BOSTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS : WHAT NEXT FOR REFORM ?

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^ Boston school reformer Mary Tamer : Marty Walsh needs to reappoint her

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Lawrence Harmon’s column in today’s Globe tweaked me to write once more about the prospects for school upgrade in Boston. My last column on this topic appeared well before the Mayor election. Much has happened since, and not just the selection of a new Mayor. School reform occupies center stage nationwide, as parents, students, and the job market push for — insist upon — huge changes in how we educate children, how rigorously, and to what purpose.

Harmon focuses on the City’s teacher evaluations, which he finds very suspiciously upbeat. 93 percent of teachers, he writes, land “in the exemplary and proficient categories on a new teacher-evaluation system.” He also notes that almost every BPS principal rated high. “Yet,” he goes on, “about two thirds of the city’s schools rank in the bottom 20 percent statewide based on student test data.”

He asks, “what is going on here ?” A few sentences later comes an answer : “It suggests that good teachers are unable to compensate for poverty, social ills, non-native English status, and other difficulties associated with urban schools.”

The suggestion rings true. Harmon says that it should not matter, that just as the Boston Police do not settle for the high rate of crime in certain neighborhoods but attack it head-on, so should the schools. No doubt that Harmon is right. But teachers aren’t a police force. Boston’s police patrol 24/7 ; teachers teach only seven hours a day, five days a week. Boston school children live by far the most of their day with someone other than their teachers.

I agree that the new teacher evaluations disservice everyone, the teachers included. No one working on any job does it perfectly. All of us can improve; all should try to do so. To have value, an evaluation system should do what my Phillips Andover American History teacher did ; “no one in this course will get an A,” he said, “because none of you can master the subject that well.” The best that anyone could do, he told us, was a B. My American history teacher was pressing the point that what he would be teaching us really, really mattered. Being the best teacher that one can be matters even more.

Harmon also quotes school committee member Mary Tamer at length, on the evaluation issue — especially of Boston Public school administrators. Her rigor and critique should be cherished by a system dedicated to improving itself.

That said, as I see it the big problem in urban public schools is not the competence of teachers or principals. The problem lies elsewhere, most often at home. If children are sent to school without a healthy breakfast; if they come from homes in dysfunction or commotion; if they cannot negotiate the English language; if they are prey to peer pressures, from bad decisions to worse; if at home no one ever reads to them, challenges them intellectually, engages their curiosity — if any or all of these home situations devils every part of a child’s life outside school, what is his life IN school likely to be ? Peer pressure becomes even more intense at school.

The home lives that I listed in the previous sentence come to school on the backs of all too many kids. Your kid may have the solidest home life in the neighborhood ,and it is not going to be enough, confronted as it will be in school itself by kids from problemed homes. A very few, remarkable kids can work through such peer pressure. A few can triumph even over their own home badness. But how many ? And there isn’t much that a teacher can do about it. Most Boston public school teachers I have known can rescue many kids from the badness; what about the others ? It cannot be all on the teachers.

School reform begins at home. If the parents or guardians aren’t fully committed to see that their kids triumph intellectually, morally, physically, and emotionally, and if they cannot rely on their neighbors to do the same with their own kids, urban public schools are going to continue to under-perform even with miracle men as teachers.

It is this time that we evaluate the parents and guardians. And time too that we expect no better of Boston public school kids than public school parents put into it.

Frankly if I were a Boston public school parent, I would grow grim about the certainty that my kid(s) will find it almost impossible to get that cutting-edge technology job — or even an entry level tech-competent position — because I am failing, my neighbor is failing, and thus the public schools are failing, too, because my neighbors and I aren’t demanding that school concentrate on testing, teaching, cajoling, piquing every child in class to work to the next level, to experiment, to imagine, and to really, really THINK. None of which my school can succeed at because too much class time is spent getting hepped-up kids to calm down, into some sort of order, into concentration.

No wonder that diligent parents choose charter schools if they can make the cut. But that too is not the answer. The only answer is the community-wide, full-metal jacket — much more than the competence of teachers and principals evaluated without compromise — that I have outlined. Anything less well work only partly, leaving some parents unsatisfied and some children unready for tomorrow’s mercilessly experimental jobs.

