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Murphy, Connolly call for slate in at-large council race

Yawu Miller | 6/29/2011, 12:18 p.m.
Candidates in this year’s at large race spoke at last week’s Ward 5 Democratic Committee meeting. Pictured (l to r): Felix Arroyo, John Connolly, William Dorcena, Michael Flaherty, Stephen Murphy and Sean Ryan. Yawu Miller

“Voters in all those neighborhoods would have to be fully aware of why they’re unified,” he said.

Historically, when white candidates have endorsed candidates of color in city-wide races, the arrangement hasn’t worked to everyone’s advantage. In 1997, then at-large councilor Peggy Davis Mullen made an unsolicited endorsement of Frank Jones, the sole African American in the at-large race, a move seen as an attempt to shore up her credentials in the progressive community. Jones did not fare well in Davis Mullen’s base of predominantly white voters in South Boston and West Roxbury.

Yancey points to a similar move by former councilor Larry DiCara, who endorsed African American candidate Clarence Dilday. Dilday lost. DiCara won.

For his part, Flaherty is capitalizing on his outsider status. At the Ward 5 meeting last week, he acknowledged the cold shoulder his two Irish American colleagues were giving him.

“I’m not going to be endorsed by the other councilors,” he said. “They’re probably endorsing each other. I also won’t be endorsed by the mayor. I’m beholden to no one.”

In contrast, each of the three incumbents stressed their ability to work together on the council and cited their ability to work with the Menino administration.

Arroyo, who clashed with Menino over the mayor’s plans to close branch libraries, cited his collaboration with Back Bay state Rep. Marty Walsz, who helped secure state funding to keep the branch libraries open.

Predictably, schools, public safety and city services dominated the candidates’ messaging in the Ward 5 debate. Despite the talk of unity on the council, the issue of neighborhood schools revealed sharp divisions among the incumbents. In response to a question about keeping families with children in the city, Murphy and Connolly called for an end to busing, noting that the schools and the city are well integrated.

Connolly said the $80 million the city spends on busing could be better spent providing arts programs in the schools.

“We’re spending $80 million a year re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.

In a city where some neighborhoods, like West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, have more schools and other neighborhoods, like Roxbury and Dorchester have more students than seats available, neighborhood schools remains a divisive issue among black and white elected officials.

“Good luck with neighborhood schools if you don’t have one,” Arroyo said.

There are no public schools in the Back Bay and Beacon Hill.

Arroyo and other councilors said they would work to get a public school built in the Back Bay.