It was the final of three miniforums, which were designed to give the crowded field of 12 mayoral candidates a little bit more of the spotlight by dividing them into smaller groups.
But when city councilors Rob Consalvo and Michael P. Ross joined Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and community leader John F. Barros on the stage Thursday morning for the final installment, the group seemed to be beckoning one more person into the race.
Asked to name their favorite Boston mayoral also-ran, they all agreed: pointing down into the audience at former city councilor and failed 1983 mayoral candidate Lawrence DiCara.
“Maybe you should have thrown your hat in the race,” a friend jested to DiCara after the forum, “since you’ve got all this support already lined up.”
In front of a crowded dining room at the Palm Restaurant, four of the men hoping to succeed Mayor Thomas M. Menino discussed education policy, economic development, and transportation and shared a handful of lighter moments as well.
The candidates also discussed the proposed Suffolk Downs casino in East Boston, one of three competing casino proposals in Eastern Massachusetts.
While both of the current councilors said that Menino should be empowered to make decisions about the casino, which also must be approved by the voters in a referendum, Conley distanced himself from the pack by stressing that any contracts or litigation should include an out-clause for the next mayor.
“Tom Menino is not going to have to live with that casino and deal with it,” Conley said. “The next mayor of Boston is.”
Barros, executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, said that any casino plans need to factor in the social impact the project will have on neighborhoods.
Much of the forum focused on education, an issue that many of the mayoral candidates have made cornerstones of their stump speeches.
Noting that he was the sole candidate on the stage with children currently attending Boston public schools, Consalvo pledged that his top priorities as mayor would be bringing new jobs to the city and improving city schools.
“I’ll have the laserlike focus on public education,” Consalvo said, “also providing help to the people who really need it in our public schools.”
Asked if they would support continuation of an appointed school committee, a return to an elected structure, or a hybrid model, all four candidates said they would keep the appointed committee, a stance that runs counter to the opinion of 64 percent of voters, according to a recent poll.
“Our schools have a long way to go, but are better than they’ve been in these last 20 years under our appointed School Committee,” said Ross, who had previously said that he would keep the appointed committee but that he would not give it a rubber stamp.
“We need bold, visionary leaders who are on the School Committee, and that means sometimes pushing back,” he said.
Barros, who also supports an appointed committee and until recently served on the committee himself, took exception to Ross’s wording.