One final question : do you have any evidence that the new Mayor will spur a school reform as vast as the effort i have outlined ? I sure don’t. The voters of Boston already passed judgment on how much school reform they wanted. Mary Tamer supported John Connolly, as did I, for much the same reason: school reform cannot be piecemeal. Yet piecemeal it looks now to be. There will be some changes. More teachers and principals will be people of color. The school day will lengthen. Trade and technology curricula will expand, in partnership with universities, labor unions, and businesses. Some children will definitely benefit, somewhat. I doubt it will be anything like enough; yet I am willing to be proved wrong.

Harmon suggests in his column that Mayor Walsh should reappoint Tamer, whose term is at end. “Walsh…needs to hear strong, independent voices,” writes Harmon, “as he tackles the job of improving schools.” I agree.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : A TALE OF TWO CITIES

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^ John and Meg Connolly — and an array of Boston Public School parents — at last night’s Elks hall rally

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The candidates for Mayor of Boston talk all the time about bringing the city together or about everybody, in whatever neighborhood, wanting the same thing. This is true. Yet campaigns are about differences. Campaigns don’t alleviate those differences, they emphasize them. Thus the differences magnified in the campaigns of this election’s two perceived leaders, Marty Walsh and John Connolly.

At his “Mondays With Marty” events — “community conversations” in the argot of today — Marty Walsh has drawn hundreds of listeners to his message of “best practices” education, improving the Downtown Boston economy, fighting the “heroin epidemic,” and setting up an office of diversity in City Hall so that the City’s departments “reflect what Boston looks like.” Walsh speaks passionately at these Mondays, if a bit quickly, and with a sincerity that touches everyone who hears him. Yet from East Boston to Dudley square in Roxbury and West Roxbury to Charlestown, Walsh’s Mondays seem to draw mostly people age 35 to 50 — the peak working years — who speak of, or look like, harried lives. He’s every bit the union workers’ candidate that he has been labeled as, and though he draws all kinds of work-age people, not only union workers by any means, the tones of voice of those who address questions to him is often gravelly, even anxious, the voices of people who work with their hands or whose work is always hands-on, and as hurried as is Walsh’s speaking.

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^ urgency : a full house at Marty Walsh’s Haley house “Monday” conversation (Council candidate Jack Kelly center top)

Walsh’s Mondays are front-line work. There’s an air of “now” in them. As much as Walsh speaks of future directions, his “Mondays” listeners want to know what is going to happen on Tuesday morning. The passion in Walsh’s listeners is palpable. You can feel it rumble. That passion arises from the urgency. Tuesday morning is just one night’s worry away. No candidate’s supporters show more angst than Walsh’s.

Is the urgency of Walsh’s supporters a bad thing ? Not at all. But it’s why his plan to sell City hall and begin the revitalization of Government Center as a “24/7 economic usage zone” moves them. His plan is for now, for immediate, doable action. Same with Walsh’s call that, “at my first meeting after I am elected will address the heroin epidemic.” Walsh knows that his voters can’t wait for improvements that may take a long while to bring about, or that may not happen at all. The difficulties that Walsh’s people want addressed will happen first thing Tuesday morning : traffic on Charlestown Neck, folks being priced out of their homes, how’s my son going to get a technology job, the lack of people of color in the higher-up Police department. And even if the last issue in this list seems like a task for another day, it isn’t. It’s something that Walsh’s supporters of color live with every day. (And Walsh does have many, many people of color supporting him and working in his campaign. He is seen as the candidate of burly white guys — and his stand-outs reinforce that perception — but he is much, much more than that.)

Walsh’s most recent “Monday,” at Haley House near Dudley square, drew an overflow crowd, standing room only and then some. Almost all were people of color. It was an event built on urgency and then some; on rescue.

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Marty Walsh : politics as rescue — for the folks at Haley House

Walsh spoke quickly. “Unemployment in Dudley is ten percent.,” he began. “This neighborhood lacks home ownership — a high percentage are renters. This neighborhood lacks education. We must make Madison Park High School work…as it hasn’t. Bring back ‘voke tech’ programs; they’re not here today.

“we are not preparing our kids for jobs,” he sprinted. “We have to do better… As mayor we’re going to strengthen our schools…turnaround schools..additional resources for ‘level 3’ schools. we need new school buildings !”

