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

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : BIG BUSINESS AND DEVILISH DETAILS @ BACK BAY ASSOCIATION FORUM

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^ Dan Conley, John Connolly, Rob Consalvo at this morning’s Back Bay Association Forum

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This morning the Back bay Neighborhood Association held its Mayor Forum in an appropriate setting : the conference center of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. Big granite-walled office bureaucracies are the Back Bay’s money machine.

People fear money machines, and no neighborhood association in the City is more feared by the various business seeking to locate, or to develop real estate. Members live in some of the City’s highest income census tracts; achievement and dominance come naturally to the 200 well-dressed Forum attendees. Attentively they regarded the twelve candidates, answering questions put to them by Tom Keane and his co-host, as if they were job-interviewing — grilling — a room full of interns.

The Forum topics featured, unsurprisingly, zoning, permitting, development, the BRA, and late night closing hours — seriously complex issues all — and the banning of plastic bags.

But to the questions. Some were addressed only to some of the candidates, others to all.

To a question, to some, about what to do with the BRA, John Connolly gave the most well thought answer : “Planning should be an independent function. It’s about having real holistic planning — the process should not be for influence peddling. We need to modernize Inspectional services (ISD). (we) need honest conversations about zoning. We need to move beyond outdated zoning laws).”

The City’s permitting process has come under severe attack in most of this campaign’s Forums, for good reason. All the candidates want the process reformed, som radically. Charles Yancey cited “hostile employees’ at ISD’s office due to “inadequate training for the job.” Dan Conley promised “a bottom to top review’ and said that permitting “should be able to be done online.’ He would also “reform the zoning process.” John Barros decried the process a “illogical…unpredictable.”

Clearly ISD is in for a huge shake-up no matter who becomes the next Mayor.

To a question about “90 % of fire alarm calls not being for actual fires,” Rob Consalvo insisted that :we need more public safety, not less.” Marty Walsh, who has the Boston Firemen’s Union endorsement, admitted that the “number of fires are down” but insisted that “I don’t want to be the mayor who closes a firehouse.” Felix Arroyo said “municipal research says that we need to increase fire efficiency” — whatever that meant — and Charlotte Golar-Richie gave a similarly non-committal answer. And then it was Dan Conley’s turn. He did not waste it :

“There is overwhelming evidence that the Fire Department needs a full review and thus a Mayor who will reform the Fire department,” he said, aiming his remarks directly at Marty Walsh, whom polls show him tied with for second place in the Primary.

To which Conley added, “reform… was posed years ago when I was on the Council, but it was put on the shelf. (Stare Rep) Nick Collins has a bill in the legislature to allow fire people to respond as EMTs. it’s a crazy bill, but the firemen don’t have enough work to do, so this is a way to give them some work.”

Conley’s could have been the Forum’s big moment, but he was immediately knocked back by Charles Yancey, who said “If someone is injured within a block of a firehouse and the EMT’s can’t get there first, the Fire Department must save that life !” Mike Ross’s follow-up — “I’m the only Council member who has stood up to the Fire Department” — sounded like a shrug.

All the candidates were then asked a series of “yes or no, do you support” questions. Most of these at various Forums have been no-brainers to which all answered an easy yes or a no. Not so at this Forum. candidates had to think about whether to allow later closing hours, a “traffic congestion tax,” plastic bags, and Segway. Responses were divided.

Last came a round in which one candidate posed a question to one other, until all twelve candidates had either asked or answered. Obviously the intent was to have candidates emphasize their differences, but only two of the questions rose above the minutiae of Council votes little known to average voters.

The first useful question was Rob Consalvo’s to Marty Walsh, who has proposed razing the current City Hall and redeveloping its huge, centrally located plaza : “How will the city function while city hall is bulldozed, as you suggest ?” Walsh’s answer was as good as Conley’s on Fire Department reform : “Bulldoze is not my word,” said Walsh. “it aas the Herald’s. I want to offer City Hall Plaza to developers for proposals. It will give us 135 million dollars and 12 million a year in tax revenue. I want to reconnect Hanover steer and Quincy market…the next growth area in the City is government center !” Walsh’s answer highlighted his support by the city’s construction unions –and his being the Building Boom Candidate.

