At a candidates' forum sponsored by two West Roxbury community groups last night, 10 of the people who would be mayor all called for greater attention to schools and public safety. Some also pondered what to do about the way the middle class is being squeezed out of Boston, potentially leaving us a city occupied only by the very rich and the very poor.
Summaries of their comments:
Charles Clemons. "I'm the only candidate that has put a badge on and given my life for the community," he said. He said he's employed thousands of Bostonians, many of them with criminal records, 100 of whom have gone on to start their own business. Also started Touch 106.1 FM. In 2009, decided to walk across the country to push for licensing of stations such as Touch, which does not have a license. He said he got 200 miles out of Boston, to some small town in New York state, when his driver abandoned him. "But that didn't stop me," he came back to Boston, a young man came up to him to off his help, and he walked to Washington, DC, where three years later, President Obama signed a bill that could finally lead to Touch FM getting a license. "It's about doing the right thing," he said. "I care about people."
John Connolly. Said he appreciates the work Tom Menino has done, but noted he announced he was running when everybody thought Menino would run again. "I hope it says something about my political courage."
Said Boston is facing a big divide: "We are increasingly a city of the very rich and the very poor," and we need to figure out ways to keep a middle class in Boston. We're losing "young professional after young professional, young artist after young artist," he said, calling for "smart housing" that will help keep such people in Boston.
"We've got to stop thinking we're in competition with Cambridge and start realzing we're in competition with the rest of the world," he said. He added City Hall needs to do a better job of meeting constituent requests. "I've got this crazy dream, I want to see City Hall function like that Apple store."
Marty Walsh. "The first thing we have to do is really focus on our schools because we're losing families to the suburbs, because our schools aren't working." He said that means both more emphasis on education and on facilities - too many students are in buildings that went up before the Depression, he said, adding we need more vocational/technical schools and to pair up local high-tech companies with local high schools.
Ultimately, Boston needs more jobs, he said. It's great that downtown is booming, but almost all the growth is residential and residents need work.
Public Safety: South Boston was screaming for more drug units two years ago. "I don't think community should be screaming and waiting for something to happen to get more police. Funding. How? Downtown businesses. They're not new jobs. We need to bring back votech schools. High tech companies partner with different schools.
Bill Walczak. Said he's spent the last 40 years "creating and building institutions of lasting importance in Boston," such as the Codman Square Health Center. Also helped start two high schools, one in BPS, one a charter.
Boston needs more jobs, "created for people who actually live in our city." Education is key. "Education really begins with pregnancy," kids need to be healthy enough to learn. Called for universal K1 and K2, and building "career academies" in local high schools.
Also needed in Boston: Better public transportation and turning up into "the greenest and healthiest city of America." "We're a city that's approaching world-class status," but that fragile toe across the line of world greatness will be jeopardized unless Boston capitalizes on its innovation - and the rest of the Boston area. Walczak said he opposes the East Boston casino.
"I've run large institutions and created change," won't be learning on the job, he said.
Dan Conley. The DA now lives in West Roxbury. "We love this neighborhood and we love the entire city of Boston." Said Boston today is very different from the Boston of 1993, when he was elected a city councilor. "We've gotten so much better." Despite some recent cases, such as that of Amy Lord, "we're lucky we live in a very safe city."
Would remove the cap on charter schools, streamline bureacracy at Court Street, increase the school day for arts and other enrichment programs, bolster STEM teaching. Would focus city efforts on attracing jobs in life sciences, clean energy and the like. "People love our city and they want to come here."
Rob Consalvo. Said he's "all in" for Boston, noted he decided to give up his council seat even at the risk of losing and having no job to support his wife and three kids. Boston has a "weak" council, but "I've used the council to be strong." He pointed to what he said are now nationally recognized ordinances he pushed on drunk driving and foreclosure.
Vowed to be the CEO of the city, said his past experience working on Beacon Hill and in Washington would help him win resources for the city there. Public safety is the number-one issue, vowed to put 200 new cops on the street, fight gun violence and violence against women.
Mike Ross. Pointed to his work in 2009 to settle a protacted firefighters contract dispute in which firefighters made concessions that gave the city enough money to keep branch libraries open. He said his past work with Beacon Hill and Back Bay residents to get a downtown school finally paid off this year with the city's purchase of a building in the North End, which will be "the first downtown school since the Carter Administration." He called for a longer school days for arts, music, gym and computer science, vowed to ensure that never again would a company like Google accuse the city of not being able to turn out enough qualified graduates.
Small-business permitting should be made easier; it's wrong to force entpreneurs to spend six to nine months obtaining permits and hiring "expediters" to deal with city bureaucracy. Called for better public transit, greater cooperation with other communities in the area to attact business.
Felix Arroyo. "I believe in a Boston where everyone has the opportunity to succeed," he said. "Government works best when it works with you, and not over you."
Called for universal pre-K, more access to arts, theater and other enrichment programs.
Said Boston needs to bridge the divide that's making it increasingly difficult for the middle class and poor to afford to stay.
John Barros. Grew up in Boston, went to Dartmouth and then to New York to work on IPOs. Moved back to Boston to take a pay cut as director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, to give back to the city that gave him so much. Said under his leadership, the group helped dramatically reduce both crime and the scourage of vacant lots. Called for a "birth to career" education system. Would reduce control of Court Street, "where no child has ever learned anything and move it to the schools."
"We've got to put people back to work," he said.
Charles Yancey. With 30 years on the council, he said he has more experience in city government than any of the other candidates. He said he wants Boston to be known as "the city with the best educational system in the United States of America." He said far too many students "are not really challenged" and are learning in "substandard facilities," including high schools in condemned warehouses and without gyms or science labs.
Charlotte Golar Richie did not attend because her father died in New York over the weekend. David James Wyatt did not attend because he does not attend anything.