Walsh then jumped right into laying out his plan to sell City Hall and revitalize the Plaza area. And from there to “build work-force housing. Charge the buyer just the cost of construction, sell the buyer the land for one dollar. we have to do better…”

He spoke like a man being chased by demons, by wolves, of all sorts, every kind of clamoring need. “Violent kids ? We can lock them up all day, but it’s not working. We need to give kids a pathway to a job. More opportunities than just construction.”

The event was supposed to last only an hour,. It lasted two. Many questions were asked. Urgent ones. Walsh had sepcific answers to all of them. He has an agenda, and he knows every component of it and all are urgent. No wastage at all, no frills, no waiting.photo (81)

^ The questions and requests don’t stop : Marty Walsh “Monday”-ing in East Boston

And that is what his people are like too.

How different a city John Connolly lives in ! Last night we attended his “GOTV” — get out the vote — rally at the Elks Hall in West Roxbury. The room was almost as full as Walsh’s Haley House “Monday’ despite being much bigger.

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Like Walsh’s supporters, Connolly’s come in all colors — a city once torn by racism seems largely to have moved past that burden, at least among the politically attuned. Immediately evident, however, was that Connolly’s ralliers were of all ages and, so it seemed, of diverse life and economic status. Many men wore suits and ties : they might have come directly from a Back Bay Association meeting. Most looked like shopping mall folkss, but some looked recognizably  like politics junkies. I saw veterans of Kevin White’s and even Ray Flynn’s City hall following ; old Arthur Lewis and Bob Cawley people too (both were State Senators decades ago in Connolly’s home area of Roslindale.) I spoke to retired teachers, young students, mothers with babies and pregnant mothers-to-be. Connolly’s parents looked on — Lynda the retired Chief Judge of Massachusetts District Courts, Mike a former Massachusetts Secretary of State (but, as Connolly said, “to me they’re my parents who made me what I am today”). I’ve known Mike and Lynda for over forty years, and, I suspect, so had many in the room.

The people sounded confident, acted it. Tough s Connolly said, “the next six days you have to work harder than ever,” no one seemed harried. People stood and waited relaxedly for Connolly to arrive — he had attended an earlier, Transportation Issues Forum at Boston Public Library downtown — and when he did arrive, though everyone cheered, it was a relaxed cheer. Excited, but not impatient. Patience is a Connolly virtue.

Connolly has two campaign chairmen : State Rep Ed Coppinger and a radio announcer from 101.3. Coppinger is white, the radio guy Black. Both gave their introduction speeches after which spoke one of several Boston Public school parents on stage — a slender woman with nine children, she proudly announced — and then spoke Connolly’s wife Meg, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in Mental Health. She orated off written remarks. It all seemed very carefully planned, like a televised Victory night. Planning is a Connolly virtue.

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Planning : Meg Connolly introduces her husband John

And then the man himself spoke. “I am energized to meet people in every corner of this City,” he said. “We all want the same thing. we all care and want to have a bright future together.”

Connolly praised Mayor Menino, the man he had moved, back in February, to challenge : “We are a better city for his time in office and the sacrifices he has made.” I think we’ve all heard something like that being said about someone we are showing the door to. But i digress…

And then, finally, Connolly spoke with passion : “we are more and more a city of the very rich and the very poor. The task for the next mayor is to break that equity gap.

“It starts with a great job,” Connolly explained. “A great job makes that difference for a family. And then there’s housing. We have great plans for affordable housing and for expensive condos but we have no plan for middle level housing. We don’t have a pathway from renter to owner. I want a real pathway. A priority from day one.”

The gathered campaigners clapped. They appreciated Connolly’s remarks, agree with them. Appreciation is a Connolly virtue.

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^  “ready one day one” is the theme : John Connolly speaks

Connolly now rose to a higher plane : “Jobs and housing matter because they are directly connected to a safe neighborhood. The neighbors who live in the three neighborhoods where 80 percent of the crime occurs bear the burden of crime. They are OUR neighbors ! (Pause.) We have some children who will hear bullets as a regular part of their childhood. And children who will not.”

It was eloquent, it was true — too true, every word. the room was silent, because everyone present knew that it is sad as well.

The speech was peaking now. “I want a City hall with someone who comes up to you with an i-pad and says, ‘how can i help ?” I want to take everything that I have learned from all of you and give every child a quality education. That is the best way to bond this city together. WE NEED BETTER SCHOOLS !”

