July 11th Boston mayoral forum transcript

This is a transcript of a July 11th Boston mayoral forum with City Councilor Felix Arroyo, Charlotte Richie, and Bill Walczak. The forum was hosted by CommonWealth magazine, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, A Better City, and the Chiofaro Cos. Questioners were Sam Tyler of the BMRB, Rick Dimino of ABC, and Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe. CommonWealth editor Bruce Mohl moderated.

To read a transcript of the other two forums in this series, click here: June 25th transcript | July 18th transcript

What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the next mayor of Boston and what would you do about it?

Walczak: I want to thank the organizations that are hosting this this morning. Obviously, this is really, really important to get these issues out there. It’s very important to know which direction the city is likely to go in and that you get introduced to all the candidates for mayor. So I’m Bill Walczak. I’ve spent my adult life working in Dorchester but also having a bigger impact on the city of Boston, mainly working in the Codman Square area for decades and mainly redeveloping Codman Square. I think the most important thing that the next mayor has to deal with is learning how the city of Boston has to lead into the next generation. Tom Menino has brought us to a certain point. I would call it Boston 1.0. We need to be able to learn what 2.0 looks like and how we’re able to transform the city. To me, the city of Boston has almost limitless potential. With all of the institutions that we have, universities, colleges, hospitals, business, financial services. We have a tremendous opportunity to not only build the great city of Boston  here, the great world-class city that is emerging, but to connect that city to the neighborhoods and to the people that are coming out of our neighborhoods. And to make sure that our school system is able to deal with the achievement gap. We should be the first city in America that is able to solve the achievement gap. We should be the greenest city in America. We should be able to be the healthiest city in America. Is there another city in American that has as much potential to be the healthiest city in the world? No, Boston is it. Could we be the most innovative city? Could we be the innovation hub of the entire East Coast? Absolutely. All this is within our power. All this we can do. What we need to do is make sure we have the right leadership and bring the right people into government and look at how our government operates so that we can propose all of those ideas and achieve success.

Arroyo: Thank you for the time. Thank you all for being here. I think economic development is the most important issue facing us right now. We’re very lucky. Boston is a very prosperous city. We need to ensure that that prosperity continues, but also that that prosperity reaches every neighborhood in this city. I am a son of Boston, born right here in the city. But my parents who moved here as adults, looking for a better opportunity for themselves. They chose Boston because they believed Boston would provide those opportunities. In fact, it did. To make sure that those opportunities are provided to everyone, we must  make sure that the prosperity that we see in Boston reaches every neighborhood, that people know they have the opportunity to send their children to a good school, live in a safe neighborhood, and have a good job where they can raise their family, that they want to create jobs, open businesses, start businesses, know that they can do that here in Boston. We have a program that I call Invest in Boston that helps do that. The city has almost a billion dollars in deposits. We deposit in various banks, but we have no sense if those banks are doing any work in our city. We have no sense if those banks are lending to  development projects, lending to small business owners, lending to homeowners, are part of the   foreclosure solution and not the crisis. We have no sense if they’re hiring Bostonians. So the plan that I put forward says if you want these deposits, let us know what you’re doing in our city. Let us know if you are lending to small businesses, the homeowners, development projects. Why wouldn’t we do business with the bank that’s doing the most work in our neighborhoods, in our city. That plan is called Invest in Boston. It’s very similar to something that exists in New York City and Los Angeles. When I’m mayor, we’ll bring that here and make sure the cyclical nature of money, the cyclical nature of our economy, continues to happen  so that jobs can be created, people can buy their homes, and so that we can have the prosperity in Boston reach every single neighborhood.

Golar Richie: Good morning everyone. I’m really pleased to be here, and I do apologize for my tardiness. I will share with you very quickly that I was a little late because I was caught up in a discussion on a radio station with one of the other candidates on how to unify the community of color around this race for mayor. When I was planning to arrive on time, I probably would have said the most important issue was education for the city. But now I might be thinking it might be about mending divisions because there are divisions that still exist in the city and prevent us from realizing our full potential as a city when it comes to education, when it comes to job creation, when it comes to addressing public safety in our community. I know that Greg Torres of MassINC has convened a group of important people who know the issue around incarceration. We’ve got 300 people roughly coming out of jails and prisons and flowing back into our communities every month, and we need to have a plan around reentry and to prevent recidivism. That’s something that we don’t want to put at the top of the list, but it will affect the fabric of our community if we do not address that issue. So I would say that I would endeavor with all of my heart and my might, with all of the talents I bring to bear, with all of the skills that I have, having been a leader as a public official and an elected official, to knit our city together, to unite our city around the issues that continue to ail us here in Boston.

Since January of 1992, the Boston School Committee members have been appointed by the mayor. If you’re elected mayor, will you continue to support the appointed school committee or would you prefer returning to the electoral structure or a hybrid mix of elected and appointed members.

