With Tuesday’s primary fast approaching, Boston’s mayoral candidates will make their last push over the weekend to win over voters and get their supporters to the polls. Over the course of the campaign, they’ve debated a number of business-related issues, from the future of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (most want reforms) to casino gambling (most grudgingly favor a casino at Suffolk Downs).
The Globe recently sent questionnaires to the 12 candidates asking: What do you believe is the major economic issue facing the city of Boston? How would you create new jobs for city residents? Here are their responses:
Felix G. Arroyo, 34, Boston city councilor at-large and former political director at SEIU Local 615: Calling for neighborhoods to share in the prosperity of the city, Arroyo said he would implement an “Invest in Boston” program in which city money would be deposited only in banks that lend to small businesses, qualified home buyers, and city development projects. “My ‘Invest in Boston’ will help ensure that all neighborhoods get the investments they need to economically flourish,” said Arroyo, adding he would enforce current city-residency laws for city government jobs.
John F. Barros, 40, executive director of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative and former Boston School Committee member: Barros said the major economic issue facing Boston is the need to “diversify and grow our economy in the face of declining federal and state aid.”
To achieve those goals, he said he would 1) strengthen and diversify Boston’s various economic sectors, 2) create new local and regional public and private partnerships, and 3) ensure the city has a strong labor force of well-educated workers. He added the city needs to do a better job matching up the skills of city residents with available jobs.
Charles Clemons, 52, cofounder of TOUCH 106.1 FM and former Boston police officer: Clemons said the most important economic issue facing Boston is “high unemployment among people of color and a lack of business development in poorer neighborhoods.” As for creating new jobs, he responded: “Create tax incentive growth zones within certain neighborhoods to attract new businesses and assist existing business to improve their ability to create new jobs.”
Daniel F. Conley, 55, Suffolk County district attorney and former Boston city councilor – District 5: Conley said the major economic issues are all tied to “disparities in educational achievement and economic attainment between white, black, and Latino residents.”
He said he’s committed to closing the educational achievement gap by lifting the cap on charter schools, implementing universal preschool, and giving more autonomy to individual school communities. He also would implement a “Better Jobs Now” program to promote more construction jobs going to residents, improve vocational high-school education, and help small businesses, among other things.
John R. Connolly, 40, Boston city councilor At-Large and former teacher: Connolly said there are two major economic issues facing the city: retaining Boston’s economic competitiveness and making sure all Bostonians benefit from a strong economy. To create jobs, Connolly said, he would support new and small business through a “Buy Boston” program that would connect them to other city businesses, invest in workforce development and vocational education, and partner with other municipalities, such as Cambridge and Somerville, to create a “real regional economic development strategy.”
Robert Consalvo, 44, Boston city councilor — District 5 and former aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy: Consalvo said his economic policies would focus on maintaining a balanced budget with a healthy rainy-day fund, preserving the city’s high credit rating, and making sure Boston’s prosperity is spread out “so every portion of our citizenry participates in our economic successes.”
He said he would focus on improving job training and creating a “Boston Compact” program to connect Boston schools with universities, businesses, unions, and other major employers. He also said he would create a “Mayor’s Office of Ideas and Innovation.”
Charlotte Golar Richie, 54, former director of the Boston Department of Neighborhood Development and former senior vice president YouthBuild USA: Golar Richie said the city’s major economic issue is “bringing more job opportunities to underserved communities who are disproportionately plagued by high levels of unemployment.”
Declaring that good jobs go a long way in addressing many social issues, Golar Richie said she would offer new incentives to businesses to locate in economically struggling areas of the city. She would also employ some of the state’s development incentives to help diversify the types of businesses that locate in Boston.
Michael P. Ross, 41, Boston city councilor — District 8 and of counsel at Prince Lobel Tye LLP: Boston can’t “rest on its laurels” in a competitive global economy in which other countries and states are trying to lure companies from the Boston area, Ross said. The city must partner with Cambridge and others to develop a strong regional economy, he said.
The city must do more to build new housing, improve transit, and encourage commercial and residential development in all sections of the city to create jobs, he said.
Bill Walczak, 59, vice president of external affairs at Shawmut Construction and former Carney Hospital president: Walczak said Boston is “a city divided due to severe inequality” and needs to do more to “combat the roots of poverty that lead to violence and the achievement gap.”
He would require developers to hire city residents, recruit companies to locate in Boston, and create “career academies” in high schools to connect students with businesses, establishing a “pipeline for jobs for city residents and students.”
Martin J. Walsh, 46, state representative, 13th Suffolk District, and former general agent of Boston Building Trades Council: The top economic issue facing the city is “income inequality, which is related to a lack of good jobs and an education system that isn’t doing a very good job at training a 21st century workforce,” said Walsh.
The city needs to recruit businesses, better train workers, and coordinate economic development with neighboring cities, as well as address problems in schools and increase the amount of “middle-market housing,” Walsh said.
Charles C. Yancey, 64, Boston city councilor — District 4: The biggest economic issue is “employment — and lack thereof,” said Yancey. Of those who do have jobs, too many of them are not paid living wages, he said. Yancey said he would use the mayor’s office as “bully pulpit” to encourage city businesses to hire residents, while enforcing the residency hiring rules for city jobs. He said he’d also establish a new incubator-like center to help residents develop business plans, find investors, and start new businesses.
David James Wyatt, former public school teacher: Wyatt did not respond to the questionnaire.