All posts by Judith Duvivier-Qashat

Judith is a politics writer for Boston Urban News.
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Smooth Transition: Marty Walsh Ready to Take Office

Before he can celebrate his inauguration in early January, Martin Walsh is currently putting together his team. His main goal is to ensure a smooth transition between him and Thomas Menino, who has served in the City’s highest position since 1993. Although Martin wants to start anew, he must be willing to open his team to other people, including those who are currently working at City Hall.

Many have mentioned that it would be relevant to include John Connolly in Walsh’s close team, as he gathered 48% of the votes during the mayoral election and still maintains a strong following in the city. Marty Walsh has said he is open to the possibility, but hasn’t confirmed anything yet.

One thing is certain, he isn’t planning on getting rid of everybody at City Hall.

Marty Walsh doesn’t want to miss a beat. His top priority is education and, in particular, naming a superintendent for the Boston Public School system. He wants to do this fast, in order not to lose any school time. John McDonough is the current Interim Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, and will continue to oversee the department until a permanent superintendent, who will have executive and administrative power over Boston’s 135 public schools, is appointed.

Throughout his campaign, Martin Walsh was in favor of postponing the superintendent selection until after the mayoral election. Now that the results are in, it is time to select a new superintendent. As the success of schools is vital to Boston’s continued economic development, Martin Walsh is seeking someone who will be able to improve schools and school facilities in Boston, as well as maintain the rehabilitation process started by previous educational reformers.

In Martin’s vision the superintendent should be in charge of ensuring that every Boston Public School is a high quality school, that every student has the same chance of success as any other, and that parents have options among several high quality schools close to their neighborhood.

Martin wants to increase the number of seats available in early childhood programs, which will allow students to prepare for post-secondary learning in middle school. Deepen literacy skills for all students and strengthen the efforts to raise achievement of students with disabilities and english language learners.

[Lead photo via WBUR]

Photo credit Clever Sangalaza

Music Is In The Air: “Play Me, I’m Yours”

From September 27 to October 14, Boston’s public spaces will be a little bit more musical!

British artist Luke Jerram has installed 75 pianos in the Boston area for anyone to play. This public series commemorate sthe 75th season of the Celebrity Series of Boston, which has brought orchestras, chamber ensembles, vocalists, pianists, jazz musicians, dance companies, and other performers to Boston concert halls since it was founded in 1938 by pianist and impresario Aaron Richmond.

This festival was exported to other cities all over the world and on every continent. More than a commemoration, this is an opportunity given to Bostonians to express their talent. The pianos are there for anyone to play. Don’t be shy: entertain us! Whether you are an advanced player or a beginner, the aim of the show is to bring people closer.

The piano festival will bring music to the streets of Boston. Even though some Bostonians were a bit hesitant during the first few days of the festival, they now try and play on the pianos and few of them are left unattended for more than a few minutes at a time. In the Financial District, where pianos on the urban arboretum can be seen from offices all around, it brings something different and original to the neighborhood. It is a great opportunity to change the ambiance of the neighborhood you live or work in.

Boston Pianos

It can also be seen as a way to celebrate the end of the summer and the beginning of the fall. Along with other art exhibits all over the city, like the globe display currently brightening Copley Square, it brings color and while promoting different kinds of music.

The Celebrity Series also includes scheduled solo or ensemble performances. This festival shows a different aspect of art by giving access to everybody without discrimination, both in terms of displaying the visual art in public spaces and allowing anyone to become the artist by performing publicly. The pianos are decorated by local artists and are pieces of art themselves; playing them just adds another dimension.

There is great potential, considering that every day 1.2 million people go to work in Boston: this festival is bound to be heard!

You can find a piano at http://streetpianos.com/boston2013/. Bring music to Boston, it’s up to you!

Lead photo by Clever Sangalaza.

