District 3 candidates get down to details in First Parish forum

Pre-forum standout at First Parish ChurchPre-forum standout at First Parish ChurchMeet the candidates, again.

With 40 days left until the Sept. 27 preliminary, the seven candidates hoping to fill the District 3 seat on the City Council were back before a crowd of voters on Thursday night, laying out their positions on a city employee residency requirement, crime and public schools.

At a forum in the First Parish Church on Meetinghouse Hill, the seven candidates running to replace City Councillor Maureen Feeney agreed that city employees should be required to live in Boston, but they differed on whether unions should be able to negotiate changes to the policy. Mayor Thomas Menino has eased the requirement for police officers, teachers are exempt statewide and many city employees are allowed to live outside the city after 10 years.

District 3 candidates at First Parish Church: Craig Galvin, Stephanie Everett, Marty Hogan, John O'Toole, Marydith Tuitt and Frank Baker before the forum. (Note shown is candidate Doug Bennett, who ran late.) Photo by Pat TarantinoDistrict 3 candidates at First Parish Church: Craig Galvin, Stephanie Everett, Marty Hogan, John O'Toole, Marydith Tuitt and Frank Baker before the forum. (Not shown is candidate Doug Bennett, who ran late.) Photo by Pat TarantinoFormer Cedar Grove Civic Association president John O’Toole, State House aide Stephanie Everett and information technology consultant Marty Hogan said they disagreed with putting the residency requirement on the bargaining table.

“I’m afraid residency will be bargained away,” said O’Toole, adding that he was part of a pro-residency requirement group made up of neighborhood activists called “Save Our City.” Arguing the mayor did not have the authority to bring the requirement to the bargaining table, the activists say the move hurt the city’s middle class.

But Craig Galvin, a realtor and vice president of the Leahy-Holloran Community Center council, pointed to the city’s high cost of car and home insurance.
“It’s a tough balancing act to say everybody should live in the city,” he said, adding that the city’s negotiation with unions over the issue is an “acceptable practice to me.”

Frank Baker, a former city employee who worked in the now-defunct printing department, said, “If it’s bargaining and people are okay with it, I’d be okay with it.”

The candidates also offered up a variety of suggestions to stem crime in Dorchester.

Everett, an aide to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, said youth violence has become a “social norm” and said the community needs to band together to combat it, while Galvin suggested the expansion of hours at libraries and community centers instead of closing them down.

“I think that’s a bad conversation to have,” Baker said of shutting down either libraries or community centers.

Mary Tuitt, a State House aide to state Rep. Gloria Fox (D-Roxbury), said young people need to be educated beyond math and English, and be taught “how to be a successful adult.”

O’Toole pointed to the fatal shooting of a 19-year-old at Savin Hill MBTA station in May. His son was on the following train, causing O’Toole to worry.
“It’s a feeling I never want to have again,” he said.

O’Toole called for stopping the underground drug trade and praised Tina Chery, who started the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute after a stray bullet ended her son’s life.

The topics of education and foreclosures also came up during the two-hour forum, put together by the Ward 15 and Ward 13 Democratic Committees and moderated by former Fifth Suffolk state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie.

Baker suggested the city bring back trade schools and attempt to replicate popular schools like the Richard Murphy K-8 School. “Why aren’t we looking at that and trying to apply it to other schools?” he said.

Tuitt agreed, saying options are growing fewer as more focus is put on English and passing the MCAS, a controversial standardized test.

Everett called for more parental involvement, while Hogan said more city funds should be diverted to books and supplies, since teachers are already carrying a “huge financial burden” and often pay for supplies.

Galvin said a “clear and decisive” school assignment policy is needed. Bennett called for increasing the number of exam schools, eliminating busing and having neighborhood schools.

O’Toole, who was among a group of parents who took the city to court over the assignment policy and spurred changes to it, said if the city goes back to neighborhood schools, “you need to have parity throughout the district.”

Asked about foreclosures, Bennett said the city should impose a moratorium. Everett, Baker and O’Toole called for highlighting where homeowners can go for help and educate themselves on mortgages.

Galvin said the issue was personal, because “I’ve had struggles with my mortgage.”

Educating homebuyers will only solve some of the problem, he said. He praised the Menino administration’s home retention program, which provides educational and financial assistance.

After the forum, Richie, who is unaligned in the race, said all the candidates appeared “engaged” in the issues.

“I can’t say anyone was tripped up by the issues that we raised,” she said. “I think we have some work to do as voters to drill a little deeper.”

CORRECTION: 8/19/2011 1:50 p.m. Galvin touted the Menino administration's home retention program. The original story incorrectly stated that Galvin praised the homebuyers' program.