Reporter’s Notebook: Menino staff sets up blog to offer tips to the next team

When Thomas Menino took over the mayor’s chair in 1993, the Internet was still a novel concept. One of Twitter.com’s co-creators was 17 years old, some 13 years away from creating the social networking site. The word “blog” – or “web log” – didn’t exist.

Fast forward to 2013, where Menino’s office has a Twitter account with more than 51,000 followers and his team has started up a blog ahead of Menino’s successor taking the chair on January 6.

Rather than handing over a pile of papers to the next mayor, Menino aides have put together a blog highlighting the city’s various departments, from the budget office to the mayor’s advance team. According to John Guilfoil, Menino’s deputy press secretary and a former Boston Globe reporter, it’s part “The West Wing” or “Veep,” two politically themed shows that have often offered a light-hearted look behind the scenes inside the White House and the vice president’s office. The blog is located at http://next.cityofboston.gov/.

The posts offer insights into the jobs of City Hall staffers like Walter Apperwhite, the mayor’s liaison for Mattapan and part of Dorchester. (Because Dorchester is such a big neighborhood, it is split between liaisons.) Apperwhite, who grew up in Four Corners, lived in Codman Square and Mattapan, and now resides in Roslindale, praises Mattapan as a vibrant community in an interview with the blog. Asked what community issue he gets asked about the most, he says, “Trees. Trees are so challenging and they’re an issue I deal with frequently. There are people who have been on the tree list – to have trees taken down or trimmed – for months. It’s especially difficult to explain to seniors why these types of things take time. I explain it like an emergency room: the arborist triages the trees. If I go to the ER with a broken nail, but the guy next to me has a bone sticking out of his leg, he’s going to be seen first. We have one arborist for the entire city of Boston, and a tree issue on almost every street.”

In another post, Reed Passafaro, Menino’s director of speechwriting, offered advice on speechwriting (have a unifying theme, keep it short, and don’t plan vacations between Christmas and New Year’s because that’s “prime State of the City (or Inaugural) writing time.”) His day is varied, too. “Sometimes you meet the mayor at Logan at 5 a.m. to deliver the latest draft of a speech before he departs for a conference,” he wrote. “Sometimes you operate the TelePrompTer on live television. Sometimes you write jokes for the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. Sometimes the work takes you to the mayor’s kitchen table. All of this and more comes with the territory of a mayoral speechwriter.”

Meanwhile, the mayor’s advance team, Conor LeBlanc and Chris Moore, break some news to the two contenders vying to replace Menino and their incoming staffers. “If campaign season has you exhausted, we apologize for the news we’re about to share: Things don’t slow down from here,” they wrote. “Throughout the city, ribbons need to be cut, classrooms need to be visited, parks need to be reopened, and hundreds of thousands of Bostonians will be expecting to see their leader out in the neighborhoods. As a member of the Advance Team, your job is to make sure that all of the mayor’s events go off without a hitch.”

The idea for the blog started after Molly Dunford Murphy, a Dorchester resident who is a senior adviser to the mayor, did some research on transitions. “We wanted something a little more interactive” than a bound book, she said. “It’s a reflection of Mayor Menino’s new mechanic style,” said Guilfoil. “This blog is a way, especially using the mayor’s Twitter handle, to look into operations people don’t know about,” added Emilee Ellison, press assistant.

After its launch on Sept. 28, the team, which also includes mayoral adviser Kris Carter and digital strategist Lindsay Crudele, has fielded pitches from city departments about what to put up next. “We go back and forth editing each other,” Guilfoil said. “It’s a very collaborative process.”

Endorsement Corner: SEIU 1199 picks at-large candidates to back
The Dorchester-based health care workers union known as SEIU 1199 has endorsed incumbent City Councillors At-Large Ayanna Pressley and Stephen Murphy. The union has also thrown its support to newcomer Michelle Wu, a former campaign aide to US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty, who is attempting to regain his old seat. They were the top four finishers in the Sept. 24 preliminary.

Four others are on the ballot, including West Roxbury’s Martin Keogh, Dorchester’s Annissa Essaibi George, Charlestown’s Jack Kelly, and the South End’s Jeff Ross. Voters can choose up to four.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Email us at newseditor@dotnews.com and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.