Charlotte Golar Richie was for an appointed Boston School Committee before she was against it. Or, rather, open to the possibility of being against it. Or something like that.
The mayoral candidate told a forum of downtown business types earlier this month that she had supported the appointed school committee when it was a political issue in the mid 1990s. She left the distinct impression that she still does.
Twelve days later, at a forum in Allston-Brighton, she declared herself open to the inane idea of a “hybrid” school committee consisting of some appointed and some elected members. In that room, that position met with approval.
A cynic might accuse her of tailoring her answers to suit different audiences, but her campaign insists that is not the case. One of her advisers said Sunday that her position is “evolving” as she talks to more of the public.
In other words, she’s met some people who disagree with her original position, so she’s reconsidering. Sounds like a mayor, right?
Golar Richie’s evolution reflects a larger pattern in this mayor’s race. With so many candidates fighting over slivers of the electorate, they feel that they cannot risk alienating a single voter. The problem with that is candidates avoid taking meaningful positions on complex issues for fear that someone will disagree. So many candidates seem open to everything but take stands on very little.
Keep Ed Davis as police commissioner? Maybe. Abolish the Boston Redevelopment Authority? Certainly, we should consider separating planning and development. Allow the outgoing mayor to oversee the hiring of a school superintendent who won’t work for him? Well, the process should continue. There’s no time to waste. All of it is innocuous and inoffensive. None of it tells voters much of anything.
Whether school governance, per se, is a burning issues depends heavily on where one asks the question. Almost nobody who has lived in town long enough to remember the elected school committee misses it. But the remaining pockets of resistance to the appointed body are largely in the black community — the voters who were most opposed to getting rid of the elected school committee in the first place. Golar Richie is counting on those voters to boost her campaign. Also, some longstanding opponents of the appointed committee work in her campaign. All of which may explain her suddenly open mind.
When I asked her about it Sunday, Golar Richie acknowledged that she gave different answers at the forums and declared that the real issue is quality schools. Those are created, she said, by hiring a crackerjack superintendent, decentralizing authority, and making sure schools have the support they need.
Of course quality education is the ultimate goal. But does she support an appointed committee, a hybrid, or what? And what about taking different positions in different rooms?
“I think the governance piece is a distraction,” she said. Even by the standards of political waffling, that’s a particularly spineless answer. The appointed school committee isn’t going away any time soon, and all the candidates know it. Supporting some kind of vague change in the committee’s makeup is this week’s way of pandering for a handful of the 25,000 or so votes it will take to reach the final balloting.
Welcome to the everyone-is-for-everything campaign. Less than two months from now, Boston voters will select two finalists for mayor. But will we have any idea what we’re voting for?