There was talk of transportation and diversity and education.
And then there was this matter when three of the dozen candidates vying to succeed Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino took the stage at a Thursday forum: Where, if elected, would they plant a statue of their predecessor? For the record, Felix G. Arroyo, Charlotte Golar Richie, and Bill Walczak would all erect a monument to Menino in Hyde Park, the mayor’s neighborhood.
The candidates used the hourlong discussion to highlight biographies and backgrounds. The race to replace Menino features a dozen candidates, making it tough to have substantive discourse when all 12 are on a stage. Thursday’s forum at the Palm Restaurant was the second in a series featuring a smaller cast of candidates, designed to stir more meaningful conversation in a race with more candidates than major issues.
Although they trumpeted similar stands on issues, they stressed that their individual backgrounds best equip them to implement widely agreed-upon policy.
Arroyo, a city councilor, declared economic development his priority; Walczak invoked his oft-used “urban innovator” line and said the next mayor needs to transform the city into Boston 2.0; and Richie stressed healing divisions among the city’s diverse neighborhoods and interest groups.
They all expressed frustration that state lawmakers failed to pass Governor Deval Patrick's transportation bill, noting that a robust, accessible transit network is pivotal to bringing more jobs to Boston.
The format, with just a handful of candidates, provided an especially vital opportunity for candidates who are not in elected office — such as Golar Richie and Walczak — to give voters a clearer picture of what they would bring to City Hall.
The candidates agreed that the Boston Police Department, specifically its leadership, needs to better reflect the city’s diversity. The candidates vowed to change the promotion system, which some minority officers have faulted for preventing them from rising in the ranks.
Walczak said during his time running the Codman Square Health Center, he built a track record for diverse hiring. The other candidates said that, as minorities, a vote for them is a vote for diversifying every aspect of city government. “I’m a strong believer in the diversity of this city,” Arroyo said, before adding, “In fact, I’m trying to diversify the mayor’s office right now,” earning a round of laughs from the crowd.
Asked what structure they support for the School Committee, currently made up of appointees, Golar Richie and Walczak said they had few fond memories from when the committee was elected.
“I have been scratching my head to come up with some wonderful, positive memories that stem from our experience of having an elected School Committee, and frankly I cannot come up with one,” Golar Richie said. She noted that as a state representative, she supported the shift to an appointed School Committee.
Said Walczak: “I remember the indictments. I remember wondering why people would run for an office that paid nothing. Now, we had some great School Committee members in those days, but we also had instability.”
Arroyo distanced himself from his opponents, advocating a hybrid committee including elected and appointed members, and he noted his introduction to elective politics came when his father was elected to the School Committee.