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Charles for Boston: Spotlight on Charles Clemons

Background

Born and raised in Roxbury and Dorchester, Charles Clemons calls himself a “true Bostonian.” He has always been interested in working and being independent: he opened his first business, a lemonade stand, when he was 12. Like Marty Walsh, he overcame childhood illness and struggles with addiction. He is very interested in music, working as a DJ during his teenage years, and though he ultimately became a Boston Police Officer he never strayed far from that passion. He has received several awards showing his dedication to the community, including the Mayor Thomas Menino and the City of Boston African-American Achievement Service Award, the Garrett Pressley Autism Resource Center Award, and numerous additional recognitions from the City Council, Governor Deval Patrick, the State House of Representatives, and the Massachusetts State Senate.


Career

Though Charles Clemons is perhaps best known as a former Police Officer, he began his career in law enforcement as a Correctional Officer for six years, a position he wanted to serve in order to ensure fair treatment of the incarcerated. From 1991 to 1999, he was a Boston Police Officer in districts throughout the city. In 2006, Charles Clemons cofounded TOUCH 106.1 FM, a community-based radio station that seeks to produce family-oriented radio, with a focus on appropriate music and providing a platform for community issues. He was involved in a grassroots effort to support low-power radio, which is often more community-based and educational than national broadcasts, and in 2009 walked to Washington, D.C. to support the cause.


Mayoral Campaign

During his campain for the mayoral election he is planning on addressing issues such as education, security, and the living situation of the elderly within the Boston area.

Charles Clemons wants to fight poverty among the elderly. Indeed for the last few years, due to the increase in taxes on property ownership, elderly citizens on a fixed income are having a hard time maintaining a standard of living. Charles Clemons wants to stop the isolation of the elderly and bring them closer to the rest of the population by offering more affordable housing. He also believes that now would be a good time for the younger generation to help the elderly.

Like many other candidates, Charles Clemons sees the Boston Public school system as deficient, and intends to revive it in order to make it more attractive. In his vision, the public school system doesn’t prioritize the pupils enough and should focus more on making its students succeed using an appropriate teaching method, rather than on pure results. He believes that including the students’ parents in the decision-making process of the schools and increasing the teachers’ pay will help reach this goal.

Finally, Charles Clemons wants to make a safe city out of Boston. Indeed, if the number of burglaries and thefts has gone down since the late 90s, the number of murders has increased (going from 31 per 100,000 in 1999 to 63 per 100,000 in 2011). As a former police officer, cooperation between police and the community is very important to him, and the use of guns should be banned from the Boston’s Streets.


Criticism and Weak Points

Many early polls showed Charles Clemons lagging behind frontrunners like John Connolly and Marty Walsh, and with significantly lower name-recognition than other candidates. As well, despite his career in law enforcement, the Boston Globe has pointed to a number of past legal issues that mar his record, including multiple suspended licenses and accusations of child support negligence.


Learn More About Charles Clemons

The primary election is Tuesday, September 24, and the final election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 5. If you are not already registered to vote, find out how here:http://www.bostonurbannews.com/uncategorized/not-registered-to-vote-find-out-how-before-september/.

Visit Charles Clemons’ official campaign website: http://charlesforboston.com/.

Visit the campaign’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/charlesforboston.

Visit Twitter for immediate updates: https://twitter.com/charles4boston.

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Martin J. Walsh for Mayor: Spotlight on Marty Walsh

Background

Marty Walsh is the son of Irish immigrants who came to Boston in the 1950s. He is a native of Dorchester and has overcome immense obstacles, surviving Burkett’s lymphoma at the age of seven, becoming injured in a shooting in 1990 and recovering from alcoholism by 1995. He attended St. Margaret’s School in Dorchester and Newman Prep High School before becoming a union laborer at age 18, working at the Commonwealth Pier, now the World Trade Center, in the South Boston waterfront. Marty Walsh later graduated from Boston College, and remains a resident of Dorchester.


State Representative, 13th Suffolk District

In 1997, Marty Walsh was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He represents the 13th Suffolk District, which includes Dorchester.

During his time as a State Representative, Walsh served as Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Federal Affairs, which oversees and handles legislation related to the security of the US. He is currently the House Chair of the Ethics Committee, which regulates standards of ethical conduct for members of the House. He has always worked in favor of creating jobs and growing the economy, as well as attempting to better the public school system by increasing budgets. He has fought for civil rights, and considers his vote in favor of same sex marriage his “proudest vote ever as a legislator.”

