SCHOOLS REFORM : THE BOSTON SCHOOL FOOD SCANDAL

 

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^ answering questions, as here at a recent Mayor Walsh town hall, will be something that Superintendent John McDonough will have to do a lot of, with a big food scandal on the menu

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That the Boston School department’s food operation was seriously flawed, we already knew, well before the Boston Globe’s recent front page story. John Connolly, in last year’s Mayor campaign, made an issue of finding spoiled food in the Department’s food works. The issue didn’t commandeer the campaign because much larger forces rolled into the arena; yet it forecast something we now are paying large attention to, an issue that Mayor Walsh has to deal with whether he likes it or not.

Thanks to a full review of the School Department’s food operation commissioned by interim Superintendent John McDonough, what seemed the entire story was fully bruited. Yet it proved not to be the entire story. Only a few days ago we learned that the Boston school department has eliminated its salad bar, healthy food program from those schools that had it, citing costs. In its place, snacks — the very snacks we don’t want to see kids eating in school (or at all).

Costs matter a lot to John McDonough, who was the Department’s chief financial officer for 20 years, before he became interim superintendent. They do matter. Still, diet seems to me a poor place to economize. Parents already pay for school lunches, if they can. Surely the department can give them value for their money.

McDonough notes that next year’s school budget includes lots of layoffs from the Department’s central administration. These we approve. reports abound of mismanagement, duplication, even no management at all. Problems are reported, then not dealt with. Sometimes it seems as though the managers working under McDonough have but two job goals : first, keep the “super” unaware of the problem and (2) make sure they don’t become news. Surely that mindset will not survive the layoffs, or the story now on every Boston school parent’s reading table. I doubt that the Boston Globe is going to back off at this point, simply because the story is so ripe.

Meanwhile, as my own State Representative tells me he thinks school nutrition is a local, District-level matter, I ask the thirteen good folks on the Boston City Council : can we not pass an ordinance requiring healthy foods at school lunches and banning sugar snacks entirely ? And funding the ordinance, if need be ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

SCHOOLS REFORM : PROCEEDING DESPITE ALL

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School reform will happen — in Boston. It is already happening, quietly, surely. Statewide, not so sure. Issues of curriculum, funding, and school innovation divide in several directions. But let’s look first at Boston.

Last year, few could have predicted that Boston school reform would proceed at all. Mayoral candidate John Connolly made “school transformation” his big issue. As schools are by far the largest budget item in Boston, and school parents the largest identifiable city-wide interest, Connolly’s choice of issue seemed a sure winner. It wasn’t, because Boston’s schools aren’t a single interest group. It’s administrators, teachers, custodians, parents, school buses, a school construction authority, and several types of schools dictated by State Law. The complexity of school interests sliced Connolly every which way, and he lost.

The teachers’ unuon badly misplayed its part in the Mayor campaign. The smart move would have been to endorse Connolly — for maing education his key issue and thereby gaining an inside position in the next mayor’s school policy discussion. Instead, the union backed two candidates who lost in the primary; only on election morning of the Final did it send out an endorsement of Marty Walsh, who, being a charter school board member, the union had not much wanted.

The Mayor has said very little about schools, but he did allocate the school department a four percent increase in funds; and Walsh’s two appointees to the School Committee have voted “yes” to three significant steps taken by John McDonough, the “interim superintendent” who doesn’t look like a reformer but is..

What are these three steps ? First, layng off about 100 central office administrators. Second, giving each Boston school principal full authority to hire, or replace every member of his teaching and support staff. Third, using public transportation — the T — to bring seventh and eighth grade studebts to school, thereby saving money (and acquiring a back door budget increase, as the T has agreed to transport students at its own cost) and somewhat lessening the impact of labor wars between school bus drivers and the company they work for (and who can forget the wildcat strike last Fall that stranded so many students for an entire school day ?)

These are significant reforms. Giving school principals complete hiring and replacement power changes the entire character of the principals’ job. No longer is she simply a high level monitor and a scapegoat for bad performance, now she can demand performance and see that it is given her. Using the T to transport students saves tens of millions of dollars that can instead be allocated to classrooms. Eliminating central office positions moves the burden of performance to the actual school where learning is demanded.

All of this is being put in place — though some say it’s not happening as thoroughly as McDonough’s office claims — by a man who speaks softly and looks even softer; a man who makes everyone involved feel liked and wanted even as he puts his very transforming agenda into place inch by inch.. Where John Connolly seemed to run at the school system like Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan hill, John McDonough gets every hill he faces to be on his side.

Example :

At the March 26th Budget vote, after two hours of “public comment” by parents and advocates enraged by the proposal to use the T to transport seventh and eighth graders — and with teachers’ union president Richard Stutman sitting grimly in the audience — the School Committee voted unanimously to do that and to approve McDonough’s staffing autonomy for school principals. “Shame on you !” shouted one activist, who then stormed out of the room.

McDonough’s response ? In that soft white-haired voice of his he applauded the parents and activists : “You’re the most involved parents I’ve seen in forty years,” he told them. “You get it.”

Yep.

McDonough is also preparing his schools for the newly adopted PARCC tests (PARCC stands for “partnership for assessment of readiness for college, a state-based initiative that will be ready for the 2014-15 school year) and is implementing the Common Core curriculum standards that have of late generated some controversy. No one that I am aware of is trying to stop him.

The controversy now attaching to the Common Core initiative is acting out chiefly at the State House. It comes chiefly by right wing Republicans who object to nation-wide anything, much less national education standards; some teacher groups are also critical. These do not like the significant instruction changes that common core standards entai, and they especially dislike that Common Core’s testing tends to dominate classroom instruction. I find these objections anecdotal only. Change is always hard for micro-managed institutions.

In Boston, much of the rancor about school change has come and gone. “We have had some difficult conversations,’ says McDonough, in his humble way. “Change is difficult.” But as he summed up the March 26th Budget meeting, “This is not about public schools versus charter schools. it’s about making all schools better.”

McDonough cannot have been happy to see Orchard Gardens school princiopal Anthony Bott quit his job for the coming year, for Bott has been one of the Boston system’s most successful turn-around leaders. Bott’s leaving has given McDonough’s critics — who think he’s not acting quickly enough, or comprehensively, to change how the school system operates. Nor could McDonough have been thrilled to see John Connolly reappear, after months of silence, at April 9th’s School Committee meeting, on behalf of his fellow Trotter School’s parents, who, as Connolly eloquently told the Committee, are upset about losing their Families Engagement Co-ordinator, a Mr. Alward, who, as Connolly said, “makes the school work.”

Mr. Alward is one of the 230-odd school personnel being cut in this year’s department budget — cuts that McDonough said “involved trade offs.” Schools are losing coaches, teacher aides, even, at the Curley K Through 8, a school nurse. And several families engagement co-ordinators. Few of these have available a spokesman as eloquent — or powerful — as an almost Mayor. In Connolly’s words : “We’re a turnaound school, the Trotter,” he said. Level four to level one. We’re now one of the best schools in the city, we knock the socks off those tests. That’s not going to happen if can’t keep families engaged — if we whittle away what works !”

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Connolly is only the best known, though probably the most moving speaker, of the many Boston School parents who are angry about the layoffs of field personnel. As Heshan Weeramuni, of the Curley School parents group, puts it, “we’re losing school staff even as we’re gaining more students.”

Weeranmuni isn’t that impressed with the four percent budget increase provided by Mayor Walsh. “Over the years, as we’ve lost Federal funds and thus State funds,” he says,” we’ve actually seen a ten percent cut in funding, not an increase.

