At downtown rally, Connolly broadens City Hall critique beyond schools

Attendees of a Wednesday night rally for City Councillor At-Large John Connolly’s mayoral bid were served a blistering critique of the Menino administration with a side of Bad Rabbits. About 400 people, some of them spilling out into the Omni Parker House Hotel’s second floor hallway, crowded the small Press Room for the rally and a performance put on by the Boston-based band.

Connolly’s speech was studded with references to City Hall and the “status quo,” allusions to Mayor Thomas Menino, who has easily turned back past challengers but hasn’t publicly said whether he will run for a sixth four-year term.

“Too often, City Hall operates in a manner that’s about who you know rather than who you are,” Connolly said. “Too often, City Hall judges a new idea based on whose idea it is as opposed to the merit of the idea. And too often, City Hall makes a decision about a new idea based on who will get credit and not who will benefit. We should have a completely transparent city government focused on an inclusive approach to problem-solving.”

Connolly charged that Boston is losing working and middle class families even as its population has grown, and City Hall has “disconnected, piecemeal economic development strategy,” despite a pharmaceutical company like Vertex moving into the growing “Innovation District” on South Boston’s waterfront. Since its inception, the area has picked up 200 companies and 4,000 jobs, with an additional 2,500 jobs expected by 2016, according to the mayor’s office.

“Innovation shouldn’t be restricted to a district,” Connolly said.

“We need to focus more on transit-oriented development, more on workforce housing that prioritizes middle market 3-bedroom units for young families and affordable lofts for young artists and young professionals,” he added. “And the city needs to stop sitting out the debate on transportation. We lost our vision and our ambition in this city after the Big Dig, and I will be a mayor who will bring it back.”

Connolly, chair of the City Council’s Education Committee and a former teacher, said schools will be a “cornerstone” of his campaign and pledged to “create a culture of accountability that is sorely missing today” at the city’s school department.

In a taped interview with WGBH’s Emily Rooney, Menino defended his education record, saying the drop-out rate has been reduced as more students graduate and head on to college. “We’re not perfect,” Menino said, noting the schools take all students.

The interview is scheduled to air on Thursday night at 7 p.m. on Channel 2.

“I don’t mind a debate at all on the issues,” Menino said, according to excerpts that aired this afternoon on WGBH’s radio station 89.7 and on YouTube. “Let’s not get into throwing mud at each other. I’m not into that…It’s important that we talk about what is your vision for the future. What are you going to do with the waterfront? What are you going to do with the schools, with Downtown Crossing? What about the neighborhoods of our city? What about Dudley [Square]? What are you going to do about that?”

When Rooney noted he sounded like a candidate and asked whether he has a timeline for an announcement, Menino said, “Well, I’m looking at that. I haven’t decided what date yet. But it’ll be a date.”

Two other candidates for mayor, who jumped in before Connolly, are considered long shots: Hyde Park’s Will Dorcena and Charles Clemons, co-founder of a pirate radio station in Grove Hall.

At his rally, which doubled as a fundraiser, Connolly was introduced by his wife Meg, local entrepreneur Greg Selkoe, radio DJ Val Hyman and Melina Munoz, a former student under Connolly who is attending Boston College Law School.

Laurie Martinelli, an Ashmont resident, sat at one of the tables near the stage. “I think he’s a great mayor,” she said of Menino.

But the mayor has been in office for five terms – twenty years – and he “needs to move aside and let the next generation of Bostonians take over,” she said.



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