During his time as a legislator, he also worked alongside his union, Laborers Local 223. In 2011, he led the Building and Construction Trades Council, a role he held until his decision to run for mayor. His deep involvement with the labor union is reflected in the numerous union endorsements he has received since beginning his campaign.


Mayoral Campaign

Marty Walsh is a fervent advocate of the public school system. His goal is to strengthen public schools by making them more attractive for parents and more competitive with charter and private schools, particularly by focusing on infrastructure. Indeed it is currently difficult to find seats in kindergarden, and Boston’s total student enrollment is projected to increase by 7,000 students in the next four years; Marty Walsh plans to make kindergarten universally accessible to all of Boston’s four-year-olds, which would ensure that every child begins with the same advantage.

Marty Walsh is also determined to fight for economic development in downtown Boston. In his vision, creating business in the city will create jobs and help working families. As of July 2013, Massachusetts’ unemployment rate was 7.20%, which is higher than the long term average of 5.73%.

A great illustration of his campaign to reinforce small business, particularly to make certain forgotten neighborhoods more dynamic, is his proposal to help small restaurants obtain a liquor license. The State currently limits the number of liquor licenses available to cities and sets the price for a license quite high, around $300,000. Marty Walsh wants to help small businesses have greater access to liquor licenses in order to develop the economy and create jobs in neighborhoods that would need that extra boost to become more attractive.

Finally, on a less serious note, Marty Walsh, along with former Lemonheads’ manager Joyce Linehan, are planning on proposing a bill to make The Modern Lovers’ classic “Roadrunner” the official song of Massachusetts. The Modern Lovers claim in that song that “they are in love with Massachusetts,” and cite countless local landmarks and institutions. What do you think?

Credit: Mike Ritter. (via )

Credit: Mike Ritter. (via Facebook)


Criticism and Weak Points

Some critics have pointed to Marty Walsh’s strong ties to labor as a liability; as Boston Globe writer Andrew Ryan has pointed out, critics “have questioned whether, as mayor, he could fairly negotiate union contracts.” Marty Walsh has also received criticism from fellow mayoral candidates, particularly District Attorney Dan Conley, for his refusal to sign a pledge vowing not to take money from special interest groups, who have a large portion of his campaign budget thus far.


Learn More About Marty Walsh

The primary election is Tuesday, September 24, and the final election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 5. If you are not already registered to vote, find out how here: http://www.bostonurbannews.com/uncategorized/not-registered-to-vote-find-out-how-before-september/

To learn more about Marty Walsh’s career as a State Representative, view his legislator profile: https://malegislature.gov/people/profile/mjw1.

Visit his official mayoral campaign website: http://www.martywalsh.org/ .

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Charlotte for Mayor: Spotlight on Charlotte Golar Richie

Background

Charlotte Golar Richie, the only woman in the Boston mayoral race, was born in New York City and started her career as an actress. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Rutgers University, a Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from Suffolk University. She is a former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Kenya, and has won a number of awards for her service both in the Peace Corps and in other ventures.

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Career

Charlotte Golar Richie has an impressive resume with a particular background in state and federal advocacy, political activism, education, youth outreach and housing and community development.

She was a State Representative for the 5th Suffolk District, representing Dorchester and Roxbury, from 1995 until 1999. She resigned from this position to become the Director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, a cabinet position within Menino’s office in which she advised the Mayor on policy, legislation and community relations. Throughout her time in this position, she developed the Leading the Way I & II campaigns, which created nearly 18,000 housing units in the City, preserved over 6,100 affordable units and created more than 1,100 units of housing for the homeless.

She remained in this position until 2007, when she became Governor Deval Patrick’s Senior Advisor for Federal, State and Community Affairs, a position in which she improved access to state government, strengthened ties with the Congressional Delegation and State Legislature and launched the new Office of Access and Opportunity, which provides opportunities to residents through state programs and services.