Weeramuni is active with a Boston school parents group led by karen Kast of Roslindale, who worked the Mayor election for candidate Rob Consalvo and, after Consalvo was eliminated, managed City Council candidate Marty Keogh’s campaign. Kast is an imaginative advocate for what parents call “full funding.” A “$ 61 million bake sale” that she helped organize recently drew much attention, as it took place on the back side of City hall, across the street from iconic Faneuil hall.

Kast is a leader in Boston Truth, a parents-and-teachers coalition militantly opposed to state legislation increasing the number of charter schools authorized in Massachusetts. A bill to do that sits stalled (as of this writing) in the legislatiure’s Joint Committee on Education, chaired by Wellesley State Rep Alice Peisch and by Jamaica Plain’s State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz. The proposal — submitted by Boston State Rep Russell Holmes — seems unlikely to be enacted in its present form. Nor should it be. Titled “An Act To Further Narrow the Achievement Gap,” the bill calls for increasing the number of charter schools in “under-performing districts” — but not elsewhere. Yet the principals of under-performing schools get, by this legislation, exactly the powers that John McDonough has already established in Boston.

The bill also proposes a reimbursement formula, compernsation to Boston for students who choose to go to the additional charters, of IRS-like complexity.

For Boston, the proposed bill is otiose in one respect, contradictory in the other : why give a principal power to create the school that she wants, only to take away the effect of that power by putting more charter schools in competition ? Either the legislation wants under-performing school districts to do better, or it wants them to lose students. Which is it ?

I’m not sure the State’s administrators can answer that question. Certainly their take-over of two under-performing Boston schools, the Holland and the Dever, after these schools had already undergone a full year and more of McDonough-led “turn-around,’ suggets that the proverbial one hand doesn’t know what the other is up to.

Almost all of the State’s GOP, and many Democrats too, want more charter schools. That in itself is not a bad idea. The greater the availability and diversity of innovative schools, the better it should be for all the public schools. But many who advocate the loudest for more charter schools do so as a means of breaking the power of teachers’ unions. This cannot be a goal of education policy. Of course, schools do not exist to give jobs to teachers; still, teachers, there are; and the job we ask them to do is a difficult one, and vital. Union member teachers earn a good living; what benefit do we think we get if we block teachers from earning more ? Certainly not an economic benefit, and proabbly not an educational one. And if, as is true, the teachers in charter schools need not be union members, and thus cost less, is that a good ? I have never been convinced that asking workers to earn less is a benefit to anbody in any way.

If our state is to expand the allowed number of charter schools, it must be done generally — never only in “under performimg” districts, for that is to guarantee, even aggravate, their under-performance — and the expansion must benefit the performance of all schools. A diversity of school types must lead to the adoption of best practices, as these are experimented with; to an optimum length of school day; to courses beyond the Common Core basics : courses in civics, history, philosophy, the arts, sports, and more, such as emotional education and foreign languages. (One ‘Best practice’ that I like a lot is ‘dual language learning,’ in which students are schooled, daily and all day long, in English and another language. Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic — you name it.) And all of this must become the mission of all schools, of whatever type.

Until the legislature can forge an achievement gap-narrowing bill that sets forth a path to this end, without detours into special interest pleading, the Joint Committee on education should defer to act. Flawed legislation is always hard to repair, especially enactments that misdirect an institution as flex-averse as public education.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

#13TH SUFFOLK : DORCHESTER LOOKS FOR THE NEXT MARTY WALSH

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^ first into the race, and looking like the man to beat : Dan Hunt, at the Dorchester Board of Trade’s B2B event last night

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Having seen their State Representative elected Mayor, 24,286 voters (numbers from City of Boston Election department website) of the 13th Suffolk State Representative District are looking for the next Marty Walsh. Or at least the 11,358 voters who cast a ballot in the November Mayor election are looking. On March 4th they’ll find out just who that man will be.

They will be choosing among Liam P. Curran, Tony Dang, Gene Gorman, Dan Hunt, Paul L. “PJ” McCann Jr, and John K. O’Toole.

It isn’t quite that simple, and none of the six candidates says it, but the thought is there on everyone’s mind. Most of the six worked actively in Marty Walsh’s mayor campaign; most of their supporters worked in it too. And if there really can’t be another Marty Walsh, these activists definitely want their new Representative to command attention as Walsh did.

Most of these 11,358 voters would like the new Representative to be, like Walsh, a people person; always there to help; to knock on doors and meet voters one to one; to hang out locally in a favorite cafe or other eatery; and, almost certainly, to be a Union member or, if not that, very attentive to Union Labor matters. They would like the new Representative’s priorities to mirror Walsh’s : curbing urban violence, helping schools to close the achievement gap, advocating “transparency” in governance.

I say “most of these voters” because the race is somewhat complicated by the presence in this District of Quincy’s Ward 3, Precinct 3 (the North Quincy T station area) and because in the November election 2,727 of the District’s Boston voters chose John Connolly. In a close race –and I think the result will be close — these odd-men out voters, who are not looking for the next Marty Walsh, could make the difference. If they vote at all.

But now it’s time to asses the six. Which of them fits the bill best ?

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^ very like Marty Walsh : Liam Curran

Most like Marty Walsh : Liam P. Curran. He has a union Labor background, grew up in Walsh’s Little House neighborhood and St. Margaret Parish, and even looks a lot like how Walsh appeared at the time of his first campaign 17 years ago.

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^ his campaign is picking up and so is his speaking : John K. Toole at last night’s Dorchester Board of Trade event

Best speaker : three of the six rate highly. Liam P. Curran spoke eloquently and in detail at his campaign kick-off last night. But John K. O’Toole also spoke passionately and in detail, about local aid funding, at the Dorchester Board of Trade B2B night. and Gene Gorman, at his kickoff two weeks ago, spoke eloquently about being “Dorchester by choice’; and knowledgeably about housing and school transformation issues.

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^ John Connolly-type appeal in a Marty Walsh District : “PJ” McCann at his campaign kick off

Biggest visible support : John K. O’Toole had over 250 supporters — he says 283 — at his campaign kick off last week. “P J” McCann drew well over 200 supporters, as well, to his kick off on Tuesday night.

Most political clout : (1 ) Dan Hunt. He’s chairman of the ward 16 Democratic committee, was a State House aide, worked a significant role in the Walsh Mayor campaign, and has the support of City Clerk (and former Dorchester City Councillor) Maureen Feeney as well as many other activists well known to the political community. He’s also the son of Jim Hunt, who has for over 40 years been a political and neighborhood activist in Dorchester’s Pope’s Hill section. (2) Liam P. Curran, as a lawyer, worked in Boston City government as an Assistant Corporation Counsel, and ‘s brother in law is Chief of staff to Boston city Council President Bill Linehan. (3) “PJ” McCann’s Dad is a veteran BRA executive.

Union Labor support : ( 1 ) Liam P. Curran is a Local 223 laborers Union member. ( 2 ) John K. O’Toole is a member of the Plumbers Union and has the support of Harry Brett, its long time business agent. (3) Tony Dang, an MBTA Police officer, is probably a memeber of one of the several MBTA Unions.

