The October Surprise. Every political science major (like Mayor Paul) knows the advantage incumbent politicians gain by using their insider power to create an issue that will either help their re-election efforts or hurt the chances of their opponents. The political dictionary defines October surprise as a “news event late in a political campaign that has the potential to influence the outcome of an election. Because Election Day is typically held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, surprise events that take place in October can have the potential change the minds of prospective voters.”
Mayor Paul learned his political science lessons well and has created an October surprise to help his candidates – specifically the re-election of his designated successor, Karen Harrison in Ward 5 and the election of the head of the state contractors’ lobbying group, Michael Gifford, running to succeed Shakti in Ward 3. Since the establishment candidates are taking a beating for their support of the current overdevelopment boom, Paul realized he needed something to fight the charges his administration (and his allies) are sacrificing our vanishing open spaces for more multi-family housing. For months now the City has been negotiating with the owners of the Taylor property (south of the former Green Gables golf course) to purchase a portion of that property for park/open space purposes.
With the November ballots due to come out beginning October 16, Paul is finally announcing the City’s plan to spend several million dollars (combined with state grants) to buy this property which just happens to border both Ward 3 and Ward 5. Of course, this plan could have been voted on either earlier in the year or waited for a few weeks. But no, the Mayor will argue it is just a coincidence the vote is coming just in the nick of time for Harrison to vote for the plan. This could greatly boost Harrison’s re-election chances. The mayor’s successor is under pressure for her support of the failed attempt to give away an open space portion of Hutchinson Park (the infamous 2090 S. Wright St. issue). Harrison’s support of this new plan may allow her to beg forgiveness for her strong support of overdevelopment and the resultant loss of open lands.
In addition to the fortuitous timing of the announcement (October 9) and the Council vote (October 30), the establishment candidates all had advance knowledge of the proposed open space acquisition vote long before any of the independent council members. A week before the official announcement both Michael Gifford (Ward 3) and Karen Harrison (Ward 5) posted videos on Facebook giving an identical endorsement of the proposal to acquire the Taylor property. But remember, these fortunate accidents are only a coincidence.