She is currently Senior Vice President for Public Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations for YouthBuild USA, a program which helps people ages 16 to 24 work full-time for 6 to 24 months to earn their GEDs, develop job skills and build affordable housing in their communities.

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Mayoral Campaign

For a few years now Boston has made numerous efforts to reduce our daily impact on the environment, for example by promoting alternative way of transportation (Hubway is great example of that initiative) or establishing recycling programs. Although the number of Bostonians who recycle has doubled in the past five years, Charlotte Golar Richie sees room for improvement and envisions other ways to be greener, for example by helping homeowners install solar panels. She also emphasizes that her mayoral career will encourage the growth of pedestrians and cyclists, bringing Boston up to the number one spot as greenest city in the United States.

Charlotte Golar Richie’s first priority is the 57,000 Boston Public School students in the city. She has plans to establish an office of youth affairs in City Hall. She has also outlined a comprehensive public safety plan that focuses on support for drug and alcohol addiction, a stronger school system to support Boston’s youth population and increased community engagement at all levels.


Criticism and Weak Points

Like Felix Arroyo, the biggest problem facing the Charlotte for Mayor campaign is a lack of funding. When the race started, she was by far the most underfunded candidate with only $27,000 raised. She has now surpassed the 6-figure mark, but remains on the lower end of the financial spectrum as far as this particular race is concerned. Though she polled in sixth place in mid-July Suffolk University poll, the position puts her only 5% behind John Connolly, the City Councillor currently polling in first place.


Learn More About Charlotte Golar Richie

The primary election is Tuesday, September 24, and the final election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 5. If you are not already registered to vote, find out how here: http://www.bostonurbannews.com/uncategorized/not-registered-to-vote-find-out-how-before-september/

Visit the Charlotte for Mayor official campaign website at http://www.charlotteformayor.com/.

For the latest updates, follow Charlotte Golar Richie on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteForMayor, Instagram: http://instagram.com/charlotte4mayor?ref=badge, Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/charlotteformayor/ and Twitter: https://twitter.com/Charlotte4Mayor.

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Forward with Felix: Spotlight on Felix G. Arroyo

Background

Felix Arroyo is a native of the Boston area, born in the South End, raised in Hyde Park, a graduate of the Boston Public Schools and a current resident of Jamaica Plain. He attended the University of Massachusetts, Boston and completed a Master’s Degree in Community Economic Development at Southern New Hampshire University. He is the first Latino candidate to qualify for the mayoral race ballot.


City Councillor At-Large

The son of Boston City Councillor Felix D. Arroyo, Felix G. Arroyo was elected to a City Councilor At-Large position in November 2009. The primary duty of the position of Councilor-at-Large (CAL) is to serve as a liaison between the membership and Council. This position is to ensure that members in all sectors are being served by the Council and their voices are present and heard by leadership.

Throughout his City Councillor career, reaching out to Boston’s youth was a top priority; Arroyo spent 8 years as a youth sports coach and developed the “Boston Youth Agenda,” a program which aims to increase both summer and yearlong jobs for Boston’s younger citizens. In the past, Councilor Arroyo also developed legislation called “Invest in Boston” to invest Boston’s money in banks that in turn invest in Boston itself, which helps promote economic development including reducing foreclosures, increasing employment and lending to qualified home buyers.


Visit Felix Arroyo's official campaign website.

Visit Felix Arroyo’s official campaign website.

Mayoral Campaign

Throughout his campaign Felix Arroyo has stressed different aspects of Bostonians’ lives, mainly education, the environment and economic development. He stated in one candidate forum that his top priority as mayor will be economic development. Declaring his candidacy at the South End housing development where he was born, Villa Victoria, Arroyo pointed to the economic inequality in the city.

“It’s hard to dream if you can’t pay the bills,” Arroyo told the crowd. “Boston is a prosperous city, and we must make sure that all neighborhoods share in that prosperity.” (via Boston Globe)

Arroyo wants to bring economic development to all of Boston’s neighborhoods, rather than focusing on new developments like the Seaport District.

In regards to education, Arroyo’s aim is to close the academic achievement gap between students of different racial and economic backgrounds in the Boston Public Schools. He also proposed increasing access to early childhood education, special education, dual-language education, extended learning time in schools and other initiatives.

