Boston’s Mayoral Race Offers Voters The Choice Between The Status Quo And Progress [Opinion]

In 2013, Martin J. Walsh won Boston’s mayoral election. After the unprecedented 20-year term of Thomas Menino, many looked to the future with excitement. The coalition that Walsh was able to put together added to the anticipation. Several years later, enthusiasm has waned, however. Progress has not been forthcoming. Certainly, the city has not seen significant change. Perhaps, as a result, sharp disappointment and palpable frustration have set in. Voters now have to decide between giving Martin Walsh another term and embracing his challenger, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson.

In the last mayoral election, Walsh presented a more comprehensive plan for education, notwithstanding John Connolly’s claim of being the “education mayor.” Nevertheless, in September of 2016, a troubling fact was revealed at a Boston School Committee meeting: A staggering number of schools did not have functioning libraries. A plan was put forth at that time. Nonetheless, over a year later not much progress has been made. Moreover, with additional cuts to the education budget, students and teachers alike have spoken out about having to do more with increasingly less. Some have even questioned the city’s commitment to ensuring the academic success of its youth. Serving as the chair of the Boston City Council’s Education Committee, Jackson himself has been critical of the budget cuts. As mayor, he has repeatedly promised to fund all Boston public schools fully. In his vision for a quality education, art, music, and computer science, along with other key subjects, serve as critical components.

In addition to the above, voters see affordable housing as an issue. It has been the focus of many fierce debates. Some have lauded Walsh’s efforts to create a more affordable rental market in Boston though. In fact, the city has received some good news regarding this matter. The rents have fallen from the third to the fifth most expensive in the nation. This, however, offers little consolation to many that still experience difficulty in paying rent on account of salaries that fail to reflect the rise in the cost of living. The mayoral race offers Boston residents the option between the efforts of the Walsh administration and Jackson’s solution. In what could be seen as a holistic approach, the councilor has called for new developments on city-owned land to be one-third low-income, one-third moderate-income, and one-third market-rate units.

Councilor Tito Jackson raises a point during a Boston City Council meeting.

During the course of this race, the matter of transparency has equally arisen. Many, including some members of the press, have expressed dismay over the lack of debates. Some continue to call for another one with the general election less than ten days away. These people have stressed the need for accountability and have viewed the apparent reluctance of Walsh to engage in a debate as an attempt to stifle democracy. Furthermore, they believe that he owes Boston residents explanations in light of his missteps.

As voters prepare to head to the polls next week, they have to decide if the status quo, crafted by Walsh, is sustainable or if Jackson’s cogent argument for positive change holds more allure.

[Featured Image by Meredith Nierman/AP Images]