Bill Walczak’s true believers are just that. He’s one of the dozen running for mayor of Boston. His supporters (and he) point to his phenomenal, 4-decades-long record of making things happen and even doing the unlikely or seemingly impossible.
He spoke with Left Ahead for half hour today. Click below to hear him.
Unlike the others of the dozen running for the open seat this year, he expects voters to get with the program, his program. He promises to have a full platform to his campaign site within 48 hours (end of Thursday) with policy papers following regularly. He know that’s risky and lends itself to sniping by his competitors, but he says he’s all about ideas and will put his out there for discussion.
Also differing from other candidates, he says he won’t have a two-stage campaign — one for the preliminary and a second for the final with the two highest vote-getters. “You have to believe you’re going to win,” he said. That may give him the leeway to present his big ideas throughout.
While many candidates like to say they’ll be as much of a man of the people as Thomas Menino has been for 20 years, here too, Walczak says he approaches the job as differently as he does the campaign. He said that “the most important thing a mayor can do is to have a vision.” Then, he’d hire the right people to implement it.
The only cliché Walcsak used was that he is known for “pulling rabbits out of hats.” He cited founding the Codman Health center when he was 20 (leading it from thee to 300 employees) and co-founding two schools (the Codman Academy fully integrated with the health center and leading the high-school students into a professional environment alien to the vast majority of BPS students). You can listen in as he explains how the intern/mentor/resources components work.
He thinks of the mayor as the city’s CEO and wants voters to see his successes as transferable to Boston’s operations. For schools for one, he thinks the successful experiments can expand and adapt to other underperforming ones.
Walcsak speaks in grand terms. He wants “a boom town.” He thinks with the higher educational, technological, medical, financial and other resources in the Boston area, there is no reason the city and its mayor can’t draw on (and squeeze) and use those to take its economic development, health-care, schools and public safety to higher levels. Likewise, he wants those sources to help provide and fine-tune the ideas necessary. He sees “a whole array of think tanks” to enable that. He figures that the sources are available and will be willing to join that effort; “It’s as simple as inviting them in.” For his part, he said, “The purpose of the mayor is to create that kind of excitement.”
It’s easy to be cynical when confronting a visionary. That’s a little harder when that visionary has a record of successes.
The only way Walcsak can win and go for this is if the timing is right, if the voters are ready to try big changes after two decades of slow, steady improvements. They have to be willing and believe him when he says, “I’ve done this before and can do it again.”
Here’s my gut feeling — people will act like they want an energetic “change it all” mayor after Menino, but they don’t. There will be a sense that after decades of Menino at the helm, that the winning candidate will be the one who promises new energy. Let’s face it, you don’t get too far on “I’ll avoid major problems, try to spruce the place up a bit, and generally try not to wreck the place.”
But I think that’s what the voters are going to want. Maybe the memory of the Big Dig is too fresh, or perhaps we’re just too complacent around here. All I know is, if a mayoral candidate rolls out a list of “initiatives” that look as though they may threaten traffic, s/he’s dead in the water.
My guess is, beyond tribal loyalties, the candidate who wins will be the one who promises a “bold day” yadda yadda, but doesn’t get into specific plans that will put voters off. Nobody wants a mayoral candidate who promises to be a competent manager, but I bet 50%+1 voters want a mayor who does.
HR's Kevin says
I want a mayor, not a CEO. Boston is not a business, it’s where I live.
I don’t want grand visions of glory for what a mayor is going to achieve in office. I want a sensible, savvy politician who will gradually improve the quality of life here without degrading what we already have.
And please don’t brag about having a full platform before you actually have one. No one is going to keep going to his website to see when stuff appears. I know that John Connolly, for instance, has had detailed proposals on his web site for months now.
HR's Kevin says
Just in case someone thinks I am sniping to help out my guy. I just mentioned Connolly because I happened to look at his web site recently given the large number of signs for him in my neighborhood.
I have come to believe that most voters don’t spend time on campaign sites. I do and love to compare and contrast. I’ll do that as the candidates get their platforms out or filled out.
This time, I have mixed thoughts. With Menino leaving, voters have no choice but to take some sort of chance. Conventional disdain for voters says they’re too timid for big moves, but in the occasional election, they surprise.
Right now we have at least two (Mike Ross as well as Walczak) asking that folk sign onto their visions for this city. That’s a hard sell, but not an impossible one if the mood of the electorate is just right, just ripe.
Kosta Demos says
Mr. Walczak’s strengths and weaknesses as a candidate aside, the fact that the Left Ahead clip starts to play automatically when I open Recent Posts is pretty obnoxious – makes the post into a long, yappy radio informercial for Bill’s campaign. Took me forever to scroll up and down to locate and shut the damn thing off. What gives?