Yesterday I sat down with Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub, Rick Sawyer and Kerry Skemp of Bostonist, and Mike Ball of Marry in Massachusetts to talk Boston politics with Sam Yoon, a Boston City Councillor and candidate for the Mayor’s Office.
The event, touted as Beers with Bloggers, was held at Flash’s Cocktails on Stuart Street. It was a nice, quiet venue that allowed us to have a good conversation without interruption, except for the couple of fire trucks that rumbled past, sirens blaring ( did the Firefighters union, supporters of Michael Flaherty, get wind of the meeting?).
Yoon’s passionate personality is immediately evident when you begin talking to him. He arrived a little late and immediately dove right into a questions & answers session. While our current Mayor, Tom Menino, has a slow and methodical delivery, Yoon’s is fast and energetic. Neither is better or worse, just different.
Stats & Dorchester
Being from Dorchester, the same neighborhood as Sam Yoon, I had plenty of questions about Dot. At one point, while asking what he’d specifically do to improve the Dorchester – Roxbury area, Yoon encouraged me “getting parochial, love it. I’m Dorchester too!” His response was use of a metrics based system to evaluate city service across the board. Without statistics, we can’t properly gauge how each neighborhood is being serviced, and all three contenders to Mayor Menino are on board with implementing a measurement system in City Hall.
Yoon elaborated that this data could be used to re-allocate city resources to areas that are under-performing. The example used was cleanliness, and he noted that his area of Field’s Corner could use additional cleaning resources, and that other parts of Boston could do with a little less. Yoon went on to agree with a follow-up question, that if we improve the under-performing areas, all of Boston benefits.
Open Source Philosophy
Yoon was asked if the philosophy behind open-source software inspired his campaign and vision for the City of Boston. Yoon’s response was a resounding yes. He went on to discuss how opening Boston’s data to citizens (similar to DataSF) would lead to free applications built for the city and its residents, quickly and more likely better than applications the city would produce. Yoon also cited transparency and discussion as vital aspects of the open-source movement that he’d like to apply to city governance.
Reforming Government Structure
A point Yoon repeated often in our talks and during the campaign is the need for structural change in City Hall. Yoon cited that the City Charter has not been revised since 1909, and that after 100 years it’s time for us to take a look at how we govern. It was clear Yoon’s extremely passionate about this topic, asking us how amazing it’d be to have a discussion on how our government works. What wasn’t clear to me before last night was how this reform would occur. Yoon noted three methods, though he leaned heavily towards creating a commission of elected and appointed individuals to examine the current structure and advise on improvements.
Whether or not we need this systemic change is out of my realm of expertise, but having a discussion would be a worthwhile exercise. Boston is a city built on revolution, change should not be something we’re afraid of.
For the record, Sam had a non-alcoholic beer as he had an event after our talk.
- Universal Hub: Yoon: Create commission to overhaul structure of city government
- Bostonist: Yoon Plans to Completely Remake City Government
- Marry in Massachusetts: Boston Song Out of Yoon
Disclaimer: The campaign did pay for appetizers & drinks.
Thanks to Steve Garfield for the photo of him and Sam Yoon.