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Economic factors loom large in mayoral race

For Boston’s business community, there is a lot at stake in Tuesday’s mayoral election between candidates John R. Connolly and Martin J. Walsh.

There are literally billions of dollars in construction underway or in the pipeline within the city of Boston, as companies and residents flock to the city.

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There is an array of other issues also important to employers, workers, and residents alike, including education and workforce development, property taxes, and the proposed casino at Suffolk Downs.

Over the past few months, the Globe has regularly surveyed and sent questionnaires to candidates, before and after the September mayoral primary, to gauge their views on major economic and business issues. Here are summaries of their responses:

On the future of the Boston Redevelopment Authority: Connolly, a city councilor and lawyer, and Walsh, a state representative and former local union leader, have both supported new development projects across the city.

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But they also share misgivings about the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which oversees development in the city and which has been criticized by both candidates for not being transparent enough in its decision making

Connolly has called for the creation of a task force to review and recommend reforms of the BRA. Walsh has been more aggressive: He wants to replace the agency with a larger economic development entity whose director would be more insulated from politics.

On the top economic issues facing the city of Boston: Connolly says there are two major economic issues confronting Boston: maintaining Boston’s economic competitiveness and ensuring all Bostonians benefit from economic growth.

“While Boston has made great progress and thrives in many ways, we face a daunting equity gap that increasingly leaves us as a city of the very rich and the very poor,” said Connolly. “We lack a strong middle to bind us together.”

Walsh believes 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.”

“We need to recruit business, expand our tax base, and train our workforce,” Walsh said.

On how they would create jobs: Connolly believes the city needs to support small businesses through a “Buy Boston” program that would connect them to other city businesses that might purchase their goods and services, and vice versa. He would also invest in workforce development and vocational education, as well as partner with nearby municipalities to create a regional economic development strategy.

Walsh believes Boston needs to do more to lure businesses to the city, as well as expand the tax base and better train the workforce. Like Connolly, he supports more economic cooperation with the nearby cities of Cambridge, Somerville and Quincy. “We’re stronger together than we are in competition,” he said of joint regional planning.

On casino gambling at Suffolk Downs and within the city of Boston in general: Both candidates are tepid in their support of casino gambling and agree on one other thing:

Connolly: “I believe the residents of East Boston would be disproportionately impacted by a casino at Suffolk Downs, and they should make the determination whether a casino is right for their neighborhood.”

Walsh: “I believe the people of East Boston should decide on whether there should be a casino in their neighborhood.”

On property taxes in Boston: Connolly: “I believe that Boston is overly reliant on residential and commercial property taxes. We need to be mindful of the burden that property taxes place on some of our most vulnerable residents, like seniors living on fixed incomes, and do what we can to ease that burden.”

Walsh: “I do not believe property taxes should be raised . . . I do not believe commercial property taxes should be raised.”

On which business-related programs and practices they would maintain from the Menino administration: Connolly says Mayor Thomas M. Menino, “doesn’t receive enough credit for his capable stewardship of the city’s finances” that have led to strong bond ratings and reduced borrowing costs for Boston. “I will maintain Mayor Menino’s legacy of sound financial management,” Connolly said.

Connolly also praised Menino’s efforts to build affordable housing in Boston. “I would keep Boston dedicated to affordable housing, and work to increase our middle market housing,” he said.

Walsh said he’s a strong backer of Menino’s “Main Streets” development programs for the city’s neighborhoods and would push for more transit-oriented development that could benefit business districts across the city.

Walsh also praised the mayor for development of the Innovation District in the Seaport area and vowed to expand the concept “to every Boston neighborhood.”

On the most pressing overall issue facing the city, not just for businesses: “Transforming our schools,” said Connolly, a former school teacher. “If we want good jobs and a stronger economy, we need better schools. If we want safe and healthy neighborhoods for all Bostonians, we need better schools.”

Walsh said “equity” among residents is the top issue facing Boston and must be addressed through better schools, improved workforce training programs, and support for businesses across the city.

“We need a level playing field,” he said. “We need to ensure that women, people of color, and the working class have as much access to opportunity as anyone.”

Jay Fitzgerald can be reached at jayfitzmedia@gmail.com.
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