Candidates vow to keep Boston from becoming another Manhattan

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:

ClemonsCharles 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."

ConnollyJohn 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."

WalshMarty 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.

WalczakBill 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.

ConleyDan 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."

ConsalvoRob 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.

RossMike 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.

ArroyoFelix 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.

BarrosJohn 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.

YanceyCharles 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.



Free tagging: 


One thought...

It seems almost every time nowadays that I read of apartments or condominiums being built, they are all "Luxury" establishments. Want to stop pricing the average person out of Boston? There it is right there. Start building places an average person can afford.


With all the hoops and absurdities associated with building in Boston, what developer isn't going to try pushing luxury? Also, as new luxury units are built, older ones lose value. The problem is, we flat out don't have enough new units being built - of any value.

to BostonUrbEx

Honestly, do you not get it? Developers are out to make the biggest bang for the buck. They didn't get into the business to do right by the middle class! They will always push for luxury in the city and in the 'burbs. Why do you think developers build McMansions as opposed to 'regular' sized homes? Don't be naive.


I must have missed the post where I said developers are looking out for the public benefit.

They're not -- they're looking out for their own benefit, which should result in public benefit if it wasn't for anon and NIMBY friends sticking wrenches in the works.


anon complains about anonymous whining then makes the most naĂŻve statement posted on UHub in donkey's years.

Anyways, are we saying that if we removed all municipal controls on developers and community input the market would simply produce the housing so desperately needed by middle class people that these pols are talking about?


It's all marketing

Sure, they're marketed as "luxury" apartments in an attempt to get as high a price as possible. It doesn't necessarily mean that the units are mega-high end.

"Estates" is a big marketing word out here in the burbs when a development goes up. I've even seen trailer parks with "estates" embedded in the name somewhere.


show an example of recently developed units being touted as "luxury" that are affordable for the working/middle class. If they aren't any then I don't see what your comment has to do with anything.

The MEDIAN price in Boston currently is $537,950 per unit. That means with a 7% 30 year mortgage you'd pay over $3500 a month. AVERAGE price is $488,320 which is over $3200 a month. This is not just marketing.



A few years ago, there was a published study that showed that to "adequately" afford even a one-bedroom apartment in Boston, you required an income of at least $19.73/hour (pretty sure that was the dollar amount).

And that's just renting an apartment. That's not "Average Joe" territory.

This is a "self-fulfilling prophecy." Boston has pushed constant "high-end" stuff to the point that now they're bitching at the obvious and inevitable consequences.

Doesn't sound right

$19.37/hour is $40K a year, which comes out to around $2200 a month after taxes and deductions. How in the world can one "adequately" afford a one bedroom at that level of income when even rat-infested studios that haven't been updated in the past 70 years routinely go for well over a grand?


Luxury is just a word

My point was that marketing something as "Luxury" doesn't mean squat - that's all. A lot of those "luxury" condos selling for $500k+ aren't luxurious at all, but the marketing people have to get their 2 cents in to hype things up. You're reading way more into my comment than was intended.

Wrong way to think about it

The problem isn't new housing priced out, but older stock being in demand and being worthy of small upgrades and being sold as "luxury" due to the crisis.

When someone in Lower Allston can throw in 5K worth of appliances and counter tops and demand a premium for their "luxury apartment close to the river", you know we have real issues.

The solution is build whatever you can, and yes that mostly means luxury since developers will want to build out the most profitable options first.

But that's not a bad thing, as it relives pressure on older stock and rental units, since many people in the old upper and luxury apartments will be looking to upgrade. It'll help to keep prices on older stock down, across the board.

But that's only if we build enough new housing period. Forced low income / rent control units by contrast only makes the problems worse, since it increases demand and lowers supply. What the city really needs to do is start to attract more developers than the usual crews with an iron grip on development, and make it much easier to streamline processes (IE make building cheaper).