If in reading my report you are thinking, “Connolly sounds like Martin Luther King orating ‘I have a dream,'” you grasp my thoughts exactly. Connolly is running a campaign of dreams. Passionate ones, yes, and all good. Political dreams, however, take time to get to, time to accomplish. Connolly’s supporters feel that time is on their side; that they can make use of it and proceed upon it. Nor are they wrong. Because after the Tuesday morning that challenges Walsh’s people like a road hazard challenges a driver, there is Wednesday, and a week, month, year, decade. As for Boston people, so for the City itself.

And so Connolly’s campaign addresses time extended —  seeks, and has garnered, votes from Boston people who live in extended time, a time for setting forth a dream and moving — patiently — toward it.

—- Michael Freedberg / 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.

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 : PRESSURE POLITICS TAKE OVER

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^ crunch time numbers cruncher : Charlotte Golar-Richie

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The City’s Black political leaders are gathering, it is reported, to try pushing some of the candidates of color out of the race for Mayor. This comes as no surprise. The surprise is that it didn’t happen sooner. Or even that it was needed at all. it should have been obvious to every one of Boston’s six candidates of color that if there were more than two, none would make it to November. Even with only two, it’s no guarantee. But with six ? And so the pressure begins to get to the obvious : have the “extras” drop out and endorse Charlotte Golar-Richie.

Good luck with that. Why should John Barros, her chief competitor within the Black community, drop out and endorse her ? His vision is very different from hers, his connections more like Connolly”s or Mike Ross’s. As for Charles Yancey and Charles Clemons, each has his own agendas that will seem better served by remaining in the race.

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^  John barros (on left) : crunched out ? probably not

The intended recipient of said endorsements claims no part in this effort. That’s wise. No voter likes having a candidate trying to limit a voter’s range of choices. Yet Golar-Richie has been making a dedicated effort of late to bring Boston’s Black political “heavies” into her campaign and has had notable success doing so. She knows better than anyone that if six candidates of color remain in contention on September 24, it will be next to impossible for her to get the 22 % of the vote that some wise heads say will be the November entry point. And so the pressure, by her key supporters, if not by her, cannot be avoided.

Golar-Richie is hardly the only contender using pressure right now. Marty Walsh used the Greater Boston AFL-CIO’s annual Labor day breakfast to make his Labor banner a must for as many union activists as possible. Walsh’s chief rival, John Connolly, has brought forth several endorsements of note, the latest being State Representative Nick Collins of South Boston, who just this morning announced his formal support for Connolly at a press conference in front of the Perry K to 8 school on east Seventh Street in South Boston. At that conference Collins and Connolly emphasized the pair’s long collaboration on Boston Public School reform. Both also emphasized the needed for much more transparent city administration and a dedication to safe neighborhoods — a topic gruseomely dumped into South Boston affairs this past year.

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^ John Connolly with Rep. Nick Collins’s brother and Charles Levin at a recent South Booston Leadership conference. His endorsement by Nick Collins seemed likely, soon after this.

Connolly has made much, too, of endorsement by State Representatives Jay Livingstone (Back Bay, Beacon Hill), Carlo Basile (east Boston), and Ed Coppinger (West Roxbury). As his main competitor, Marty Walsh, is a State Representative too, these endorsements hurt Walsh as much as they aid Connolly. (Walsh, meanwhile, has the open support of State Rep Liz Malia and former State Senator Jack Hart.) But the main effect of these endorsements — none of which have yet gone to Dan Conley, who polls a strong third on most lists; will he get any ? — is to pressure the voters. If the pollsters are right, that fully one-third of all who are likely to vote remain undecided about who to choose, endorsements by elected Representatives are intended to push those undecideds to make up their minds. It will surely do that, at least for some.

There will be much more of this pressure coming. Boston’s State Senators ( Chang-Diaz, Dorcena-Forry, Brian Joyce, Mike Rush, Petrucelli ) have yet to choose. Congressmen Lynch and Capuano may weigh in. So might past legislators and major Boston civic associations. As long as the undecided vote remains sizeable, endorsements will be asked for- and probably given. The pressure is on now — on the voters, to decide, once and for all, who to send to the November final.