Arroyo: My family has intimate experience since my family’s first introduction to politics was my father running for the elected school committee. And later he got on the school committee as an appointed member, and served two terms, eight years on the school committee. I still support and do support a hybrid option, where four of the members would be appointed and three of the members would be elected. What I think a hybrid option brings is it allows the appointed process for folks to be thoroughly vetted around their credentials on education and what their plans are for our schools. But the elected option allows for direct parent accountability. By creating a hybrid, I believe you can create a very serious body that will work on the issues but still have a connection with our neighborhoods, still have a connection with the parents in our schools. So that is why I would support a hybrid option.

Golar Richie : I have been scratching my head to come up with some wonderful, positive memories that stem from our experience having an elected school committee and frankly I cannot come up with one.  However, I’m going to say that, and I’m on the record having supported the appointed school committee back in 1994/1995, it was soon after I was elected a State Rep, and this came up as a ballot question.  And I was one of very few elected officials that said lets give the appointed school committee a try.  So now we have had an appointed school committee for almost 20 years.  It is not perfect.  I just want to say this, very quickly, the issue that is of concern to communities is that with an appointed school committee we do not get the give and take and the exchange and we don’t get the information and we have got to work on that.

Walczak: I’m going to be 59 years old so I have a long history of remembering what the elected school committee was like.  I remember the indictments; I remember wondering why people would run for an office that paid nothing.  It was so difficult to think of that.  Now we had great school committee members in those days but we also had a lot of instability because of the [undecipherable] of going from one election to the next election.  And as a result it was a destabilized system where we went through a lot of school superintendents over short periods of time.  The appointed committee allowed us to go to more stability, stability of having direction and not having the elections interfere with things.  So as a result what we’ve had is longer term superintendents who have been able to achieve a great deal of success in improving the schools.  As a result, I support keeping the appointed school committee.

As Mayor Menino finishes out 20 years in office, Boston is booming, to use a cliché.  The waterfront is finally coming together and building cranes are visible throughout the city.  The mayor deserves a lot of credit for the boom.  At the same time, most of the building has been done by a small group of developers.  Is that a problem, and if it is how would you open up a selection process?

Golar Richie: Thank you Joan for that question.  So that’s one of the things that excites me.  I do look forward to a day when we are going to be welcoming more businesses into the fold.  And it’s a challenge because the businesses that you see have the work are those that have a proven track record, they have the capacity, they can get the bonding, they can do all of those things.  And so they continue to get the work, build on their track record, get the jobs.  So I think what we’re going to have to do is to revisit this notion of linkage but in a way that is about partnering and piloting and bringing in new enterprise.  I know that in places and sections of this state and across the nation, we have a Boston jobs policy that is potentially one that could be challenged and the question is can it withstand legal muster.  I absolutely will put in place a policy that will allow for businesses, minority businesses, women, and local businesses to get some of the work here in the city. Thank you.

Walczak: I currently work for Shawmut Design and Construction Company and I’ve been there for about 9 months now and so I’ve had a great deal of exposure to the business community and the development community and I’ve learned and have met a number of developers here.  And I know that Boston has a very robust construction industry as well as a development community.  And I want to be able to see that this community is very well utilized.  But I also want to make sure that we’re pressing those advantages of having great institutions, great organizations like that to make sure that our neighborhoods benefit from it.  I do support the idea of having more building projects, hire people from our neighborhoods, people of color, women.  I want to make sure that what we’re doing in choosing our developers and choosing our construction companies, that what we’re doing is spreading the wealth into our communities so that we can build that opportunity especially by building up relationships so that we can have Madison Park High School turn into a really good school where we’re developing young people into the kinds of jobs that are going to allow them to have middle class lifestyles.

Arroyo: I think we should continue to do business with businesses that have been doing good work in our city.  This isn’t a game of subtractions it’s a game of additions, which means you also must now open the process up so that others who want to do good work in our city, who want to develop good projects, who want to help create jobs have the ability to do that.  You do that by making sure the process is as transparent as possible.  So that no one can even perceive that decisions aren’t being made on merit.  We do that by making sure that there are clear deadlines, that anyone who wants to do business in Boston knows what the process is, understands the process, and knows how long the process will take before they can start.  I believe some of the reason why you see the same developers, it isn’t a matter of exclusion for the mere fact of exclusion, but it’s because the process itself is so convoluted that some choose not to do business here.  We must make it so that everyone wants to do business in Boston and therefore will be attracting the best business ideas, the best development ideas, and really doing smart growth in our city.  And I believe that by making sure that all developers and all business owners, whether you want to open a sub shop or you want to build a building in downtown, knows the process, understands the process, and that it’s transparent and that decisions are always made based on merit.

Transportation systems can support economic growth and economic futures.  They can build social capital.  They can attract people to live in cities.  They can even attract 25-35 year olds to stay in cities.  So my question to all of you is, what would you do to address, both in the near term and the long term, the transportation system in Boston?  How would you address, and please define the deficiencies, and how would you address those deficiencies and make sure that Boston is going to continue to be a leader in shaping our economic future and our quality of life and make sure that our transportation system is a critical part of that future? 