Case In Point Number One: The

Case In Point Number One: The South End

Take what was a former lower to middle class neighborhood for most of this century, and add inadequate luxury housing construction in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill, and what do you get? Exactly what's described above. Thanks to some hardware upgrades and a fresh coat of paint, a neighborhood of affordable housing is now expensive.


Do you really think all the allston/somerville/etc student ghetto slumlords will suddenly start charging less or convert their cash cow rentals into affordable condos and sell them to average joe sixpack just because there's a bunch of $7K/month luxury units downtown?

People need to stop whining about gentrification and let police clean up the "hoods" that are reasonably close to downtown and have decent public transportation infrastructure but are currently too crime-infested for any sane person to rent or buy there. Right now, large parts of Dot, Roxbury and Mattapan that could potentially be affordable to someone with average income are mostly subsidized housing with residents who don't generate any tax revenue for the city, whereas many taxpayers who would love to live closer to work are priced out and have to rent or buy in distant suburbs.


If no one is leasing their properties because of market trends, sure. It's impossible to demand more than the market will bare.

They'll be forced to, or forced to sell.

and no, you won't see prices drop overnight. Slowing their increases in prices and allowing inflation to eat away overall price is realistically the best we can hope for as new units command the premium prices.

The problem is that

The problem is that EVERYTHING is considered "luxury" anymore. When I first moved to Boston, I lived on St. Germain Street in the Back Bay, which is a nice mix of young professionals and students. The street itself and the brownstone facades are gorgeous, probably one of the most beautiful streets in all of Boston. The units themselves are FAR from luxury, yet a 400 sq/ft studio rented for $1,900 when I left in 2012. St. Germain may be a prime location, but rent STARTING at $1,900? I want to meet the parents who put their kids up in these apartments while attending Berkeley.

Problem is, the city is so small that anywhere within Boston Proper is considered "prime" and therefore, "luxury". Anyone who wants to get in on the action at a reasonable price has to look along Mass Ave or in the south part of the South End.

We can complain all we want about the prices. But unfortunately, this is the cold hard truth: money will always win.


unless most new projects are

unless most new projects are heavily subsidized, the bare minimum cost of decent construction puts new housing out of reach for a lot of people.

for Boston, super-low-end housing construction cost is around $200/SF (and this is not including parking - you want cheaper housing? give up parking) - and that's not including land acquisition costs and various other fees and soft costs - this is just base-line construction cost.

Although I appreciate a city

Although I appreciate a city that is welcoming to all and has a vibrant and diverse creative culture allowing every citizen to achieve beyond their full potential, I wish some candidate would vow to fix all the poorly timed walk lights to make crossing the street easier.

While they're at it maybe

While they're at it maybe they can put more lifeboats on the Titanic too? The middle class has already been squeezed out of this town by city hall catering to every developer and builder looking to do business within the city limits. When was the last time a single or even a two family home was built in South Boston or Dorchester? When was the last time an open space was used to alleviate a parking starved community? All we ever get here is the standard two bedroom condo with hardwood floors, gas fire place, and granite countertops starting somewhere north of $500K.
I'm sorry folks, but this horse left the barn years ago.

I as well as most of my

I as well as most of my friends in the 22-35 bracket will never be able to afford to live in these new residential developments. Seems the city would rather attract foreign owners looking to buy for their kid or older folks purchasing a second home than residents willing to invest in becoming part of community. No worries, I've been actively searching to move somewhere I'm not stuck in rush hour starting at 2pm. Good luck with that world class status.

Yeah, but

It is also one less person to vote for anti-development politicians, one less NIMBY to make demands at project reviews, one less driver on the road, and one less parking space needed. I think I'll live.