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^ enthusiasm of the Marty Walsh kind : Liam Curran mobbed by supporters at his campaign kick-off at. the Blarney stone last night

Most enthusiasm : of course all six candidates command enthusiastic support, or they couldn’t be running. But I was struck by the intensity of Liam Curran’s support at his kick off last night. He drew only about 130 people, but they cheered his speech loudly and constantly, spirited like the go-get-’em, sports-fan crowds that I saw at Marty Walsh’s events. And sure enough, Mayor Walsh’s brother was there, very visible and very much a fan.

Geography : Advantage to “PJ” McCann the only candidate with an address in the Ward 13 part of the District, its spiritual core and the home base for each of the District’s last five representatives. Four of the candidates live in Ward 16 and will likely split its admittedly large vote. Gene Gorman lives in the larger of the District’s two Ward 17 Precincts, the Melville park neighborhood close by Codman Square.

The race grows intense now. Door-knocking has been going on all month, through snow and extreme cold. Nobody is at all tired. If anything, the young people who are doing most of the grunt work are warming to the tasks ahead : house signs, house parties, stand outs, phone calls, meet and greets, more door knocking — after all, they did all this for Marty Walsh, and they have the can-do, will-do feel of confident winners.

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^ probably behind in numbers, but an eloquent “new Bostonian” : Gene Gorman at the harp & Bard two weeks ago

So who do I think it will be ? I’ve done no polls, knocked on no doors, but from what I have seen — and reported to you in this column — I rate the six in this order as of today :

1. Dan Hunt — he has clout and longevity; also, he started by far the earliest, and that matters
2. PJ McCann — he has Ward 13 next to his name and a great resume
3. John K. O’Toole — has run before and is well known, but he hasn’t Ward 16 to himself and also waited a long time to decide to run
4. Liam P. Curran — he is maybe too much like Marty Walsh to build his own identity; still, he has the spirit behind him, a well-connected brother in law, and it will surely be known that Walsh’s brother supports him (and Walsh’s Mom, as reported by Dorchester News journo Gin Dumcius). Curran can rise, maybe a lot.
5. Gene Gorman — he isn’t native to Dorchester and lives in a corner of the District
6. Tony Dang — is running a sticker campaign, almost an impossibility

There’s a lot beginning to happen in this race that everybody politically attuned is watching. In two weeks I will update this report.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : The presence of one Quincy voting precinct in the District boggles the mind. It’s also a very low turnout area. Of 1186 voters in the precinct, only 159 voted in Quincy’s Mayor election last year. Will even that few show up in this special election ? It’s absurd.

CORRECTION : An earlier version of ,my story identified Tony Dang as a Boston Police officer. He is in fact an MBTA Police officer.

BOSTON SCHOOLS : CHARTER SCHOOLS UNDER ATTACK AT CPS FORUM

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^ seeking answers to the challenge that charter schools pose to standard public schools : at the Citizens for Public Schools Forum

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For those who believe that competition among educational systems and methods is preferable to one-size-fits-all, the Forum held this morning by Citizens for Public Schools at Madison park High School made for painful listening. For three hours non-stop, two panels of speakers — ten in all — laid out multiple criticisms of charter schools : their performance, their selectivity, discipline, low pay for teachers, lack of community accountability. You name it : if there’s a schools issue, the ten speakers accused charter schools of failing it, and they detaile their indictment with statistics and power point charts.

The Forum attendees, who included State Representrative Liz Malia of Jamaica Plain and State Senator Pat Jehlen of Somerville, attacked charter schools for

1.not accepting their fair share of studebts with behavioral or learning disabkiloities

2.accepting a percehtate of English language Learhers (“ELL”s) far lower than that of the community each serves

3.using teachers who do not meet state certificastyion staheards for public school teachers, and not granting them collective bargaining vrights

4.performing no better, on tests and in graduation rates, than the standard public schools

5.violating, in their governance, the State’s open meeting law

6.imposing rigid discipline and dress codes upon studehts to the point of damaging studebts’ self-confidence and for the purpose of weeding out studehts who do not “fit the model.”

7.drawing millions of dollars away from standard public schools, leaving them under-equipped and lacking vital curriculum components such as arts, language, and technology

8.too great a focus on “teaching to the test” — the State’s MCAS exams, which public school teachers hate.

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“millions of dollars are being drained !” — the BTU’s Ed Doherty speaks at the CPS Forum

Ed Doherty, a past president of the Boston Teachers Union, held back nothing. “85 million dollars are being drained,” aid Doherty, “from the Boston schools budget” — perhaps forgetting that mayor Walsh’s projected school budget will be 39.6 million dollars larger than last year. “Charters send back to public schools misbehaving and underperforming students,” Doherty added, and “Teachers at charter schools should be teacher certified in the usual manner.”

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Roger Rice of META delivered the most effective criticism of charter schools ; that most of them enormously under-serve English language earner students

Of the other speakers, Roger Rice of META convincingly demonstrated that charter schools srve a portion of ELL’s far less than the percentage of ELL’s in the public school system. CPS’s Dr. Alain Jehlen illustrated charter schools’ discipline codes. Jerry Mogul, executive directory of an advocacy group, showed that charter schools sometimes fail special eduaction requuremebtrs. Roy Belson, Superintendent of Medford Public Schools, asked, “if the reason for charter schools is to close the achievement gap, shouldn’t they take kids who ARE the achievement gap ?” School Committeeman Charles Gallo of Lynn — who mentioned twice that he is running for the State Representative seat that Steve Walsh is leaving this month — simply said “we on the Lynn school committeeman signed a letter to the Governor saying, ‘no more charter schools. If only other school committees would do that.”

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^ Lynn school committeeman Charles Gallo : running for State Rep on a “no more charter schools” platform

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Daniella Cook : somebody wins and somebody loses should never be an education result.

One speaker, Daniella Cook, a University of South Carolina educator, complained that with charter schools, “somebody wins and somebody loses” and “schools should not be market based.” She also played the race card : “We cannot talk about the proliferation of charter schools without talking race,” said Cook. “Charters are a racially based political economy.”

Less than 100 people attended the Forum. Many of these were part of the presentation. Does this mean that the anti-charter schools argument hasn’t much of a constituency ? Perhaps so. Charter schools were established in Massachusetts some 20 years ago not because they lacked support but because they have lots of it; nor do charters appear to be losing ground. Both of the final candidates for Boston Mayor were friends of charter school expansion. Those candidates who were not friends of charters finished back in the pack. Clearly the anti-charter argument is a minority view.

I have now attended four Forums since the Mayor election in which anti-charter school forces have convened their numbers and their arguments. Some of their points hit home : Charter schools should accept many more ELL’s. Charters should be slower to dismiss kids with behavioral issues. Charters should establish paent-teacher associations and encoyrage parents to participate.

For the rest of the critique, however, I have scant patience. (1 ) how is it racist to demand students be held to account by strict discipline and dress standards ? that kind of indelible, constant focus is exactly what kids — OK, let’s assume the stereotype for argument’s sake — from homes often anarchic or dysfunctional need. The parents know it and insist on it; the kids mostly agree, if not when they are kids, then long after, as adults. ( 2 ) why should public schools have first dibs on taxpayers’ education money ? The whole idea of charter schools — of school technique diversity in general — is that the standard public school model often does not work. ( 3 ) Why need teachers in schools other than standard public have to be certified “in the usual manner” ? Teaching is an art; many people have the art. Why not ask people beyond the standard to reach in their non-standard way ? ( 4 ) And what was former charter school teacher Barrett Smith, calling for when he said that “we must educate the whole child” ? This is one of those school-argot phrases that sounds good but rankles when a definition is attempted. To me it means that we educate kids to citizenship as well as employment. Obviously schools should do that.