Walczak: Well let me say that I was so disappointed that we did not pass the transportation bill that the Governor offered, or even the amendments that the business community came forward on.  We had the opportunity to pass a bill that would have allowed us to expand the system as well as make sure that the train that I took this morning is something built in this century perhaps.  I think what we need to do is we need to make sure that we’re passing a bill that makes sense for Boston’s future.  We’re not going to be able to continue to develop our downtown area or our waterfront district without investment in the silver line, my view is we should be building the silver line from Dudley Square to Mattapan Square, as well as into the business district and probably over to Suffolk Downs as well.  We need to be able to get the blue line up to Lynn; we need to be able to have the urban ring built.  If we’re not able to do that kind of stuff, we’re not going to be able to continue the development of Boston.  And we had an opportunity, with the bills, and the business community’s support of it, to get that passed and unfortunately the Legislature did not do that at this point at the level we needed.  We need to revisit it; the mayor needs to be the loudest and strongest voice on this in the Commonwealth.

Arroyo: Thank you.  Our transportation system has got to work or else everything starts to fall apart.  If you can’t get from point A to point B, then you can’t get to work, you can’t get to your school, you can’t get to areas of recreation with your family.  And then the city becomes less attractive to those who want to create jobs here and those who want to live here.  We should have passed the Governor’s plan on transportation.  It would have allowed us to make investments on our transportation system.  We also must understand that there are four basic modes of transportation that are the most commonly used.  People drive, people walk, people bicycle, and people take public transit.  All of our development in our city and all of our infrastructure ideas must make it easy, safe, affordable, and just to use any of those four options.  Our MBTA system should be 24/7.  And people who live in areas like Mattapan should have the same access to public transit as people who live in neighborhoods like I do in Jamaica Plains where we have four train stations.  In the end, we must invest in our infrastructure if we want our city to continue to grow.

Golar Richie :  Thank you.  So I grew up on public transportation and I know as well how important it is to our economic growth and ability to get people, moving them around the city, getting them to jobs and education and things like that.  I mean it’s a financial issue is what we are confronted with transportation.   But it’s also, I believe, an issue relative to the willpower to convene the important and interested parties to address the shortfall.  And as mayor, I will bring the legislative delegation together.  I will meet with the Speaker and the Senate President before a proposal goes through so that we are clear about what the goals are and what we can achieve.  I will work closely with members of the city council to address this.  The politics of this whole issue is very much a central issue to why we are not able to get what we need around resources to support our transportation system.  Yes I would like a transportation system that runs all around the clock.  We need to market our system as well.

The Legislature seems to feel like a lot of this transportation money goes to benefit Boston and not so much the rest of the state, and they’re a little tired of hearing more, more, more.  They’re tired of hearing about Boston’s needs.

Golar Richie : Right. And some of you know that I served in the Legislature. I was elected in ’94, ’96, ’98, sure it was some years ago but I also was able to work closely with the Legislature when I worked with Governor Patrick as a Senior Advisor for Policy and Community Affairs and Legislative Affairs, so I was his government affairs point person with the Legislature.  And I actually sit on association of legislators, The Mass Legislative Association, so I have remained in close contact with many of the members.  I have support and I have worked closely with many of the Boston Legislative Delegation.  We absolutely need to understand this fact.  There are 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth, they have representation, and those folks have to advocate for those communities.  If they do not understand how important Boston is, as the hub of the activity, where the jobs are provided, where the action is happening, not just for the state but for the region.  So there’s New York City, yes, but north of New York City this is where it’s at and we need to have partners understanding that.

Bill, how would you convince the Speaker and the Senate President to raise taxes higher? They don’t seem to be listening to the governor on this one.

Walczak : Or the business community, which supported raising taxes to support transportation.  My view is that we can no longer look at Boston as an isolated place.  We need to start looking regionally.  I think it was crazy that we competed against Cambridge for Vertex.  I’m glad they moved there but in reality we should be joining with Cambridge and all of the towns to have a regional approach to our economy, to make sure that our jobs are locating here from other parts of the country so that we can build more jobs and job opportunities.  And obviously the same thing goes with our environmental processes, basically much of what we have is not isolated to the, go across the Maponsac River you’re not really leaving the region, you’re just leaving the district called Boston.  So my view on all of this is we need a regional approach, the mayor of Boston should be one of the leaders in convening a regional approach to transportation and this is where our economy is.  Let’s face it, the Boston economy is the hottest economy, we need to continue to grow our jobs here and we can do that as a region if everyone understands that the jobs people are leaving Lexington for are going to be in Boston, that therefore Lexington needs to support us.

Councilor Arroyo do you have any thoughts about how to convince the Legislature to go along with higher taxes?

Arroyo: Sure. At night our population is 630,000 people, by day over a million.  Their constituents come to Boston to work here.  Their constituents come to Boston and create jobs here.  As Boston goes, so does the state.  If Boston is strong economically, if Boston is strong and working well, the state of Massachusetts is strong and working well.  We must understand that the people they represent, in fact, come to Boston to work, we double our population by day.  That message alone is one that would tell anyone, and I am an elected official who responds to constituents now as a City Counselor representing all of Boston’s neighborhoods.  And I know that my constituents need jobs, and when we double our population by the day that means that many of the people living here, coming here to work are constituents for these legislators.  Also, it’s about bold, strong leadership.  It’s about working with our Boston delegation and saying this is what’s best for Boston and I need your help to get it done.  And I think in that process we’ll be able to move forward. 

