It’s both fair and unfair that John Connolly will always be known as Boston’s almost Mayor. He came very close in the last election (disclaimer: I endorsed him).

Yet over a year later, he’s immersed in his real passion — education. He joined Left Ahead today to talk about his 1647 pilot program to make public school work, one student at a time.

If you want the background, you can keep checking he 1647 website, but it now is nude, with only contact info. You can get the basics of Connolly’s role in a Boston Globe article here. To see the organization that showed Connolly how to do home visits and other family engagement, replete with numerous research documents, check the Flamboyen Foundation here. Flamboyen ran with the home-visit process and perfected it in Puerto Rico and D.C.

After the mayoral race, Connolly wasn’t up for practicing law or running for public office again. Instead, he settled into Chris Gabrieli’s National Center on Time & Learning in Boston in a small space. He’s launched the 1647 pilot program, with a single paid staffer. He’s been working with teachers in a school in Salem as proof of concept locally. They’ll expand there, then on to another gateway city, and eventually to Boston.

Listen in as he speaks of the concept, at once commonsensical and idealistic. At its rawest, it means a teacher arranging with one or both parents to visit the home to find out how the student studies and learn best. Parents are understandably wary at first, thinking the call is because the kid is in trouble. The next reaction is incredulity; no teacher has ever wanted to know how my child learns.

Of course, done well, this process almost invariably leads to such advances as higher grades, better attendance, and parents knowing what to do to help their kids. The investment up front by teachers is big, with bigger benefits.

I asked the obvious, such as do you have to compensate the teachers (yes), are parents, teachers and students suspicious (yes), and does it make much difference if the home has books, internet, educated parents and other resources (not really as that’s not the point of the home-visit process). Instead, listen in as Connolly speaks about the key factor in the per-student relationship, trust.

He gave an example of the adversarial relationship parents typically had with school before the home visits and how that changed. The teachers did have to put out, but the payback was substantial.

.

icon for podpress  John Connolly 1647 [33:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Is Boston Broken?

February 17, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Snow, even lots of it, in New England is not some wacky act of God, on a par with tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves and such. Boston’s inability to clear its streets and the MBTA’s to run its trains, buses and trolleys says bad things about us.

I looked at those and beyond. Let’s recall the inane reactions to the toy LED displays of Mooninites. The other 9 or 10 cities who got a couple of these took ‘em down and went on. We paralyzed roads and waterways. This goes to a silly post-9-11 paranoia that permeates our society even beyond here.

I suggest fixes in several areas, some very hard. Several require both vision and courage of our Mayor and our Governor.

icon for podpress  Is Boston Broken? [28:05m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

John Connolly1647, when Boston opened its first public school, and now 1647 is a nascent organization to change education here. He was the education City Councilor and didn’t give up on it after he lost his race for Mayor. He comes on to explain his theories, methods, aims and results.

If you can listen live, click here on Tuesday, February 24th at 2:30 PM Eastern. You can catch his show anytime afterward at that link, back here at Left Ahead, or on our iTunes page.

Boston City HallSnow is more than a conversation starter in Boston. It’ll be a serious catalyst for fights and changes.

I talk about how our mayor and governor have been forced into facing phalanges primed for battle. Our subways, commuter rail and buses are shut down. I discussed the underlying causes, but the tow bigs will assign blame. We can hope when the political blood dries, we can get to those base causes.

Otherwise, I talked about some of the pending actions and excitement, mostly in city hall. The terrible weather has delayed guest scheduling, but I’ll try to line up some of the most active city councilors — Steve Murphy (BYOB scheme), Josh Zakim (casino referendum for November), and Tit Jackson (commission for Black and Latino men and boys).

If we ever see 32F or higher again, it’ll warm in Boston. Meanwhile, we can be sure the political climate heats up.

icon for podpress  Feb. 2015 Boston Updates [24:08m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Matt O’MalleyA relentless and sincere activist Boston City Councilor, Matt O’Malley keeps his eyes on many prizes. He reaches for and works for them, but never despairs when he can’t grasp one.

He has represented District 6 — West Roxbury, most of Jamaica Plain, and slivers of Roslindale, Mission Hill and Roxbury — for four two-year terms. While young for the job, he earned his way working for or to elect many pols, including Steve Grossman and Tom Menino. He spoke of some of the important lessons. For example, Mayor Menino would see him in City Hall and immediately scold him, saying to get out of the building and go talk to the constituents. He quipped that he judged his success for a weekend when Menino was Mayor by how many times he ran into Tom. If its three or four, he figured he was hitting enough of the right events and locations.

We had a rambling talk, though we never got around to the Pats. Click below to listen to a half hour or so of his views on the Summer Games 2024, casinos, schools and even compost.

O’Malley chairs the Council’s environment committee and is vice chair of its education one. His fingers are in many other pies and he does not hesitate to research a topic and render a judgment. For example, for his main committee, he is proud of having worked with the late Mayor Tom Menino on crafting and passing BERDO, the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. That pioneering act requires the city’s medium and larger buildings to track and report energy use, and then makes those data public.

