Which, as is the case with all of my political endorsements, probably only influences my vote (and I’ve been known to change my mind). For those who don’t know, Boston is having a mayoral primary tomorrow to winnow the field from twelve candidates to two. If there were ever a case for proportional voting or some other such system, this would be it. But I digress.
My greatest fear is that the best three candidates–the ones who would be the best heirs to Menino’s legacy–Arroyo, Consalvo, and Ross–will split the decency vote, and none of them will make it to the general election. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For me, the most important issue is education, not just for education’s sake, but because it also influences things like property values and the ‘livability’ of neighborhoods: bad schools turn middling neighborhoods into bad ones. Many Boston residents don’t realize how important decoupling housing from education has been in turning around many neighborhoods on the edge. In every city where housing determines what school your children will attend, there are a couple of ‘nice’–and expensive as hell–neighborhoods, while the rest slowly get worse as anyone who can leave does so.
Despite all of the mailings you’ve received if you’re a Boston resident, front-runner John Connolly is pretty bad on education. His opposition to the new school choice plan along with his neighborhood school plan would essentially mean that no low-income or minority children would ever have access to good schools (I’ve described how this would happen here). In addition, property values would become tied to the local school (the ‘quality’ of which, like all schools, is primarily determined by the poverty and English-speaking status of the student body). As I mentioned above, in every city where this has happened, property values in wealthy neighborhoods have skyrocketed, as parents attempt to buy their way into good schools. At the same time, middle-class neighborhoods and neighborhoods that have been improving see property values drop and the quality of life in the neighborhood collapses. So that’s one strike against Connolly.
The other problem is his support for charter schools, which got him in a lot of trouble. While regular readers will know my thoughts about charter schools, in Boston, when you look at graduation rates and acceptance to four-year colleges, once you factor in the massive expulsion rate for charter schools–often exceeding half of the entering students–regular public schools do better, despite having fewer resources. That’s not only a second strike against Connolly, but also Bill Walczak, whose Codman Academy (a charter school) has nearly a fifty percent failure-to-retain rate (regular public schools have a nineteen percent rate). The charter schools are popular because many people who can’t afford to send their kids even to a ‘cheap’ private school hope that a charter school will be a ‘public’ private school. Unfortunately, those who need this break the most are the most likely to fail out. At the same time, charters draw additional resources from the state that public schools don’t get, while dumping challenging students on the regular system. Boston is better than separate and unequal school systems.
So that leaves us with Arroyo, Consalvo, and Ross, who on many issues are quite good (not just education). My problem with Ross is that I think he’s a little too corporate-friendly, along with his lack of presence after the Marathon Bombings when businesses and residents in his district needed an advocate. I just can’t bring myself to vote for him (though I admit that’s partly a very personal assessment). So it’s basically a toss-up between Arroyo and Consalvo. Consalvo has more of the ‘urban engineer’ about him, but Arroyo has fought for some quality of life issues as well and would be a powerful advocate for poorer communities (he and Ross both want to limit late-night garbage collection). Arroyo is also sharp and quick on the uptake–don’t know if that’s good or bad.
Right now, I’m leaning towards Consalvo.
The good news is that most of the candidates (well, Conley is an asshole) are reasonably competent–definitely smarter than the median U.S. congresscritter. Though that could be construed as damning with faint praise…
Bonus endorsements: In Ward 8, Zakim is the good choice. For the general seats, Soto and Saunders are good on policy (especially Saunders when it comes to education). Murphy also gets the nod–for the most part, he made the right votes, and he should be rewarded for those votes. If you’re tempted to vote for a 26-year old, Wu wouldn’t be bad.