San Francisco caused its own problems

A significant amount of housing (30,000-50,000 units) like inlaw apartments and units in duplexes are kept off the market in SF because its an owner's nightmare to get a bad tenant. The laws there make it extremely difficult, slow, and expensive to evict a tenant who does not pay rent, destroys property, or causes problems. Consequently, its not worth the risk for many owners to rent out units, and they remain empty until friends or relatives visit. The supply shortage is significantly the fault of voters who put in bad regulations. Most residents/voters in SF are renters, hence, pro tenant regulations got adopted.

A resident of one of the outer burbs speaks out

There's a lot more to Boston than just the Back Bay, downtown and the South Boston waterfront.

Granted, not everybody wants to live in a neighborhood where all the pizza places are closed by 9:45 p.m. (as the kidlet and I discovered last night when we tried to get something to eat after a candidate's forum in West Roxbury), and granted that nowhere in Boston is really cheap, but there are places in Boston where the middle class still lives. And in single-family homes, duplexes and triple deckers, no less.


if you get the chance, please bring that up to these candidates!

I'd love to know their position on the "City that always sleeps" and the negative economic and culture effects it's having on making this city "World Class".

Becoming Manhattan?

You are absolutely is too late. And all these newcomers who come here to party, are piss poor to afford a car because they're paying somebody's mortgage or their own mortgage on an overpriced unit, once they have a baby THEY want to move to Burlington because they already told us how to live.
The water went over the dam a long time ago.

Heaven forbid!

"When was the last time an open space was used to alleviate a parking starved community?"

Heaven forbid! We must have "green space" everywhere in this city. Heaven forbid we us empty space for anything functional. They must be turned into parks and "green space".

The whole point of living in

The whole point of living in a city is to be able to walk places and NOT NEED A CAR!

There's no middle class housing in Boston because the red tape required of developers make it unprofitable to build anything which isn't luxury for the rich or subsidized housing for the poor.


There's no middle class housing in Boston because the red tape required of developers make it unprofitable to build anything which isn't luxury for the rich or subsidized housing for the poor.

This argument makes no sense to me. Release the developers to do as they please and do you think they'll produce middle of the road housing? Why? They'll put in whatever, sprinkle with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops (or whatever the next bubble demands) and call it "luxury" to justify jacking the price as much as possible. They'll, squeeze in as many units as they can into the space they have and call it "hip, urban microunits, here in hip Eastie" and that will be what is available. It won't be enough space to raise a family in and there won't be any small yards or space for the kids to roll around in. So we're talking the young, childless professionals (the ones that the Connolly seems so concerned about), empty nesters and that sort of thing.

I just don't see what the impetus is for market forces to cater to a middle class if the wealthy (and wannabe wealthy) will continue buying up the actual and marketed "Luxury" units. When it gets to a point that they run out of wealthy people to sell to the banks will sit on the property until such time that they can be sold for that money.

Housing IS being built

I cannot comment on infill housing (putting a house on a single lot), but a bunch of duplexes have been in Dorchester by Adams Village- at the corner of Gallivan Blvd and Adams Street to be precise.

And of course there is the Olmsted Green development over by the former Boston State Hospital. Technically Dorchester, but definitely a suburban style subdivision, which I would assume is what you are looking for.

Remember, you cannot build when there is no land. If you are talking about built up parts of Boston, you're not going to get small developments.

Even in Roslindale

My little corner of this quiet little neighborhood has seen three new houses go up over the past couple of years (although two of them replaced a Cape so a net of two houses). But if you scan the notices for the weekly zoning-board hearings, it's really amazing to compare what typically goes on in places like Roslindale, West Roxbury and Hyde Park (the occasional request to add dormers or "expand living space into the basement") compared to what's going on in South Boston (how many garages does that neighborhood have that can be converted into six-apartment buildings?).

Olmsted Green (which is probably Mattapan; oh, God, I've become one of those neighborhood-line people) is kind of interesting to watch build out - you just don't see subdivisions going up in Boston.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when the Fairmount Line becomes almost rapid transit - there's a fair amount of land along the line that could become housing (see the battle over that parcel near one of the Dorchester stops where the DPW wanted to put a garage). What kind?



