A heavy sun beating down on him, John R. Connolly spent more than two hours ducking into storefronts in the Grove Hall area Thursday afternoon, embarking on a business tour as his campaign prepared to unveil a series of proposals aimed at assisting small businesses owned by women and people of color.
“We are a stronger city for our diversity, but we face daunting equity gaps that threaten to undermine our future,” Connolly said. “We can improve economic opportunities for all Bostonians, no matter their background or where they live.”
Led by several members of the business community that bridges Roxbury and Dorchester, the mayoral candidate popped into hair salons, pizza shops, chicken restaurants, and barber shops. He also stopped in front of many vacant lots, pledging to find new ways to funnel money toward economic development in minority neighborhoods.
“Besides education, it’s the second most important issue for Boston residents, maybe even the most important issue,” said Mike Williams, a member of the Action for Boston Community Development board and a Connolly supporter. “In communities like this, making sure people have an opportunity to work and make a living is key. “
In a plan released later Thursday, Connolly vowed to commission a study on business disparities, prioritize joint venture bidding, and alter bonding requirements to allow more businesses to spring up in low-income areas.
He also proposed a “Buy Boston” campaign to serve as a facilitator between Boston’s small-business owners and major corporations, nonprofits, and universities in the region.
Connolly has stressed that he believes he is running a citywide campaign and that his message will resonate in neighborhoods in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, sections of the city that are considered a major battle ground in the Nov. 5 general election against state Representative Martin J. Walsh.
After stopping by a series of restaurants, Connolly ducked into King & Kueens, a unisex hair salon owned and operated by Kueen King, the daughter of the Rev. William Dickerson, a Connolly supporter and well known Roxbury minister.
Connolly began by telling King about his plans to empower more women and people of color to start small businesses, but the conversation soon turned to schools.
“I actually have a hair stylist who went to the Trotter,” King said to Connolly, allowing Connolly to segue into his well-practiced exchange about the once-underacheiving Dorchester elementary school where his daughter attends kindergarten.
Arline Isaacson, who did not back a candidate in the preliminary election, said that although both Walsh and Councilor at Large John R. Connolly support gay rights, Walsh was a standout in the contentious marriage debate.
“You can differentiate them in part by factoring in this: When you were in the war, who jumped into the trench to fight with you by your side?” Isaacson, cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said Thursday. “And Marty jumped in and won a medal of honor fighting with us in the trenches. He did it at significant cost to his political base.”
Calling Walsh a “workhorse, not a show horse,” Isaacson said that Walsh never claimed much credit for the behind-the-scenes work he did in the House, blocking an initiative in 2007 that would have prevented gay marriage and lobbying his more conservative colleagues to stand with gay rights advocates.
At the same time, she said, the Dorchester Democrat was besieged by constituents who opposed gay marriage, and he was criticized from the altar at church.
“When you’re an elected official from Dorchester, you don’t want the priest saying anything bad about you in church,” Isaacson said. “That was a very gutsy thing to do.”
As a result, Isaacson said, she wants voters to know “how exceptional a friend Marty Walsh was to the LGBT community when he didn’t have to be and when he paid a severe price for it. That’s the measure of a man.”
Walsh was also endorsed in the primary by state Representative Elizabeth A. Malia, a Jamaica Plain Democrat who is openly gay. Malia also cited Walsh’s work on the legislative Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
Connolly also picked up an endorsement from a local gay publication, the Rainbow Times, which noted that his campaign makes a case for diversity and inclusivity, that he championed a bid to bring the Gay Games to Boston, and that his focus on Boston schools includes a focus on ensuring that children of gay couples are welcomed there.