^ the Nine : Yancey, Wyatt, walsh, Walczak, empty chair (Ross came later), Golar-Richie, Clemons, Barros, Arroyo
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Nine of the 12 candidates running to be Boston’s next Mayor took their seats at tonight’s Youth Group Forum held at the newly steepled parish Church on Meeting House Hill in Dorchester. About 150 residents of the neighborhood sat in the old New England pews to listen as the Mayors-to-be answered questions posed by speakers selected by the Cape Verdean Community UNIDO’s Youth Leadership Academy.
Dan Conley, John Connolly, and Rob Consalvo did not participate.
Questions to the candidates addressed dual-language education, school reform and preparation for technology jobs, and how to curb violence in the community. Mike Ross — who arrived late, but apologized — gave strong answers; even stronger, John Barros and Felix Arroyo, whose eloquence is second no nobody’s on behalf of those who live in Boston but lack access to the best. Strongest of all, surprisingly, was Marty Walsh, who had obviously prepared himself for the types of questions likely to be asked him. He spoke deliberately, in detail and with feeling, applying his work as a legislator and stating his goals for changing how the Mayor’s office confronts the problems that this Forum’s youth sponsors will be dealing with.
One issue that has turmoiled Boston voters recently, that of a longer school day, was settled. All the “major” candidates called for a longer school day, even Felix Arroyo, who has aligned himself with the Boston Teachers Union most closely of all the hopefuls. He, Walsh, and Barros gave the directest answers on what a longer school day should focus on. Barros’s call for a two-shift teaching force might roil the BTU a bit, however.
^ John Barros (Felix Arroyo on his right): “for the longer school day we should have teacher shifts, an early shift for the morning and lunch hours and a late shift for the afternoon.”
On the question of dual language schools, Both Arroyo and Barros spoke with personal experience. Said Arroyo, “I grew up in a subsidized apartment with immigrant parents who spoke ‘espagnol.’ I know what it’s like to grow up among kids who I did not understand because they spoke English… we have only four dual language schools. Parents of all backgrounds want dual language education. Look at the Hernandez School, it works well. I look for the day when we have many different language’d dual-language schools. French, Cape Verdean Creole, even Mandarin. Why not mandarin ?”
^ Felix Arroyo (John Barros on his left) speaking to the schools issue : “every Boston school child deserves the best education because every child is a best child.”
Barros ; “I’m a son of cape Verdean immigrants. When I joined the city’s school committee, and in my work, I fought to assure that all Boston public school students learn English fully.” These sentiments were of course reiterated by other candidates at the forum, of whom Charlers Clemons nloted that he was ideally suited to understand the disconnecvgt between studenyts who come to bostyon with anoyher language and the Ejglish-language adyuklt world. “Not by language but by my heritage. My father descends from slaves brought here on slave ships; my mother from the Brewsters on the Mayflower.”
It was a memorable, if not conclusively Mayoral moment. And led almost inevitably to Walsh’s comment : “My parents didn’t face a language challenge, but they were challenged too. Both had less than a high school diploma.” Walsh, who grew up and still lives in the Dorchester section directly abutting Meeting House Hill, discussed the funding process for dual language education and his part in it as a 16-year legislator. He concluded with a challenge: “We should have two different kinds of dual-language schools. When a child’s first language is English, we should have them learn another language !”
^ Marty Walsh ; “with a longer school day we shouldn’t just have more classroom but also some programs, the arts.”
The question on preparation for graduating to the City’s best jobs brought this comment by Arroyo : “The next mayor has to have as a priority closing the ‘achievement gap.’ And it begins very young. If a child falls behind in the third grade, even , it is already too late. We need to teach financial literacy, too, to all our children.”
Walsh ; “we don’t just need to change our city’s jobs policy for the kids, We need to rewrite it. Right now we’re being sued because our city jobs policy doesn’t meet the US Constitution !”
Many of he candidates mentioned Madison park High School — the technical high school closest to Meeting House Hill — in their answers to this question. Barros ; “We absolutely do invest in technical High schools in Boston. Now we have to make sure that Madison park has a technology center. And more ; Boston residency, for Boston jobs.”
Charles Clemons, a former Boston police officer, was skeptical ; “residency policy ? It has never been enforced. We give parking tickets and licensing fines but we don;t enforce residency. Why not ?”
The forum moved on to discussing the problem of violence in the Meeting House Hill neighborhood and others. Many of the candidates addressed the issue well.
Mike Ross had now joined the group and, with his usual grasp of big-picture basics, said : “there’s diversity needed (on the police force). It’s not OK that there is not one police captain of color nor one who is female….the opposite of violence is opportunity (for kids at risk).”
^ Mike Ross : was at another event; apologized for coming late; and, as always, spoke well and to the point
Arroyo : “there’s a short term strategy and a long term strategy. Short term : back to community policing. Police bicycling through the community. Long term : if we are not serious about ending the cycle of poverty we’re not serious about reducing crime.”
Walsh, who has said “there’s a heroin epidemic in the City right now,” gave this pledge : “(if I’m elected,) The first meeting that i will have in my office will be on violence. we have to attack this problem one street at a time, one family at a time.”
I have highlighted the answers given by candidates Walsh, Arroyo, Barros,and Ross most of all because they addressed the questions, gave answers which signal that some thought has taken place in the brains about these issues, and demonstrated seriousness about doing the job, not just campaigning for it. The other candidates present either gave rambling, conversational responses — Charlotte Golar-Richie — or ones that seemed too narrowly focused, locally and in minutiae — Charles Clemons and Bill Walczak. Others of the nine on stage seemed to be talking more to themselves than to the voters. One wonders why they are running. At this stage, with less than five weeks till Primary day, there’s no time left for candidacies that won’t, or can;t command the issues on a large scale. Mayor of Boston is the most difficult political job, maybe, in all New England. Fumble-itis, vagueness, and circuitous thinking are NOT in the job description.