Mr. Grogan already has a hard-on for those lots (and several few millions to throw at it). Don't expect the people who fought for that line to be on his short list for the development plans.

there was a recent townhouse

there was a recent townhouse development in Dorchester - a few single/two families have recently been built in Mattapan, Roslindale, and Hyde Park... cost of single family construction on individual lots in the northeast is generally pretty high - you'd be lucky to find any new-build listed for under $400-500k unless it's massive tract housing built way out past 495.

single-family development on individual lots is also super risky for developers - best to buy lot and find a builder yourself (if you're lucky enough to find a vacant lot in the city that isn't severely contaminated). problem is that there isn't much space to build, and multi-family is ultimately much cheaper - but anything "affordable" is going to have to be subsidized.

Pretty Easy Equation

This is a pretty easy equation. 3,500 people moving to the city every year for the past ten years + insufficient development + insufficient investment in publicly funded schools = middle class flight to the far suburbs. Thankfully, this problem can be solved by investing more in publicly funded schools and continuing to allow well planned dense residential devlopments, such as those going up along Brookline Avenue in the Fenway and here and there around downtown. Another option is to try to lessen the extremely high concentration of poverty in parts of Dorchester and parts of Roxbury to make those areas more diverse and more appealing to a greater mix of incomes. However, this would be a much harder thing to do.

Check your math

Boston spends more per student than nearly all the suburbs with excellent schools. The two bigger problems are management and proportionally more kids with special needs, often from low income families (oops, politically incorrect elephant in the room). Data here:

An easy, effective way to "lessen the extremely high concentration of poverty in parts of Dorchester and parts of Roxbury to make those areas more diverse and more appealing to a greater mix of incomes" is to not grant Section 8 vouchers for use in those areas. Problem solved. Justification? Easy, recipients would be safer in other neighborhoods, or don't have to take the money.

My math is fine

Although I actually said insufficient investment in publicly funded schools, not insufficient spending, and I tend to agree with you that there is significant mismanagement at BPS that must be fixed, there is still a good argument to be made that Boston spends an insufficient amount of money on its schools. You are correct that Boston spends more per student than most of its higher performing suburban neighbors but you are also correct that those suburbs do not have the demographic challenges that Boston does. Ergo, Boston should spend more to provide additional services to its extra-needy students. In fact, Cambridge, which much better mirors Boston's demographics, spends more than Boston and also performs better (at least based on test scores). It is certain that BPS needs significant structural reform, but it is laughable to suggest that that Boston spends too much on public education.

Isn't he right, though?

Isn't he right, though? Everyone else here is jumping in because there's finally an opening, but he was the only one brave enough to step into the ring when he might have had to face Menino. That says a lot, putting his money where his mouth is in terms of the mayor simply not getting the job done these past few years.

Sort of

I'd argue that large parts of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan are still far from gentrified for various reasons. JP has some gentrification and Roslindale and West Roxbury seem to be fairly middle class at this point.

Vancouver is an example of serious gentrification where there are huge residential neighborhoods where all the house are now north of $1m in cost which used to be middle class. Boston isn't anything like that yet.

Not sure why this is so hard to understand...

For decades the city has gone out of its way to attract 100's of thousands of primarily wealthy, elite folks from all over the world to attend schools, and work in medicine, academia, finance and computer science. Why is it a wonder that half the city is unaffordable for middle and working-class folks? It's too late now. Regular jamokes can live in Everett, Peabody, Stoughton and Taunton.

With the loss of industry and

With the loss of industry and the department stores the city needed the tax base to pay for all the public employees and to subsidize the poor. The high tech, medical, institutional, higher ed and financial services HQ'd here bring jobs but aren't paying a lot in taxes. This is also part of why the city has been big on catering to suburban sports fans and tourism. The money has to come from somewhere and unfortunately for the middle class they don't have enough to feed the beast.


