3Qs: The changing of the guard at Boston’s City Hall

Tomorrow, Nov. 5, Boston voters will head to the polls to elect the city’s new mayor. For the first time in 20 years, Thomas M. Menino’s name will not be on the ballot, as he announced in the spring that he would not be seeking re-​​election. Instead, City Coun­cilor John Con­nolly and state Rep. Martin Walsh will tussle for the city’s top post. Former Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Michael Dukakis, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence at North­eastern, recently hosted a public forum on campus with the may­oral hope­fuls as well as eight can­di­dates for city council at-​​large. We asked Dukakis to assess the sig­nif­i­cance of the elec­tion and describe the chal­lenges facing the city’s next mayor.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science. Photo by Brooks Canaday

How will Menino be remembered by Boston residents and his colleagues?

He will be remembered as a guy who loved this city and had a lot to do with creating a new, more beautiful, more diverse, and relatively peaceful city. Boston is one of the greatest cities in the world right now, and he had a big part in making that happen. I do hope he stays involved with the city in some way, and if I were going to be the next mayor I would make sure to spend some time with him.

What are some of the top issues facing the next mayor?

Education is a focal point of both candidates’ plans for the city. Now, Boston schools are so much better than they were 30 to 40 years ago. There is no comparison. But while a lot of kids are getting a good education, there are still some who are getting left out.

Affordable housing is also something the new mayor will need to address. Menino is leaving behind an expansive affordable housing program, but we still have a couple thousand homeless families in the city. More affordable housing would make it possible for young people to stay in the city. I also hope that the next mayor will make connecting North Station and South Station by rail a top transportation priority.

What sets the two mayoral hopefuls apart? What does it say that two middle-aged white men are the top candidates for mayor in a very diverse city?

There isn’t much that sets [John] Connolly and [Martin] Walsh apart. Both come from somewhat different backgrounds, but they are pretty much the same in terms of their focus on the city and their agendas. Either candidate would make a fine mayor. In a race like this, where the candidates are seemingly tied, the one who wins is the one who has the best field operations. I’ve known Walsh for a long time, and while I don’t know Connolly as well, I do know his parents. John actually worked at my presidential campaign headquarters in 1988.

As for the diversity-related question, it doesn’t say anything except that there was a large primary field, one that had some outstanding African-American and Hispanic candidates—some of whom I hope will be recruited by the new mayor to be part of his administration. Both mayoral candidates are people who believe to their core that this city must embrace diversity.

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