For a few years now preserving the environment has been a very important matter all around the world, and Felix Arroyo intends to push Bostonians towards greater ecology. Indeed he wants us to recycle more, and to rely less on fossil fuels and more on public transportation (including the T and Hubway among others).


Criticism and Weak Points

The Boston Herald wrote a thorough piece on the biggest issue facing the Arroyo campaign: a lack of money. Arroyo started the race with only $145,000, but plans to outwork every other candidate to keep his name in the ring. Although the million dollar budgets of some candidates will easily allow them to advertise in crucial locations, including TV spots in the weeks leading up to the primary, Arroyo’s community organizer background has helped him develop a grassroots campaign that includes door-to-door meetings and field offices in multiple Boston neighborhoods. A recent Suffolk University poll showed that Arroyo and John Connolly have the greatest name-recognition in the city, but other polls show that Arroyo has only an estimated 4% of the vote.


With his background in grassroots organizing, Arroyo hopes to overcome the fundraising gap between his campaign and early front-runners.

With his background in grassroots organizing, Arroyo hopes to overcome the fundraising gap between his campaign and early front-runners.

Learn More About Felix G. Arroyo

Artículo en español: http://www.bostonurbannews.com/news/adelante-con-felix-foco-con-felix-g-arroyo/.

The primary election is Tuesday, September 24, and the final election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 5. If you are not already registered to vote, find out how here: http://www.bostonurbannews.com/uncategorized/not-registered-to-vote-find-out-how-before-september/.

For more information, visit the official website of the Felix G. Arroyo campaign: http://forwardwithfelix.com/.

For live updates and to talk to the candidate, visit Felix Arroyo on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FelixArroyo, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/felixfanpage and YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/felixgarroyo.

To learn more about his career as City Councillor, visit his City of Boston page: http://www.cityofboston.gov/citycouncil/councillors/arroyo.asp.

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Tired of the Traffic Jam? Go Green!

Boston is considered one the worst 10 US cities for traffic jams. Ask any driver and they’ll tell you it can be a nightmare to drive in the city during peak hours. The average commute is 33 percent longer on Friday at 5:30 p.m., one of the worst driving hours. This Bay State city is at its worst on I-93 between Exit 5 and Exit 15. This 10.4-mile stretch of road usually takes 10 minutes to complete with no traffic, but can take 29 minutes during rush hour and even up to 38 minutes Wednesday mornings.

What Can You Do to Avoid That? Take a Bike!

Hubway was founded in 2007 by Mayor Thomas Menino and Director of Bicycle Programs Nicole Freedman and launched in the Boston area in 2011. It became very popular very soon with more than 3,600 annual members and 100,000 rentals within the first few weeks. This new way of experiencing the city, whether you are trying to circulate downtown or around the neighborhoods, allows you to hop on a bike and hop off at any Hubway station that you find. There are more than 60 stations throughout the Boston area making it very convenient for any journey, whether you are going to work or simply need to run errands. You don’t need an annual membership to use it. You can choose to register for a week, three days, a day … all you need to do is go to a hubway station, rent a bike, and the first half hour ride is free!

This idea however is not new; it reflects the initiatives taken in other US cities (Washington DC, Minneapolis…), Canada, and Europe. Since 2006, many cities have installed systems like Hubway allowing people to escape the hassle of driving in the city. It also has other great advantages: not only will you lose less time commuting but you will exercise, pollute less and enjoy more fresh air!

Hubway is becoming more and more popular, with the number of memberships increasing every day. Furthermore, locals have been very enthusiastic about the idea ever since it started, showing that Bostonians really are tired of driving, and of course new bike lanes all over the city certainly make it easier. Other cities like Newton have even asked for Hubway to extend to their location.

One thing is sure: Hubway is revolutionizing the way Bostonians travel!

Hubway provides a listing of local stores that sell helmets as low as $7.99 and is closed during the winter.

For more info on prices, please visit http://thehubway.com/home

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Jury Duty in Massachusetts: Chore or Opportunity?