Where do people propose all this middle class housing be built? Moreover, why would middle class people want to live there? Build affordable tower blocks in Hyde Park? None of the advantages of the city, and none of the advantages of the suburbs.

Plenty of Affordable housing exists - it's just not "safe"

Simple solutiion - get rid of the violence in Roxbury, Mattapan, part's of Dorchester and the middle class will have plenty of affordable housing.....two bedroom apartments in these areas are renting for $1350 a month right now - and the prices are inflated because of all the section 8 rentals.......if one of the candidates can only figure out how to solve the problem....presto - tons of affordable housing already in existence! Just a problem of those who can afford it wanting to live downtown.....

so true

As someone else has said, there's more to Boston than Back Bay, Beacon Hill, North End, and the South End. Show me one major city that has affordable, middle-class housing in the CENTER of the city. San Francisco? NYC? Chicago? No way. It may be unpopular, but if you aren't making a lot of money, you don't get to live in the heard of a major city. I'm sorry. The same goes with oceanfront property. I'm middle-class, and I'd love to live on Beacon Hill, or on the Beach in Hingham, but I can't afford it. Instead, I live in Quincy.

I don't think anyone's bemoaning not being able to live downtown

or in the Back Bay, or on Beacon Hill. All of those neighborhoods have been pricey for a long, long time.

It's more the point that there is little to no affordable housing in: Charlestown, North End, West End, South End, Fenway, Allston, Brighton, South Boston, Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and ever-increasingly Savin Hill and East of Dorchester Ave. That's what has got people concerned, I think.

Once again:

Eastie and for that matter Chelsea. Affordable and close to downtown. The sun does not rise and set on Boston proper and Southie, JP, blah blah blah.

This particular discussion is about Boston

and what Boston's potential mayoral candidates could do to prevent the city from being divided into two groups - the rich, and the poor. Because of that, Chelsea doesn't count. Nor does Everett, Revere, Malden, Medford, Quincy blah blah blah.

East Boston is a good example of a neighborhood that has some reasonable prices, for sure. As is most of Roslindale, Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan and Hyde Park. However, there used to be many, many more neighborhoods with affordable housing stocks. The multi-decade trend of the loss of the middle and working-class from the city's boundaries has many concerned. Furthermore, you do realize that Boston proper contains Eastie, Southie, and JP right? They aren't separate entities, they are neighborhoods, not suburbs.

Just because there are still a few places where regular folks can live, doesn't mean there's not still a problem.

Simple, get rid of Section 8 there

That would reduce crime, reduce price inflation, free up spaces for the middle class, and attract investment to those areas. There is a clear association between section 8 and crime when both are mapped. Instead direct section 8 renters to, say, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and Brookline. If Section 8 recipients don't want to live in those places, they don't have to take the money.

One sided solution

Also need to force wealthy towns to economically integrate.

We'll start with your neighborhood in Arlington. Poor people have to live somewhere - we'll start next door to you.

Home planet

I think he's implying people advocating for section 8 are the ones who would call a SWAT team if they see a stereotypical section 8 renter walking on their block (i.e. Back Bay/Cambridge/Brookline old money and trustafarians,) whereas those expressing their disdain for section 8 are normally from communities ruined by it (i.e. Dot/Roxbury.) In other words, he's calling out all the alleged progressive liberals on their hypocrisy.

North Ender?

Pleanty of air in North End but not much crime. Why don't you fellas advocate for more section 8 renters instead of renting to all those pesky yuppies? Put your money where your mouth is, will ya?

Let's talk about hypocrisy

We'll talk when the Cambridge/Brookline/W suburb big-mouth libs start offering their condos to section 8 renters instead of the usual lily-white yupppie crowd, because according to all the lib agenda-driven studies section 8 has no effect on crime rate, schools and property values. Until then, STFU and have a nice day. And put down the phone when you see METCO kids getting off the bus, no need to call the SWAT team.