BOSTON MAYOR 2013
5:05 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Competitors And Cohorts: Boston City Councilors Share Campaign Trail

Their names read like a Boston law firm: Connolly, Arroyo, Ross, Yancey and Consalvo. But, they aren’t spending their days in high rise offices on State Street. They’re street level, roving the city - each on his own, but often crossing paths. 

Out of the dozen candidates running for mayor, five of them are Boston City Councilors. I  was curious to see how these politicians are balancing their campaigns with their day jobs, so I followed them for a week, from Dorchester to Allston, Roslindale to the Fenway.

I started at Haley House in Roxbury, where John Connolly was pressing the flesh. Connolly was the first to question City Hall establishment and announce his candidacy. It’s one thing to run for mayor; it’s another to challenge 20 year incumbent, Mayor Thomas Menino. 

City Councilor John Connolly at a campaign stop at theHaley House in Roxbury
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH

“My big surprise was that Mayor Menino didn’t run again," he said. "I decided to run back in February assuming I’d be running against him. And, I deeply respect him I just wanted to make sure we’re focused on Boston’s future.”

Connolly said that future depends on the condition of the city’s public schools. But right now, he’s just trying to spread his name.

“I really had thought for my first month running that it was just going to be the mayor and me but that turned out to be different and at that point I think that everyone knew that the floodgates would open and a lot of candidates would jump in,” he said.

The floodgates did open, unleashing a wave that crested with 24 candidates, and is now down to 12. They attend a variety of public events each day. From greeting commuters at train stations to attending funerals, it’s hard to miss them.

On a recent weeknight, Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo scheduled a community conversation – first at Thornton’s Restaurant in the Prudential Center, then changed at the last minute to Thornton’s Grill in the Fenway. Arroyo wasn’t so much outlining a platform as he was listening to local residents. 

Credit Anne Mostue / WGBHBoston City Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo campaigning for mayor at Thorntons Grill in Fenway.Edit | Remove

He spoke with a voter who told him that her neighborhood becomes a "public bathroom" for people who go to see a game at Fenway Park. No matter how graphic it gets, listening to constituents is a big part of being a city councilor, Arroyo said. 

“For me running for mayor is an extension of my work as a city councilor,” he said. 

Both Connolly and Arroyo are City Councilors At-Large, so they have already had to campaign across the city. But running for mayor brings the other three city councilors out of their districts. For example, City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents an area that spans Beacon Hill to Mission Hill, traveled to Refuge Café in Allston to campaign on a recent weekday afternoon.

City Councilor Mike Ross stopped by Refuge Cafe in Allston to campaign for mayor
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH

Ross chatted with Scott Matalon, who lives in Allston and owns a tattoo parlor, who told him Allston feels like the "redheaded stepchild of Boston." 

“I think Allston is one of the most exciting neighborhoods... I think what Allston needs is a plan... I think it’s about zoning,” Ross told Matalon.

Unlike candidates for higher offices, the mayoral hopefuls don’t have large a campaign staff or spokespeople. They drive themselves to events. And many are balancing families with part-time jobs. In Charles Yancey’s case, he’s running for both city council and mayor, so he doesn’t risk losing his seat.

Yancey, who has been a city councilor for 30 years, was at the opening of a new dental clinic in Dorchester. He was warmly received there, by several families who know him.

Yancey boasts his experience, while some of the younger candidates, such as City Councilor Rob Consalvo, emphasize a “fresher” perspective. Consalvo, father of three school-aged children appeared at home at Philbrick Elementary School in Roslindale. He chatted with a few parents and the principal.

Charles Yancey has been a Boston City Councilor for three decades. He's running for both city council and mayor.
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH

“I’m not here today as a candidate for mayor,” he said “I’m so proud to be here today as your city councilor, representing District 5, as a neighborhood resident who lives right down the street, and as someone who’s never missed Flag Day ceremonies at the Philbrick.”

The five city councilors exude a casual style to connect with voters on the campaign trail and though each is trying to stand out in their bid to become mayor, they’ve manage to work together in City Hall.

“They’re carrying on their collegiality that they’ve always brought to the chamber. We’re hoping to keep it that way,” Boston City Council president Stephen Murphy said.

Murphy is one of the remaining eight city councilors not running for mayor.

“It is a little early in the process and who knows what’s going to happen around Labor Day as things get a little more heated,” he said.

“Some are speaking more than they had prior to the decision. Some are more involved in offering solutions than they had been. Boy, maybe we should have mayor races more often.”

City Councilor Rob Consalvo talking to the crowd at Philbrick Elementary School in Roslindale.
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH

At Wednesday’s weekly council meeting at City Hall, I watched as the city councilors talked about balancing the city budget and ways to evenly distribute liquor licenses in Boston. The atmosphere is noticeably warm and friendly. They chat with each other, some are smiling and laughing. No, one-upping, interruptions or filibustering.

Mayor Menino hasn’t endorsed a candidate yet. He said he’s happy with their behavior, and he’d like to see a little more substance.

“I hope it continues. And I hope they show a vision of Boston, what they hope to do as the mayor of the city, what they’d like to see improved in the city,” he said.

When asked about conflict between campaigning and working, Menino gave a wry smile.

“They did a great job with the budget, they did a fabulous job. There’s no conflict at all.”

That, from a mayor who was once himself a city councilor. Menino says he hopes to see positive interactions remain the goal over the summer and early fall. The pool will be down to two after the preliminary election on September 24th. The fininal election will take place on November 5.