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^ Dan Conley : strong third in polls, but no big endorsements yet

The pressure is also on the twelve contenders. Surely all of them know that they either have a good chance of making “the cut,” are losing ground, or are as out of the running as can be. The candidates out of the running can shrug it off and enjoy two and a half weeks more of forums and speaking on the issues. The candidates one feels for are those who are losing ground. Mike Ross, Felix Arroyo, and Rob Consalvo all, at one time, looked strongly in contention. All have found themselves blocked, however — Arroyo by not receiving union endorsements he might have won, Consalvo by too small a base, Ross by not having command of his own, zipcar-bicycle-restaurants base — and, in Arroyo’s case, passed over by leaders and political activists who made his father a political success and did the same, at the Council level, for the son. Arroyo, Consalvo, and Ross have had to learn, perhaps painfully, that when one is running to be Boston’s all-the-marbles Mayor, people make an all-the-marbles choice of whom to be with.

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^ Mel King : should, by all philosophical coincidence, be with Felix Arroyo, but it appears that he isn’t.

And so, as we head into the typhoon of pressure, four boats remain afloat : Connolly, Walsh, Golar-Richie, and Dan Conley. Boston’s next Mayor will be one of these. The voters are beginning to realize it and to decide just who it is that they like.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE FIGHT FOR VOTES

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^ The top two continue to be the top two.

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Yesterday was a holiday, Labor Day.

Oh really ? Not for the serious candidates for Mayor, it wasn’t. They knocked on doors, stood out at supermakets meeting and greeting, held fund-raiders, made speeches. Still, it wasn’t as simple as that. There was method in their movements. they “worked their base.”

Marty Walsh, who has made every effort in this campaign to live up to his being a “son of labor,” gave a declaration-of-agenda speech at the Greater Boston Labor Council’s annual labor day breakfast.

Felix Arroyo, who has campaigned as tribune of the city’s needy, outlined his “pathways out of poverty” in a speech to public housing residents in South Boston.

John Connolly, of West Roxbury, greeted shoppers for ten hours at Roche Brothers on Centre street.

Charlotte Golar-Richie firmed up her support among the City’s old-line Black leadership.

Dan Conley schmoozed with a fellow District Attorney.

Rob Consalvo, of Hyde Park, held a huge bash in…Hyde Park.

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^ Felix Arroyo : is his “base” big enough ? Will it turn out in big enough numbers ?

That these folks campaigned to their “base” is no mistake. With three weeks left until Primary Day, and at least sevEn potential winners running, the time for Mayor hopefuls to campaign all across Boston has ended. They’d be kidding themselves if not. By now, the voters who are going to actually vote on September 24th have gotten to know many of the serious candidates fairly well. they probably like several. But a candidate can’t settle for being liked along with others. It is time now to assure the votes of those who know the candidate best — to “bank” them (as we used to say; and to keep those votes away from all rivals. That means visiting the “base” a lot now — again and again.

Still, no candidate with a serious chance of making it to the November final can afford to forget voters not in his or her “base.” Second-choice votes may well make the difference between making it to November and not. Consider, too, that even the two finalists will likely not get more than 20% of the Primary vote. Which means that the ultimate winner in November will owe a majority of his November vote to people who did NOT vote for him or her in the Primary. A serious candidate must work to become many voters’ second choice even now, before they will actually vote for that candidate. Fascinating !

Working for second-choice votes requires a candidate to not get too narrow with his or her theme. Narrow themes, like Bill Walczak’s “no casino” mantra, may win some first-choice votes, but they don;t sow many second-choice seeds. (Example : Mel King in 1983. He voiced the far left’a agenda as stridently as today’s Tea voices the far right.. Far left purism got King to the final but guaranteed his November defeat.) Several of the candidates in this Primary have voiced narrow themes, though none so stridently as King in 1983.

We have talked of a candidate’s “base.” What of their count ? At this point, the candidates’ bases can be counted with some confidence :

Marty Walsh has the largest base : organized Labor — to the extent that its members live in the City ; many don’t — and much of Dorchester, a strong showing in South Boston, and no less than second in Charlestown.

John Connolly has the next largest base : school reform-minded parents — and West Roxbury-Roslindale, which by itself will likely total 10 % of the city’s primary vote.

Consalvo Mayor

Rob Consalvo : loss of vision or clarity ?