But the “whole child” does not even COME to school. MOST of “the child” lives at home. Kids spend far more of their school years at home than in a school. Schools do not educate the “whole” child, only the part of a child that schools attend for about eight hours, five days a week, about nine months a year.

this is why I find the phrase “educate the whole child” most unhelpful.

I noted above that Mayor Walsh’s Boston Public Schools budget will be 39.6 million larger than last year’s. Yet almost all of this increase is going to pay for BPS teachers’ pay raises. Can there be any doubt that the many speakers who emphasized today the money that charters “draw away’ from standard public schiools are thinking — a lot — of the NEXT teachers’ unions contracts ?

The Boston Teachers Union — several of whose leaders were at this morning’s Forum — would be well advised to step back from its immovable wall of funding and work rules and try to figure out how to accommodate itself to an education world in which many systems and methods are encouraged; in which choice is essential to state education law; and in which innovation, of curriculum, school organization, and principalship, is sure to increase, not retreat ? Some good points were made today; but they’re as likely as not to be overwhelmed by anti-charter arguments fighting a losing battle.

One excellent suggestion was made by Lawrence school committeeman Jim Blatchford, who noted that in his city, some schools were setting up a teacher-management way of doing things. “we will see,’ he said with a smile, “if they’re ready to lead like that.”

Innovation there will more of; standard issue, less of. Yet as Daniella Cook said, quoting John Dewey : “what the best parent wants for his child, that’s what she should want for all children.” Dewey spoke in support of his innovation, that students should learn by  doing — that rote memorization of dates or speeches wasn’t enough, or practical, and too standardized for the varieties of childhood perceptions of the world. As Cook used the phrase, however, it seemed tio me to hang helplessly on the paradox of life and community. We want all children to have the best education, but we also want the ablest kids to receive an education geared to their ableness. And if we do that, we accentuate the “achievement gap” that the Forum participants claim to dislike. How can there not be an achievement gap if we abet the ablest to harness their abilities ? If we do that, the ablest kids will excel more and more and widen the achievement gap. But how can a society progressive, reformist, and innovation-bound — as ours is — not abet the ablest kids the best we can ? We cannot lead an innovation society with average kids alone. Indeed, if kids of average ability — or less than average — are our concentration, they will end up in a society falling behind others more dedicated to innovation : think Germany; think China. And that will have negative economic consequences for those kids and for their kids; and so forth.

There is no way to avoid the innovation challenge. John Connolly staked his entire campaign on facing the innovation world candidly, forthrightly. He refused to temporize. It cost him the election; a majority of voters looked at the education and workplace future that Connolly spoke of and recoiled from it. It’s a daunting prospect. And real it is. No amount of skepticism about —  no matter how many Forums protest against — education innovation, school competition, and system transformation will stop what is coming.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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John Connolly at Raynise’s house party : his stark vision of what innovation will mean to education method and organization scared many

BOSTON MAYOR : A CURIOUS DAY AT TRANSITION SEMINAR

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^ Seminar Day : much attention and then discussion at the Morning’s Education “Break-Out session”

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It has been a strange week in Boston City Politics. The Mayor-elect, Marty Walsh, has hosted an entire series of gatherings to discuss the eleven issue categories that his Transition Team has endorsed. Singly, night by night, these issues gatherings have taken place and will continue to do so well into January. On Saturday, all eleven issues gatherings held meetings again, all day long, in what Walsh’s Transition Website dubs “Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh Town Hall Meeting.” The title misleads. The actual gatherings felt, to this participant, more like college seminars. Perhaps that’s because they were for the most part led by college educators.

That’s the strange part. The eleven issue categories — Arts and Culture, Basic City Services, Economic Development, Education, Energy-Environment & open Space, Housing, Human Services, Public Health, Public Safety, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Youth — all develop in a political context (some of the issues more than others. Arts & Culture seems appropriately collegiate, Basic City Services hardly at all); and political space is certainly where Walsh will have to decide how to structure them and choose priorities. So why the college-y format ? Yes, Boston’s a city plenteous with colleges. It’s nonetheless peculiar to think of Marty as Headmaster Walsh.

I attended the Morning Education seminar, then the afternoon Transportation/Infrastructure conference. At each, participants offered suggestions on what to keep — stuff that the City is already doing right; on what to implement — stuff that the Mayor can initiate without state legislation or huge budget outlays; and on what to dream about — a wish list for the future. Lists of each were made on large sheets of yellow art paper, and these were read from at the “general session” after all the seminars had ended. From the two sessions that I attended, I photographed both “keep” and “implement” lists. To see just how comprehensive these became, I invite you to peruse the “List” photographs below :photo (27)photo (28)^ the Education Session developed these ^ Lists of “Keep’ and “Implement”

Below —  the Transportation/Infrastructure attendees came up with this “Implement” List :

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After the seminars had concluded, each seminar moderator delivered a report — and the lists. It was a lot to digest. Walsh sat on stage, in their midst and made an heroic effort to pay attention.

Walsh delivered opening remarks and spoke after the session as well; he then did question-and-answer with the hundreds of citizens who more or less populated the Reggie Lewis Auditorium at Roxbury Community College, ground zero for the day’s discussing.

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^ school headmaster ? Marty Walsh addressed the gathered seminar goers after the day’s teaching

His opening remarks told of  a trip to the Nation’s capitol, from which, he said, he had returned only the night before: “The problems we face, the challenges,” said Walsh, “We’ll take them to Washington. Unemployment insurance must be restored…State and federal aid has been cut. we need to change the discussion.” The gathered citizens applauded. After the session ended, Walsh said in summation, “I was told by somebody that they had never seen a mayor and citizens have the kind of conversation we’re having today,” he said. “We need to continue this conversation after today too.”

Clearly Walsh has made a decision that stirring the pot of citizen petitioning the City is good politics. It continues the brilliant move that he made in his campaign, to engage hundreds of educators and public interest advocates in drafting 40 policy papers for future Boston governance. Those papers — 37 were actually completed — made Walsh look Mayoral, not just the Union guy he had been (quite correctly) seen as. No wonder that he is bringing such a thumbs-up campaign device into his transition work. Seminar and conference have much value convincing citizens that City hall is listening diligently. It can. Walsh has brought to his side an impressive group of Bostonians, many of them long known by me, with experience of the City as extensive as my own. And yet…

And yet I’m not sure that Walsh realizes that by keeping the issues pot boiling he is ( 1 ) raising participants’ expectations of his administration very high ( 2 ) will almost certainly disappoint some — maybe many ( 3 ) and thereby is setting the stage for a strong opposition candidate — surely a person of color — in 2017, a campaign that is likely to begin almost immediately after the 2015 Council elections.

Already the early moves are being made, as we see in the serious implications underlying the silly — and distractive — flap about “progressive” Councillor Michelle Wu supporting “conservative’; Bill Linehan for Council President. Already we see the formation of “monitoring’ groups which intend to hold Walsh to a variety of campaign promises — in particular, bringing people of color significantly into his administration at all levels — many of which he will be hard-pressed to keep, especially given the City’s $ 50 million budget deficit (which number is mounting even as I write). Eleven issues seminar groups can only whet the appetite of those with agendas to press.

