I keep reading stuff that knocks me for a loop...
Good article by Andrea Estes today. Interesting to read where the candidates are today, because I have seen them flip-flopping. At the Ward 5 debate ages ago, Felix Arroyo spoke about why there should be an appointed school committee. After I gave a short explanation of why we should have an elected school committee "democrats believe in democracy, and that means elections" he came up to me and told me it was the best speech given that night. It would be interesting to ask him exactly when he changed his position on this.
It has been interesting to watch the candidates run to the left. It is a bit like presidential primaries where you run to your base in the primary, then go to the middle in the general election. In Boston, the middle is vast group that cares about voting but their lives are not directly affected by city government. This group tends to be more liberal to middle of the road.
I'm giving two of my votes to Felix and Matt O'Malley. Felix I've always voted for, if for no other reason than he stands up to back room deals, lack of transparency, and non-democratic way that the city is run. Matt and I agree on most of the issues, differing mainly on the residency requirement. I give him credit for being against Rent stabilization which I know from direct experience could cost him votes. For some people the rent stabilization is a litmus test, and people can't see the forest for the trees.
Most of it is a moot point anyway, as the Mayor controls things. He will not go to an elected school board unless it is to absolve him of responsibility for the schools in the city. He could look at it as a chance to say "you think you can do better, fine, vote against the way I want to do things and you take responsibility" but he isn't going to do it, certainly give up power, so this will get squashed. With this past years slight drop in test scores, he could see the writing on the wall in the next few years especially if we can't get a good replacement for Payzant. And a good, strong superintendent is not going to likely want to deal with an elected school board, but will prefer the current rubber stamp board appointed by the person who will appoint him: the Mayor.
I don't think we are ready for neighborhood schools today, but we could be in two or four years if someone takes the initiative to set up a plan, get support, build schools in every neighborhood and make a real commitment to improving the schools. Unfortuneately, the councilors I think for the most part give lip service to this. No one ever promised, as I did, to visit all the schools in two years, and come up with a plan to improve them, make them accountable, and make sure the public could have confidence in the schools that they can send their kid to any school in the city. There is tremendous amounts of waste and no bid contracts in the schools, and a good accounting of what gets spent could produce suprising savings.
In all my months of campaigning I never heard John Connolly once say he was for the community stabilization act. In all my months of campaigning I never heard Sam Yoon talk about building around MBTA stations.
The only reason that residency and rent stabilization are issues is because the city has failed to put together a housing policy. The people that advocate for these issues are basically trying to do an end around, to create housing for their followers, because the city has not met the housing needs of its constituents. When Menino talks about building housing, there is no real housing policy it is just a goal. He takes the number of building permits issued per year (say 5,000) and says "we have built 5,000" units of housing this year. As if he had anything to do with it, other than being the Mayor of a city where there is money to be made in building and renovating housing. I spoke to Keysan commercial salesman who said after Menino gave a speech a few years ago about wanting to build 10,000 new units of housing he called the Mayor's office to try and be a part of it, to maybe put together an offer to have those units have natural gas. He told me he got nowhere, there was no plan, no specifics, no nothing. Call up the Mayor's office today and ask to see any "plan" to address the housing needs of the city. There is none. There is a piecemeal effort here and there but no outline. He IS doing a good job of trying to deal with expiring use units, and coming up with the money for those and he should be applauded for that. If we lost those, there really would be a serious shortage of low income housing here.
His answers to todays questions in the Globe about fiscal policy are a joke. It is an embarrassment that this guy is in charge of a 2 billion dollar budget. Good for the reporter on hammering him on the PILOT program. He can't say how he is going to pressure these universities, because he won't. That is why when the candidates say they are going to increase PILOT programs to pay for 500 new teachers like O'Malley does it is just pie in the sky. If Menino won't do it, it will be very difficult for one councilor to get it done.