All of the other candidates all have problems gathering a base big enough to measure up to Connolly or Walsh. There is, actually no way that Conley, Arroyo, Golar-Richie, Ross, or Consalvo can win the Primary on base votes only. Each draws significantly from the others — less so from Walsh and Connolly, because Walsh and Connolly are now perceived by many voters as likely to win the Primary; and voters who like one or both of Walsh and Connolly, as well as some of the other contenders, would defy voting behavior were they to vote for someone they perceive as not likely to win.

Of all the candidates trying to catch Connolly or Walsh, the one who has the strongest chance is Golar-Richie. As the only woman in the race, she has unique appeal to Boston voters, most of whom are female. Arroyo must win to nhis side many voters who do not often vote in City Primaries. Consalvo needs to find a campaign rationale. Dan Conley suffers from simply being too much like Connolly or Walsh in outlook and image. As for Mike Ross, he doesn’t have a message that resonates much beyond Downtown life.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : do not count her out. And if she makes it to November…..

For Walsh and Connolly, the task now is to speak broad themes, inclusive themes, and look as well as talk as Boston’s visionary and also ambassador to the entire economic world. They must talk big in magnet words and make voters look to a brighter day.

The chasers need to attack the leaders, question their themes, dispute their ability to do what they say they will do — and to show how they, the chasers, can do the big stuff better.

Soon we will see if they can do that.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE END OF AUGUST MONEY MESSAGE

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^ Marty Walsh ; big money raised, big voter support

—- —- —-

A candidate can begin his fund-raising by asking friends and colleagues. But in the Boston Mayor campaign, once the August 15th to August 30th reporting period arrives, that go-to reserve has long been tapped, and the money raised comes almost all from people and entities making a hard assessment of the candidate’s chances of winning.

Donors’ assessments of a candidate’s chances aren’t votes, but they’re a pretty good indication of what people who know a thing or two about the campaign think is happening. So let’s look at the money as reported to the State’s Office of campaign Finance  (not including David Wyatt, who has raised less than 100.00.) :

From the beginning of 2013 through August 15th —

Arroyo — raised 219,578.09

Barros — raised 137,977.48

Clemons — raised 8,673.65

Conley —- raised 736,057.35

Connolly —- raised 925,985.96

Consalvo — raised 496,340.72

Golar-Richie —- raised 217,625.14

Ross —- raised 649,014.94

Walczak — raised 260,122.95

Walsh — raised 961,748.51

Yancey — raised 28,092.16

From August 16th through August 30th, this is what has been so far reported (caution : there may be more reports filed next week) —-

Arroyo — raised 13,962.63

Barros — raised 19,523.28

Conley — raised 71,425.80

Connolly — raided 65,674.00

Consalvo — raised  31,089.59

Golar-Richie — raised 32,979.54

Ross —- raised 79,533.12

Walczak — raised 17,053.00

Walsh — raised 213,287.04

(Yancey and Clemons filed no reports for this period that we could find.)

The message in the money is fairly clear:

First, Marty Walsh has dramatically increased his money intake, while Felix Arroyo’s fundraising shows a significant fall-off.

These two seem connected and no coincidence. The endorsement of Marty Walsh by the Hotel and hospitality Workers’ Union was given during this two-week period. It was an endorsement that Arroyo was counting on; a Union most of whose members are people of color, many of these Hispanic.

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^ Felix Arroyo ; an inspiring message, delivered with empathy and command; but a Union endorsement lost has taken its toll.

Second, as Arroyo’s money tree has shed leaves, that of Golar-Richie has blossomed quite a bit. Only Walsh, Connolly, Conley, and Ross raised more than her 32,979.94 intake. Perhaps this is why her headquarters are always open, people actively working in them, and why at Forums her discussion of the issues has become much more authoritative and convincing.

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^ Charlotte Golar-Richie : benefitting big-time from fall-offs by several rival candidates and by her own stronger performance on the stump

Third, Rob Consalvo, who during the first summer months of the campaign looked strong both in his Hyde park base and across much of the city, has lost both his money mojo and his persuasiveness at Forums.

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^ Rob Consalvo ; what has gone wrong here ? And why ?

Fourth, Dan Conley, despite rumors of being difficult to get along with or work for, remains a strong contender who understands the details of City administration and how to correct its deficiencies. he polls a strong third place, and his 71,425.80 raised says that his supporters feel that he can make up the gap between where he polls and the top two. He might indeed do that.

