John Connolly can be our t’ai chi candidate. He’s running an upbeat, pleasant campaign for mayor of Boston, but has a no-nonsense punch behind the smile and gentle hand.
He joined Left Ahead today to describe his platforms and policies. He didn’t shy away praising the intent and criticizing the implementation of the likes of Mayor Tom Menino, School Superintendent Carol Johnson, and the school committee. He is impatient for transformation, which he defines in detail and clearly instead of “tweaking around the edges” of education.
He spoke on an adaptable campaign plan, depending on whether longest-serving Mayor Tom Menino runs for a sixth term. If Menino retires, a couple of other Councilors will surely join the two previously announced candidates (Will Dorcena and Charles Clemons), in what Connolly called “the wild, wild West” version.
Not only has he chaired the Council’s education committee for most of his six years as at-large Councilor, he has two kids in or entering public schools here. As a former teacher himself, pre-law school, he is a ardent believer in public education and he has strong ideas of how that should work.
Also on the show, he admitted that while virtually everyone from young artists to empty nesters wants Boston kids to get a superior education, other issues, particularly crimes and jobs, will help decide this election. He promised us a full platform on his campaign website soon. Right now, it’s the basic money/volunteer/email list splash.
Toward the end of the half hour today, he did describe a set of policies that he sees as retaining the smarts from area colleges instead of losing them to North Carolina and the West Coast. It galls him that Facebook and Microsoft were born here but did not grow up here. He describes a housing policy to create affordable living for recent grads and young professionals, a job creation policy with anchor businesses to employ them ad be around to buy out their start-ups, and innovation districts all around the city. He noted too that we can loosen up, step back from our Puritan past and become a more fun city. This can be a particular issue for young professionals of color who don’t always find welcoming environments here.
We did talk a bit about crime in the last quarter of the show. Most of it was on his campaign’s drive for transforming the city’s schools. He described the crumbling infrastructure and a lack of a capital plan to address that. Overall he sees “a lack of energy and a lack of ideas.”
He stopped short of saying that as mayor, he’d dump Johnson. Instead he spoke of their different philosophies. He said she favored centralized power while he wants to decentralize the distribution of resources and give principals more autonomy (and accountability) to fix or improve their schools. Incremental improvements like he sees happening won’t do that. “It requires transformation,” he said. Fine-tuning the status quo to get meaningful change — “That’s not going to happen.”
Click below to hear his approach. It includes downplaying teacher seniority in favor of keeping the best teachers, upping teacher pay and other steps to improve morale, more hours of instruction per day, and resources enough per school to ensure arts, music, science and more everywhere.
The city just OK’ed a five year teachers contract. That means if elected he’d have to wait four years to implement some of his policies. Others though can happen through the school committee.
There too he had simultaneously kind and firm words. He said that he could work with an elected, appointed or hybrid committee. He’d prefer a mayor-appointed majority but that is less important than the philosophy. He said very bright, experienced members join the board and inexplicably become “functional rubber stamps” for the superintendent and mayor. He claims he’d demand that members stand up to both.
We covered quite a bit in 31 minutes; John, Ryan and I all can talk fast. John’s filled with ideas and specifics, and doesn’t mind sharing.