COLUMN: "That's What a Mayor Does"
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 04:10
“So, why can’t you vote for me again?”
These were the first words spoken to me by John Connolly, one of the two final candidates in the race to be Boston’s next mayor.
The audience chuckled, I blushed. After catching my breath, I resumed, my clarification heard through the microphone.
Last Friday morning, I had the opportunity to attend “Coffee with Connolly and Walsh,” a forum put on by Boston Innovation and the New England Venture Capital Association. The discussion was attended by approximately 100 up-and-coming business leaders and members of the rapidly growing innovation and technology community in Boston.
The conversation focused around the future of innovation in Boston, as well as the crucial role young people play within the city—and how to retain them.
Aside from my fellow Heights editor, Julie Orenstein, I was the youngest person in the room.
And frankly, there was nowhere else I would have rather been.
I have followed the Boston mayoral election since Thomas M. Menino, the current mayor of Boston, announced he would not be running for a sixth term last March. Whichever man wins the election next Tuesday has the ability to change the legacy of the city of Boston.
And there we were, the youngest kids in the room.
I have admired the Connolly campaign from afar for quite some time. John Connolly, a graduate of BC Law, has been deemed “the education guy.’” When asked for his defining qualities at the discussion, Connolly cited his position as a Boston City Councilor, having given “parents and students a voice for the past six years.” Connolly is a former teacher and current parent within the Boston Public School system.
Flattery aside, I had a bone to pick with Mr. Education.
“Mr. Connolly, I’m a resident of Boston and a member of this community—and I can’t vote for you for mayor. What do you have to say to us, the young people you’re so focused on, who may not even be able to vote in local elections? How do you establish a connection with the students who will call Boston home for at least four years?”
And thus began my tete a tete with John Connolly.
Specifics aside, his final answer left me speechless (something which does not happen often). It has stayed in my mind the past six days, and I believe it will become a marker of my time in Boston, however long that may be.
“This city is just as much yours as it is anyone else’s.”
He turned the conversation back around on the youngest in the room.
“Once you graduate, I want you to stay here, get a job here, buy a home here, start a family here … It’s on you [to] make life in Boston something to consider … It’s up to you to seize your place in it.”
Okay, Mr. Connolly. Challenge accepted.
The moderators continued their questioning for almost another half hour. Mine was the only question asked by an audience member.
As I scribbled down more of Connolly’s responses, my final thoughts on the Boston mayoral race began to gel.
I like Marty Walsh. He is the more dynamic candidate, the better speaker, the “fight for the little guy” politician, the most Boston of all Bostonians.
But I believe in John Connolly.
John Connolly is not afraid of a tough question—better yet, he’s not afraid to give a tough answer. John Connolly knows where this city is, and he has a plan to get Boston to where it needs to be.
Finally, John Connolly knows where he needs to be in order to do so.
“I was never in a position to make these decisions before. That’s what a mayor does.”
Yes, Mr. Connolly, it is.