Five of Boston's six declared candidates for mayor displayed marked policy differences on issues of education and policing Tuesday night at a forum organized by Democrats from Wards 4 and 5.
The evening — moderated by Callie Crossley of GBH News — was collegial. Acting Mayor Kim Janey was the only candidate not to attend. Janey held a press conference with Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins to comment of the conviction of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
“We know that one victory doesn’t bring justice," said John Barros, former economic development chief during the Walsh Administration. "It does put us on the right path, it sends the right message, but we’ve got a long, long way to go.”
“This is an issue that is just the tip of the surface for how much racism is pervading all of our structures,” said At Large Councilor Michelle Wu.
All candidates indicated support for ending information-sharing between the Boston Police Department and ICE, but differed on other issues:
On abolishing the Boston Police gang database, Barros, At Large Councilor Annissa Essaibi George and State Rep. Jon Santiago answered, “no,” Wu answered “yes,” and Dorchester-Mattapan area Councilor Andrea Campbell declined to answer, citing ongoing discussions on the issue.
With the exception of Essaibi George, the candidates favored removing police from Boston Public Schools.
On requiring police and others to receive council approval before acquiring new surveillance technology and military grade equipment, all candidates except Rep. Santiago, answered “yes.”
“I think as the mayor, I would make that decision,” Santiago said.
On imposing a hard cap on individual police officers’ overtime, Barros, Campbell, and Wu expressed support, while Essaibi George and Santiago said “no.”
When it came to the Boston School Committee, Councilor Essaibi George stood out as the only candidate who unequivocally supports keeping school committee as an appointed one.
“I think that it’s really important that we don’t involve politics anymore than it already is,” she said of her position. “I do think, however…the appointments should be done in partnership between the mayor’s office and the city council,” Essaibi George added.
All other candidates indicated they are either committed to, or open to exploring, a hybrid modeled school committee with some seats filled through elections and some via appointment.
Essaibi George and Wu agreed the city should not add more charter schools to its education landscape, while Santiago, Campbell and Barros signaled willingness to increase charter schools.
Regarding new exam schools admissions criteria, an issue recently heard in federal court, Essaibi George spoke indirectly in favor of preserving the exam schools, labelling herself a “proponent” of the institutions, adding that taking them away doesn’t address the disparities that begin long before students take an entry test.
“We know in the fourth grade, when we look at MCAS literacy scores, we know the trajectory of our students. We have failed them by the time they get to fourth grade [and] we need to be investing our time, our resources and our intellect in those early years,” she said.
The other candidates suggested openness to reforming the exam schools entry process in the interest of achieving equitable access across the school system.
Responding to a hypothetical question on reviving rent control if the legislature were to reverse a 1994 ballot measure ban on the policy, Wu said "yes," and Campbell offered a tentative "yes," pointing to a need to check in with small landlords on the issue. All other candidates said "no."
Wu was also the only candidate to advocate abolshing the Boston Planning and Development Agency. Stricter enforcement of a rewritten zoning code would go a long way toward eliminating the need for the BPDA, Wu has long held.
WATCH: Callie Crossley on the mayoral forum and police reform