Connolly, Walsh talk Casey, JPNC issues

October 25, 2013
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With Jamaica Plain a big prize in the Nov. 5 mayoral election, the Gazette asked candidates John Connolly and Marty Walsh about local issues, including the Casey Overpass replacement and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council’s lawsuit (JPNC).

An ever-flowing source of controversy in JP is the decaying Casey Overpass and the decision to replace it with an at-grade surface street network. The Casey Overpass carries Route 203/Arborway over Washington and New Washington Streets.

In an Oct. 18 interview at the Gazette office, Connolly said that he does “not think the state is serious about a bridge option” and said he wants to make sure that the community’s voice is put first. But he voiced general support for the existing plan.

“I think Representative Walsh has sounded out clearly for a bridge,” said Connolly. “I like the at-grade solution overall. I think we have to make the at-grade work.”

But Walsh did not specify his preference during an Oct. 20 phone interview, saying instead that “it doesn’t matter what I favor.” He said he is a “process type of person” and that the state transportation department, which is overseeing the project, has ensured him that it has been “a very strong and long process.”

Walsh said he understands there are “very strong passions on both sides of the aisle.” He also said he would “not be afraid to get involved” as mayor if the process was not thorough, as critics—including Walsh supporter state Rep. Liz Malia—have complained.

A spokesperson later clarified that Walsh does not want to stop the project or restart its process, but that “community questions need to be answers” on such issues as funding.

The JPNC has a lawsuit against the City and Boston Residential Group, attempting to stop the redevelopment of 161 S. Huntington Avenue. In the lawsuit, JPNC claims to be a government body.

Walsh said he knows about the lawsuit and that JPNC feels that it was not listened to. But, he said, he does not know the specifics of the case. Noting that he is a former president of a civic association, he said that he views JPNC as a City partner and liaison. He said civic associations are important and he is “very supportive of them.”

But, Walsh said, he “does not necessarily think they are a government body.”

Connolly also said he is familiar with the basics of the lawsuit, but whether JPNC is a government body, he said, he will leave up to the legal process. He said that JPNC plays a “key role” in the development process.

“I just want to make sure that every neighborhood has a community process where it encourages heavy civic involvement and dialogue,” said Connolly.

The two candidates expressed a strong desire to win the JP vote, but both will have work to do. Connolly notched third place in the JP vote in the preliminary election with 13 percent of the votes, while Walsh was fifth, garnering 8 percent.

“I think it is vital,” Connolly said about the JP vote to his winning strategy. “Jamaica Plain is a progressive bellwether for the city.”

He said he needs to get out in the neighborhood to make the case he is the leader who can make the “tough decisions” and talk about his progressive vision for the city, including closing the equity gap and creating affordable housing.

Walsh said in a phone interview on Oct. 21 that he is “working extremely hard” to win the JP vote and that the recent endorsement from former rival At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo is “tremendously helpful.” Arroyo, a JP resident, was the neighborhood’s top vote-getter in the preliminary election with 2,468 tallies.

Pointing to the JP support he has, Walsh said he was at his campaign office in Hyde Square—formerly Arroyo’s—for a gathering with about 120 people. He said with two candidates left, JPers will figure out that he has the more progressive record. Walsh also noted that he received the endorsement of former rival Charlotte Golar Richie, who came in second in the JP vote.

Walsh has collected the majority of endorsements from elected officials during the campaign, including several representing Jamaica Plain, such as state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diáz and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano. Walsh said that the endorsements are because “a lot of the [officials] understand and believe in my campaign and that I have the record to back it up.”

When asked why Walsh seemed to be receiving the majority of endorsements from elected officials, Connolly joked, “Seriously? Really? You think so?” But, he said, although Walsh has “gotten a lot of good endorsements,” he is proud of the ones he has received, including from the Bay State Banner, the South End News and JP resident Ian Bowles, former state secretary of energy and environmental affairs.

“I think that endorsements matter, but I don’t think they ultimately determine [an] election,” said Connolly.

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