Politically, it night have been wiser for Walsh to put a lid on politics during his transition — and beyond. This is what John Connolly has done, and most of his supporters. Few Connolly people have participated in the Walsh seminars; fewer still have been much heard from since election day, and John Connolly himself not at all, except to invite supporters to a December 27th “thank you” party. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it’s a pleasant vacation from politics to hear a speech such as Professor (and Boston Globe columnist) Ed Glaeser, emcee of the Seminar, delivered, almost without notes, at session’s end; an eloquent, even stirring, history of The City, in America and elsewhere: what cities are about; why we need them; how they advance the human condition and shape our thoughts; in particular, the history of Boston, with its immigrants, universities, its “human capital,” which, as Glaeser noted, is more valuable than the coal, oil, and minerals that Boston does not have.

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^ History 307 — The City — Professor Glaeser tells it sweepingly

Glaeser’s narrative reminded me of the awe-inspiring History lecturers at whose podiums I studied at college. It was a thrilling experience to feel my mind carried back so many decades to when we students felt ourselves graced and awed by such narratives as Glaeser’s. hearing his speech, I almost forgot that this was a seminar about things to be done.

Talking is not doing. Silence often is.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : Marty Walsh badly needs to expand his reach beyond the team that has gotten him to victory. At the “Town hall” he was surrounded by all the familiar faces — hard working all, idealistic many — and accompanied by legislative and Council endorsers who strengthened his campaign. Of the rest of the City’s power players, however, I saw very very few. Some conspicuously had other plans. Clearly there is skepticism about Walsh’s readiness to the entire City. There’s also still a strong tide of continuance, of no giving up, by the “new Boston’ constituency that almost won on election day. It’s a constituency that doesn’t need City Hall to give it vision or goals to achieve and wants the Mayor to rethink the City, not merely improve it ; and will do so without him, if that’s how it is to be.  — MF

photo (40)^ drawing upon practical experience of the wise heads too :Marty Walsh conferred in a time-out moment with my old friend Pat Moscaritolo, of East Boston, who has managed much economic development work in Boston since the 1970s.

BOSTON SCHOOLS : THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING

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^ Boston public school students lined up to testify and support the issues on order at Mayor-elect Walsh’s education Hearing

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Last night Mayor-elect Walsh’s Transition team held its Education Public Hearing, at English High school in Jamaica Plain. For two hours, from 5.30 Pm to 7.30, three of Walsh’s Transition Team menbers, including his Education Team chairman, John Barros, heard testimony from at least fifty witnesses. Students, school parents, teachers, advocates all spoke.

Less people attended than came to the previous night’s education rally held by Boston Truth. There were at least a hundred vacant seats at English high’s auditorium. listening to the testimony, it was easy to tell why. With hardly any exceptions — more on these later — every witness said basically the same thing : more funding for public schools, downplay charter schools. It was the sound of one hand clapping.

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^ plenty of vacant seats : the elephant wasn’t in the room

There isn’t much to learn from a soundless sound and hardly much more from hearing the same message repeated again and again, with only the age, gender, or skin color of the speakers differing (and these aren’t policy matters, although identity issues were raised by some of the witnesses).

photo (17)^ Boston Latin student (and Student Advisory Council President) testifying against charter schools and thus, basically, that there shouldn’t be any additional Boston Latin schools. “Making history,” wrote one activist about my post of this photo 🙂

It was especially odd — unsettling, too — to hear the students who testified. How does a 17-year old Boston Latin student — smart, yes; Chairman of the Studernt advisory Group; but — acquire an interest in curbing the number or funding of charter schools ? Did he learn his view in debate at school ? Was he coached to his position ? Quite possibly, because he read his testimony from a prepared statement. I found his testimony manipulative. Contradictory, too ; after all, Boston Latin, the City’s totally competitive exam-entry school, is the ultimate “charter” school. Was he really telling us, not that charter schools are bad, but that Boston Latin doesn’t like having its exceptionalism duplicated ?

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^ respectful : Education Transition team members George Perry, Jen Robinson, and John Barros (Team Chairman)

The Transition Team members, George Perry, Jen Robinson, and John Barros, listened respectfully to all. Barros, at least, knows all these issues masterfully. At numerous Mayoral Forums during his candidacy for the office he heard, and responded to, all manner of school reform agendas. Last night surely tried his patience. At times I saw a bored look in his eyes. Did he really need to hear the applause given the various witnesses — the louder, the more in agreement — by the Hearing’s audience, heavy with Boston Teachers Union members (including its President, Richard Stutman, and its organizer, Jessica Tang, who testified) and Boston Truth activists, in order to get the evening’s message ?

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^ “I’m a Boston public school parent,” she said, and told of her difficulties getting her child properly assigned to a school convenient to her home. I wondered : Hadn’t she asked Councillor Connolly to help with that — as did so many Boston school parents ? Then I noticed her LOCAL 26 T shirt…

Fortunately for those who might have expected the incoming Mayor’s Education Team to hear a diversity of views rather than a one-hand clap, a few witnesses did offer opinions credibly their own. Jason Williams, an executive with of Stand for Children, hoped that Mayor-elect Walsh would continue his commitment to charter schools, noting that as a legislator, Walsh worked to increase their number. Applause ? None. Another witness, who said that he was a Boston Harbor captain, suggested that BPS should offer 6th grade students a course with sailing experience. Applause ? A few. Karen Kast, organizer of Boston Truth, challenged Mayor-elect Walsh to keep his campaign promises. Aplause ? plenty.

Most interestingly, Mary Pierce, who heads a special eduaction advocacy group, voiced her personal experience of frustrations dealing with Boston School Department administration. This was risky territory : reform of Boston Schools administration was a centerpiece of John Connolly’s education agenda. A door was opened — a bit; but the moment passed.

Sometimes the elephant is in the room; sometimes he is not in the room. John Connolly was the elephant not in the room. Other than Jason Williams, there likely wasn’t a single person testifying (or applauding) who on November 5th stood with Connolly’s 48.5 % of the vote.

Education became a key issue in the campaign entirely because John Connolly made it so. Most of the other candidates would gladly have left it aside — Walsh too — to be dealt with at the State House. Connolly made sure that Boston schools would be front and center — the decider — on election day. The major effort now being assembled by the Boston Teachers union and its allies, to push the schools reform agenda in its direction, would likely not be taking place had John Connolly not forced school reform sharply, radically forward.

This history makes many people wonder why the Mayor-elect even bothered to have an Education Hearing last night. As I was preparing to write this column, I found on my facebook page the following comment (excerpts follow) by friend Lisa Moellman :

“At 5:30 on a school night, just before Christmas — thry are stacked so that BTU representation/agenda dominates. picking up and feeding kids, holiday commitments prevent so many parents from participati9ng. Why would Walsh hold these important forums…at a difficult hour….? Why not the first weeks of January when actual diversity of participation could happen ?”

Why, indeed ? Myself, I think it’s public relations — Walsh’s showing the voters (and the media) that “he will listen to the people.” Nothing more, nothing less. Education is an issue that Walsh wants to put aside as much as possible ; to hand over to whichever poor sucker accepts becoming his new School superintendent, so that Marty can get on with his first priority : keeping the Boston Building boom alive and expanding, so that his building trades workers — including the many new hires that he will insist upon — can keep on earning hefty pay checks.

