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!


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