Boston's Big Choice

In an off-year without many campaign horse-races, Boston is hitting an electoral cross-roads. Boston Mayor Tom Menino, an establishment, machine politician of 16 years is facing the first real challenge of his career.

And it couldn't be more refreshing. Boston is starving for some energy and innovation. The budget process is hashed out in secret; the transportation system is dated and unimaginative; and Boston (the "Athens of America") is somehow behind the curve in green technology. And while the Democratic Party has been renewed nationwide, Boston (a bastion for the Democratic party) is still stuck in the same tired, machine-driven politics of the past. Menino relies on his relationships, not his record.

16 years is long enough for anyone . What we need are people with fresh ideas, who bring energy and openess to city government. City Councilor at-large Sam Yoon has more than a real shot to defeat Menino – he's young, energetic and innovative. Sam is the right leader, with the vision to transform Boston – its economy, politics and infrastructure and involve the citizens of Boston and their ideas in the effort.

Bostonians are taking notice and so is The New Republic:

Of the two city council members who are running for mayor, Michael Flaherty and Sam Yoon, it's Yoon who appears to be the more formidable challenger. While the 40-year-old Flaherty has a sizable war chest and deep roots in the vote-rich Irish enclave of South Boston, he often comes across as merely a less tongue-tied version20of Menino. Indeed, Flaherty was once considered Menino's chosen successor, until he evidently tired of waiting for his turn and challenged his mentor. But, if Flaherty represents a difference in degree from the current mayor, Yoon represents a difference in kind.

Born in South Korea and raised in Amish country in Pennsylvania, Yoon first came to Boston in 1993 to get his master's degree at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. (He attended Princeton for undergrad.) After Harvard, he spent the next ten years as a community organizer in Boston before becoming the first Asian American in the city's history to run for public office. His election to the city council in 2005 prompted The Boston Globe Magazine to name him one of its people of the year, declaring: "The best thing about Sam Yoon is not just that he makes us look good. He makes us feel good."

Yoon is now hoping there are enough Bostonians looking for that sort of uplift to propel him to the mayor's office. An earnest wonk who frequently feels the need to mention that he is 39—not to emphasize his youth but to reassure people he's not still in college—Yoon is counting on minority voters and, more importantly, those who (like him) are newer arrivals to the city, lured by jobs in academia, medicine, and finance. In short, yuppies. "At a certain point, there will be more and more people here who have lived in the city for less than twenty years or less than t en years," Yoon told me one recent evening, as he sat on the patio of an upscale pizzeria in the city's hipper-than-thou South End neighborhood.

Yoon's platform seems designed to stroke these voters' erogenous zones: building educational partnerships between the city's public schools and local universities like Harvard and MIT; creating a 311 number to call for non-emergency municipal services; replacing the city's motor fleet with Zipcars; and, in general, looking to Seattle as a model for urban policy. "There is more to governing than just handshaking and ribbon-cutting and going to neighborhood barbeques," he told me. Later that evening, Yoon said to a group of supporters who'd gathered over hummus and beers at a home in a gentrifying section of the Roxbury neighborhood, "Our city needs to make a fundamental, systemic change to bring our city government into the twenty-first century, because we are really stuck, we're still operating like it's 1945."

I'm a big supporter of Sam. If you have not signed up yet, join his campaign at