Not since he was the angry voice of South Boston’s campaign against busing 30 years ago has [City Councillor James M. Kelly been such a hot interview. The fight he’s picked with Mayor Thomas M. Menino over Southie’s sacred you-shovel-it-you-own-it tradition of saving parking spaces after snowstorms has become a national story.
It’s just the kind of spectacle that resonates these days, featuring characters whose accents are straight from central casting, and with a story line played as both epic and ridiculous. The tales of ironing boards and household furniture reserving curbside spots has become a novelty in places where parking is not so scarce and winters not so snow-packed. And after a bitter presidential campaign in which the Northeast showed itself to be out of step with much of the rest of the country, this part of the the world offers another curiosity.
“By itself, it’s not life or death, but it gets at this great cultural divide,” said Bill Radke, cohost of “Weekend America,” a slice-of-American-life radio show that has interviewed Kelly twice in the past month. “It’s not just about saving your parking spot with a chair. It’s something we can talk about when were really talking about a bunch of other values and approaches to life.”
Besides, Radke added, “It’s funny.”
[…] Turns out a couple other cities have similar traditions, including Philadelphia and Chicago. (One Windy City newspaper columnist has called the local version “droit du shoveleur,” pidgin French for “the rights of the shoveler.”) But none has a mayor willing to take on the tradition as Menino has. And only Boston has Kelly, who rarely shies away from a fight.