^ “the next mayor has to come in dedicated to bridging the equity gap” — John Connolly speaking at a huge rally in Jamaica Plain tonight

—- —- —-

NOTE : Here and Sphere has endorsed John Connolly for Mayor. I’ve done my best to be objective in this report. You decide.

Two weeks ago, as Marty Walsh struggled to become something other than “the union giuy” and as John Connolly began to amass a large and diverse war chest of people and money, it looked as if the November result would be not close. The prospect looks different now. Walsh found a way to change the conversation — instead of “the union guy” he is now “the progressive tribune of workers’ rights” — and four major Boston politicians of color (three of them former Mayor candidates) have endorsed him, with more such to come soon. Which has forced Connolly to change HIS conversation too.

Until Walsh’s change began to show itself, Connolly had been “the education candidate.” As Boston public schools are by far the largest and most expensive city function, and as there are some 57,000 Boston Public School parents, being “the education candidate” seemed a shrewd choice. It was. It got him into the November Final. But being the education candidate is no longer big enough, and Connolly has had to expand his message hugely.

It has taken him two weeks to do so. I think that he has been stunned, after all the years of bold outreach to Black Bostonians (less apparently so to Boston’s Hispanics), to watch as one after another Black politician endorses his opponent. Yes, his campaign kept on reaping that outreach; yes, it has won him many endorsements by Black religious leaders and by some political action committees. In particular, almost the entire campaign apparatus of Charlotte Golar-Richie joined his campaign, and some supporters of John Barros as well, even a few supporters of Felix Arroyo. But his campaign to Boston’s communities of color has proved much harder than seemed likely a month ago, and Connolly has had to change his approach. I think this has saddened him; one hears it in his remarks. I don’t think he is happy to compass winning by the votes of upscale white people. It’s not what he spent years preparing to be.

as he worked to speak to the changed electoral landscape, Connolly’s speeches stayed close to the education theme. But then came the big break-through : almost the entire leadership of Boston’s “Italian” wards came aboard his campaign. And though the endorsers talked not about issues specific to their neighborhoods — no bread and butter city administration stuff — but about better schools, in speeches that often sounded canned, a smile returned to Connolly’s cheeks and an excitement to his voice.

The endorsements of Connolly by Councillor Marc Ciommo, former Councilo candidate Philip Frattaroli, State Senator Sal DiDomenico, former Councillor Paul Scapicchio, North End State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, and — most importantly of all — by Councillor Sal LaMattina (East Boston State Representative Carlo Basile had early on joined the Connolly side) strengthened Connolly’s hand considerably. He was no longer just the candidate of mostly white young techies and concerned publiic school moms. News came of a fundraiser hosted by said Carlo Basile at which, it was said, $ 100,000 was donated to the Connolly brand. At the same time another fundraiser, by Roslindale real estate developer Vinnie Marino — said to be very close to Mayor Menino — raised yet further funds, and it was announced that Connolly had imbibed a whopping $ 610,000 total during the two weeks just ended.

This turned many heads. What the turned heads now s aw — and heard — was a Connolly on wide angle. Jobs — he said “careers” — safe neighborhoods, all of us connected to one an other, it was all part of his new speech. In the First Debate, on Tuesday night, the new, confident, bold Connolly was on full display as, in a voice pitched high and somewhat melodic — his passion voice =– he spoke of education, certainly ( and often ) but even more masterfully about city finances, revenue, union contracts, and budgets. Suddenly listeners saw not “the education mayor” but the Master of City Money. At many turns in the city finances discussion he had Walsh on the ropes.

This was a surprise to me — probably to many. At numerous Mayor Forums and at “Mondays with Marty” I had heard Walsh speak authoritatively about many city issues and, of course, State House legislation. Less so at the First Debate. He seemed cautious — as well he might be after Connolly’s revelation of a bill that Walsh has filed, five times, to take away from City Councils the power to review labor arbitrators’ contract awards. For that revelation has been at least as significant in moving Connolly beyond being a mere “education Mayor” as any other move he has made or that has been made on his behalf. At the Debate, Walsh could not escape its implications. the mire that moderator Jon Keller asked city budget questions, the ,more that Walsh’ s union-friendly legislation came to mind.

But at street level, Connolly’s attack on Walsh’s labor legislation has opened him to accusations by Walsh supporters that he is “not a progressive,” maybe even a “Mitt Romney in Robert Kennedy words,” as one notable Walsh spokesman said. That the attack has hurt was seen tonight when, at a huge rally in Jamaica plain, Connolly said “I’m sick of being told I’m not a progressive ! Giving a good education to every child in the city, that IS progressive !”

It was a superb speech, the best i have heard Connolly give. He spoke of careers; of “bridging the equity gap”; of the City being “two different cities, one safe, one unsafe.” He made fun of himself. He talked of his teaching career (“despite what you see about me on the internet, yes, I was a teacher,” he grinned.) He talked of restaurants and liquor licenses; of streamlining the city bureaucracy; and, yes, of school reform in all its details including, pointedly, a longer school day. The crowd cheered him; cheered each of his points — and well they ought, because he stated them with a clarity I had yet to hear him bring so much of. He sounded less the slogan-eer, more like… a Mayor. It was a speech just that commanding, pitched perfectly at his fan base of upscale young urbanites and concerned school parents.


