Keller @ Large: Social media puts pressure on mayors as never before
REVERE - He upset the incumbent eight years ago. Now, it's 43-year-old Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo who'll be giving way to someone new.
Calling it "a bittersweet decision for myself and my family," Arrigo has announced he won't seek a third term this fall. He says he's leaving the city in better shape than he found it and cites family considerations behind his departure.
But the era of 20-year mayoralties, like the one Tom Menino had in Boston? "The days of those kind of tenures, where they're very long, are no longer," says Arrigo.
One reason why: a toxic political climate where public discourse can quickly turn ugly. Menino took his share of heat but nothing like the heckling and harassment current Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has endured.
Joe Curtatone was mayor of Somerville from 2004 until last year. We asked him: Is it harder to be a mayor now than when you started out? "Yes," he said without hesitation. "I wouldn't for one second sit here and say if I started today, I could last 18 years."
Curtatone says the brutal decisions forced by the pandemic have definitely made mayoral leadership harder and brought out all sorts of vitriol. "You absorb everything, and it takes something out of you, much like if you're an athelete," he reflects.
But even if COVID never happened, the rise of social media would still be making local government a much tougher business.
"It's much easier to get attention now on these things," says Arrigo, waving his phone. "It really diminishes some of the work and the things that you may want to do, and that's just a reality that we're gonna have to live with."
Being a mayor can be a burnout job, but the departure of a young mayor like Arrigo is a warning sign.
Consider what we're already learning about the damage social media can do to relationships between kids and others.
Consider the damage done to our democracy by the disinformation and hatred that pollutes the web.
I had a young elected official tell me the other day he's got people he's known his whole life screaming at him in the street over issues that used to be discussed over a friendly cup of coffee.
That's a bad trend and a scary one.
for more features.