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^ Bill Walczak and Marty Walsh : the moralist vs. the building boom candidate

Mike Ross then asked Bill Walczak what he would do for city development if the city had no casino — as Walczak endlessly repeats — but one were then created “seven feet from our door” (in Everett) ? This gave Walczak his opportunity to rail against casinos in general — “I don’t want casinos anywhere” — in the moralistic manner that he truly believes and which gives his candidacy something of the social-issue darkness that has bedeviled a great deal of the national political debate these past five years or so. Who is he — who is anyone ? — to tell people how or where to spend their money ?

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie and Mike Ross : on Ross’s home ground ? Or maybe not ?

It was difficult to tell which candidates most impressed the association’s members. Unlike the teachers union activists at their Forum, no one cheered or clapped hands. They received the candidates’ often passionate talk as calmly as candidate David Wyatt sits on a stage — though without his facial shrug. Many of the 200 worked laptops ; were they noting points ? Recording testimony as if at a deposition ? Maybe so. And who will they vote for ? This is Mike Ross’s home ground — the Council district that he represents — yet he hardly seemed the crowd favorite — although in the Forum’s humor moments, when he laughed, so did the 200. Maybe that was it. Maybe this Forum was a kind of in-group entertainment, and Mike Ross has its 200 votes in the bank.

If i were he, I wouldn’t count on it.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : FORUM AT BOSTON TEACHERS UNION

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^ the lineup. next came the interrogation.

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Most of the candidate Forums of this campaign for Mayor have taken place at churches, conference centers, theaters, auditoria — public gathering places. Not so with the Forum called by the Boston Teachers’ Union (BTU). This one took place in their union hall and had the feeling more of an interrogation than a debate. The BTU feels threatened by developments in public education and advocacies for school change, and it made plain that it strongly disagrees with the direction and purposes, charter schools especially. BTU President Richard Stutman read portions of a 10-page manifesto — which in a printed handout was available on a literature table — of opposition to charter schools and to school reform by “corporate executives, entrepreneurs or philanthropists.”

The union hall was full — of teachers, especially the union’s activists, and they knew exactly what they wanted to hear. And not to hear. Not surprisingly, some of the eleven candidates on hand — Dan Conley was the absent — told the BTU gathering what it wanted to hear and were loudly cheered and applauded. Quite the surprise was that John Connolly, who pointedly advocates school “transformation — his word — by corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists (and by the Mayor), told the gathering exactly that, in well exampled detail. He gave reasons and stated goals, and he did not waver. He was received in almost total silence.

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^ John Connolly stood his ground.

David Bernstein — Boston’s premier political reporter (full disclosure: we both wrote for the Boston Phoenix), moderated. Being a playful and even ironic sort, he asked each candidate questions that would be hardest for them to answer; then picked out others of the eleven to give, he hoped, a competing view. It worked at first, but eventually the candidates began to interrupt, or to veer a response toward their agenda . Bernstein tried to cut off such manipulation but was not always successful. As he called upon the eleven in random order, occasionally he forgot one or two. Candidates had to raise their hands to be recognized.

The entire 90 minute event looked very much like a teacher and his class; appropriate, I suppose, for a Forum presented for teachers.

Still, many issues were raised : charter schools, the longer school day, arts and music, standardized testing (the MCAS), school kids’ health, parent involvement, diversity, students for whom English is a learned language, transportation, school construction and renovation. The diversity of responses was strong and plain to hear.

Rob Consalvo told the activists exactly what they wanted to hear, on every issue — charter schools too, of course — and passionately. as passionately was he cheered.

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^ Rob Consalvo : the BTU agenda is his agenda  (photo taken at a previous Forum)

John Barros outlined school reforms and problems with the detail and insight that he has gathered as a member of Boston’s school committee. particularly true was his observation that the public school system has been asked to do what so many of society’s systems have failed to do and that this is unfair to the schools. Barros thanked charter schools for finding new and innovative methods which the regular public schools have then adopted.

Charles Clemons, who opposes more charter schools, noted that Boston people today are 56 % of color, and, noting that diversity in the BTU has failed to meet 1975 goals, asked, “how many of the people in this room look like Boston ?”

Bill Walczak did not mention casinos even once. He affirmed his work in connecting the charter school that he created to the city’s health system and saw that as a model for all Boston schools.

Marty Walsh, who sits on the board of a charter school, passionately defended the school’s role in creating “best practices” for the entire system to adopt. He rejected the BTU’s assertion that elimination of difficult students is systemic to charter schools. Walsh called for a program of school construction and for a meaningful longer school day.