^ the Mayor of upscale young urbanites and concerned school parents greets his voters at tonight’s Jamiaca Plain rally

This speech, along with his campaign tactics talks (brimming with insight and laughs) to supporters at donation gatherings, bring Connolly a conversation changed utterly. It’s big presence, a podium persona. Can Walsh raise his game to this level ? we shall soon find out.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Philip Frattaroli ; at a restaurant, of course….

—- —- —-

Not many candidates for Boston City Council come from the restaurant business. Indeed, it’s hard for me to think of even one. Enter Philip Frattaroli, who owns and operates Ducali in the North End, where he lives in a “fifth floor walk-up,” as he puts it, a living situation not at all uncommon in that ancient part of Boston. restaurants, too, are common in the North end, but not since Dom Caposella, who after losing a race for State Representative, opened a fine dining spot named “Dom’s,” on Commercial Street, decades ago has North End politics and restauranting come together, as Frattaroli has now done at age 31.

Frattaroli was born in the North End — “how different it was !” he recalls — into a family that, like so many North Enders since 1900, had come from Southern Italy : the town of Avellino (Dad) and the Abruzzese (Mom). And, as Frattaroli tells it, they soon opened up a restaurant — and moved to Winchester, where their son graduated from high school.

“I grew up in the restaurant business,’ he says. “it was something i wanted no part of as a career, though. and when my brother was killed by a negligent driver, it changed how I looked at everything. So after college, I went to Suffolk Law School and then to practice law.” But the restaurant business came back into his life anyway “I came up with an idea for a place and so decided to get involved in my own restaurant. Thus Ducali.”

Being a small businessman, says Frattaroli, makes him “a candidate who knows what it might be to lose money.” And as a restaurant owner, “I know what a small (food) business has to go through, all the licensing, the city departments…I’m a lawyer, and it’s hard for me. imagine what it’s like for an immigrant.” But, he continues, “I’ve created jobs in the city, I’ve been through the 1010 Mass Avenue (inspectional services department) process. (Don’t forget) “the North End turned around (and became what it now is) because of small business.”

Having heard this assertion, I felt the need to ask him an obvious licensing question : “So, do you agree with Councillor Pressley’s Home Rule petition to give Boston power over its own liquor licenses ?”

Frattaroli responded at gtreat length. After all, this is the issue he lives by:

“Not sure I agree. To go to an uncapped liquor license system (means that) all the small businesses that have played by the rules will suffer. Their licence is their chef asset. Her home rule proposal needs to be modified. Somerville didn’t go to an uncapped system when they revamped their licensing a few years ago; why should Boston ?

“The licenses aren’t the problem, it’s where they are given out. Some neighborhoods have too many, some have none. Ten percent of all people (employed) in Boston are employed in the restaurant business. The goal here is (to not hurt them). With me, you have somebody who knows the business (and I’m saying that an) uncapped system is going to hurt the current restaurants. Keep some cap on the total.”

It’s clear from the above conversation that Frattaroli’s unique quality as a Councillor is his experience in the restaurant business. thus went Here and Sphere’s first question to candidates. the conversation continues (“HnS” for Here and Sphere):

HnS : What are your two top priorities as a Councillor at Large ?

Frattaroli : “First, small businesses and how the City treats them. Second, young families. We need to make the city easier for them to stay. This involves, first, better assignment process for schools. Schools have to be neighborhood schools. Second, sports programs in the schools, such as Boston Youth Wrestling. it’s proven that kids involved in wrestling don;t drop out of school, and wrestling, unlike basketball or football, is for kids of all shapes and sizes. third, late night transit. it;s better for the city and for safety and for the businesses. Lots of younger people work late and can’t get home.”

HnS : What about the BRA ? Replace or rerform ? If reform, in what ways ?

Frattaroli : “reform it. My friend bought a condo and had to pay the BRA a percentage of the buy price ! he BRA should be treated just like a government agency.

“There should also be transparency. How did the Seaport area get all big-chain, nationally owned restaurants, and none locally owned ? (We still don’t know the process of that.) And to get there you have to have a car — it’s too far to walk. Who planned that ? It all has to be reformed. I’m on the local neighborhood council, and we can’t find out what is happening. (As for the Council having a say,) the budget for the BRA. that is where we come in.

HnS : School reform : what on John Connolly’s school agenda do you favor ?

Frattaroli : “There’s data on what works. We have to replicate (that.) Innovation schools (work). (Take) the Eliot. The teachers there have given up some of their contract perks. We can’t (just) hold on to a system that protects vested interests. (I think of) a school in South Boston (that) had a teacher who was teacher of the year, yet the school had to let him go because he was the last one in !

“A longer school day ? As long as its used the right way, yes. We have to take best practices that work, and apploy them here.”

HnS : Lift the cap on charter schools ?

Frattaroli : “Yes, i think I’d vote to raise the cap. Competition is good. Restaurants are a meritocracy. (why not schools ?) Charter schools (apply) a lot of innovations.”

HnS : Marty Walsh says there’s a heroin epidmeic in Boston. Do you agree ?

Frattaroli : “There’s a drug problem. Whatever the drug is — it’s in society in general. The sports thing that I mentioned is so important (here). As a wrestler, as a kid, I was saved. I made sure that I was never not ready. Kids in sports have mentors. Especially the young men; it’s an important part of their coming of age.”

Frattaroli has had success raising money for his first run at public office. He has raised $ 70,000, he tells me, with a smile. It continues. “You’ll see,” he says. “On Monday evening there’s a fundraiser for me at Ecco in East Boston. the State Rep, Carlo Basile, will be there. Come and see how we’re doing !”

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere