The Boston mayoral race has been narrowed down to two candidates, State Representative Martin J. Walsh and Councilor at Large John R. Connolly. In the past week the race has become a far less congenial affair as the candidates became immersed in debates on numerous subjects such as campaign finances, police compensation, and public safety for the city’s citizens.
The disagreement between the candidates over campaign finances began when Connolly held a press conference on September 26 to challenge Walsh to sign a People’s Pledge. A People’s Pledge is an agreement between the candidates which bans outside groups from spending money in a way that would benefit one particular candidate over the other. The proposal by Connolly would have banned third-party ads in any broadcasting medium such as the internet or mail. Following Connolly’s proposal, Walsh was quick to release a statement to point out Connolly’s flip-flop on agreeing to the same type of proposal just days before. Walsh was then accused of doing the same thing himself with reference to this video.
All of this may seem like campaign inside baseball, but the other two issues mentioned above, police compensation and public safety, are weighing far more heavily on the public's mind.
First is the proposed Boston police patrolmen compensation. On September 27, an arbitration panel came to an agreement that the Boston police patrolmen should have a pay raise, one that would cost Boston taxpayers $80 million over the next six years.
Within hours of the panel’s announcement, both campaigns had responded; although each was vague. A statement issued by Walsh stated that he would strive to develop a better relationship with the police union to create a better bargaining position and help save costs. According to Walsh, this stance represents “a fundamental difference” between him and Connolly. Later that evening Connolly released his own brief statement saying he would withhold judgment on the ruling until he thoroughly studied the decision. He would then use that information to decide how to vote on the ruling when it came before the City Council.
On September 28, an email was released by Walsh’s campaign which accused of the current mayor, Thomas M. Menino, of “irresponsible negotiating tactics.” Walsh added that he thought the city and the police should return to the negotiating table because Walsh believes the pay raises are “out of line with the current economic environment.”
Sensing an opportunity, Connolly held a State House press conference to say that it was “outrageous for Marty Walsh to blame the mayor” in a bid to build support amongst undecided Menino loyalists. However, on Tuesday, Connolly announced he would not vote for an arbitration award for the Boston police patrolmen, arguing it would create a poor financial footing for the city.
This disagreement over Boston police compensation is an opening for the candidates to discuss the issue of public safety in the city. Walsh has said that combating street violence is a priority for him. Connolly has expressed similar interests but on a more holistic level. However, if the negotiations about the police compensations are carried out over long period of time, it is feasible that the city’s public safety will become compromised.
Additionally, the public safety issue involves the incoming mayor dealing with the visibly strained relationships between Boston patrolmen and the residents of high-crime communities of color. This was especially noticeable after the Boston Marathon explosions and the murder of a young white woman shortly after in South Boston, both of which occurred in a predominantly white area and received high news coverage. Meanwhile, constant shootings and murders still occur in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, the city’s highest-rated neighborhoods for crime.
Which of the candidates is up to the task? It's hard to tell. Both Walsh and Connolly need to concentrate some of their energies on assuring the city’s population that safety is their first priority — first, by taking an aggressive approach to attacks like the Boston Marathon bombings, and second, by lowering the amount of murders that occur throughout the city.