Does your vision for Boston’s economy and quality of life include a casino at Suffolk Downs and if so, would you support a citywide vote to ensure full participation in a decision that will have a citywide impact?

Arroyo: I know that, as a City Counselor today, with your support and God willing as the next mayor of the city of Boston, that I will fight for every possible job that we can have here in the city.  A casino in East Boston will create thousands of jobs, of that I don’t think there’s any debate.  But on top of that the tax revenue that comes from the casino being here in Boston.  If a casino were to open up in Everett, it is the same distance from my house as a casino in East Boston.  The difference is, while we would pick up the social ills, and I understand there are social ills associated with casinos, we would not pick up the tax revenue.  And would not have a stronger case to make for the jobs, it’s a very pragmatic position.  However, I believe the people of East Boston should make that decision.  That decision should be made by those most affected by the development project and those people live in East Boston and I believe they should make that decision.

Golar Richie : So I agree with Felix on this one and I did support the local bill.  However, I would absolutely want to convene and meet regularly with an advisory group that would include representatives and key stakeholders from across the city.  The casino absolutely affects all of us here in Boston and I think we need to understand the benefits and all of us need to feel positive about what we’re trying to accomplish with the presence of a casino as well as to work together to confront and address the challenges we will face as well.

Walczak: As a person who comes out of the public health field for decades, I can tell you that I do not think that gambling is a good thing.  I have had family members who have been addicted to gambling.  I had an aunt who lost her entire fortune, well not that much fortune, but she lost everything she had with gambling.  So personally I’m not in favor of it, I would vote against it, and I believe that the city of Boston should vote against, or vote in one way or another on the casino.  But I also believe if we had a better functioning Boston Redevelopment Authority we’d be looking at other options so that if the casino gets turned down, and I hope it’s a citywide vote, but if it gets turned down we need to know what the other options are to create jobs.  What about a northern innovation district?  Our innovation district in South Boston is going to be completed in a couple of years.  It’s already building up, every couple of weeks you hear about a new business going there.  One of the reasons it’s there is because it’s near the airport.  What about Suffolk Downs being the new place for innovation, the new innovation district?  I think we need to know the options and what kind of options are going to create those jobs in the city of Boston. 

The Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers has been lobbying for more diversity in the Boston Police command staff.  To achieve it, some suggest expanding the traditional promotional exam to a process that includes interviews and other evaluation components.  What do you think about the need for more diversity in the command staff and is that one way to go about doing it?

Golar Richie : Yea.  I mean I’m going to absolutely focus on that. I think you want me to, if you elect me.  You will recognize that this city is a diverse city and we want to make sure that departments in city government reflect the diversity of the city.  I will look at the exam, but I don’t know if that’s where we need to start really. I think there are opportunities to appoint and recruit and retain and promote people of color who are already in the system, in city government and beyond.  And that’s something that I would actively want to do.  I hope that my, and I would insist that the next Police Commissioner, whoever that is, would join me and working with the business community and others, the clergy, the nonprofits, labor and others, community residents who have been racked by crime for far too long and small sections of this city would work with me to address that.  This city is just under 50 square miles.  We can address our crime issue and that is going to be a top priority to me.

Walczak: I have a great track record of hiring, building organizations.  As a founder of the Cotton Square Health Center which is now a 25 million dollar agency with upwards of 400 employees on campus, I can tell you that I know about hiring diversity, making sure that agencies are representative of their communities.  And I can tell you that over 80% of the staff at Cotton Square Health Center, including command staff, are very inclusive and represent the people who live in the Cotton Square area.  So overall I think it’s very important that we have leadership in our city that represents the people who live in our city.  And all of the diversity that’s included in that, and this city is obviously a tremendously diverse area.  I know that you can do that because I’ve done it.  And I know that if we do it the right way and we’re able to find the right people as Charlotte mentions, we have people in our own police department now who can be prepped and be ready to make sure that they are able to get into those kinds of command positions.  And I would make sure that happens.  I have grave doubts about whether the promotional exam or exams in general are good ways of determining whether a person is the right person for a job.  Certainly we’re not looking at our senior management in any kind of capacity around oh did they pass a test in order to become the Vice President of Shawmut Design and Construction as I am. No I didn’t have to pass a test for that.  We need to look at different ways of looking at leadership and leadership styles and the kinds of organizations that we want to see in our city to be able to move our city forward and I think we really need to revisit the whole exam thing.

Arroyo : The answer is very clearly and very loudly yes.  I strongly believe that the diversity in Boston is in fact one of our strengths.  In fact I’m trying to diversify the mayor’s office right now.  As a matter of fact, I would argue, the most important job in public service in the state of Massachusetts is the mayor’s office and me and Charlotte, and Bill, and the other candidates in this race will be having close to 100 interviews and candidates forums across the neighborhood.  That is in fact a test.  So yes, we will diversify our police force.  We will do whatever means necessary because I know that our diversity is our strength.  I know that there are women and people of color and people of different genders and people of different sexual orientations who can do the job well and they deserve the opportunity to do the job well.  Not only will we be focused on diversifying our police department, in fact Joan we will be focused on diversifying our entire workforce to make sure that City Hall reflects its neighborhoods because I know it’s our strength, I know that those differences of perspective and opinions are powerful and important and it’s about bringing everyone together and making sure that everyone’s voice is heard. 

