BOSTON ELECTION : JOHN CONNOLLY FOR MAYOR

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^ John Connolly at the recent CUPAC Forum

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Six months ago, when we launched Here and Sphere, we posted our mission statement : to be a voice for progressive, inclusive, visionary politics everywhere that our online journal could reach.

Little did we know that Tom Menino, Mayor of Boston, would soon announce his retirement, opening up one of the most powerful offices in all of urban America to new leadership and handing Here and Sphere a major story to cover, one that would command our mission for the rest of the year.

Twelve candidates qualified for the ballot. In more than a dozen Forums they answered questions and spoke their agendas. We reported on many of these Forums. At least seven of the candidates would have made a fine Mayor. It was a campaign of ideas, most of them progressive, many of them truly visionary. Since the beginning of August we brought this story to you. Hopefully you found value in our reportage, insight in our opinions.

The two candidates who won the September 24th Primary excelled at almost every Forum. It was no mistake of the voters to choose Dorchester State Representative Marty Walsh and City Councillor (at-Large) John Connolly of West Roxbury. Yes, many voters wanted to see a candidate of color in the Final; we understand why. So do John Connolly and Marty Walsh. Both have reached out to Boston’s communities of color, listened to the frustration, addressed the questions, even the hostile ones. We congratulate them both.

But now it is time to choose not two but one. Proudly we choose John Connolly to be Boston’s next mayor. He has our full endorsement, and here is why :

1.Reforming all of Boston’s schools is indeed the major issue facing Boston. John Connolly made it his issue and has put forth this campaign’s most comprehensive and well-detailed agenda for school reform. And how not ? He was a teacher himself and is a Boston public school parent. Name your school issue : the longer school day; giving principals flexibility in choosing teachers; charter schools as an alternative; family involvement in school plans; school assignment reform : Connolly addresses them all in depth and with conviction.

Connolly and the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) differ widely on what reforms to pursue; still, he and the BTU can agree. They both want education to be the next Mayor’s top priority. Of late, Connolly has been proposing reforms, in some areas, that comport closely with the BTU’s recommendations. The disagreement is not so much Connolly and the BTU as it is the BTU versus public school parents. We look forward to seeing Connolly moderate exciting meetings between Boston’s school parents and education professionals.

2.Segregation in Boston’s social life remains a huge problem, and John Connolly seems to understand the emotional and psychological dimensions of this segregation — and is prepared to confront it — quite better than his opponent. The battle for civil rights is not won when laws are enacted, important though these are (and Marty Walsh was a hero of the fight to enact them). As Connolly noted at a recent Forum in Boston’s Black community, Boston restaurants and night life remain deplorably segregated, with consequences economic as well as social; because, as Connolly noted, young people of color and talent see Boston nightlife segregation and say “no thank you” — and go elsewhere to live. This must change.

3.Relations between the City’s Unions and the rest of Boston taxpayers can never be kumbaya; but John Connolly is in a much more independent position, when the fire-fighters or police come demanding, than Marty Walsh. The Unions that have endorsed Walsh love him; they campaign for him wherever and whenever he needs them. It says a lot about Walsh’s strength of heart (and we have seen it at times too). Yet Walsh’s greatest strength has proven his greatest weakness. Questions were already being asked — and answered vaguely — how he could stand up to Union contract demands, much less reform the Police and Fire leadership, given his almost total dependence on Union support, when all of a sudden Connolly brought up a bill that Walsh filed as a State Representative : House Bill 2467 would take away from City Councils (not just Boston’s) the power to review arbitration awards and, if need be, disapprove. Under Walsh’s bill the arbitrator’s decision would be final.

This is bad law. No un-elected official should have final say over municipal finances. Walsh says that if it came to that, he would always put the residents first. He surely means it. But it’s the Unions’ call, not his. With House 2467 at their hand, their call would be final. We like Walsh’s labor supporters. Many are our friends. But being Mayor is a matter of duty first, friendship later.

