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BRIAN MCGRORY

The meter is running

News Item: The City Council will actually hold a hearing next month on a proposal to establish a city poet.

Terrific. Consider this a tryout. I offer a haiku.

Boston is a great place
Unless you're in Roxbury
Then you don't feel safe.

A little too dark? Then try a limerick about the elected official proposing this.

There once was a guy in City Hall
Who, in government, never stood very tall.
He offered these plans
That never had many fans.
What he mostly had was a lot of gall.

All right, maybe I'm not a shoo-in for the job. But the guy I refer to is one John Tobin, an often excellent city councilor prone to occasional fits of folly. A recent Globe editorial named him "Boston's unofficial city councilor of cool ideas."

Cool ideas? Just last year, Tobin was proposing creation of a Walk of Fame in the Theater District honoring local celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and, well, maybe Mark Wahlberg. Tobin borrowed that idea from places like Anaheim and Branson. The poet laureate proposal he's stealing from St. Paul, Denver, and Santa Fe. What's wrong with us just being us?

Tobin's the same guy who, as the council was preparing to accept a pay raise, was quoted in the Globe saying: "The time involved in this job is absolutely incredible. It's mornings. It's nighttimes. It's weekends. It just never ends."

I bet it doesn't. So another haiku:

He works like a dog
For never enough money;
He is my hero.

And by popular demand:

There once was a councilor from West Roxbury
Who had media attention to curry.
So he proposed a city bard.
Ah, what an incredible card,
Such a young politico in a hurry.

I don't mean to be harsh, I really don't. I know for a fact he's a very good guy dedicated to the service of his constituents, and at least he's proposing something. If I lived in his district, I would vote for him.

An earnest young man
Making a name for himself
We should applaud more.

But when people all over Boston plead for more creativity at City Hall these days, they're not talking about some guy in a ponytail or a woman in hemp smoking clove cigarettes while writing stanzas on a legal pad to be recited before the mayor's next State of the City address.

No, they want creative solutions to our aching problems: public safety first and foremost, followed closely by affordable housing and spiraling property taxes. Boston is becoming in too many ways a boutique city where the rich live in luxury high-rises with stunning views and valet parking, while the poor go to bed to the not-so-distant crackle of gunfire. That's not acceptable, and I'd like to hear more on what councilors want to do about it, less on what they think about Iraq.

The mayor, God love him, is in his fourth term. In human years, that would make him about 100, yet he's still going strong. He's been brilliant with the nuts and bolts of making a city run and just last month proposed spending $6 million to rehabilitate the Strand Theater in Uphams Corner, a noble cause. He gets it.

But much as the good people of Dorchester would like a revived theater, what they want even more are safe streets, so they can walk to the theater without fear. They want the hoodlums behind bars. They want the gunfire to stop. They want more police officers.

Poet laureates, walks of fame, and renovated theaters all have their place. But elected officials need to concentrate not on the quick headline, but on the long haul that makes a city like Boston unique and great, and those ideas we're not going to find in Duluth.

Leaders need to act
Not, though, on a Hub poet.
Boston deserves more.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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