But you also said you would keep Ed Davis as Police Commissioner, so how would you change the way things get done there?

Arroyo : The police commissioner reports directly to the mayor of Boston.  And I will change the way things get done.

So Counselor Arroyo mentioned, and I know you all feel and we all feel that Boston residents can be doing better in terms of jobs.  But yet we sit here and we’re really just reacting to development and not necessarily catalyzing it and expediting it.  There are institutional master plans in medical and academic institutions sitting there ready to go with jobs that would really be beneficial to Boston’s residents.  There’s workforce opportunities that both are looking for construction trades as well as permanent jobs that will come from that investment.  There’s areas like Allston, the South Boston waterfront which we all know about but then there’s other areas like Dudley, East Boston etc… Lee, if Lee wanted to could really push economic development and job creation.  And again, see real growth quick and not miss economic cycles.  So what I would like to know is what would you do if you were elected mayor to expedite and catalyze growth and provide leadership to make sure that we’re not waiting and missing economic cycles?

Walczak : In one minute? Alright well that’s one of the problems with the forums is it’s really difficult to get your head around these complex issues or be able to speak about them.  In case, yes I am a pro-growth candidate.  I absolutely believe we need to grow our Boston economy, continue the growth because we’re not going to be able to produce jobs if we’re not growing the economy. So I am completely in favor of that.  I think what we need to look at is the way in which our processes happen.  I think we need to look at City Hall in a different way.  We need to bring in business to take a look at how City Hall functions.  We need to reorganize it around what we’re trying to achieve as goals.  We need to make sure that we differentiate between DND and BRA and ISD and what they do.  We need to streamline the processes for which we go through there. Everyone who walks into City Hall should be seen as a customer.  Every person who comes into ISD should be looked at as a customer and we need to make sure it doesn’t take 6 to 8 months to get a porch done or 6 to 8 months to just bring an idea up.  We need better planning in our city.  If we’re able to balance the VRA between planning and development we’re going to be able to have better plans, better master planning, better zoning and that will achieve greater goals because we will have buy in from communities as well as business and institutional groups to make sure those projects get expedited.  And I’ve seen it happen; I know it can happen, I think we can do it with the right kind of leadership in City Hall.

Arroyo : I’ve already spoken about my idea in invest in Boston which I believe will leverage a billion dollars of city’s deposits to create more jobs in our neighborhoods, to create and support more development projects, to create and open more small businesses, to allow for more home ownership in our neighborhoods.  I also think that it’s time for, and I believe and I said before and I’ll repeat now, that what we need is a more transparent, clear process with set deadlines.  I know that people who want to do business in our city understand that the word no might actually happen.  But what they don’t want is for that to just be continue to push the button, move the can, kick the can, kick the can, kick the can, and before you know it you’re years into a project and then you get the no.  They want to know very clearly what communities are looking for and what they can do. And I think we should have a very robust citywide planning process that focuses both on the short term and the long term.  I would also say that a way to focus on jobs is by understanding that there are thousands of open jobs in Massachusetts and in Boston.  But the employers do not believe that the Bostonians are ready and prepared for those jobs, we must focus on the quality of education in our schools so that we’re teaching our children skills relevant for today’s workforce and not yesterday’s.

Golar Richie : So the good news is that we are emerging, or have emerged, from that great recession.  So the work around job creation could be a lot of fun.  It’s a little different than the issue we just talked about around crime prevention and restorative justice, that’s really hard or addressing poverty, that’s really hard.  But the issue around the job generation piece is one that everyone wants to be involved in.  Labor wants to be involved, the business community, folks in our educational institutions and nonprofit sector all want to be part of this, and should be part of this.  And as mayor I will be meeting regularly with all of them to ensure we have the best strategy for going after an economic development plan for the city that is robust and effective.  Obviously we have a golden opportunity to bring in a new cheap economic development officer for the city who will be strong in urban planning, who will also be able to work with me to market this city in new and exciting ways.  We do not do that here in Boston.  We do not have a planned strategy around going out beyond our borders to get businesses into the neighborhoods, and really around the world, to have them come here.  And there’s more, but I’ll stop there, thank you.

LIGHTENING ROUND

Mayor Menino is often called the urban mechanic; if you’re elected mayor what will you be called?

Arroyo : I think, The Opportunity Man.  I believe we’re suffering from an opportunity gap and everyone deserves opportunity in our city.

Golar Richie : Felix took the words out of my mouth.  Access and opportunity.  Absolutely, that’s what my administration is going to be about.

Walczak: Urban Innovator

 Do you support the city’s current payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, program with large tax exempt institutions or would you modify it?

Golar Richie : Ok sorry, sorry.  I support the pilot program, the review of the pilot program.  It needs work.

Walczak: Modified

Arroyo : Modified

Here’s a softball.  We all know what we like about Boston.  What do you like least about it?