Mike Ross insisted that standardized testing is crucial to assuring that students will acquire core knowledge, and he called for the establishment of a city technology high school, noting that google.com did not open a Boston office because it doubted being able to fill even entry-level jobs with Boston high school graduates.

David Wyatt made no attempt to get an answer in if not called upon and, when called upon, said little — he the Stoic; but he did support charter schools for bringing competition into education, and he endorsed standardized testing.

Charlotte Golar-Richie was occasionally overlooked but, when she interrupted to speak, supported an arts and music longer school day. As for charter schools, she found them useful but did not find a need to increase their number.

John Connolly’s points have already been noted.

Felix G. Arroyo reminded the crowd that he is the husband, brother, and son of Boston public school teachers. He emphasized the language diversity, at home, that challenges so many Boston students in the classroom. He also saw an immediate need for arts, music, and crafts in the longer school day, noting how important crafts classes were to him.

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^ Felix G. Arroyo and John Barros : articulate and knowledgeable,  and not uncritically so, on public school concerns

Charles Yancey came late but made his time count. He called for the building of high schools which, he ranted, had been called for for years but nothing done. He would enforce a 1994 city ordinance granting school parents three days’ leave to visit their children’s schools and reminded the crowd of his mother, Alice Yancey, and how passionate she was about making sure that her son studied and learned.

And so it went. There was the beginning of a conversation about the City’s hugest and most intractable system. But only a beginning; with eleven hopefuls on hand, the school conversation stands at the sorting-out stage. Just as does the Primary itself.

That the conversation is just beginning was obvious from the many issues that were not discussed : school assignment reform (and transportation costs), teacher pay, funding school reforms, even the assaults, by students, sad to say, that afflict teachers almost daily. Some of these issues were discussed after the Forum as teachers and various newsies (including me) conversed in small groups.

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^ teachers were eager to converse with newsies and the candidates after the formal Forum

The BTU knows that it is losing the battle of public opinion about school reform. It wants badly to be heard — respectfully but forcefully. I hear the BTU. I have long experience of politics involving Boston schools, and I have nothing but respect for the energy, the poise, the courage of teachers who on every school day face exactly what John Barros said : the problems of society dropped at the school door for teachers and principals to deal with even as they try to perform their teaching mission : the teaching of knowledge.

Any school reform that does not find a central mission for the teachers, and pay accordingly, and that does not accord the teachers the last word on creating a curriculum and a classroom format is a reform that begins on the wrong foot. Any reform that seeks to downplay the teacher solidarity that a Union assures them is no reform at all. How can school transformation be a good thing if its first strike is to the one security that teachers, often overwhelmed by school problems, can count on ? Let us seek to make teachers’ jobs easier, not harder.

That said, I do not agree with the BTU’s position that charter schools detract from the public schools. No matter what format and curriculum the teachers decide (and I hope it is they who decide), charter schools offer a useful “but look here.” Useful because not even teachers know all that needs be learned about what works to educate.

All of the above needs be said, and often. But right now there is voting to be done. So how will the BTU teachers vote ? They are not stupid. They knew who was pandering, who was seeking common ground, and who was confident of him or herself. By no means should Consalvo, who was so noisily cheered, assume that the teacher activists are in his corner. My impression of their cheering — and not only for him — was for the statement, not the candidate. The teachers have a pretty solid idea of who is likely to win and who isn’t. After the Forum, I spoke to several, and they were quite clear about that being a factor in their vote on Primary day.

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^ Marty Walsh found friends at a union gathering hours after being slammed as a unionist by the Herald.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE — THE MONEY, LOUD AND CLEAR

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^ much love and affection for John Connolly and Marty Walsh

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In this campaign, as in any other, the money report as campaign’s vote day approaches, does NOT lie.  Any more than a kiss and a hug lie.

With only 16 days remaining before primary day in this one, Boston’s 12 would-be Mayors have been adjudged clearly by donors. Two are out of it; three are losing ground badly. Three are trying hard to catch up. Two who were raising a ton of money are raising a bit less. and two are raking in money faster than a speeding bullet. Let’s look:

Out of It — David Wyatt raised less than 100.00. Charles Clemons less than 3,000.00.