As for public schools and charter schools, compared to the issue debate that took place the prior evening at Boston Truth’s gathering, and much more so at every Mayoral Forum during the campaign, last night was a complete waste of auditorium heating oil.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE at 3.11 PM 12/11/13 : am informed that during the 20 minutes prior to my arrival at the Hearing at 5.50 PM, other opinions, including from representatives of charter schools, were given. These sure didn’t last long. Still, it’s good to know that the Hearing wasn’t completely one thing. — MF

#MAPOLI : BAKER TAKES A RIGHT TURN…AND OTHER VEERINGS

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the would be Governor stoops for a spot of Tea : Karyn Polito to be Charlie Baker;s running mate

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A number of high-visibility Massachusetts pols did the attention-getting unexpected today. Perhaps the biggest such event of the day, however, was not a happy move and had the feeling of a surrender  : Charlie Baker, who almost certainly will be the Republican nominee for Governor next year, anointed one Karyn Polito as his Lieutenant Governor sidekick.

Who IS Karyn Polito ? A former State Representative from Shrewsbury and the 2010 Republican candidate for Treasurer. And why her ? It is speculated that Baker chose her because ( 1 ) Baker lost women voters in the 2010 Governor election by 24 points and ( 2 ) she is popular with the Worcester County Tea folks. As I wrote three days ago, Polito recently spoke at an event on the South Shore at which the featured guest was one Allen West, a stridently contemptuous, Tea party favorite and one-term (defeated) Florida Congressman. Polito is said to have praised West in her own speech at that event. That would be reason enough to wonder why Baker would link his candidacy to Polito, who served as campaign chair for Michael Sullivan’s right-wing US Senator campaign earlier this year. Sullivan’s opposition to marriage equality (and of course to transgender civil rights) mirrored Polito’s own recent legislative record. (Baker’s campaign says tat Polito has since come around and now shares his views on social issues.)

All of this represents a huge shift for Baker, who in 2010 chose as his running mate Richard Tisei, an openly gay State Senator who vigorously supports lifestyle civil rights — indeed, he was the original legaislative sponsor of the transgender rights bill that was enacted as law last year. As it happens, Polito, too, has made her own huge shift. During the Romney years she was — like almost all Massachusetts Republicans — strongly pro-choice and supportive of marriage equality. Of course we all know what Mitt Romney did in the years since he left he Massachusetts governorship. Polito has simply followed his example, bowing her reformist record to the voices who want to repeal all reform.

Such is the politician whom Baker has chosen as his symbol this campaign cycle : a gravatar of reaction, a face of opposition to nearly everything the GOP has stood for in Massachusetts since it was founded. Well might I call the Baker-Polito ticket “anti-Republican.”

Baker had other options. He could have chosen State Representative Geoff Diehl, a social progressive who spearheads the “Tank the Gas Tax” movement. He might have gone really bold and picked Pamela Julian, leader of the League of Women Voters and a force in Boston. Elizabeth Childs of Brookline was a possibility. I would have preferred any of these.

Will this ticket likely succeed with Massachusetts voters ? As hardly anybody votes for a Lieutenant Governor, in the end it probably won’t matter to anyone who isn’t a political junkie. But it should. A successful candidacy gives the angry anti’s of the Tea party a credibility that right now they thankfully lack.

Connolly w Chin

^ John Connolly as WHAT ? Mayor Walsh’s new school superintendent ? Not damn likely

No sooner had I digested this swig of political castor oil than news came that, in an interview by radio host Jim Braude, Mayor-elect Marty Walsh said that he “absolutely do(es) not rule out asking John Connolly to be his new superintendent of schools.”

WTF ? Immediately came the waves of outcry from the teachers union activists, the Diane Ravitch groupies, and the opponents of charter schools and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That was to be expected. But I too, a supporter of Connolly and his “school transformation” vision, found the suggestion a red herring — or maybe a sly nick. Connolly is screwed by this knee-chop remark no matter how he responds — IF he does respond. His best response being to not respond at all. Clearly John Connolly has a ton of career options better than the tainted biscuit that Walsh so suavely served up.

Whoever agrees to be Mayor Walsh’s superintendant of schools is bound to disappoint almost everyone : school parents wanting big reform, the Teachers Union opposing every reform except its own politically unlikely agenda, the administrators, principals, kids — you name it. Boston’s public schools need significant reconfiguration; almost any new superintendent won’t be able to get it done. Why should John Connolly descend into that vortex ?

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^ Guess who is heading to Israel as a guest of the ADL ? Yup, Council Felix G. Arroyo.

No sooner had I digested the Connolly suggestion than Councillor Felix G. Arroyo announced that he is visiting Israel next week as a guest of the Anti-Defamation League. This surprised me. Most politicians allied with the Labor Left — and Arroyo is definitely there — are supporters of the Palestinians, not the ADL. So what is up ? Politicians make trips to Israel when they have high officer in mind. Might Felix G. Arroyo be thinking of running for Lieutenant Governor ? It would make sense. He would enhance the Democratic ticket no matter which of the four likely hopefuls becomes the nominee. He’d be an inspired choice. Is Arroyo on it ?

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : this is article was updated December 5, 2013 at 8:00 am.

THE MAYORALTY OF MARTY WALSH : THE WEAKNESS COMES HOME TO ROOST

Michael Curry NAACP

^ “access, opportunity and results” : Michael Curry of the Boston NAACP and son at a rally recently

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In Friday’s Boston Globe appeared an article by Akilah Johnson in which was made clear that incoming mayor Marty Walsh will be monitored on his response to diversity issues and held accountable for his actions. Wrote Johnson in the article :

The group, calling itself The Inclusive Boston Alliance, is developing a score card to scrutinize the creation and implementation of education, public safety, employment, and economic development policies. The group plans to conduct status checks after the first 100 days of Walsh’s administration and again at the six-month, one-year, two-year, and four-year marks.

Access, opportunity, and results have to be the building blocks of the Walsh administration,” said Michael Curry, president of the Boston Branch NAACP, one of the organizations involved in the alliance. “That’s what communities of color voted for.”

The alliance, which plans to formally announce its intentions Friday, includes the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, the Commonwealth Compact at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and MassVOTE. These and several other community and civil rights groups came together during the campaign and held two debates focused on issues affecting communities of color.

In no way can any of this be a surprise to Walsh. He actively sought votes from Boston’s communities of color. The vote that they provided him tallied more than his own Primary vote. As I wrote immediately after the Primary and before it : one of the odd features of this election was that whoever won, a big majority of his vote would come from people who didn’t want him. It proved so. Now we see what the consequences are. The new Mayor either adopts as a priority the demands of those who voted for him as skeptics rather than supporters, or he is in trouble right away.

It would have been no different had John Connolly won. Except for one thing : Connolly was a much stronger candidate, politically, than Walsh. As Paul McMorrow has astutely pointed out, Connolly defeated Walsh in 95 of Boston’s 137 Caucasian-majority precincts. Connolly didn’t need to win any of the 118 COC-majority precincts; he only needed to break even, or to lose them slightly. Walsh needed to win these 118 precincts by 15 points. (He won all but 11, most of them by 20 to 25 points).

The numbers prove it. In the Final, Walsh carried 49 selected precincts (in Wards 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, m15, 17, and 18) by 5687 votes : almost 800 more votes than his city-wide win margin. In the Primary, Walsh won those same 49 precincts by a mere 110 votes. Between September 24 and November 5, Walsh’s Black community endorsers alone (I leave out precincts where Felix G. Arroyo was strong; his situation is different; see my Note below) brought Walsh an additional 5577 votes : again, about 700 more than his Final election win margin. Walsh has been called a “bridge Mayor” — bridge between the Menino years and a Mayor of color. The numbers and the politics of Connolly voters make a strong case for that assessment.

