Opposite Ends Of I-90

Which mayor’s race does the following describe?

[Both candidates] want the same things: better schools, improved public safety, sustainable economic development, accessible parks, affordable housing, livable neighborhoods. To win the November 3 election, both candidates may go so far as to endorse motherhood — perhaps, if the polls get really close, apple pie.

Seattle’s, perhaps?  Or pretty much any large North American city’s, it would be safe to say, no?

If you’re up on your nation’s most shameful public spaces, then you can guess the right answer based on the location shown in the photo above.  Yep, it’s Boston, where Tom Menino is running for a record fifth term against veteran city councilor Michael Flaherty.

Over at the east end of I-90, the city’s “respectable” newspaper has endorsed the establishment candidate, while the biggest weekly has endorsed the challenger who is perceived as a change agent.  Sounds familiar, but in Boston’s case we’re talking about the famously liberal, New York Times-owned Boston Globe, that published a nuanced, fact-filled endorsement weighing in at 1066 words.

The Seattle Times could only think of 640 to say about Mallahan, in a piece that begins with the vapid platitude “Seattle is in a funk,” and concludes with the profoundly inspiring proclamation that “once he learns the complexities of the job, he and his team will lead Seattle to better circumstances.”

Oh, and the Seattle Times also endorsed Susan Hutchison for King County Executive.  You knew that, but for the sake of the children, it needs to be said over and over again.

One position on which the Boston candidates differ is the role of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the very organization that facilitated the Boston City Hall “urban renewal” project back in the 1960s.  Flaherty—the change candidate—advocates taking power away from the BRA to make it more responsive to neighborhood concerns.

In contrast, here at the west end of I-90, the change agent we need is a leader bold enough to create an organization like the BRA so we can actually get something done in this city.  As in, transformational public investment and redevelopment at our pathetic excuses for light-rail station areas. And no, the complex,  human-scale, walkable urban fabric that was destroyed by the Boston City Hall project is not the same thing as the auto-centric mess that engulfs the Mt. Baker light rail station.

An organization like the BRA can be a force for good, especially if embedded in a culture like Seattle’s that respects the relationships between urban form and community, a respect that has manifested itself, for example, in a city hall that is the polar opposite of Boston’s.

But whichever end of I-90 you happen to be on,  it’s almost over.  And I’m likely wasting my keystrokes here, but please, if you haven’t yet, vote.   And make all your friends and family vote too.  Blackmail them.  Whatever it takes.  Cause this one is important. The latest polling shows the mayor’s race is now a statistical dead heat. McGinn could still pull it off.  Your vote counts.  Right, so I guess that means I better mail mine in tomorrow…