Mayoral hopeful and At-Large Boston City Councilor John Connolly spoke with David Ertischek of Patch to discuss his newborn daughter, development, protecting Boston from super storms, and the Boston Public Schools.
Patch: First off – congratulations on your third child being born. How is the baby, mom and family?
Connolly: Thank you, I’m on my way to the hospital to pick up mom and baby and take them home.
Patch: What’s her name?
Connolly: Mary Kate or Mary Katherine. This is #3.
Patch: Was her birth planned for election season? Having a newborn baby is adorable and it’s hard to not like a man holding a baby.
Connolly: I wish we had that type of planning ability. No, this is a welcomed joy, but we did not use this as a part of a broader campaign strategy.
Patch: As mayor what can you do to decrease violence in Boston?
Connolly: You have to start with a real effort around community policing and that goes from everything from professional development in the police department, to making sure we’re reaching out to all civic institutions and community leaders to be involved in reducing violence in our city. I think we need to have an area effort and reinstitute a gun buy back program. Ultimately, it’s about a comprehensive plan… for safe and healthy neighborhoods. We need to be better connecting our police strategy with our health strategy and intervening with mental health services such as drug addiction services; on a long-term strategy that will reduce violence in real substantial ways in Boston. We’re really obligated to give everyone in Boston safety in every neighborhood.
Patch: What would you do with the current school assignment plan?
Connolly: We need to make sure that we guarantee every family a seat at a school close to where they live and guarantee every family a high quality school. That’s what the assignment plan has to do. That’s what my focus has always been, to give everybody quality schools. It has to be a guarantee. No ifs, ands, or buts.
Patch: Many candidates, including you say that the “bureaucracy” needs to be cleared out at 26 Court Street, the school department – what does that mean to you?
Connolly: That means to me, we have to make sure the next superintendent is committed to decentralizing the broken behemoth that is the central school department, and build schools from the bottom up adn not have a top down bureaucracy that has over a billion dollars a year budget - and get those dollars to the classrooms.
Patch: How will you utilize innovative technological advancements to keep Boston being one of the most modern cities in the world?
Connolly: We need to invest in a job creation strategy that puts the innovation economy at the center and keeps startup companies here and so the city benefits from jobs and revenue. (Boston can) really become a place that innovation flows from those companies and flows into the city and neighborhoods. (We need to) transform city services and focus more on being able to access every city service online and utilize technology and make people feel like they’re walking into an Apple store when they’re going into city hall or 1010 Mass Avenue… I think the permitting process is a particular point of concern for residents and small business owners. That needs to be addressed. But we want every city service to be online, and everyone feel like city hall functions in a customer service friendly manner.
Patch: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino will leave the city in very good financial standing, especially considering the recent recession. What is your budgetary experience, and how will you foster financial growth for Boston?
Connolly: I’ve been on the (Boston City Council) Ways and Means committee for my entire time on city council; that means I‘ve reviewed six city budgets and played a big role in approval (of those budgets). And I learned a great deal from each one and how Mayor Menino put a budget together. He is a fiscal hawk and always has his eye on our city reserves, and on our bond rating. I’ve had the benefit of reviewing and playing a role on six of his budgets. I’ve learned a great deal during that process.
Patch: What color are your candidate signs? Why did you go with that design?
Connolly: Blue and orange. I have no idea. (laughs)
Patch: Climate change and how it will affect Boston is a huge topic for the future, what are your plans to deal with climate change?
Connolly: I’m the only elected official to serve on the Mayor’s Climate Change Leadership Committee. We have very aggressive goals for reducing our carbon footprint for Boston by 2020, and then again by 2050. I’m committed to stick to those goals. I’ve laid out five goals to address climate change. It’s a necessity when we live in an age where we could be devastated by a super storm like New York and New Jersey were devastated. There’s an opportunity to creating jobs by developing sustainability.
Patch: You proposed creating a fast track for the permitting process for large projects. And in exchange for a quicker yes or no on the project, the company would adopt a school project or some other municipal project.
Connolly: (The proposal is for) in exchange for funding for a new school facility or a major renovations… It’s an accelerated time table, but it’s a real review of the project. It doesn’t guarantee approval, just guarantees a quicker review. We call it Building Blocks – and it would be for large-scale developments only.
Patch: Doesn’t that end up playing favorites?
Connolly: I think we’d have a real review process. My plan is to bring real transparency to the development process and the BRA would ensure it’s a real review. It would take months instead of years.
Patch: You have or had a law firm? What did it specialize in? How much time have you spent working at the law firm? Has the firm been dissolved?
Connolly: I am not a member of a law firm anymore. It was formally dissolved last fall. We had been in the process of winding up our affairs for probably all of last year… it was a small firm and did small business work. As partners, we did probate work and litigation.
Patch: Do people really confuse you and Dan Conley because of your last names?
Connolly: I haven’t found any real confusion. I think there’s a few people (who may confuse us). Boston people are really smart and know how to spell names.
Patch: Anything else?
Connolly: I’m a former teacher, a Boston Public School parents, the chair of the city council education committee and I want to transform our public schools to give every student a high quality education and make sure every street is safe and healthy. I want to keep Boston competitive in keeping jobs and to deliver city services in a customer friendly manner, as though you were at the Apple store.