Monday, November 4, 2013

0 Two Candidates, One Choice: But Not An Easy One

Full disclosure: I have worked closely with Councilor John Connolly on a couple of education issues previously. If you are a frequent reader of my blogs you will remember I did an extensive assessment of his "Quality Choice Plan" (QCP) for education in Boston Public Schools (BPS) last October; until that time, John and I were friends and he would generally return my calls and answer my emails, since then and another incident where I questioned something his chief of staff Ann Walsh said at an External Advisory Committee (EAC) meeting, not so much though. Marty Walsh I only met during this historic mayoral election process and have really gotten to know since the preliminary. Also, though education is my primary issue that affects how I vote, I also have other concerns: public safety, Veterans, health care and other issues. So take my opinions and research for what they are worth to you.

The mainstream media has said that John Connolly and Marty Walsh are so similar that it is hard to differentiate enough to make a choice, and on the surface that may appear to be true, but once you stop looking at only what they claim they want to do and start looking at their track-records and character, there is a very distinct difference. 

There are a number of ways to find out the track record and where candidate's stand on particular issues, besides their own websites and social media sites, when they have worked in the type of government roles both our candidates for mayor have. Unfortunately, because Boston City Council does not put everything online in a concise and comprehensive way, Mr. Connolly's record of voting was also frustrating and daunting to get a true handle on. 

Thankfully, the same is not true of the state house, so you can assess Marty Walsh's record of sponsored and co-sponsored acts here and also a list of votes on other legislative actions through Project Vote right here

Luckily a local writer for the Boston Dig put together a few articles outlining John Connolly's record of votes and sponsored bills while on the city council. This accounting is accurate: I verified it myself via the online list of council meeting minutes, my own record of meetings I attended or watched, and via multiple news sources. Please check out the compiled records via the articles here:

John Connolly's City Council Record 2008-2009

John Connolly's City Council Record 2010-2011

John Connolly's City Council Record 2012 - Present

If you would like to see Mr. Connolly's history via the council's own records, they can be found via the Roll Call Votes pages (56 to be exact) and the Meeting Minutes pages though you will need to note that there is a link for meetings prior to 2011 as they are on a different system. 

Okay, so now we know get an idea of where the candidates stand on most of the key issues,  along with what they have accomplished while in office. But that doesn't tell me everything I need to know, so I went into OCPF records for both candidates to look at where their campaign funding has come from, both in prior campaigns as well as this one. 

John Connolly's OCPF Reports 2005-Present 

Marty Walsh OCPF Reports 2002 - Present
NOTE: There is a drop-down box on the right side of the grey menu bar - to see prior campaigns select "Periodic Reports")
Please be sure to also click on "Related Reports" which takes you to the IPAC funding reports (Independent PAC payments on behalf of a candidate) which will show you the "outside money coming in from we don't know where" (John Connolly on NECN November 3, 2013). Quick campaign finance lesson: though candidate's must itemize and report exactly where each individual donation comes from including name, address, occupation of a donor and donation amounts are limited to $500 max per individual ($250. if you are a lobbyist) and no corporate/business donations are allowed, IPACs do not have the same reporting requirements, so the money they spend on behalf of candidates can indeed come from "we don't know where." 

I found it interesting that Marty Walsh never tried to hide that outside money and people from out of state were helping his campaign via "Work for America" and other groups, while John Connolly did not clarify that his own campaign benefits from outside money via DFER and Stand for Children who also paid for ads, mailers, phonebanks and canvassers, some of them also people from outside Boston being brought in to campaign for him. 

And this leads to my last factor: who I trust more to lead the city I love. 

It would make sense for me to just pick the man I have worked with for years, who called me friend, and who, despite it all I still think is a nice enough guy to know. However, in the past year I have seen a side of Mr. Connolly that started to make me question whether he was actually a good representative for Boston even before he announced he was running for Mayor. Because of how Mr. Connolly responded when asked questions about his plans (whether on education or his mayoral campaign): avoiding not only me, but many parents and advocates who questioned his plans; his office failing to respond to his constituents questions whether via email or social media venues; his reactions when questioned or challenged; his lack of responsiveness to one of the students he claims to be on the side of until her email to him was posted on a news website, and even when he did respond, he never actually addressed her concerns. 

Additionally, knowing that the groups backing him are pro-corporate education reform and who backs them, and having read all his policy plans for the city, I worry that Mr. Connolly will help those groups accomplish their goals of turning our public schools into profit centers for their backers. I was happy to see that at least Mr. Connolly has now agreed:

  • "To meet with the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) three times a year, every year he is mayor, to discuss charter accountability, as well as any other public education issues BSAC brings to him. 
  • that he "will also include BSAC and YOUNG in his decisions and work around the Charter School Compact. 
  • Furthermore, BSAC/YOUNG, and Boston Truth along with adult stakeholders, will be involved in creating a Charter Accountability Plan if John is elected." 

I only met Marty Walsh because of the mayoral campaign, initially while I was working on Rob Consalvo's campaign, but about a week after the primary Mr. Walsh called me personally. Mr. Walsh told me he really needed my support. Well Mr. Walsh, this lady's support isn't quite that easily attained. As a friend who was in the room said after the call was done: "Every other person Marty Walsh called probably said yes right away, but not you! YOU proceed to grill him on issues and his votes for 20 minutes and even then say 'I will consider it, but we need to talk more!' Priceless."  

