Saturday, September 14, 2013

Boston Mayoral Endorsement: John Connolly

With Mayoral Candidate John Connolly
August 7, 2013

If you could not figure it out from reading this blog, I kind of like Boston. I like clam chowder, and I like seasons. I like how the city is close to the beach and the ski slopes. I like how its skyline is welcoming to a weary traveler. I like how Boston is a city of neighborhoods, each fiercely unique.

The Boston I live in today is in its heyday. Perhaps the best barometer is the number of cranes visible across the city. Atop a Beacon Street roofdeck recently, I counted 20. People want to work, live and play here.

But Boston has problems. Some are small but clearly visible---the hindrances that are tradeoffs for the conveniences of city life, like the rats that sneak into the garbage left outside at night. Others demonstrate visible symptoms today, and will have serious consequences down the line if left untreated.

For me, the biggest Boston problem is young professional flight. Earlier this year, a couple I know well that lived in the South End moved out of town, ahead of the birth of their second child. They now live in some random "H" town on the south shore.

With their move, they took with them the enthusiasm they had for Boston, the commitment they would have brought to their community, and the energy they could have contributed to the fabric of the city.

They left Boston because they couldn't afford to live here. Most eviscerally, they could not afford the larger apartment in the South End. But from a more abstract perspective, they couldn't afford to gamble on the city's education system, and they couldn't afford to send their kids to private school as an "out."

I do not mean to pick on my freinds for leaving. I don't blame them. It's a scene I have seen repeated often in the years since my matriculation from Boston University. And the departure of so many young couples and families is a drain for the city, one that threatens the vibrancy of Boston's communities over the long term.

Their departure represents the convergence of a few challenges facing the city. Young professionals (like me) do not know there are strong, growing (and safe) neighborhoods throughout Boston---not just in the downtown neighborhoods. Many of those neighborhoods are affordable and are much further along than the "up-and-coming" label typically given them. At the same time, Boston needs to encourage mid-market housing. Developers need incentives to build with the young family in mind, in all parts of the city.

And then there are the schools. Whether they have a bad PR rap or not is the subject of another blog, but the perception is they are just not very good.

John Connolly shares my concern for the problems I see, and he has plans to address these challenges, among a long list of progressive programs he has outlined. And that is why I am voting for him on September 24 to be the next Mayor of Boston.

Before I go on, let me just say that if you had told me just a few months ago I would be writing this blog post, I would have told you to get out of town. We're in the midst of one of the most dramatic election seasons in the city's history. Over the next several weeks, the entire government of the city will change. For that very reason alone, this is a crucial election. Add to that the fact that the newly elected Mayor might keep that office for a long period of time, and the stakes seem insurmountable.

I first met John Connolly when he was running for Boston City Council at-large back in 2005. Since then, I have never met a harder working politician. I was floored when he actually lost in 2005. It was no surprise he tried again in 2007 and was victorious.

Beyond the fact that he's a hard worker, and he has a plan to address what I feel is the biggest challenge facing the city, John Connolly is not afraid to take a stand. Most recently, he turned down a $500,000 independent expenditure---telling the organization offering to support him that he didn't want it. John believes strongly that Boston's decision on our next Mayor should be left to the citizens of the city. He feels there is no place for outside money in this election.

He turned down $500,000 worth of support. That takes guts.

On education, John is betting his tenure as Mayor on the issue. He has made it such a central part of his campaign that he has to deliver change and improvements if elected, or he will face serious consequences down the line. I like that he's willing to go "all-in" on schools, and I like his ideas. He wants to cultivate the innovation within charter schools and bring the ideas incubated there to all other schools. He's willing to stand up to the teacher's union if it makes sense to make our schools better. I am the son of an elementary school teacher who taught me Kindergarten. I know first hand that public schools work if communities and teachers have confidence in them. John Connolly has a plan to make that happen.

On a variety of other issues this election, John Connolly and I also see eye-to-eye. He agrees that the Boston Redevelopment Authority needs to be reformed to make it more transparent---that the planning and development processes should be separated.

John Connolly understands that Boston must continue to be a city that supports innovation. He wants to make it easier for small businesses to get their start. And he sees strength in the budding innovation district as a place where new technologies will come to market. He plans to bring significant technology to City Hall, which will among other things remove red tape in the permitting process for residents and businesses alike. I would love for City Hall to feel like the Apple Store.

Don't worry, we do disagree on issues. I would like John Connolly to have a more aggressive stance on casinos---specifically in opposition to them. As I have written on this blog, casinos suck economic oxygen out of the areas around them. But that debate has come and gone and the reality is, casinos are coming to Massachusetts.

As exciting as this election cycle has been, it's also personal. I know Mike Ross and Felix Arroyo, two other candidates. Ross was one of the first politicians I ever met after moving to Beacon Hill in 1999, when he was running for City Council. I have heard nothing but good things about Councilor Rob Consalvo, Representative Marty Walsh, and Bill Walczak. Trust me when I tell you I have thought about my choice for a long time.

With elections on September 24 and November 5, Boston residents will elect a new government for the city. The newly elected Mayor will have huge shoes to fill. That person will have to keep Boston's momentum going, without any hiccups. I want someone who will work hard, and someone who agrees with me on the challenges Boston faces. I want someone who would like for me to stay in the city and raise a family here.

For me, that someone is John Connolly.

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