Walczak : It’s muggy

Arroyo: That’s hilarious because I was going to say the winter.  Very seriously, to me, it’s the sense that in some neighborhoods our young people think they have no opportunity, that they believe there’s no hope for them.  And that, we need to work towards making sure those opportunities do exist for everybody in our city.

Golar Richie : Ditto. And that families are still struggling and that gap is still widening between the haves and have nots.

We still don’t really have long term financing plans for the Greenway, so would you consider putting city of Boston funds into the long term financing and care of Rose Kennedy Greenway?

Arroyo : Yes

Walczak : Yes

Golar Richie : I’d rather not.

It comes up every now and then that people in Boston want to invite the Olympics to town. Would you support that or not?

Golar Richie : Well as someone who appreciates athletics, I would be excited to do that but it’s going to cost some money.

So that’s a yes?

Golar Richie : So maybe.

Walczak : We should be able to do it with the academic institutions and all that so I’d say yes if that can happen.

Arroyo : Yes

 Do you support project labor agreements for large city construction projects?

Walczak : Yes

Arroyo: Yes

Golar Richie : Yes Mark

 Should the next mayor, not the current one, be in charge of hiring the search firm and appointing a search committee to find a new school superintendent?

Golar Richie : Yes.

Walczak: Definitely next mayor.

Arroyo : Absolutely.

Is it time to modify linkage so it can pay for transportation and open space as well?

Walczak : No.

Arroyo : Leaning no.

Golar Richie : Possibly.

The city of Boston has been successful in creating affordable housing with support from its linkage funds and state resources.  The market has been successful in creating high end condominium and rental housing in the city.  What will you do as mayor to encourage workforce or middle income housing for young professionals and families desiring to live close to where they work in Boston?

Golar Richie : Ok, so some of you know that I have had some experience in the area of affordable housing having lead the Department of Neighborhood Development for eight years and serving with Mayor Tom Menino as Chief of Housing.  And my department was principally charged with the creation and preservation of affordable housing and that was affordable housing for our seniors, for our homeless, for our families, and for the working folks of this city.  And that is something I’ve had experience with and would continue to want to work on.  If you want housing however, to be affordable, and the market is not going to produce that level of affordability that we need, we do have to invest in it and we have to buy the affordability.  You can’t just go to a landlord and say I want your units to be affordable, please do it out of the goodness of your heart.  Maybe you can but the market is going to dictate the cost of housing.  So as mayor I absolutely will advocate and lead the charge to get the funds that we need to buy the affordability so that we have affordable units for our workforce.

Walczak : I think the first problem is that affordable housing is just not affordable.  It costs way too much to develop.  I favor transit oriented development.  I favor building large dense projects closer to our subway stations and our bus stations and commuter rail stations because that’s what we need to do.  The density will allow for a lower cost.  And I would also convene the business community, I would convene the developers and the construction companies and the architects to take a look at why it costs so much to develop our housing in Boston and try to figure out ways of developing good, sound, quality housing at a lower cost.  Because what we do now is we spend a lot of our linkage dollars in building housing but the cost of housing is so high that we’re not getting the number of units that we need.  The Governor says we need 17,000 units basically in metropolitan Boston every year in order to keep the lid on housing prices.  We’re not going to be able to do that if we’re spending so much money on it and we’re not able to expedite the process.  We need to expedite processes through making sure that we have master planning and development and a better system in place.

Arroyo : One, we must increase the supply of housing. We should make sure that people who want to build housing have the opportunity to do that. Just simple economic supply and demand, the higher the supply the less the demand.  You’ll get some sense of affordability there but I don’t believe that that’s the final answer.  There are some things that government has to invest in because it is in fact our roll.  Public schools, public streets, public safety and affordable housing.  We must invest in that.  When my family moved to Boston they needed a leg up like so many other families.  And they lived in subsidized housing in the South End that’s in fact where I went to when I was born.  It was because of that that they were able to save the money they needed to buy their own home.  We must invest in affordable housing.  I took recently a tour right here in the innovative district of a company who do micro housing. We need to look at our zoning codes to make sure we are not, by zoning code, restricting the creation of different types of housing that could lead to affordability.

I read this in the Globe, Boston officials are relaxing rules that require a parking space for every new residence.  We don’t need a parking space for every bedroom and every new building, according to BRA Chief Peter Meade.  The goal is to encourage public transportation and to devote more resources to housing and green space.  Do you agree with this new policy? Does Boston really need less rather than more parking?

Walczak: First of all, I support master planning.  I support master planning across the city and master planning means you bring the communities together with the business community and institutions in those areas developers. We need to make sure we are looking at each community though separately.  So master planning for specific communities with lots of input from lots of different sources will result in plans that people agree to.  I think there are sections of this city where you don’t need one parking spot per bedroom or even per unit.  But there are other sections where you do.  And so going through a good planning process will allow us to determine which neighborhoods are going to be able to do that and which neighborhoods are not going to be able to do it.  But it also leads to other issues and if you do master planning for communities then you’re going to know where your community development projects are, where institutions, commercial development are, but you’re also going to be able to know where your schools need to be and where your open spaces need to be.  So master planning will take care of all of those issues, including which areas we can actually lower the number of parking spaces for.

