Yancey Thinks He’s Right For Mayor, But Is He Really Running?

Charles Yancey won't say whether he's running, but he does occasionally refer to what he "will" do "as mayor."

“Whoever the next mayor’s going to be is really going to have to hit the ground running,” says Charles Yancey. “If you’re not familiar with the operation of city government, you’re really at the mercy of whatever bureaucrats are left (after Tom Menino’s exit).”

It’s a very reasonable point about the vast, complex, entrenched Boston government—and if you buy it, 64-year-old Yancey, with 30 years on the city council, suddenly seems like a sensible candidate, rather than the afterthought he is generally treated as in the field of less experienced players.

The treatment is partly his own fault. He pulled papers for both a mayoral campaign and for re-election in his Dorchester-Mattapan district seat—exploiting a loophole that (proving his point about knowledge of city government) only he seemed aware of. Although he has recently supplied supporters with “Charles Yancey for Mayor” signs—slogan “Boston Proud”—he has not made any official statement about whether he will actually turn in signatures to appear on the ballot for that office.

And he chose not to answer that question yesterday Monday, sitting with me in the Curley Room for what he said was his first interview about his mayoral thoughts.

He won’t say whether he’s running; but he does occasionally refer to what he “will” do “as mayor.”

“I think it would have been it irresponsible for me not to take a look at it,” Yancey says; in part because he holds the experience that he feels the city needs, and also “because I love the city so much.”

He is positioning himself, if he runs, as the grown-up in the field of youngsters. But there is a certain amount of condescension in his attitude toward the other candidates. He clearly implies that the other city councilors running—all of whom are at least 20 years his junior—are not up to the task of running the city. He makes a point of saying that working in state government—as Marty Walsh does, and Charlotte Golar Richie has—has no bearing on one’s ability to be mayor.

But his most pointed critique comes when asked whether the city council can become a more relevant, independent body after Menino leaves. “It depends on the mayor. If it’s me, yes,” Yancey begins. “Many of my colleagues, to me it feels like they think they’re still on the mayor’s payroll.” He specifically mentions mayoral candidate Mike Ross as one of those former Menino employees, as well as (oddly) Rob Consalvo’s father.

“Being mayor of Boston is a tough job,” Yancey says. “You have to be knowledgeable about the city as a whole, and every neighborhood of the city.” He ticks off accomplishments for his district, and argues that if he can get those things done “often against ardent opposition”—referring to his often acrimonious relationship with Menino—then imagine what he can do for the whole city as mayor.

His main issues are no great surprise, to anyone who has followed Yancey over the years. He wants to promote a more prevention-based plan for reducing violence, including a restocking of the depleted streetworker crew. He wants to continue what he sees as a beneficial busing of students to schools outside their neighborhood. He wants to make services more equitably available to all. And, of course, he wants to build a state-of-the-art high school in Mattapan.

That’s what he says he will do as mayor. He will not, however, say whether he intends to actually appear on the ballot as a candidate for that office. That might depend on how his signature-gathering went. The deadline for turning those in was today, so perhaps Yancey will give us an answer soon—and then we’ll see whether he gets taken seriously or not.