We have a civic duty to serve on a jury. We have all heard of this even if we haven’t yet been picked to do it. What is it? Why is this useful?

Juries are required in both civil and criminal trials in the Unites States. This allows the trial to benefit from an outside opinion, often a more down-to-earth one than a judge could offer. It also has the great purpose of getting regular citizens involved in the legal system and reconnecting with an old tradition. Indeed, the first evidence of juries dates back to ancient Greece and medieval Germany.

All the names of US citizens are put into a pool, and from the pool jurors are then picked. You can be chosen several times, as after serving jury duty your name goes back into the pool (though you cannot be chosen again within a three-year span).

Many see this as a waste of time, something that takes them away from their duties and leisure. It can take more than a week to actually be chosen to be part of the jury after your name has been picked and once you pass that step, to serve the entire trial. Jury duty has had a bad reputation lately which is why we need to cast new light on this subject.

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John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Fan Pier, one of Boston’s federal courts.

Instead of dragging your feet to go to court because you have better things to do, embrace this occasion! See it as a chance to be part of the system and to make sure justice is served! Furthermore, state law requires you to be compensated for your lost wages, so a few days out of work will not lead to financial loss on your part.

Massachusetts uses its mandatory annual census to create juror pools. The state gets your name from your town census, from which the Office of the Jury Commissioner creates a list based on street address. The chances for you to get picked depend on the population of your city. Therefore in a city similar to Boston, you would have less of a chance of being picked than in a smaller town. You are allowed to delay your jury duty up to one year and there are 10 official disqualifications including factors like age, English knowledge and disability.

For more information, visit mass.gov/courts.

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12 Candidates Race to Follow Menino

An important part of the executive branch of power, the mayor is the head of the city of Boston and, along with the City Council, manages the city. The mayoral election of Boston will happen this fall, on Tuesday, November 5. Along with determining who will be the next mayor of Boston, this ballot holds many other stakes. Indeed it is common knowledge that the mayor of Boston often stays in office for several terms. The current mayor, Thomas Menino, has been reelected 4 times, thus serving an unprecedented 5 terms. Following the announcement of his resignation in late March, the position is therefore vacant, along with several City Council seats.

Many candidates have entered the race for election, however in order to qualify they had to gather 3,000 signatures, tallied by election officials. This election attracted many candidates. About 15 have entered, but so far only 12 have definitely passed this requirement: Felix G. Arroyo, city councillor; John Barros, a former School Committee member; Charles Clemons, a former police officer and owner of TOUCH 106.1 FM; Daniel F. Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney; John R. Connolly, city councillor; Robert Consalvo, city councillor; Charlotte Golar Richie, a former State Representative; Michael P. Ross, city councillor; Bill Walczak, community organizer; Marty Walsh, State Representative; David James Wyatt, a city council candidate in 2007; and Charles Yancey, city councillor. Although some of the current city councillors have hinted at a duel mayoral and City Council run, at least some of the seats in the City Council will be vacant in the next election due to resignations and other causes.

Many issues are on the minds of the Bostonians, and they have been for a while. Among these issues, the need to increase economic growth after the crisis of 2008, to reform the education system, and better the daily life of Bostonians are not new concerns. Who is the best candidate to bring change to the city?

It is common knowledge that the aim of the 1993 Reform Act was to raise all students to academic proficiency. Even though it did show results (such as lower dropout rates, higher test scores, full day kindergarten available for all 5-year-olds, and rising college completion rates) and demonstrated Thomas Menino’s commitment to education, there is still room for improvement. Therefore many candidates have raised this issue and plan to give more autonomy to schools; at a forum at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square in late June, most of the candidates supported expanding charter schools. In their vision, letting the schools regulate themselves will help reach academic goals.

The primary election for the mayor will take place on Tuesday September 24th to narrow the choice down to two candidates, and the final election on Tuesday November 5th. It is your choice to decide which candidate will best embody your needs, and what issues are the most important to you.

What issues are most important to you in the upcoming election? What would you like to hear the mayoral candidates discuss in upcoming debates and interviews? Share your opinion in the comments!