Arroyo : Joan we have a lot in common because I also read the Globe. I would say, yes, I’m very open to building units with less parking.  But we must not live under the myth that we all live in the same Boston.  Some neighborhoods have better access to public transit, some neighborhoods have better access to safe bicycle lanes than others.  So when we’re doing development we must know, we must understand that reality.  And that neighborhoods that have great access to public transit, great access to walkable sidewalks and neighborhoods that have bicycle options, they can have less parking.  And the neighborhoods that don’t have that, well we must look and make sure we have parking there.  But you know what we must do, reinvest in those neighborhoods, having good access to public transit, bicycle lanes, and safe and walkable streets.  Once that happens we can limit parking everywhere but until then we must not live under the myth that all neighborhoods are the same and we must develop appropriately towards that neighborhood and their needs.

Golar Richie : I understand that it’s a new city than the city that I worked in as a Legislator chairing the Housing and Urban Development Committee and also at D and D where planning absolutely had to include, in terms of housing production, had to include a number of parking spaces to accommodate the demand for transportation around that.  I do agree with what was said, inequities in our transportation system which makes it a little hard for people to travel to work and travel to the educational institutions by public transportation.  We would want to address that.  But I think we are at a point where we really are poised to move forward with public transportation knowing that it costs 40, 50 dollars to fill up a tank and if people had their choice they would want to be on public transportation.  So I will be working with the Housing Chief for the city of Boston and the Economic Development Chief who is going to be charged with planning, urban planning, to design a plan that is going to allow for all of the various modes of transportation to coexist and  I think we can do that here at this time. 

We talked about this a little bit earlier about the lack of funding, for many things, but specifically transportation.  So the Boston Foundation did a report a number of years ago that spoke specifically about home rule and Boston’s ability to raise its own revenues.  We made some progress but we’re still pretty well handcuffed.  So what types of steps would you take to reposition Boston so it could drive its own finance future relative to a home rule petition or other steps you might take to better position Boston to generate revenues  and of course hopefully some of those revenues being directly related to infrastructure and transportation?

Arroyo : Having served now my fourth year on the Boston City Council, I think it’s time to look at the entire integrated system of home rule.  We have elected leadership in Boston. We elect our mayor, we elect our City Council and our voters and our citizens and our residents put their trust in them and work with them and hold them accountable to the future of our city.  The home rule petition makes it very difficult at times for a mayor or City Council to do what they believe is best for the city and something I believe residents even want.  And so I think we need to look at the entire concept of home rule petition and begin a campaign to say its old, its antiquated, and Boston, like most every other major city in this country should have the ability to decide if they want to raise revenue, cut revenue and also many other small things like trash pickup which you can’t even decide now without the state’s ok.  We just recently got the licensing for it.  These are old, integrated laws.  We have to see if it works now, I believe it doesn’t. 

Golar Richie : That’s going to take a serious lobbying effort.  Of course as mayor I want the freedom and flexibility to generate the revenues that we need to address the various items on our priority list.  And I would look at that, and I would work with our Boston Legislative delegation again and City Council and other stakeholders in the business community to help advocate for changes where changes should exist.  I understand why that law is the way it is because checks and balances and all of that but I think that I would be able to work cooperatively with others to seek the amendments that we would want, to do what we need to do here in the city.

Walczak : I was the CEO of the Cotton Square Health Center for over 30 years and despite being a non-profit located in a very low income community in Boston.  When I left, I left it with over ten million dollars in cash and investment dollars and no debt, fourteen million dollars towards the new wing at the Cotton Square Health Center and a great senior management team.  That was not an accident.  It was the result of good thinking, good planning, well utilizing money, zero base budgeting, and that’s the kind of stuff that we need to do in City Hall.  If we’re able to look at City Hall, audit it from the beginning, what do we need our dollars for, how are we deploying our resources, and what don’t we need to deploy our resources towards.  That’s the kind of stuff that will allow us to know what our situation is regarding funding and how much money we need.  Right now we don’t know.  We base our budgets off of whatever was last year, I assume, because we don’t see major changes going on.  We have areas where we need to make changes in city government and we won’t know exactly what we need unless we actually do that audit and make sure we’re only spending money on things we absolutely have to achieve.

One of the most important decisions for Boston that will be made next year will be the appointment of a new superintendent of schools by the school committee and the mayor.  The superintendent will oversee the department with a total fiscal 2014 budget of $1.1 billion, a payroll of 9,200 employees, 127 schools serving 58,000 students.  Based on your understanding of the needs of the Boston school system, what qualities and experiences would you look for in the next Superintendent?  For example, would you prefer an experienced educator who previously served as a superintendent or a business leader who managed a large cooperation?

Arroyo: An experienced educator or someone who is completely committed to urban public education.  Someone who understands that, for like my family, all five of us went to the Boston Public Schools in my family, all of my nieces and nephews attend the Boston Public Schools, it’s quite a personal issue.  That for most families in the Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Schools is not an option, it’s the option.  They deserve a first class education because they’re all first class children, and I’ll be looking for a Superintendent that believes exactly as I believe that they all deserve to learn, they all deserve quality education and that our public education system in Boston must be great and can in fact be great.

