Incumbency has powerful benefits in Boston, where a sitting mayor has not lost an election in nearly 70 years. As evidence, look no further than the Fenway Park jumbotron and on the sports network NESN.
As the Red Sox made their September push for the playoffs, Mayor Martin J. Walsh appeared in a commercial touting his administration’s central initiatives, an effort to use data to improve municipal services dubbed CityScore.
“Here in Boston we’re using data in a way that no other city has done before,” Walsh said in the 27-second video that ran in the ballpark before the first pitch and during games and on NESN. “We’re combining two things that Boston loves — innovation and baseball.”
Did Walsh’s campaign make an early ad buy to gear up for next year’s bid for reelection? No. It was a public service announcement produced by City Hall staff and aired free of charge on NESN and at the ballpark.
“When the city approached us, we were happy to support them in this,” said Zineb Curran, a spokeswoman for the Red Sox and NESN, which are owned by the Globe’s publisher, John Henry. “We were happy to support CityScore and the mayor’s initiative to help the lives of the residents in Boston.”
Fenway Park and NESN often air public service announcements for mentoring programs, the Jimmy Fund’s fight against childhood cancer, and other altruistic endeavors. The City of Boston has a large catalog of PSA that have promoted recycling, early voting, neighborhood cleanups, anti-gun violence efforts, and much more.
As an elected official, Walsh is following a long local tradition of appearing in commercials to spread the good word about government. Think of Secretary of State William Galvin’s smile in television advertisements as he urged viewers to register to vote. The late Mayor Thomas M. Menino appeared with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in an anti-violence prevention PSA.
For his part, Walsh has a campaign account brimming with more than $3 million. There are no challengers looming on the horizon. But the CityScore piece was not a campaign ad.
“The goal of the CityScore PSA is to educate residents on a new public tool that allows them to hold the city accountable, through an innovative scoring system, for providing high-quality, responsive service, and ask for resident feedback for future improvement,” the Walsh administration said in a statement.
Since CityScore’s launch in January, the Walsh administration has exceeded expectations and provided above average service to residents every day but one, according to City Hall.