Fifth, Mike Ross continues to draw big money, much bigger than his standing — tied for 4th place — would seem to justify. His performance at Forums is almost always dominant; but his range of interests seems limited to the lifestyle of Downtown. Perhaps his donations increased because of the impact — however brief — of the Stand Up For Children (SFC) “outside money” flap upon John Connolly’s campaign; because Ross, although no friend of the SFC agenda, stands even more pointedly for the apple-store, zipcar, bicycles world envisioned by Connolly than Connolly does. Indeed, Ross personifies it. Interesting to note that Connolly reported only 65,674.00 in donations for this period. Could it have been that some Connolly supporters were looking for a fall-back candidate just in case ?

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^ Mike Ross : big money and a chance now to be taken very seriously

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^ John Connolly : none of the other candidates has been as buffeted as he. that’s what happens when you poll in first place.

Meanwhile, Marty Walsh, with the Hotel and Hospitality Workers endorsement in hand, and no missteps on the issues, and with strong performances at his “Mondays With Marty” rallies, saw his fundraising increase beyond all expectations.

Walsh and Golar-Richie look well positioned to gain the votes of the one-third of likely voters who, in recent polls, remain undecided whom to back. But Connolly has recovered strongly from the SFC affair, and Felix Arroyo has a message of hope and friendship that he is delivering in person — and at Forums — to the City’s citizens stuck in low income lives.

Our conclusion ? Walsh first; Connolly second, but perhaps shaky. Conley third, but with the chance that Golar-Richie will overtake him and maybe Connolly too. then Arroyo and Ross, with Consalvo fading to 5th and maybe farther down than that.

There’s not much time left to alter these trajectories once the voters — and most of the candidates — return from a well-deserved weekend on the Cape.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE 09.01.13 at 10.30 AM : this morning’s Boston Globe reports that Felix G. Arroyo raised 101,324.00 in August. (The report appears on a back page, easy to miss.) The impression the brief article wants to create is that Arroyo increased his fundraising. Indeed, for all of August, that is true, OUR article, however, focuses on what was raised in the period August 15 to 30. It tells a much different story — and not only for Arroyo.

In the first weeks of August, Arroyo looked like the rising star of the campaign; union endorsements from unions heavy with people of color looked likely. Then came the Hotel and hospitality Workers’ decision to go with Marty Walsh despite, a Union spokesman Brian Lang put it, the union’s admiration for Arroyo.

THIS is the sort of movement that our focus on August’s last two weeks was meant to catch. Using the total August figures would, we thought, miss “the action.” — MF / HnS

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

—- —- —-

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

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : WALSH, ARROYO, BARROS and ROSS DOMINATE YOUTH GROUP FORUM

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^ the Nine : Yancey, Wyatt, walsh, Walczak, empty chair (Ross came later), Golar-Richie, Clemons, Barros, Arroyo

—- —- —-

Nine of the 12 candidates running to be Boston’s next Mayor took their seats at tonight’s Youth Group Forum held at the newly steepled parish Church on Meeting House Hill in Dorchester. About 150 residents of the neighborhood sat in the old New England pews to listen as the Mayors-to-be answered questions posed by speakers selected by the Cape Verdean Community UNIDO’s Youth Leadership Academy.

Dan Conley, John Connolly, and Rob Consalvo did not participate.

Questions to the candidates addressed dual-language education, school reform and preparation for technology jobs, and how to curb violence in the community. Mike Ross — who arrived late, but apologized — gave strong answers; even stronger, John Barros and Felix Arroyo, whose eloquence is second no nobody’s on behalf of those who live in Boston but lack access to the best. Strongest of all, surprisingly, was Marty Walsh, who had obviously prepared himself for the types of questions likely to be asked him. He spoke deliberately, in detail and with feeling, applying his work as a legislator and stating his goals for changing how the Mayor’s office confronts the problems that this Forum’s youth sponsors will be dealing with.

One issue that has turmoiled Boston voters recently, that of a longer school day, was settled. All the “major” candidates called for a longer school day, even Felix Arroyo, who has aligned himself with the Boston Teachers Union most closely of all the hopefuls. He, Walsh, and Barros gave the directest answers on what a longer school day should focus on. Barros’s call for a two-shift teaching force might roil the BTU a bit, however.

