^ John Connolly : the day was his
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The Deutsches Altenheim, on Centre Street in West Roxbury, put itself center-stage in Boston’s mayor race by hosting a “stand Up for seniors’ forum. Because there are 12 candidates in the action, the sponsors divided the field into two parts. On Saturday over 100 seniors at the “old ones’ home” — which is what “Altenheim” means in German — the home was founded by Boston’s then German immigrant community — heard from Dan Conley, Felix Arroyo, Marty Walsh, Bill Walczak, David Wyatt, and Rob Consalvo. Yesterday, an even larger crowd, maybe 150, listened to — and questioned — the other six Mayor hopefuls. Between them there was much difference, both in positions advocated and in command of city governance.
The day belonged to John Connolly, who lives in West Roxbury and grew up in Roslindale, and to Charlotte Golar-Richie, who delivered her most authoritative Forum argument to date. In response to a question about quality of life in the neighborhood, she emphasized her focus on the safety of women, which also is, as she noted, an issue for seniors, most of whom are female.
She spoke with unforgettable detail about seniors who find themselves plagued with scams, because older people often save their money and credit rather than spend it : “late at night they may answer the phone and respond to a voice and give their credit card number. then the credit card bill arrives with unwarranted charges. There should be a way to get those charges removed !”
Golar-Richie also put forth suggestions for improving women’s safety on public transportation.
^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : her most authorotative Forum performance yet
Still, as effective and on point as Golar-Richie spoke, John Connolly assumed command of the Forum. Confident in speaking on home ground, to voters who know him a well as he knows them, he first addressed a question about scams that plague elderly people more than most, that “it’s hard to block phone numbers because they can always switch to another and then another. This is a problem of outreach and awareness. Seniors are often unaware, living often in isolation. we should use the city’s elderly commission to increase outreach.” Given a question about broken sidewalks being a serious hazard for older people, he responded with impressive command of detail : “this sis partly a public utilities issue. The phone company and electric dig up the streets, their contractors do, and then they don;t pout it back the way it it was. we need to set city standards, a check list, for such digs and see that the contractors adhere to them.
Connolly had more to say on the streets and sidewalks issue (which though hardly epic, are matters that every city resident is plagued by all the time). Given a question about the difficulty that seniors have in crossing a main street before the stoplights change, Connolly said, “we need to do a thorough streets and intersections assessment, so that when we design an intersection, we take into account pedestrians as well as motorists.”
And then came a moment that candidates hope they will have. A question was asked about money to keep the West Roxbury library open on weekends : is there the money to do so, or not ? Connolly said that funding for the library was tenuous at best; that it’s always low on the list of funding priorities. Candidate Charles Clemons — often given to blanket assertions that sound good — smiled widely. “Of course the money is there.” he roared, in the loud voice of an ex-policeman (which he is) “The city just paid 13 million dollars to buy a particular building in downtown that was assessed for six million !”
^ Charles Clemons : one blanket assertion too many
It was Connolly’s chance. “It’s two different things, Charles. Libraries and the staff salaries are paid out of the city’s spending budget. Capital purchases are made from a different budget, the capital budget. You can’t use the capital budget to pay salaries or open libraries, it’s against the law.”
This is what winning candidates show that they can do. And though there was much well-informed discussion thereafter, by John Barros especially — Golar-Richie had had to leave the Forum to get to another event, and her comments were missed — of streets, snow removal, and phone call blocking, the big moment was Connolly’s, and the Altenheim voters knew it.
There was one other dramatic moment. Someone asked candidate Chares Yancey why he is running both for Mayor and for re-election to his city council seat, when all the other councillor candidates in the Mayor’s race were giving up their council seats ? It was a question many voters have wanted to ask. Why, indeed ?
Yancey — who ceaselessly repeated his mantra “My name is Charles Yancey, and i’m running for Mayor” — said, “i’m glad you asked that question.”
No one laughed, but…
He had an explanation, too ; “I am providing the voters of my district a choice. If I am re-elected councillor and am elected mayor, i will make my choice then, at that time.”
This, from the candidate who over and over again touted that “I have 30 years of experience in city budgets, more than any other candidate in the race.” Maybe experience isn’t an unmixed blessing.
—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere