June 19, 2003
Charles Yancey is in trouble.
That's the impression any sane person gets when they run into one Egobiduke Ezedi, Yancey's fresh-faced opponent in this year's District Four city council race. If you happened to pop into the Blarney Stone, Dorchester's trendiest watering hole of late, last Thursday evening, you know exactly what I'm saying.
Ezedi's campaign rented out the Blarney for what turned out to be a pretty jam-packed fundraiser that would have made any old school Boston pol happy.
"Ego," as he's known to all, is a Dorchester native of Nigerian descent. He's one-part Sunday preacher (no, really, he's an ordained minister), one-part politician ... and all potential. Until last month, Ego was Congressman Mike Capuano's man in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, mainly working the constituent circuit in Yancey's backyard, a.k.a. making friends.
In 2002, Ego had a cup of coffee with the idea of running for the re-drawn Senate seat that went to Jack Hart in a walk. Instead, Ezedi wisely held his cards and sized up District Four, where Yancey has held court for 20 years with nary a scare on Election Day.
That's going to change this time around. Ego's challenge of Charles is the topic of choice among politicos from the Dedham border to Thompson's Island. The hubbub is a side effect of a sleepy election year, to be sure, but it goes deeper than that.
Ezedi is the major missing link in the council's slow stroll into the 'new Boston' , a euphemism for a town where blacks actually share power with whites and neighborhoods are no longer defined strictly by skin color. There's none of that "North"/"South" Dorchester mess with Ego. Old school turf wars, of the kind that Jimmy Kelly and Charles Yancey have come to personify, aren't in vogue in the new Boston. But, ahhh, Mike Flaherty and Ego Ezedi. Yeah, that's more like it.
It's not a secret that much of the old Scollay Square crowd , and not just the young Turks, are yearning for an Ezedi sweep come the Fifth of November. And that is both a blessing and a curse for the preacher-turned-politician.
Ezedi has to watch out for being seen as a puppet of Menino, a lapdog of Flaherty, or a messenger for Capuano. Already, a probing front page article in the black weekly Bay State Banner raised questions about Ezedi's backers and whether he would really be serving his own flock in the district. The Banner piece overreached, though, because the Milton Avenue man and his wife Melissa really do have some bona fide grassroots support in the community.
In a rousing speech at the Blarney, Ezedi made it clear to draw the distinction, and steered clear of a tong fight with Yancey: "This is not personal," he said repeatedly. And at times, he sounded off from the podium about the lingering signs of the old Boston. Noting how nice the restored Irish pub was, Ego said, "We need places like this in Mattapan Square. You know they've got them over in South Boston..."
Hardly the rhetoric of an orthodox new Bostonian, but the message resonated loud and clear with the predominantly black professional crowd that night in the Blarney that's tired of trooping in town or to the 'burbs for a decent night out.
Ezedi's real challenge, though, will be swaying Yancey's old-school base in the Fourth, where seniors and "good voters" are pretty much synonymous. Can Ego and his energetic, but rather inexperienced corps of suited-up Buppies make headway with the elders that have been pulling the trigger for Sir Charles since 1983?
A good question that does not yet have a clear answer. Some of the "Ego-maniacs" are upwardly mobile types who don't live in the more hardscrabble Fourth; just how many could mean the difference in this race. One Dorchester supporter the Reporter spoke with at Ego's party was close: he lives in Savin Hill and volunteered that his city councillor is Marty Walsh, which may come as something of a surprise to Maureen Feeney.
What his soldiers lack in experience and political savvy, though, will just have to be made up for by the candidate's own considerable charisma. If Ego can figure out a way to box and sell that stuff, he'll be a voter-rich man indeed.
Like I said, Charles Yancey is in trouble.
State Rep. Marie St. Fleur continues to make big moves at the State House and this week her district will see some direct results. As the chair of the Legislature's Education committee, St. Fleur got to play hostess to a special event to mark the 10th anniversary of the Education Reform Act. The commemoration took place, appropriately, at Meeting House Hill's Mather School, a direct descendant of the first public school in the Americas, right here in Dorchester. At the event, slated for 11:30 on Wednesday morning, after the Reporter went to press, St. Fleur was to be joined by the governor, Speaker Finneran, Senate President Travaglini, and Education Commissioner David Driscoll.
Maura Hennigan's crusade to rid the town of potholes goes on this week. Hennigan fell victim to a rather nasty one during her march up Blue Hill Ave. last month during the Haitian Unity Parade. Now, the at-large councillor's office relays that Hennigan will convene a hearing this Friday at the Hall on Docket number 0852, a measure Hennigan says will reform the way the city tackles the pothole problem.
"I have been working on this ordinance for a couple of months and I am giving this issue a very comprehensive look and offering what I believe are real concrete solutions," Hennigan punned.
Hennigan maintains that potholes are, contrary to conventional wisdom, preventable. She blames shoddy repair jobs by contractors and utilities for the canyons left over after this year's deep freeze. And she wants the private companies and not the city's Public Works Department- to take the lead on fixing the holes.
"They would then be required to maintain it for two years or face fines of $250-$500 per day by the City of Boston for everyday a violation exists if their repair fails," Hennigan said in a statement. "Giving full responsibility to utility/contractor companies to provide permanent repairs would result in less confusion, and, ultimately, more effective repairs."
The pothole reform hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on June 20 in the Iannella Chambers in City Hall.