Mayoral hopefuls get careful look from DotOUT

By 
Gintautas Dumcius, News Editor
Aug. 9, 2013

Councillor John Connolly addressed the DotOUT gathering at The Ledge last Thursday evening. Photo by Mike Deehan

Group will hold off on endorsement until after prelim

DotOUT, an influential group of gay and lesbian activists in Dorchester, is staying out of the mayoral preliminary, with no endorsement until after the Sept. 24 election whittles the 12-person field down to two.

Most of the candidates on Thursday night flowed in and out of the Ledge restaurant’s patio in Lower Mills, where the group held a cocktail hour and a forum to get a close-up look at the field.

Some left early, like state Rep. Marty Walsh, and others came in late, just in time for closing remarks, like Mission Hill Councillor Michael Ross. Others, like City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo, had another event and couldn’t make it.

On Ledge’s patio, many of the activists, whose phones buzzed frequently in the weeks after Mayor Thomas Menino announced he would not run again, already have their minds made up and have signaled support for their candidates. For example, Paul Nutting, from Savin Hill, is backing Walsh, while Richard O’Mara, who owns Cedar Grove Gardens and is a longtime Menino supporter, is backing City Councillor At-Large John Connolly.

But a few remain undecided. Travis Mitchell, assistant general manager at Ledge and a DotOUT board member, said the number of candidates is “overwhelming.” He said he was impressed by John Barros, the former School Committee member, and Charlotte Golar Richie, the former Dorchester state representative.

The forum was moderated by New England Cable News reporter Alison King, who lives in Jamaica Plain. Questions were submitted by DotOUT members and others. With the controversy over gay marriage in Massachusetts long over – a “non-issue” now, as one board member put it – many of the questions tended to focus on issues like public safety and education.

An issue that has frequently been a point of contention at DotOUT forums in past races – the South Boston parade, whose organizers have banned gay and lesbian groups from marching – came and went quickly. Menino does not march in the parade, and Walsh and Connolly, two candidates who have marched in past parades, both made clear, along with the rest of the candidates up on the stage, that they would not march if elected mayor.

“I would like to see that followed through,” Mitchell said.

Chris Joseph, who lives in Lower Mills, said the candidates agreed on most of the issues that came up for discussion. “They align,” he said. “Other than a casino, was there a substantive difference you heard? I didn’t.”

Golar Richie pitched the casino as an economic boon and said she supports keeping a vote on whether to approve an East Boston casino limited to the neighborhood. “East Boston is separated by a tunnel,” she said. “It takes effort to get to East Boston.”

Barros, Codman Square Health Center co-founder Bill Walczak and District Attorney Dan Conley disagreed with her.

“We are not a confederacy of neighborhoods,” Conley said, advocating for a citywide vote because of a casino’s citywide impact.

Walczak, who opposes casinos and wants a citywide vote, said a casino would be a public health “disaster.” “This is not an economic development tool.”

Nutting, the neighborhood activist from Savin Hill, agreed. “To put it right on the Blue Line, it’s going to be ugly,” he said.

But Nutting said an East Boston casino “is not my primary issue” and he’s backing Walsh, a top proponent of casinos, because he believes Walsh is the strongest candidate coming out of the Dorchester neighborhood.

“I think parochially,” Nutting said. “I think Dorchester needs to have the next mayor.”