Golar Richie : We need a school Superintendent that has a proven track record working in an urban school district.  We need a school Superintendent who is going to be able to clearly define for us what is quality, how is quality measured, how quality is tracked, and when can we claim victory. There are various versions on that theme and I think we as a city need to all come together and understand what we are looking at in terms of success. We want a school Superintendent who will be able to raise proficiency, who will be able to identify, recruit, retain, principals who are going to be able to set the tone and tenor at each and every school.  We will want a Superintendent who could move the authority of Court Street which, in some ways, has become less of a support and resource center and more like a command center and we want to move some of that authority down to the school level.  That’s what I will be looking for in that Superintendent.

Walczak : As an executive for over thirty years I can tell you that when you are hiring a senior manager, you hire that senior manager to achieve the goals that you’ve established for that particular department.  It’s no different for the fire department, the police department, the school department.  So what I see, and what my vision for the school department which you can see on www.billforboston.com is that we need to be able to start with early childhood education, beginning with linking into our health center system so that we have children ready to learn.  We need to have universal K1.  We need to make sure we have access to tutors to make sure that children are able to read at grade level.  We need to redefine what our high schools are so that we’re producing children who are ready for jobs rather than just for their diploma.  But most importantly we need to have autonomy at the school level and we need to make sure they’re accountable at the school level.  The system of change starts at the school.  And as a result, what we need to make sure is that the Superintendent is able to recruit and retain excellent principals who are going to turnaround our school system. 

I’ll go back a little bit to Sam’s casino question with a slightly different twist to it. We’re still waiting to hear about the host agreement between Boston and Suffolk Downs casino.  And I might be a little more into this than others but I’m wondering, do you think the new mayor should be bound by an agreement negotiated by a mayor who is outgoing?

Golar Richie : I think that, let’s see, I would say that the new mayor should, and would be, compelled to amend, to ask for favorable reconsideration of an agreement of that kind where the interests of the city are at stake.  I’m supporting the casino, like Bill that may not have been my first choice for an economic development project for the city, but I will want to see that we are going to have in place all of the measures that will allow us to keep the community safe, to provide jobs for local residents, to ensure that this project, this enterprise, is going to operate in the best interest of the residents and the city.  So yes.

Walczak : Legislation established the casino authority and the ability to move forward is dependent on legislation.  The deals made with the mayor, I hope, are short term and one of the things maybe to come out of here should be, we should ask that Mayor Menino negotiate terms that could be renegotiated at some point.  I do believe that if this thing passes, and I hope it doesn’t, that we should be able to renegotiate at some point but I’m worried that it’s legislatively involved and that we’re going to need to pass legislation to change that.

Arroyo : We must also remember that when there’s a host community agreement made between the mayor and the casino, that for in fact for that casino to happen it would have been the will of the people who voted on that host committee.  As an elected official, I believe the will of the voters is key. It’s quite frankly the key to our democracy.  So if the voters vote in support, if they do we don’t know if they will, vote in support of a host committee agreement that is before them and they will have information on, then yea the next mayor should abide by that host committee agreement. But I do agree that the mayor has an absolute responsibility for the city of Boston, the well-being of the city, and that an agreement that may not be working out the way you hoped it would work out when it was first made, you have the responsibility to revisit it and if you have to make that case to the voters then you make that case to the voters. 

LIGHTENING ROUND

Do you support pay as you throw recycling?

Walczak : No I don’t.

Arroyo : I’m with Bill, no it’s a regressive tax.

Golar Richie : Not at this time, it would cause dumping.

How would you address the city’s current residency requirements for city employees? Retain, restrict, expand, or abolish it?

Arroyo : I support the residency requirement.

Golar Richie : I love residency, I want people to live here.

Walczak : Expand.

Continuing with the Menino obsession, Kevin White presided over the rebirth of Quincy Market and his statue was placed in front of Faneuil Hall.  If you could choose only one location, where would you put a statue of Tom Menino?

Golar Richie : Very interesting. Well, I think I probably would want to respect the residents of Readville and maybe that’s where we’d go.

Walczak : Casey Overpass? No, just kidding, just kidding Tommy. Yea, Readville.

Arroyo: It’s going to go to Hyde Park.

Are you in favor of relocating the South Boston Postal Annex and expanding South Station and expediting its move?

Walczak : Absolutely, yes.

Arroyo : Yes.

Golar Richie : Yeah.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Boston?

Arroyo : Taranta in the North End.

Golar Richie : Restaurante Cesaria on Bowdoin Street.

Walczak : Ashmont Grill, Dorchester.

Should the Commonwealth charter school cap for Boston be eliminated, raised, or stay the same?

Golar Richie : I think we need to look at it.

Walczak : Raised.

Arroyo : I don’t support lifting the cap.

Should public money be used to rescue First Night?

Walczak : Yes.

Arroyo : Yes, but as a final option

Golar Richie : Public private

Are you in favor of increasing the gas tax by 10 cents?

Arroyo : Not my first way of increasing taxes but under the options before the Legislature today, yes.

Golar Richie : Yes

Walczak: Yes

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.