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Despite mayor’s refusal, coalition still planning two-man mayoral forum next week

Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Tito Jackson. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Organizers of a citywide grass-roots coalition have pinned down a date, named a moderator, and selected a theme for the event: “One Night. Two Visions. Our Future: A Community Conversation with Boston’s Mayoral Candidates.”

There is one glitch. Mayor Martin J. Walsh is not going.

Walsh has decided on only two face-to-face match-ups with his challenger, Councilor Tito Jackson, in the mayoral contest. A debate was held in Roxbury last week; the other is Tuesday. The mayor has been attending forums in the neighborhoods and said he will continue to meet with residents across the city to share his vision for another four years.


But the “We Decide Coalition,’’ a nonpartisan group of more than 40 community organizations, is refusing to take no for an answer.

The coalition fired off a press release Tuesday laying out its expectations that both men will be present when the doors open at Prince Hall Grand Lodge’s Walter E. Reed Auditorium in Grove Hall.

“Both mayoral candidates have been invited to participate in the issues-and-policy based forum,’’ the group’s press release said.

In response, Walsh sent a letter to the coalition a day later, expressing gratitude for the invitation to the forum but politely declining.

“I wanted to reach out to you personally,’’ Walsh’s letter said.

The mayor acknowledged that the group had been in discussions with his campaign manager John Laadt, who the mayor said “informed you two weeks ago that I, regrettably, am unable to attend.

“I wanted to reach out to you personally because of the deep respect and appreciation I have for the work that the individual and collective members of the coalition engage in that contribute to a better Boston.”

Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, who has been speaking with Laadt, said she notified him of the forum in June. She said Laadt informed her that the campaign was not going to make any decisions on the forum until after the primary, which Clyburn Crawford and the coalition said was too late.


“These are productions,’’ she said, noting the time required to plan such a massive community conversation.

The forum will go on, she said, with or without Walsh. Jackson has long said he would attend. Clyburn Crawford, who said she has not responded to the mayor’s letter, said she is hopeful he will have a change of heart.

“We are still hopeful that he will pop his head in and answer a couple of questions,’’ she said.

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