BOSTON MAYOR RACE : MANY HOPEFULS PERSUASIVE AT BEST FORUM YET

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^ Marty Walsh : passion and resolve, as always, detailed well

—- —- —-

The 200 or so NAACP activists who waited patiently for their Forum to begin — it was delayed by a prior debate event — were not disappointed. Simply put, this Forum was “best in show.’ Excellent questions were asked by the moderator, a well-known Suffolk University history professor, and almost all the 12 hopefuls responded with their most persuasive presentations this writer had yet heard from them.

That Marty Walsh and John Connolly, the two perceived leaders, argued eloquently for their candidacies, and in masterful detail, was no surprise. They’re the leaders of this campaign for a reason. Mike Ross, too, put his idealism into words of reformist eloquence. What we did not expect was to see Dan Conley and Rob Consalvo, often absent at these Forums, demonstrate that they, too, know what the job entails, what in it they intend to change, and why. Conley and Consalvo were matched, almost, by Charlotte Golar-Richie, who made several key points by John Barros, who with time given, explained his vision convincingly; and even by Charles Clemons, who spoke with passion his commitment to see the administration of Boston “look and speak like the city, it’s about time.” Bill Walczak managed to address every question asked of him without uttering his “no casino” mantra. And Charles Yancey, who often seems merely along for the ride, challenged many of his competitors — City Council council colleagues in particular — on point, with passion, and sometimes conclusively. Where has this Yancey been hiding these past two months ?

Candidates were divided into three groups of four, each of which was asked different questions, albeit on the same topic, which were: the economy, education, and public safety.

The moderator also addressed a general question to all: “If you are elected, what will that mean for the city ?” To which Marty Walsh gave perhaps the strongest answer : “My cabinet will reflect the (entire) city of Boston, including the top echelon and my police commissioner. (I’ll have) a chief diversity officer. (I see) City hall as an incubator for young people.” John Connolly, to be fair, made his “education Mayor” theme count in this context : “I’m a former teacher who has taught kids from every region of Boston. I will be a bold leader for every Bostonian, but it starts with our schools. i will transform our schools !”

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^ John Connolly : stuck to his education theme, but it’s a good one, and he applies it well to most questions

Other candidates missed the point and talked not of promoting a racially and gender-diverse City Administration — including the Police higher-ups — at every level but of of delivering city services equally to every part of the City. Delivery of services does matter, but it’s not the core issue of race and gender as these play out in Boston City Hall.

Of the three economy questions: Dan Conley answered his question, about minority businesses, best ; “(I propose) a second chance, after the bidding process, to give inner city businesses a second chance (at winning contracts).” John Barros gave the best answer to his question, about connectivity between kids from Dudley Square and innovation in Cambridge ; “We have 1000 jobs in the medical area that we can’t fill ! We can do this. (and) We need goals and programs for contractors. (Performance) bonding is an issue for them, they need accessibility to bonding.”

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^ Dan Conley : showed knowledge, plans, and much command of what is needed

The third candidate group was asked about under-employment among communities of color. Arroyo gave the best answer : “extend the school day to include arts and music….the ‘invest in Boston program’ needs to be used. It has a billion dollars, let;s use it !” Applause greeted his answer.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo ; not always at his best, but when he was, applause showed he knows what the voters want

The three education questions found Connolly ready and eager, answering a question about Boston showing a declining percentage of its teachers being of color : “Mentoring is important to getting students to decide they want to become teachers. Nothing is changing here, though. I am going to break down the dysfunctional bureaucracy at Court Street !” But John Barros’s answer bested Connolly’s : “we’re not even meeting the 1975 goals (established by the Federal Court). need to do three things : create robust recruitment of teachers; develop it; and show leadership in all four economies (levels) that our schools confront.”

Asked, “what are you looking for in a next superintendent, the third group of four’s strongest — if controversial — answer was Consalvo’s : “I don’t want the charter school cap lifted. we must focus on the Boston public schools. My super must be committed to the public schools. No outside group taking over and privatizing our schools !”

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^ Rob Consalvo : finally, some passion and some specifics, well argued.

Last came the public safety questions. Marty Walsh’s answer was one of the strongest given by any candidate to any question : “As soon as I take over. The higher (police) ranks need to look like the neighborhood. There’s a problem with trust. Being a police officer is a good career, it pays well. (But) young people need to be ready to take that civil service test. They must…the hierarchy of the Boston Police department must — will — look like the city !” Much applause greeted this answer.

Charlotte Golar-Richie then delivered her campaign theme and a knockout blow in one superb question: “There isn’t one police captain who is female. Don’t you think it’s about time we changed that ?” Laughter and applause greeted its truth.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : “don’t you think it’s time we changed that ?”

 

Connolly focused not on the police department but on youth and violence : “Every killing there’s also survivors, the family. For them it never ends. We need to have public vigils to remember the victim. Long term ? It’s about mental health and school transformation. Schools are the way to opportunity.”

The next group of for was asked about the police commissioner, Consalvo and Walczak praised Ed Davis, the current commissioner. Arroyo ducked the personal point and focused on accountability : “15 of my current 19 campaign and office staff are of color or female. Judge me on what I am doing now !”

The twelve were then given one minute to sum up. Most spoke well, some eloquently. Yancey’s summation was the strongest speech I have heard from him. He affirmed his long Council experience — “30 years !” — as if it were his campaign theme (it is). He also cited education credentials, including a degree in public administration from Harvard. This son of long time Boston PTA voice Alice Yancey, whom I remember well as a strong leader for better school performance, finally lived up — rhetorically, anyway — to the assertive mastery his Mom always showed in public meetings. So where has this Charles Yancey been all these months ? It is very strange. as strange as the quiet, almost absent performance of David Wyatt, who seems more given to a soft sigh of resignation than to a candidacy he, after all, had to adventure upon; only to, now somehow, reject entirely. It’s almost that he wishes there were no such thing as a Mayor and a campaign.Very, very odd, is David Wyatt, an educator — and a Stoic.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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