BOSTON MAYOR RACE : WALSH, ROSS BEST AT WBUR FORUM; CONNOLLY and BARROS DO OK AS WELL

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^ Dan Conley and Marty Walsh ; sitting to the side, waiting to get called on at this campaign’s least useful Forum

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Station WBUR hosted the last major Mayor Forum before the Primary and broadcast it as well. Perhaps that was why so many of the ten candidates on stage — David Wyatt and Rob Consalvo did not attend — speechified, pandered, and played the anti-casino hypocrite.

Very little was learned at this Forum except that many candidates who had distinguished themselves for for thoughtfulness and answering the question posed showed that they could swing the sweet stuff and duck a question. This is the sort of swerve that has made so many voters view candidates as a low form of life. It was discouraging to see and hear.

The questions, by WBUR’s Bob Oakes and his sidekick did not make things better. He seemed to favor the candidates sitting in front of him and to overlook those to the stage’s sides. Thus John Connolly and Marty Walsh, sitting at opposite ends, had to raise their hands to get called upon, while Jon Barros, Charlotte Golar-Richie, Charles Clemons, and Mike Ross, sitting stage front, answered and re-answered all night long.

Many of Oakes’s questions sought one line answers; many seemed like pea soup and pecan pie. Bring back David Bernstein ! Piniel Joseph ! Paul Watanabe ! Please, please….

Shall I go through the long night of chocolate mousse and near beer ? I guess that I must.

Asked who was the political figure they most admired, no fewer than six candidates said Barack Obama or Nelson Mandela. Felix Arroyo said “My father.” Wonderful men, all three; but shouldn’t
a question like this call for some original thinking ? Some sense of history ? Only Mike Ross — “Roosevelt” — and Dan Conley — “Abraham Lincoln” broke through the pillow talk.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie, Felix G. Arroyo : ready on day one to speechify …

Asked who was the person outside of politics that they most admired, nearly every candidate said “My Mom” or “My dad.” Let the angels dangle on their harps… Yes, one’s parents are wonderful people — usually — but is one’s family the only awareness field of these potential Mayors’ vision ? I suppose I should be grateful that no one said Mother Teresa…

Asked, “if you can’t be Mayor of Boston, which other city would you like to be Mayor of,” the candidates had to think fast, and it was tasty to watch them do so. Only two came up with a thoughtful answer. Marty Walsh : “Detroit, for the challenges.’ Charles Yancey ; “New Orleans, for the infrastructure work and the culture.” Dan Conley found levity in the query : “San Diego, for the weather !”

Questioned on whether the community vote to approve the East Boston casino should be city-wide or restricted to East Boston, the entire group, with two exceptions, answered as if intimidated by Bill Walczak, whose opposition to casinos, period, is an obsession with him. Walczak never ceases to decry that people of limited means will gamble their money away at the casino — as if they are not already doing that on scratch tickets and Keno ? OK, Bill, we do get it. What was truly depressing was to hear Dan Conley, Mike Ross, even Charlotte Golar-Richie dis the idea of a Boston casino. Ross tried to have it both ways. He doesn’t like casinos, but since if Boston doesn’t approve one there’ll be an Everett casino “seven feet from Charlestown,’ he will grudgingly seek a city-wide vote. Gee thanks, Mike.

Marty Walsh wouldn’t out and out say he likes the idea of a Boston casino, but he did note that it will benefit the economy of the City. (And also the construction workers who are his core constituency.)  John Connolly seemed to approve the casino project without endorsing it; he supported a city-wide vote and said so with his usual originality of argument. Walsh also noted that the enabling legislation — which he participated in enacting –for casinos included a mandate that a casino project would need have a program on site to deal with gambling addiction. So much for Walczak’s throwing drama all over the room on that subject.

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^ John Connolly : waiting to be called upon, he looked bored often and frustrated too. My sentiments exactly about this Forum

Listening to Walsh and Connolly address this issue, it’s reassuring to see them holding the top two spots, so it appears in Tuesday’s Primary. as for those who want only an East Boston vote, did anyone tell them that the gaming Legislation calls for a “community” vote ? and that the “community” here is the City of Boston, legally chartered as such ? Nothing in the legislation supports the notion of restricting a casino referendum to a neighborhood. Such a vote would simply be unlawful.

On and on it went. On the BRA and education questions, most candidates gave their usual speechify — Felix Arroyo especially, but also John Connolly, Dan Conley, and Charlotte Golar-Richie — even to some extent Marty Walsh. Perhaps their brains have fried now, their words stuck on hold, unable to restate. After two dozen candidate Forums it gets like that. Still, it is my duty to report, so here is a selection of what the candidates said about school reform :

Felix G. Arroyo : universal pre-school and a longer school day
Golar-Richie ; new school superintendent and create alumni associations of Boston public school graduates
Jon Barros : three strategies — focus, principals, school autonomy
Mike Ross : bring back our neighborhoods first because unhealthy children can’t learn as well as healthy kids
Marty Walsh : need to improve school buildings and school administration; we also need better diversity among our teaching staff

Does it all sound familiar ? You got it. Now go vote. Before the candidates repeat themselves into utter absurdity.

—- 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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