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^ John Barros (Felix Arroyo on his right): “for the longer school day we should have teacher shifts, an early shift for the morning and lunch hours and a late shift for the afternoon.”

On the question of dual language schools, Both Arroyo and Barros spoke with personal experience. Said Arroyo,  “I grew up in a subsidized apartment with immigrant parents who spoke ‘espagnol.’ I know what it’s like to grow up among kids who I did not understand because they spoke English… we have only four dual language schools. Parents of all backgrounds want dual language education. Look at the Hernandez School, it works well. I look for the day when we have many different language’d dual-language schools. French, Cape Verdean Creole, even Mandarin. Why not mandarin ?”

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^ Felix Arroyo (John Barros on his left) speaking to the schools issue : “every Boston school child deserves the best education because every child is a best child.”

Barros ; “I’m a son of cape Verdean immigrants. When I joined the city’s school committee, and in my work, I fought to assure that all Boston public school students learn English fully.” These sentiments were of course reiterated by other candidates at the forum, of whom Charlers Clemons nloted that he was ideally suited to understand the disconnecvgt between studenyts who come to bostyon with anoyher language and the Ejglish-language adyuklt world. “Not by language but by my heritage. My father descends from slaves brought here on slave ships; my mother from the Brewsters on the Mayflower.”

It was a memorable, if not conclusively Mayoral moment. And led almost inevitably to Walsh’s comment : “My parents didn’t face a language challenge, but they were challenged too. Both had less than a high school diploma.” Walsh, who grew up and still lives in the Dorchester section directly abutting Meeting House Hill, discussed the funding process for dual language education and his part in it as a 16-year legislator. He concluded with a challenge: “We should have two different kinds of dual-language schools. When a child’s first language is English, we should have them learn another language !”

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^ Marty Walsh ; “with a longer school day we shouldn’t just have more classroom but also some programs, the arts.”

The question on preparation for graduating to the City’s best jobs brought this comment by Arroyo : “The next mayor has to have as a priority closing the ‘achievement gap.’ And it begins very young. If a child falls behind in the third grade, even , it is already too late. We need to teach financial literacy, too, to all our children.”

Walsh ; “we don’t just need to change our city’s jobs policy for the kids, We need to rewrite it. Right now we’re being sued because our city jobs policy doesn’t meet the US Constitution !”

Many of he candidates mentioned Madison park High School — the technical high school closest to Meeting House Hill — in their answers to this question. Barros ; “We absolutely do invest in technical High schools in Boston. Now we have to make sure that Madison park has a technology center. And more ; Boston residency, for Boston jobs.”

Charles Clemons, a former Boston police officer, was skeptical ; “residency policy ? It has never been enforced. We give parking tickets and licensing fines but we don;t enforce residency. Why not ?”

The forum moved on to discussing the problem of violence in the Meeting House Hill neighborhood and others.  Many of the candidates addressed the issue well.

Mike Ross had now joined the group and, with his usual grasp of big-picture basics, said : “there’s diversity needed (on the police force). It’s not OK that there is not one police captain of color nor one who is female….the opposite of violence is opportunity (for kids at risk).”

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^ Mike Ross : was at another event; apologized for coming late; and, as always, spoke well and to the point

Arroyo : “there’s a short term strategy and a long term strategy. Short term : back to community policing. Police bicycling through the community. Long term : if we are not serious about ending the cycle of poverty we’re not serious about reducing crime.”

Walsh, who has said “there’s a heroin epidemic in the City right now,” gave this pledge : “(if I’m elected,) The first meeting that i will have in my office will be on violence. we have to attack this problem one street at a time, one family at a time.”

I have highlighted the answers given by candidates Walsh, Arroyo, Barros,and Ross most of all because they addressed the questions, gave answers which signal that some thought has taken place in the brains about these issues, and demonstrated seriousness about doing the job, not just campaigning for it. The other candidates present either gave rambling, conversational responses — Charlotte Golar-Richie — or ones that seemed too narrowly focused, locally and in minutiae — Charles Clemons and Bill Walczak. Others of the nine on stage seemed to be talking more to themselves than to the voters. One wonders why they are running. At this stage, with less than five weeks till Primary day, there’s no time left for candidacies that won’t, or can;t command the issues on a large scale. Mayor of Boston is the most difficult political job, maybe, in all New England. Fumble-itis, vagueness, and circuitous thinking are NOT in the job description.