One need look no further than Joe Fitzgerald’s column in today’s Boston Herald to know why City Councillor John Connolly’s mayoral bid is such an uphill race. Fitzgerald looks at Menino through his wife Angela’s eyes. Angela is much loved and, wherever Tom Menino goes, she is there. She talks about how far he has come as a leader, how knowledgeable he is, and what an amazing and energetic comeback he is making from an extended illness. The sub-text is how much Menino has done with school improvement, development and attracting knowledge-based, innovative businesses.
Seventeen percent of Boston’s population is 55 years of age and older. I’ll bet that most of them see the 70-year-old Mayor as emblematic of how someone can be aging and remain effective. Menino has, even while performing as a strong leader, become, dare I say it, lovable? Or, if not loved exactly, certainly someone of whom the public is very fond and with whom they are comfortable. Some even identify with his foibles (speech) and struggles (health).
Yet fully a third of the city’s population are between 25 and 44 years old, and that’s where 39-year-old City Councillor Connolly gains traction.
A Roxbury Latin and Harvard grad, he seems bright, articulate and personable. A former school teacher prior to becoming a lawyer, he will make the race about transforming Boston’s schools. His announcement came outside Brighton High School, which, he said, risks loss of accreditation. Schools are especially important to young families wanting to stay in the city.
Later, on WGBH’s Greater Boston, Connolly spoke of his “real fondness” for the mayor and appreciates his commitment to the city, but faulted him for not getting the job done on the schools. Despite the overall rise in MCAS scores and graduation rates, Connolly said, the system has a top-heavy bureaucracy, fails to deliver regularly – especially in art, music, phys ed and science – and recently slipped in third grade MCAS reading scores. It’s time, he said, for “a fresh approach.”
Menino has till mid May to make known whether he will file for a sixth term. Certainly he thrives in the role. Connolly is a credible candidate and smart to get out in front of other potential challengers in the unlikely chance that hizzoner decides not to run. Were Connolly to succeed in a long-shot bid to oust Menino, that would, at this point, be a stunner. If he ran well but failed in the effort, Connolly would be well positioned for a 2017 run. All he’d have to do between now and then would be to figure out a better way to keep himself in the public forum than former City Councillor Michael Flaherty did in 2009 in his own failed mayoral bid.
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