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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston City Councilor John Connolly Visits Campus

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“If you email me, if you send me a Facebook message, if you call me [at 617-942-0136] — I’ll get back to you.”

 

 

 

John Connolly, the final city of Boston mayoral candidate in the Spring 2013 semester’s “Meet the Candidate” series, came to the University of Massachusetts Boston on May 13. The event, like the others in the series, was sponsored by UMass Boston’s Political Science Department, the public policy minor, and the Undergraduate Student Government.

A jovial Connolly introduced himself as “one of the 12 thousand people running for mayor.” He also joked with the gathered students that “an opportunity like this only comes along about once every twenty years.” A former teacher and a current Boston City Councilor, Connolly was the first mayoral candidate to announce his run, before Mayor Thomas Menino announced his resignation.

Much of the candidate’s speech to students focused on crime and education. “If you live in one of three neighborhoods in Boston,” he said, “that’s where 80 percent of the violent crime takes place.” Connolly is referring to Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester, where UMass Boston is located. He hopes, if he becomes mayor, to implement “a coordinated strategy that invests everyone together in trying to make sure that every other Bostonian can grow up in a safe and healthy neighborhood.”

He also referred to the “school-to-prison pipeline,” then spoke about the similarities between his own approach to teachers’ union negotiations and that of Rahm Emanuel, the controversial mayor of Chicago.

“I think teaching is a sacred calling. I think our teachers should be incredibly well paid. I want to restore moral to the teaching ranks, but I cannot support a teacher’s contract that doesn’t give our kids the best.”

During the Q&A session at the end of Connolly’s speech, senior political science major John Valinch asked the councilor, “You mentioned Rahm Emanuel, who happens to be a fairly divisive character. … Where do you stand on charter schools?”

Connolly answered immediately: “I support charter schools, and I support lifting the cap. I don’t want to put a ceiling on success. I’m a former charter school teacher.”

Another student asked Connolly for his position on the legalization of marijuana. Connolly responded that he would “need some more convincing on that.” He also voiced his concern that all the dispensaries could end up clustered in our poorest and most underserved neighborhoods.” He described meeting a 16 year old in recovery who told him, “I have been hooked on pot since I was 12 years old, and it has destroyed my life.”

“That is what I’m worried about,” Connolly said.

Connolly also addressed Boston’s economic situation. “We need to be mindful that Facebook, Dropbox, and Reddit were all born here, but they didn’t grow up here. … There’s so much young talent at places like UMass Boston, and it comes here and flocks here in their twenties, and it leaves in their thirties.”

“It drives me crazy, because you are one of the largest groups in this city — young people — but you don’t vote in big numbers. I don’t necessarily think that’s about you and it being your fault. In many ways you’re not staked into the civic life of this city. People don’t come and talk to you. … I want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to retain you in this city and to help you make a life here for the long haul, and I would humbly suggest that one thing you could do to help make that a reality is to get me elected mayor.”

Connolly has used multiple interns and volunteers from UMass Boston both in his position as a Boston City Councilor, which he has held since 2007, and on his campaign. Wadi Muhammad, one of Connolly’s field organizers, graduated from UMass Boston in 2011. Jenna Salvitti, a current UMass Boston student who works with the campaign (and who has also worked for him in his capacity as a councilor), spoke about her admiration for the candidate.

“I’ve interned with John since September, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed working with him and working with his staff. I’ve learned so much from him, and I’ve seen first-hand his commitment to Boston.”

Connolly admires Salvitti too. “She’s an incredibly talented young person … and, I believe, my third UMass Boston intern working in my office, so I’m incredibly thankful for the talent that this university produces and what it means for the city of Boston.”

Connolly wants even more UMass Boston students to get in touch with him, not just to volunteer, but to share ideas about how to make Boston better. “If you email me, if you send me a Facebook message, if you call me [at 617-942-0136] — I’ll get back to you.”