Connolly would have had much more liberty to negotiate the monitoring groups agenda than has Walsh. It is not clear to me that this calculation played a role in the endorsements that John Barros, Charlotte Golar-Richie, Gloria Fox, Russell Holmes, and most other politicians of color accorded Marty Walsh. But it would surprise me if (1) the political advantage offered them by Walsh’s vote weakness didn’t occur pretty soon after the endorsements were given and (2) the advantage didn’t occur right away to many of these endorsers’ advisors.

And another thing : make no mistake. Boston’s communities of color want a Mayor who “looks like them,’ as the campaign’s mantra often put it,  as soon as they can elect one. A Mayor Connolly would have been very hard to beat: because it is not at all clear that Marty Walsh’s Caucasian vote base would vote by 15 to 20 points for a candidate of color as readily as the precincts of color voted for Walsh. Whereas John Connolly’s voters are much more open to such a candidate and have always been. Can anyone doubt that had Walsh faced Charlotte Golar-Richie, she would have beaten Marty in almost every Ward carried by Connolly ?

Mayor Walsh will be much easier to defeat, than would have Connolly, if not in 2017 then definitely in 2021. I think that both parts of his coalition know this very well indeed. I think he knows it, too. He is moving all the chess pieces right now to make himself trusted as well as accepted, and nobody in Boston politics is better able to get there. But can he ? It will be interesting to see how Walsh’s political vulnerability plays out at the tables of power where Boston’s — and his — political future is decided.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : I have left out Felix G. Arroyo frrom my analysis for three reasons : ( 1 ) he is Hispanic, not Black, and has a significantly smaller vote base than Charlotte Golar-Richie had ( 2 ) his endorsement was, I feel, given entirely sincerely on the issues and not in any way out of real-politik calculation and ( 3 ) if he is to win a fight to be Mayor he will have to break free of the coalition that he whole-heartedly embraced this time around. It won’t be easy, but Arroyo has tgime on his side. He’s only 34 years old !

THE MAYORALTY OF MARTY WALSH : A LETTER FROM MEL KING

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^ Mel King : says that his endorsement was prompted by the “young adults” of Right to the City,” whom he “encouraged to do this analysis” of “its questionnaire to both candidates.”

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A letter from Mel King in today’s Boston Globe prompts me to write a column about Marty Walsh’s impending Mayoralty that I was already thinking about. In his letter, King — the Grand Old man of street-theater activism, decades before Occupy — says :

“A group called Right To the City, composed of various organizations working on access to affordable housing, good jobs, quality education, and sustainable community development, seeks to enable a cross section of racial, ethic, and income groups to remain and participate in all aspects of Boston.’

The letter continues : “The group’s members, a new rainbow coalition, are in the forefront of such issues as foreclosure blockades to protect people’s homes, stopping no-fault tenant evictions, and fighting alongside unions for construction jobs.”

This letter fascinates me. It raises all sorts of questions :

1.The second quote sums up the organization City Life/Vida Urbana, of which Steve Meacham, a man very close to both Felix Arroyo’s, is the justly respected spokesperson. Vida Urbana does all but one (that, see below) of the things cited in that quote. Yet in the Primary, when it most mattered, King did not back Felix G. Arroyo. He was closest to Charles Clemons, a man of almost Republican economic views, and to Clemons’s major supporters — all of whom ended up supporting John Connolly.

2.The first quote mentions affordable housing initiatives as one of Right To the City’s priorities. Did King not know — does he not YET know ? — that one of John Connolly’s primary endorsers, State Representative Jay Livingstone, filed and shepherded a $ 1.4 billion affordable housing bond bill that Governor Patrick signed into law just last week ? Later in his letter King says that “the group felt that Walsh was more responsive to its concerns.” Not true of the affordable housing issue.

3.King then says, “Having encouraged these young adults to do this analysis, I joined with them.” King then talks about watching Walsh, at several rallies : “I saw evidence of ways Walsh’s campaign included people.” True enough; but did King not manage to see a few of John Connolly’s rallies ? If not, why not ? It would be fascinating to know what inclusion King did NOT see at the Connolly rallies.

These questions merit answering. Can I start with the one thing, in King’s quote, that City Life does NOT do :  “…fighting alongside unions for construction jobs” ?

These seven words express the reason why King finally joined a group comprised chiefly of Felix G. Arroyo people, to endorse a man about whom this most original of Boston citizens had nothing original to say…

Construction jobs and unions were Walsh’s cliche. The Construction Chief’s campaign piled forty stories of Mayor-initiative atop that cliche, space well built and beautifully appointed by 600 architects of policy hired for the job. The cliche is what King clings to.

Time is coming soon now when that policy building will have to be built. Will it be ? CAN it be ?

Walsh is hemmed in by his union support even more than he is empowered by it. If he favors his unions supporters too obviously, he will hand a perfect “See ? we told you so” issue to a 2017 opponent. If he cracks at the next City union contract crunch time… or, if he pushes back against the City unions, as he did against the school bus drivers… If he proceeds with the infamous House Bill 2467…or if that bill is never heard from again : whichever way Walsh chooses, either the opposition will gain or his supporters will complain. Which is it to be ?

Implementing even a fraction of the 40 policy initiatives that his campaign crafted and published will require intricate management. Compromise and collaboration won’t suffice. Every one of Walsh’s policy proposals shifts the job descriptions of those who will have to carry them out. City employees, like union workers, resist work rule changes. gho will assure that the city employees tasked to carry out Walsh’s initiatives will comply ? Will feel enthusiastic about it ?

Enter, perhaps, some of those business, university, and Union partnerships that Walsh talked of during the campaign.

And then comes the Boston Public Schools, which, according to State evaluation, appear able to educate properly barely half their students.

Easier for Walsh will be what he is already masterful at, with long partnerships in place : continuing the Boston building boom. And ramping it up. The Building trades people and the developers who accord them a living can expect to work the BRA a lot more invitingly than they did under Mayor Menino. City hall plaza — a good idea, if rather impracticable — and hotels galore, new school buildings, Downtown Crossing, Dudley Square, Jackson Square — and more. The next few years will surely be a field day for Boston construction. Probably, also, for workers from the City’s communities of color, whose entry into the Building trades Walsh has long sought, with less success than he would like.

This is one deal that Walsh can definitely close.

It seems, however, that Walsh and his team want to say and do everything they can to distract the voters’ attention from this deal. The Walsh Mayoralty, in their talk and print, puts on an ear-ful of masquerade. Is there a reason why the Walsh team so gilds their developer-deal lily ? Certainly it’s not that building trades jobs are a bad thing. They’re very much a good thing. Then what IS it that they are cos-playing about ? Do I sense a price tag dressed in domino in the background ? (Yes, I am thinking Venice here — an echo only, since we won’t be getting a Venetian casino, sigh.) Perhaps when we find out who the “One Boston PAC” is — the half-million bucks that Joce Hutt is harlequin-ing for — we’ll find out who is carnivalling in Walsh’s political pasquinade.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR : A STUNNING SHIFT — AND WHAT PORTENDS ; THE CASINO PERPLEX

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^ New Boston versus a revolutionary “old Boston’ alliance : breakdown of Tuesday’s vote by WBUR

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Thanks to the superb interactive map posted by WBUR, my final article about the Boston mayor race that elected Marty Walsh two days ago is made simple. All of my readers should look at the WBUR map and study it. The whole story is in it.

But now to my final thoughts :

1.Marty Walsh achieved office by revolutionizing Boston’s political alliances.