Since that call Mr. Walsh and I have had multiple conversations about his plans and ideas and the concerns I and others have regarding the privatization of schools, government, city and other services as well as  his record as a Representative. The very next time we really spoke was actually because my 12 year old daughter, who spends too much time with me at education related meetings apparently and was very involved in Rob's campaign, stated that she wanted to meet with Mr. Walsh to discuss his education platform. Her request led to a meet and greet at my house, though I made it clear to the Walsh campaign staff that even then I was still not sure how I would vote. Mr. Walsh came specifically to speak with my daughter, but also answered a few questions by friends who also attended, and clearly told my daughter that he would invest in not only her school, but all of our BPS schools. Since that time he has also listened to not just myself, but countless other families, students and I will gladly share the many other conversations I have had with Mr. Walsh if you are interested, feel free to email me if you like. 

Mr. Walsh has also agreed:

"To commit to not allow the charter cap to be lifted or raised until he establishes a Boston Charter School Task Force. Students, including YOUNG coalition members, parents, teachers, administrators, experts and other community stakeholders should all be part of the Task Force. The role of the task force will be to:
· Design a Charter Accountability Plan and oversee its implementation
· Monitor for-profit corporate interests in the city and the Commonwealth
· Monitor the cap on charter schools and make recommendations on any activity pertaining to it"

Everything I listed above and more factored into my decision, which I made in the past two weeks, but was solidified through the latest agreements with BSAC and YOUNG. 

Because of his honesty and straight-forward way of dealing with everyone, the character he has shown despite numerous attacks on him, his willingness to listen to the concerns and the way he has handled criticism of his policy ideas even from those not old enough to vote, I am now supporting Marty Walsh for Mayor of Boston.  I hope you will all join me in voting for Mr. Walsh tomorrow!

0 Fact-Check John Connolly: Boston's Not for Sale! Or Is It?

The past two days of more political spin has left me wondering if people really buy it. I don't, because I realize that Mr. Connolly has been accepting outside money for several years thanks to the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) - both the national group as well as the Massachusetts group recently. Also, I wonder if the spokes-Mom in NECN's story has asked Mr. Connolly "who are they" regarding the donors as well as what DFER, Stand for Children and all their contributors who helped pay for quite a bit of Mr. Connolly's campaign expect in return from him as she asked during the news segment of the groups backing Mr. Walsh's campaign? I also wonder if the Connolly supporters even realize that Mr. Connolly has actually been getting funding for his campaigns from outside Boston since 2011? 

At any rate, my fact-checking shows pretty clearly that despite how Mr. Connolly would like to spin the latest news regarding the new "One Boston" political committee that has bought media time for Mr. Walsh, the reality is that he is doing the same thing. 

So, if Boston IS indeed for sale, now you need to ask yourself: which groups are more likely to care about what actual Bostonians care about? Those funded by a group whose purpose is to help give voice to the average working American regarding issues important to them such as good jobs, affordable health care, education, retirement security, corporate accountability and real democracy as Working America does, or those being funded by the investment groups and foundations like Stand for Children (see the article about SFC's dramatic change in focus) who are very similar to those who helped lead our country into the financial crisis of 2008? 

You get to voice your choice tomorrow - make sure to get out and VOTE! 

John Connolly via 
3:21 PM (12 minutes ago)
to me
Dear Friends,
Just last week, an anonymous SuperPAC bought a half million dollars worth of television ads on behalf of my opponent. We don’t know who’s behind this shadowy special interest group. We don’t know what they expect in exchange for all that money.
We just know that this is wrong. And moms, dads and kids from across Boston aren’t standing for it.See what they had to say at our rally yesterday:

They’re right. Boston is not for sale. 
Please stand up against these special interests by voting tomorrowNovember 5. Use your vote to send the message that outside anonymous money has no place in our election.
John R. Connolly
Boston City Councilor At-Large

P.S. Please click here and sign up to volunteer on Election Day.

Paid for and Authorized by The Connolly Committee
The Connolly Committee
P.O. Box 320550
Boston, MA 02132
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by DFER Reformer of the Month

DFER's mission is to encourage a more productive dialogue within the Democratic Party on the need to fundamentally reform American public education. Each month, we identify one candidate who is standing up for meaningful reform and innovation, and we help demonstrate the broad base of support for his or her efforts. Please give as generously as you can.

January 2011: City Councilor John Connolly

It’s exciting to see dramatic changes in Boston. In the 90’s, the Hub was an original incubator for ed reform ideas. But charter schools eventually hit their cap and statewide complacency set in, and the wheels fell off the reform truck.

John Connolly and FriendsIn the last few weeks, though, Mayor Tom Menino has been talking tough about a new teachers contract that would extend the school day, give principals more hiring leeway, and tie teacher pay to student performance. It’s spurred a debate Boston really hasn’t seen before.

These changes are on the table today because of the work of a Boston City Councilor, John Connolly. John, who chairs the city’s education committee, orchestrated an eight-hour hearing on the 255 page union contract. He called parents, students, community organizers, and education experts to testify about the importance of a longer school day. In the process, he completely reset the agenda.

John is a dyed-in-the-wool ed reformer. He grew up in Boston and went to Harvard, where he wrote his thesis on charter schools. He even taught at a charter school before running for a seat on the council.

Here’s the rub: Connolly is up for reelection this year. Don’t think for a second that the deep-rooted special interests in Boston will just let this happen. What John needs right now is money. Contribution limits are low in Boston, so every dollar goes an especially long way.


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