Lastly, the vision thing. Boston’s next Mayor will lead the city into the future for four years, maybe eight. John Connolly has vision at his fingertips. He sees a different city, one that is being created even as we write, shaping a very different, more tolerant, prosperous, and structurally diverse city. It will take a mayor of vision to guide the shaping so that the new city is what we want it to be rather than a matter of chance. Marty Walsh has great plans in some cases; selling City Hall and developing City Hall Plaza as a commercial zone is perhaps his most brilliant. But Walsh has yet to articulate a grand vision of what he wants Boston to be six, twelve, 20 years from now. His matter of fact-ness meets current city needs nicely. But what then ?

No such question need be asked of John Connolly. He sees a city of bicycle people — and of car people; a technology center; a city of integrated social life; of education that helps to repair social unwellness rather than being a recipient of it. He sees the new Boston. He gets it. We endorse him to take our city to it.

—- The Editors / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : WHAT THE ENDORSEMENTS (SHOULD) MEAN

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^ John F. Barros, John R. Connolly, Felix G. Arroyo : good news for all three (and for Rob Consalvo) this morning

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Early this morning, two major endorsements in Boston’s exciting Mayor campaign were given. The Boston Globe endorsed John Barros and John Connolly, with honorable mention to Mike Ross and Bill Walczak; the Boston Teachers Union selected Felix G. Arroyo and Rob Consalvo. They join the Boston Herald, which last week endorsed John Connolly and Dan Conley.

Here and Sphere is not going to make any endorsement before the Primary. The Globe speaks of the 12 candidates, by means of multiple wide-ranging Forums, having forged something like a common agenda. That is true; there is less commonality, however, in the major contenders’ bases of support. We feel that all Boston’s voters matter, and that, as many of the candidates have proven that they authoritatively articulate most if not all the major issues, we cannot pick two of them, but not a different two, and thus leave many bases of support on the sidelines.

In the “Final,” with only two contenders running, bases of support will not stand out so sharply. Each candidate will have to build a coalition of many bases of support. each, likely, will have to win votes as well from the other’s support base. Our endorsement will thus not unjustly raise up some political communities and downgrade others.

We also want to see more of how our potential endorsee manages his or her campaign. Mayor is a managerial job as well as one of policy vision. If a candidate can’t manage his or her campaign smoothly, what confidence do we have that he or she will manage the job of Mayor ? That said, many of the likely Finalists have managed their scheduling and outreach commendably — some better than that. Less of them have shown the degree of issue preparation we expect of an endorsee. A Mayor must be familiar enough with every City department, including Inspectional Services and the Public Health Commission (including its smoking ban section), to know what in each of them needs reforming — and what doesn’t; and how to explain his or her reforms convincingly to Boston’s interested voters, and to the department employees.

This matters a lot. The Boston Teachers Union has, by its endorsement of two candidates — Felix G. Arroyo and Rob Consalvo — both polling well out of the Final but who align closely with the Teachers’ own agenda, given the impression that it is unready to understand that dramatic reform of Boston’s public schools is going to happen. The newspaper endorsements proclaim it. The strong poll showing of John Connolly so far proves it. The Teachers’ Union risks, by its endorsement, being left out of the conversation that has been going on for months now — a conversation which it feels threatened by — and has said so.

Wiser it would have been, in our opinion, had the Union endorsed one favorite (Arroyo would have been our BTU choice) and one of the moderate school reformers, such as John Barros, Mike Ross, or Marty Walsh. Other endorsing Unions have done that. Union solidarity is commendable, and no workers work harder or contribute more importantly to society than teachers. But realism is also a necessary skill in the world of high politics and ;policy. Such realism will also be needed by the next Mayor if he or she is to not face serious conflict with the employees of any City department that he or she insists on reforming.

Our endorsement process begins now. Candidates should know that not only our editor, Mike Freedberg, our chief reporter on this campaign, will be involved in the decision. Our co-founder, Heather Cornell, will be equally involved. Cornell is Boston’s most gifted life-style writer and knows as much as anyone we have met about in-school issues, children’s health — both mental and physical, emotional and social education, drug abuse problems, health care and hospitals, and the gap between education and securing a decent job in the work force of tomorrow. Candidates should be prepared to answer her questions — and Freedberg’s — and, hopefully, may even add to their knowledge of the issues from conversing with us.

—- the editors / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE BOSTON HERALD BLOWS IT

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^ Marty Walsh as Boston Building Trades Council Business Manager

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Yesterday in its editorial, the Boston Herald made two endorsements for Mayor: Dan Conley and John Connolly. I have no quarrel with their doing so. They should endorse. What upsets me is their going on to NON-endorse candidate Marty Walsh. That is harsh. Unfair was their reason : that until recently he has been the Boston Building Trades Council Business manager — a Union guy — and thus, said the editorial, not a friend of taxpayers.

This is bogus. Completely bogus.

Union workers pay taxes, don’t they ? They earn a solid paycheck, and thus they pay a lot of taxes. So what’s the Herald talking about ?

In a phrase : the prevailing wage law, commonly known as the Pacheco Law. By the Pacheco Law, workers on jobs pursuant to State-funded construction contracts must be paid the prevailing wage for union construction contracts made with private businesses.

What is so wring with that ? Yes, all taxpayers, not just union workers, pay into the higher hourly wage mandated by the Pacheco Law. Non-union workers would, it is true, cost less. And if that were the whole story, the Herald might have a point.

Except that that IS NOT the whole story. Union workers who earn the prevailing wage do not stuff their extra money into suitcases. They spend it. They enter the discretionary economy — where economic growth most flourishes — to buy discretionary things and thus help tons of businesses to exist, to hire their own workers, and — hopefully — to pay those workers well.

That is how a growth economy works and why a reductionist economy doesn’t. A growth economy isn’t just me and my wallet, you and your bills. A flourishing economy involves all of us who are in it. Money doesn’t stay put in any economy. It moves constantly, into my pocket, out of my pocket; into yours, out of yours; then on to the next and the next and so on. The more money that moves the more freely, the better an economy is for everyone.

To reduce construction workers — to reduce ANY workers, and here I specifically include fast-food workers, who are now seeking $ 15.00 an hour and should have it — to the lowest doable wage is to reduce the economy, to starve it of what it lives by. Is that what we want ? Really ? i think not.

Right now our economy is growing much more slowly than it should because a huge portion of the pay being earned in it is going to CEO’s and hedge fund managers an ever-decreasing amount of said pay is going to everyone else. An economy cannot grow — can hardly exist — if only a tiny few have money to participate in it. Is this not basic Economics 101 ?

Right-wing pundits blame unions for the problems besetting municipal budgets and the slow growth of private-sector jobs. They are wrong. Unions are nothing more than workers banding together to force reluctant employers to grant them fair earnings. Workers earning a collectively bargained income do not crater municipal budgets. That’s the consequence of many other events, the housing bear market especially.

As for employers’ wage policies, not all take a reductionist view. Many employers understand that a well-paid work team is an asset to a business. well paid workers don’t leave the job as quickly; and turnover is a huge — and largely avoidable — cost to businesses beset by it. Well paid workers also suffer less stress; and an unstressed work team is healthier, thus less likely to call out sick, and better motivated. How have these basic economic conditions been so sweepingly un-learned in today’s America ?

That Marty Walsh is a union guy is a good thing. Endorse him, or not, that’s fine. We at Here and Sphere haven’t yet endorsed, and it may not be Walsh whom we end up supporting. But please, do not dis-endorse him because he is and was a business manager for Boston’s Building Trades Council.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : this article was updated on Sept. 13, 2013 at 11:12 EDT.