Always heretofore, Boston’s communities of color had voted in alliance with the City’s patrician, high minded, urban reformers, based historically in Beacon Hill, Bay Village, and the Back Bay. This alliance was the core of the old Republican party grounded in Abolition, a GOP that has just about vanished from the scene. It had, until Tuesday, lived on strongly in Boston city politics, even though now entirely within the Democratic party, at least since the 2000 election.

Walsh succeeded at breaking this alliance. Though he won almost no votes among high minded urban reformers — Ward 5 (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Bay Village) was his worst in the City, worse for him even than John Connolly’s home ward — Walsh won the City’s Wards of color decisively, every single one of them. (I can, in fact, find only one majority black precinct that Connolly carried : Fort Hill in Roxbury).

Never before in a city election had Boston’s wards of color voted with the City’s “old Irish’ wards of which Walsh is the epitome. An abyss of contention divided the two communities. To win one was almost to guarantee losing the other. Attempts were made; but none succeeded as did Walsh’s work. The divide transcended party. Walsh’s base is the most Republican-voting part of Boston, the wards of color the most Democratic. Yet on Tuesday the two areas joined up to give Walsh his unprecedented win.

Of course the Republican votes of today’s South Boston and “Irish” Dorchester are completely different from the Republican votes of forty, sixty, 100 years ago. This is pro-life, socially conservative Republicanism, not Abolition and high-minded reform. And of course, the voters of color who moved their wards to Walsh aren’t the old, high-minded, enterprising, church-based descendants of Abolition and reform; they are union workers and those who seek to be. And of course, that is the connection : it was union labor politics that has brought the two communities together — an achievement that Marty Walsh can claim as his unique contribution. I seriously doubt that any other labor union politician could have done it. None is trusted as profoundly as is Walsh, both within union politics and without.

2. High-minded urban reform is far from defeated; indeed, it is Boston’s fastest growing political movement.

Led by John Connolly, who practically created the new version of it by his campaign, high-minded, urban reform all but captured City hall on its first try. The movement forged a base more solid than even Walsh’s and moved to its side one part — Charlestown — of the old “Irish” Boston that would have once been Walsh’s for the taking. And in fact, though a smaller achievement numerically than Walsh’s, the move of Charlestown into the urban reform camp proved just as formidable. Only Ward 5 and one other ward of the City produced a larger percentage increase in voter turnout from the primary. (More about that ward later.)

The new urban reform movement — “NURM,” let us call it — with its agenda of school transformation, enterprise innovation, bicycles and parks, public safety, and the importance of listening to those who are crying out — has firmly taken hold of all of the Downtown core of Boston : ( 1 ) Chinatown ( 2 ) the Waterfront (3) the Seaport (4) the North End (5) all of the South End, including its extension beyond Massachusetts Avenue into what used to be called “Lower Roxbury” and (6) all of Ward 5. And, as I said, Charlestown too.

Add to this the half of East Boston from Day Square to the Harbor; Jamaica Plain west of the Orange Line; Allston and almost all of Brighton; and a strong majority of West Roxbury and a smaller but still majority of Roslindale, and you have a significant voting bloc. And please note : NURM Boston is growing, while the areas in Marty Walsh’s coalition are receding. Case in point : that Fort Hill precinct. Roxbury is changing. it is becoming more entrepreneurial, racially mixed, socially connected to itself. Four years from now — eight, twelve — much of Roxbury will be voting with the South End. The same can be said of South Boston. From primary to final, John Connolly improved his percentage of the vote in the South Boston precincts closer to the Seaport. Four to 12 years from now much of South Boston will be voting like the Seaport, not against it.

Entrepreneurs both white and Black were the vanguard of John Connolly’s urban reform voting bloc. They weren’t just donors to his funds. They took leadership roles on the front lines of getting votes. from Greg Selkoe to Darryl Settles, Clayton Turnbull to BostInno, Akrobatik to Phil Frattaroli, business innovators fought and often won the battle, in a way that I had not seen since the late 1960s.

Their numbers will grow. I suspect too that so will their front line activism.

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^ the Hyde park part of ward 18 : where the Connolly campaign was beaten

3. Ward 18 proved decisive, although it needn’t have.

The Connolly campaign got out-manoeuvered badly in ward 18 — 75,000 people, the largest ward in the City : all of Hyde Park and Mattapan and a part of Roslindale — and ended up losing every one of its 23 precincts.

Granted that none of Ward 18 is “new Boston” in any way, it was not at all assured to Marty Walsh.

Connolly’s problems in the ward began early. Because he announced his campaign while it still looked as if Tom Menino — who lives in ward 18 and was once its District Councillor — would run again, Connolly accorded the ward a lesser priority. Then, when Menino announced that he would not be running again, the area’s current Councillor, Rob Consalvo, stepped up. In the final, the area’s State Representative, Angelo Scaccia, endorsed Marty Walsh, along with several other local political leaders. And John Connolly ? He concentrated his effort so aggressively on the wards of color that, somehow, the power part of Ward 18 got back-burnered.

It should never have been thus. How can you plan to run for Mayor, even against a ward 18 man, and not assemble a ward 18 team early on ? Angelo Scaccia is not all-conquering. He has had many very close elections in his long career. So yes, you talk to Chris Donato, who almost defeated Scaccia not too many years ago. And yes, you pay a visit to Pat Tierney up on Fairmount Hill; you ask if her famous actress daughter Maura Tierney will consider doing a video in support of you. You go to Maureen Costello, Jack Scully, Paul Loconte, Bill Sinnott, Brad White, John Grady, Bill Broderick Jr., Tony Ferzoco, Al Thomas, Tim Lowney, Donny at the Bowling Alley, Joseph Pulgini (who ended up with Walsh, early too) — all whom I respected back in the day; probably I am missing many — and you say, “OK, I understand that you might not be with me if Tom runs but if he doesn’t run, are you with me ?” You do it early and you do it aggressively. And maybe many of the people I have named don’t join you; but some will. So, you build a team in the City’s largest Ward and you keep on building it.

John Connolly may have done some or even all of the above. But I saw no evidence of it. Connolly did, after the Primary, bring to his side Dave Vittorini, Councillor Consalvo’s aide; and Vittorini knows tons of people; but this was the Charlotte Golar-Richie situation all over again : the candidate’s workers went to Connolly, but the candidate him or herself either went to Walsh or stayed neutral.

Little wonder that Vittorini’s efforts were not at all enough to dent Marty Walsh’s Ward 18 campaign. Walsh brought Congressman Mike Capuano all the way from Somerville to Hyde Park to do his endorsement press conference. The Ward’s many BTU people — who loved Consalvo’s “the BTU agenda is my agenda” message — chose Walsh, of course. Thus it came about that on Tuesday Marty Walsh won ward 18 by at least 12 points. Won every precinct of it.

And now to the casino vote. Ward 1 — East Boston — almost doubled its primary vote total as 7324 voters cast casino yea or nay ballots. The nays had it. How was this possible ? How did a majority of people vote against jobs and money ? Who organized and paid for the “no casino’ campaign ?

The answer should be as obvious as the bad breath of a wino. Steve Wynn did it. I have no proof; nor do I need any. It was hugely in Wynn’s interest not to have a possible contending casino applicant right next door to his planned Everett casino — overwhelmingly approved by Everett voters. It would be malpractice for Wynn NOT to fund a “no casino” campaign in East Boston and, I have no doubt, to promise its organizers that there will be lots of juicy jobs in his Everett casino if the East Boston vote went to the “no” side. As it did.

Tuesday was a very very good day for Steve Wynn. Very good indeed.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere