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Council hopefuls focus on safety

Globe survey asks candidates about top issues

Candidates for at-large City Council seats say public safety, quality education, and a growing divide between the richer and poorer sections of Boston are top issues facing the city, according to a Globe survey.

Most of the eight contenders would not put a cap on charter schools or support a Walmart opening in Boston. All back an East Boston-only vote on a casino, the survey said.

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The survey, conducted earlier this month, asked the candidates to respond to a list of questions that are important to Bostonians. Half the questions required detailed answers and half were yes-or-no questions. The online survey is now on BostonGlobe.com.

On the topic of education, candidates offered various steps they would take to improve city schools.

Michael Flaherty, a former council president, said he would support giving principals more authority and added control over how to best meet the needs of their students.

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Michelle Wu, a lawyer, said she would work to bring targeted funding and programming to underperforming schools.

Ayanna Pressley, who is seeking her third term on the council, said she will continue to work toward bringing attention and assistance to families in crisis.

“Until we address poverty and violence in our communities, we will continue to have underperforming schools,’’ she said.

The candidates also addressed how they would handle gaps in transportation. Jeffrey Michael Ross, an immigration attorney, said the city should work on areas that lack access to the most basic transportation.

Martin Keogh, a West Roxbury lawyer, said he would press to improve access to the MBTA, with more routes, stops, and extended hours. “No resident should have more than a five-minute walk to any T or bus stop,’’ he said.

The candidates offered differing positions on whether they support a comprehensive study on the operation and efficiencies at the Boston Fire Department.

Annissa Essaibi-George, who is backed by the local fire union, said the Fire Department is a model for the nation. As a councilor, she said, she would focus on ensuring that first responders have access to the most up-to-date communication technology.

“We live in a first-class city, and our assets should be too,’’ she said in the survey.

Council president Stephen J. Murphy, who is seeking a ninth term, said the Fire Department is functioning well under its current leadership and has adapted to the changing needs of the city.

“If any changes were to be made it would be management processes in order to reduce the need for overtime,’’ he said. “I do not believe a comprehensive study of the department is prudent at this time.”

Jack Kelly, a former neighborhood coordinator, said firefighters put themselves in harm’s way to protect Bostonians. But he said he would support a “top-to-bottom” efficiency review of the entire city government.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @meghanirons.
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