In one of their final debates, mayoral candidates John Connolly and Marty Walsh clashed on negative campaigning and negotiating with city unions, but otherwise continued to push similar ideas for a post-Menino world.
Both candidates, for example, said they would return vocational training to all city high schools, would make it a priority to find a qualified minority candidate for police commissioner and work to decentralize BPS and increase cooperation between BPS and charter schools. Connolly even acknowledged Walsh is qualified to be mayor - but added he's more qualified.
The two differed slightly on the Suffolk Downs casino referendum. Although both said they were troubled by the Caesars issue and both said they would leave the final decision up to East Boston residents, when pressed, Walsh said that if he were an East Boston resident, he would vote for the casino, while Connolly said he isn't an East Boston resident. He acknowledged he probably wouldn't want to see a casino in his home neighborhood of West Roxbury, but declined to say if he would vote against it, only that he would want his neighbors to have a say. He did say that the future of East Boston is the waterfront, not the casino.
Connolly said flyers sent out by independent groups backing Walsh cast aspersions on Walsh and raised doubts whether he could be truly independent of the unions he said were behind them. Walsh said he expressed his own ire and the flyers stopped, accused Connolly of paying for anti-Walsh push polling and raised the anonymous anti-Murphy flyers in 2007 that Connolly eventually admitted his campaign had sent out. Connolly denied paying for the push polling.
Connolly said an arbitration bill pushed repeatedly by Walsh was written by the firefighters union and would cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars it can't afford by removing the ability of the city council to review arbitration decisions. "As a state rep, he's filing this legislation that would hurt the city of Boston." Walsh said it's inexcusable Boston police officers have gone more than four years without a contract and that he would never let a contract get to arbitraton in the first place. "We don't need another lawyer in City Hall right now," he said, referring to Connolly. He said that because he has trust on the other side, he could sit down and hammer out a contract fair to both sides.
Boston construction jobs policy:
Both support enforcement of the policy, which calls for 50% of jobs on large construction project to go to Boston residents. Connolly said the building-trades unions, which Walsh has served as president, has fought the policy because of its seniority rules. Walsh said he's never seen Connolly at any meetings on the policy, said one of the first things he did as union president was to create an apprenticeship program to increase the number of minorities and women in construction.
Both candidates expressed support for small businesses.
Both said the city needs more community policing and police leadership that reflects the ethnic and racial makeup of the city. Connolly said police officers should be "knocking on doors the way politicians do" to introduce themselves to the people on their beats. He called for a police track at Madison Park High School.
Both agreed the next superintendent needs to be somebody who can truly shake up the status quo at Court Street. Walsh said that would rule out hiring anybody from within BPS; Connolly said he would be willing to at least consider somebody locally.
The debate ended with each candidate being allowed to pose questions to the other.
Walsh asked Connolly if he would commit to not run any negative ads in the final week of the campaign. Connolly never directly agreed, but said he would only run ads that reflect what he's said to Walsh's face in debates.
Connolly asked Walsh how in the world he could be an independent mayor when he's been a union president - making $175,000 last year - and introduced union bills in the legislature.
Walsh replied he is proud of his union support and said the unions were the first to help his family when he was diagnosed with cancer as a young boy - but that he has and will speak out against unions, as he did in immediately calling for rejection of the recent arbitrator's award to the police union.