has a compelling story.

Politically, Silbert is the better candidate and I voted for her in part because I thought she'd add to whoever wins the primary for Governor in a way no other candidate for LG could. However, I don't think she's the better policy candidate. Her biggest issue, jobs, is certainly critical - but voters may be looking for more. I'm not sure if her plan on homelessness is really going to do it, however noble it is.

When it comes to the policies, Tim has the upper hand. Tonight really cemented that for me, especially when he answered a question on Brownfields - areas polluted, vacated and worthless (until they're cleaned up). Not only did Tim answer the question, he answered it with flourish. He has a great backround in Worcester and has proven he's capable of being part of the solution in the critical issue facing Massachusetts: a need for an urban renaissance.

We can't create new jobs without more affordable housing and areas hospitable to new growth in employment. Right now, Springfield, Lynn, Fall River, New Bedford and lots of other cities just aren't fitting that mold, despite the fact that they should. Not only are a lot of them expensive relative to the quality of services, education and safety, but there aren't many examples of budding industries or innovative growth. In Lynn's case, there's no thriving downtown - it's about as dead as it was 10-15 years ago, perhaps more so. There's some resurgence in New Bedford and Fall River, but still no where near what it could be. From what I've read, Springfield isn't sitting pretty and things just seem to get worse and worse.

Worcester, on the other hand, is a city moving in the right direction. Perhaps I'm saying this because of a paucity of adaquate comparisons, but Worcester seems like a beacon of hope in the Commonwealth of stagnation. If Murray could help replicate that across the state, Massachusetts would recover in a hurry. (New campaign slogan there?) Springfield could help resuscitate Western Mass, which is bleeding population. Cities like Lynn could help not only make Greater Boston even wealthier, but a place where everyone shares in the increased standard of living - not just the millionaires in Lynnfield and Westwood.

With all that said, here's the critical question for voters: which is more important, policy or politics?

Andrea Silbert tried to make the case tonight, when she said (paraphrasing), 'the great thing about Lt. Governors in Massachusetts is it's a very open-ended job. You can do pretty much whatever you want to do. You can focus on two or three things and make those your issues as part of the team.' While seemingly pragmatic, it may be a view not many voters are willing to share.

Certainly, there are those people out there. A lot of people don't like Silbert because she seems like a one-issue gal. She's come out with some new proposals, but like I've previously mentioned, homelessness as an issue just isn't going to knock the socks off of voters. To me, it screams Mass PIRG and sends chilling nightmares down my spine of people knocking on my door asking for a hundred bucks, then rudely refusing the counterproposal of $5.

Of course, that's being completely unfair because homelessness is an incredibly important issue (and something I worked on during my Fellowship in D.C.), but it's just not an issue that's registering with voters in this day and age: the Republican scream machine has convinced too many Americans that poor people deserve their fate for being lazy drug addicts. Homelessness needs to be solved, but it has to be an issue taken up while in office, not as a method to gain office - at least until the people of Westwood, Swamspcott and Lynnfield see homeless people on their streets.

Like Andrea Silbert said, a Lt. Governor could be very effective as a leader if they focused on specific issues. They would be recognized as the leader on that issue, which would result in the media actually paying attention to the Lt. Governor. Furthermore, they'd have a real impact in coming up with creative solutions as the 'decision-maker,' as President Bush would say.

If a Lt. Governor got bogged down on a lot of issues, would they be effective? The answer is probably no. The media would have no reason to look to the Lt. Governor as the authority on the issue. Furthermore, they couldn't possibly be the decision-maker and actually create policy if they were simultaneously working on dozens of issues. So, in a way, Andrea is right - but does that even help her? The question is who do voters trust more: Andrea on jobs, or Tim Murray on his record of improving cities?

This is purely my take, but if Tim Murray, Deborah Goldberg and Andrea Silbert were running for Governor - I think I'd vote for Tim Murray. However, when it comes to Lt. Governor, Andrea Silbert already got my vote and I don't regret it. There's no doubt, with new leadership, Massachusetts is going to churn out new job growth. Andrea Silbert could only help that. If she's going to be a one-issue candidate, she's running for the right office for it. In the meantime, I'll gladly take her fiery presence as an added bonus on the campaign trail in our quest to rid Republicans from the Corner Office after 16 long and hard years.

PS - Two things on Murray:

1. Kudos for shaking everyone's hand before the event and asking if they had any questions. I was rather surprised (and somewhat disappointed) Silbert didn't do it. You can really tell if a candidate is genuine when they're shaking hands; it's hard to hide the disdain some candidates have for such grunt work, especially if a candidate is really an elitist. If there's anything Murray isn't, it's an elitist.

2. His position on Cape Wind disappoints me. While I appreciate his general Wind position - to sprinkle wind farms across the state, and invest heavily in non-populated areas like the Mass Pike - his stance on Cape Wind itself was frustrating. Not only would he not take a stance on the issue, he didn't see why we'd want to face the politically wrath of putting it in Nantucket Bay. If people held Murray's Cape Wind view as their general philosophy, nothing big would ever be accomplished. NIMBYism shouldn't be excused because it makes things hard. What's right is right - and clearly, Cape Wind is right. Even a majority of Cape Cod's citizens support it.

Equally frustrating, Murray wouldn't take a position on Cape Wind. He said there was an unfinished Coast Guard report that needed to come out before he'd be willing to support Cape Wind. Fine. However, if the only thing holding Murray back was the Coast Guard, he simply could have said, "if the Coast Guard says it's fine, I say it's fine." He didn't. Instead, he left himself some politically room - it was the one issue that he seemed to play politics on throughout the whole night. If Murray simply states, "I'll support it fully when the Coast Guard okays it," I'll be a happy camper. That's all he needs to do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ted Kennedy doesn't want to look out and see windmills from his beachfront,(even though he's been tilting after them for years). Every other person on the cape might want them but that's why you'll never see them.

About Ryan's Take