Losing ground badly :

Charles Yancey had 21,504.68 on August 14th; raised  2459.25 from August 15th to August 31st; and had 22,263.93 at the end of the month.

Rob Consalvo had 128,024.51 on August 14th; raised 71,999.59 from the 15th through the 31st; and had a balance of only 66,376.46 as the month ended.

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^ Hyde park’s Rob Consalvo : feeling less loved than formerly

Trying to play catch-up :

John F. Barros had 56,566.70 BB on August 14th; raised 33,788.28 in the next 17 days; and had 68,946.48 as August ended.

Felix Arroyo had 158,579.39 on hand on August 14th, In the next 17 days he raised 31,852.32. At month’s end he had a very respectable 149,449.20.

Charlotte Golar-Richie reported a bit less than Arroyo. She had 132318.23 ; in the next 17 days she did well, raising 42,134.63. At month’s end, though, she still had less on hand than Arroyo. Just 125,355.52

Bill Walczak could boast of 131,419.97 in his account on August 14th. He then added another 36,627.00, giving him a respectable 113,819.10 at month’s end.

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^ Bill Walczak : respectably liked and even a hug or two

Two who were raising tons of money now raised slightly less :

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^ lots of love for Mike Ross, but a but fewer hugs this past week. (photo taken at last night’s Madison Park High School mayor Forum)

Mike Ross on August 14th had all of 486,135.08. From then till August 31, he took in 102,863.12, leaving him a still impressive 452,415.72 at month’s close.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : looking happier, at last night’s Mayoral Forum at Madison park high School

Dan Conley had money to spare on August 14th :  890,638.63. He took in less than previously, however. just  82973.80 Nonetheless, he still had lots of green at month’s end : 612,598.80

All of the above tell a fascinating story of donor assessment of their candidates’ chances. And if so, what do the donors of our top two candidates tell us ? They smell victory, and they are likely to be correct.

Marty Walsh had 560,670.62 on August 14th, He then proceeded to raise 276,500.05, more than three times what Conley raised. At month’s end he had 658,120.12, more than the previously over-funded Conley.

John Connolly refused an “outside” donor’s 500,000 ? He could afford to. On August 14th he had 727,725.46. In the next two weeks, during which the “outside” donor flap nicked his campaign briefly he took in 161,783.00. At the end of August he had 589,759.97 in his account.

The money lead boasted by Walsh and Connolly has continued. Admittedly incomplete reports for the first week of September show Walsh taking in 58,311.99 and Connolly 74,418. No one else gained anything like these sums. Golar-Richie did the next; donors gave her 14,400.00. Dan Conley took in 13,923.90; Mike Ross, only 7,417.00. Felix Arroyo reported 1,776.04. Consalvo ? His report remains to be filed. same for John Barros and Bill Walczak.

The campaign moves on, crushing some, squeezing others, challenging a few to outdo themselves — maybe — and gifting the lucky two with ever more signs of love and affection.

—- Moichael Freedberg

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : CONNOLLY, WALSH, and ARROYO IN COMMAND at SOUTH END BUSINESS ALLIANCE FORUM

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^ Charles Clemons, John Connolly, and felix Arroyo at SEBA Forum

—- —- —

Last night’s Mayoral Forum at the Calderwood Center on Tremont Street asked the most pointed questions and addressed more topics than at any Forum we’ve observed so far. It being the South End, heart and stomach — excellent hors d’oeuvres were served in the foyer — of the “new Boston,” comprehensiveness was to be expected. Basic just won’t do for a locus of million-dollar condos.

Hosted by the South End Business Alliance — SEBA — the Forum gathered an audience of about 200. it was a well informed group, with definite preferences: favorable answers from the candidates drew approving cheers and applause; unfavorable ones were given the silent treatment. There was plenty of each.

That said, this Forum made clear what has portended for some time now : that the leading candidates, according to polls, are leading for good reason. They have greatest command of the issues — big and not so big — and of how to address them. Connolly, Walsh, and Arroyo made their points with specificity, each man inputting his own expertise and vision, each speaking his own language — and doing so with persuasive conviction. For Connolly, that meant the most modern of cities : zipcar, apple store, user-friendly, bicycles, lifestyle diversity — and biolab 4. For Arroyo, it meant a city in which pathways out of poverty are a priority. Marty Walsh saw a partnership city, between business and labor, the Mayor working in team with the City Council and with the Boston delegation to the state Legislature.

