Fox Professing
Academic Papers Opinion Columns Personal Essays Course Materials



Brookline Newcomer 

Sydney accuses, then loses 

Published in the Brookline TAB

September 28, 2000

I remained pretty even-handed during the state representative campaign. My comments on several issues may have favored the challenger more often than the incumbent, though that wasn't my goal. I did make fun of the PIPERS--the Progressive Intelligent People to Elect Ronny Sydney--but whoever made up that name deserved the ridicule. I also criticized Frank Smizik's initially tepid anti-MCAS stance.

My underlying neutrality stemmed from several beliefs: that modern elections are neither a significant means of social change nor an expression of meaningful democracy; that neither candidate's politics was sufficiently leftward of mainstream liberalism; and that it wouldn't make much difference in most people's lives which liberal politico won.

So I endorsed no one and planned to join the non-voting majority--until the end-of-campaign endorsement fiasco got me so annoyed I went out in the rain and headed for the voting booth.

Endorsements persuade. A seal of approval from someone who's well-known and well-liked helps some voters make up their minds.

Someone like Bobby Allen, for example, the popular Selectman whose own campaign last spring actually brought in some new voters. Allen was listed on Sydney's endorsement list in a TAB ad just before the election and in a brochure mailed to households all over town.

Many people didn't see a TAB article appearing the same day as the ad, which explained that Allen and several other supposed supporters never gave permission to be listed.

Sydney initially blamed the screw-up on her failure to give the campaign's computer operator the names of incorrectly listed people, but that didn't explain why those names were on the list to begin with. She later speculated that separate lists might have been mistakenly intermingled.

Other comments made things worse. Sydney offered one of those accurate but minimal "I'm sorry, but these things happen" statements. She said she'd apologize directly to everyone who was incorrectly listed, but didn't pledge to spend the remaining five days of the campaign notifying every registered voter of the errors. Such an action might even have gotten her some needed votes.

What got me out in the rain, though, was Sydney's insistence that she "deserves an opportunity to scrutinize Frank Smizik's list" and--with absolutely no evidence whatsoever--that she was "sure" there were wrong names on Smizik's list, too.

That low blow, a sign of a decent person's campaign falling apart, was entirely undeserved. Not a single person on Smizik's list has claimed to be listed incorrectly. In the meantime, the number of people who say Sydney included them wrongly has crept upward.

Unfortunately, Sydney's comments were consistent with her campaign's pattern of vagueness and avoidance (about many issues), heavy-handedness (from last spring's effort by supporters to oust former TAB columnist Stanley Spiegel to Sydney's accusation that Smizik "blatantly lied" about her record), and plain bizarreness (the PIPERS, whom I'd like to figure out how to blame for the endorsement problem).

In fuzzy-headed protest I voted for Smizik.

The new rep, whose savvy campaign was more focused and less error-prone than Sydney's, has an impressive activist record. I'll be surprised, though, if he makes as much difference in the Statehouse as his supporters expect. As I see it, legislatures react to mass pressure, not individual heroics. Besides, I'm still waiting for his plan to end Speaker Finneran's lock on the House rules.

So I'm curious to see how he does, and I wish him luck. But I won't hold my breath.

I'm also curious to see how he'll defend his record two years from now, perhaps against a more careful Sydney.

My curiosity also extends to his remaining time on the School Committee. Last year, Smizik's increasingly emphatic anti-MCAS comments outpaced his overly cautious actions as Committee Vice-Chair. He waited until June to force a vote on a strong anti-MCAS statement. He's never voted to stop reprisals for student boycotters or to reverse MCAS's distortion of Brookline's curriculum--actions the School Committee could take on its own, without appealing to the state.

C'mon, Frank! You can do something about MCAS right here at home. And then you can try to do it again downtown. Now's the time!

Newcomer Columns List

up to top

personal/political observations
Academic Papers Opinion Columns Personal Essays Course Materials
some political, most not


Page updated September 30, 2007