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^ an audience informed and knowing what they want

The other candidates on stage — Charlotte Golar-Richie worked the foyer but did not sit in; Consalvo and Wyatt made no appearance at all — answered less strongly. Mike Ross, who has spoken eloquently at earlier Forums, seemed less in command here — perhaps it was the questions, which did not fit his vision of fun city — restaurants, liquor licenses, and neighborhood nightlife. His best answer fitted that slot : “Yes I am a supporter of food trucks (which SEBA’s restaurant members don’t like), but keep in mind that some good food trucks have stepped up to be bricks-and-mortar restaurants.”

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^ Mike Ross : food trucks to restaurants

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^ John Barros : seeing City hall from his neighborhood (Mike Ross to his right)

John Barros and Bill Walczak spoke from the viewpoint of their particular experience ; schools for Barros, the Codman square Health Center for Walczak. The tactic made their answers sound provincial. a Mayor should see the neighborhoods from City hall. Barros and Walczak did the reverse : looked at City hall from a neighborhood. And Walczak, as always, offered his “no casino” mantra.

Dan Conley stayed at the Forum only long enough to respond to a twenty-question round robin of “yes, no, or thinking about it” quickie answers to this or that one-word issue : casinos, liquor licenses, South Boston parade, audit the city, change the BRA, and such like. As for Charles Yancey and Charles Clemons, each made a couple of notable points — specific to their personal resumes — but both lacked preparation, and it showed.

Each candidate was asked what was his proudest moments, in public life and in his work. Marty Walsh answered thus : “protecting jobs. We passed legislation which has allowed technology companies to bring in new jobs that for he most part were in California. But hey, it wasn’t just about me. (It’s) working with a team. It’s not just you, it’s going to be working collaboratively.”

Then Felix Arroyo : “my proudest moment on the Council ? There was an attempt to close our city’s libraries. I was instrumental in stopping that. Before that, the work that I did in organizing janitors. They were making eight dollars an hour,. now they’re making fifteen.”

Connolly : “most important council work ? getting a strict energy efficient city code passed. as an attorney, my proudest moment wa represennting a client, pro bono, two guys here in the South End (who were victims) in a gay-bashing case.”

Another not so typical Forum question was then posed ; ‘have you started thinking about who you would include in your administration — in your cabinet — as Mayor ?” The strongest candidates gave the most intriguing and thoughtful answers.

Walsh : “a new superintendent of schools first…the hierarchy of the Police department should be revamped. Look at the Fire department too. Include all the city in my discussions and decisions.”

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^ Marty Walsh : vows big changes at the Police department

Connolly : “new generation, new leadership. Superintendant of schools — how about one who is non-traditional ? A city-wide summit on public health. Begin overhauling city hall to be user-friendly.”

Arroyo : “A diverse cabinet that shares my values. A superintendant of schools who knows that you have to work with everyone.”

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^ john Connolly and Felix Arroyo : will they work with the Council ? So they say…

Next came a question guaranteed to elicit an unreal answer: “how will you as Mayor work with the City Council ?”

Connolly : “We are better when we disagree. I want a council that is bold and independent. Disagreement makes us better.” (to which I comment : “sounds good, but that’s not how it plays out. The Mayor may let the council gripe, but he has the power and the Council doesn’t.”)

Arroyo — “The Council is there because the voters put them there. But more importantly” — and here he pointed to the Forum audience — “I want to work with YOU !” (to which I comment : “a slick way of ducking the question !”)

Walsh : “The city council is a partner. I would also include the Boston legislative delegation and also legislators from around the state. The mayor can’t do it alone, he’s not a dictator.” (to which I comment “no, but the Mayor often thinks he is.”)

By this time the Forum had shredded badly. Conley first, but then Ross, Barros, Clemons, even Connolly, one after the other, had to leave to attend other events. Only Arroyo and Walsh said they were here for the duration.

They all apologized, of course. But as the race is now well into crunch time, every candidate with any chance at all has more events on his or her daily schedule than could be attended in three days. And so it goes. rush, greet, rush, talk, rush, talk, greet, talk, rush. You want to keep up ? You will have to rush, rush too.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : CONNOLLY, GOLAR-RICHIE TAKE COMMAND AT “STAND UP FOR SENIORS” FORUM; BARROS EFFECTIVE TOO

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^ 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.

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^ 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 !”

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^ 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