It’s likely that his counterparts in many cities don’t do much with environmental responsibilities. O’Malley on the other hand drills down also into such quality-of-life matters as making drinking-water filling stations available for seniors, joggers, everyone. Likewise, he’s driving curbside composting and pushing to up rates of single-stream recycling (WR and JP, two of his district’s neighborhoods lead the city).

On the controversial topic of the bid for the 2024 Summer Games, he’s a believer. He sees it as a real opportunity for the city. However, he is detail oriented enough to demand much greater “sunshine’ in making the process going forward to be truly transparent. He doesn’t believe, despite organizer and promoter claims that there won’t be public funds required. He’ll push for candor and specifics.

On another hot topic, casinos, he is close to my skeptical view. He tried unsuccessfully to get Boston’s citizens a vote in the propose Everett one. Listen in to hear how he thought the approval process should have gone.

He now hopes Gov. Charlie Baker will put a hold on all casinos except Springfield’s. He thinks that city stands to get the greatest benefit from one and wants to see it as a test case before other development goes forward.

He calls himself a skeptic “at best” on casinos. He says Mayor Marty Walsh was right to sue over the Everett one. Listen in to hear what he would have liked to have seen in terms of affected municipalities having a say.

In the main, O’Malley is a Walsh supporter. We both knew and respected Menino. We figure Walsh has some on-the-job learning to pick up more of Menino’s savvy. Yet, O’Malley finds the new mayor competent, open and accessible.

This sow has some of some of this, some of that. Expect more of these as I line up other city councilors.

~Mike

icon for podpress  Matt O'Malley: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Popular Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley comes on Tuesday, January 27th. We’ll talk a range of topics from his very positive Environment Committee efforts to the plans for the city schools. We’ll surely get to the Olympics bid and maybe a Patriots’ scandal.

He represents District 6 — West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and slivers of Roslindale and Mission Hill. That makes for a very diverse and demanding set of issues and constituents.

If you can join us live, click here at 2:30 on 1/27. Of course, you can listen to him on demand later at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes channel.

Aaron Leibowitz, NoBostonOlympicsIt’s not showtime yet, but auditions are underway for the big stage of the 2024 Summer Games here in our wee burg of Boston.

Somehow Boston edged our the U.S. competition to become the USOC pick. Now of course, it will go up against numerous cities around the world for the same prize. Or is it a prize after all and not a curse?

Last week I sat in for the unabashed boosters who proclaim the (to them) certain glories of hosting an Olympics games. While clearly skeptical, I tried to put their position forward, the likes of thousands of jobs, huge advances in infrastructure and housing, tens of thousands of new jobs, and all financed privately with no tax dollars. There is another view.

Today Aaron Leibowitz represented No Boston Olympics with that view. It centers from every angle with we don’t know.

NoBostonOlympics leads the public opposition. It starts with the secrecy and obfuscation. Leibowitz notes that the bidding process to this point lunged and plunged ahead in camera. Under the umbrella of Boston 2024, the boosters have gone from we’ll tell and show you nothing, to we won the bid for the U.S., to we’ll surely be transparent…eventually, to we’ll show reporters our bid but they can’t have copies, to we’ll have public meetings around town. Those meetings do have a schedule, which is here, starting next week and then one monthly through September.

I’m not sure Boston Mayor Marty Walsh reads the dictionary the same way as most of us. He has claimed repeatedly that this drive to host the games will be entirely transparent and open. So far that has not at all been the case. Whether opening up the bid and books and process to hoi polloi will turn us too into boosters will only be seen if that happens.

Meanwhile, WBUR stepped in with its own poll of citizens. A bare majority was in favor of having the games here, a third were opposed, but most tellingly, three quarters wanted a public vote, like a referendum, on the matter. Leibowitz noted that in cities seeking games, 70 to 90% of the public normally supported the bid.

NoBostonOlympics cites the invariable massive cost overruns in Olympics going back 60 years or more. Many have pointed to white-elephant stadia and other facilities after what Leibowitz called “a three-week party.” Moreover, Olympics history shows that a lot of public money, paid by taxes, will be required; the Boston 2024 folk and Mayor Walsh swear that we are different and this Olympics would be privately financed.

Leibowitz and I kicked around the billions of preparatory infrastructure improvements. That is a fascinating sales point for pro and con sides. The pro-Olympics folk hold that having to plan and prepare for games would force the Boston area to invest in roads, bridges, housing, mass transit and other permanent public goods. The con folk make it plain that if we need these, we should simply do them without the huge added costs associated with the Olympics.

There are those arguing that we are so clever here that we can show the IOC and the whole world the right way to host games physically and financially. Leibowitz counters that much of the process and costs are out of the host city’s control and responsive to IOC requirements. Those who believe that we in Boston and Massachusetts can avoid the pits into which the other host cities have fallen are simply “naive,” he says.

NoBostonOlympics is also hosting public meetings, with notifications on the mailing list, main site, and Facebook page. At the least, they want that promised transparency. They think a public vote, maybe a ballot referendum next year would make sense. They are also lobbying legislators and city councilors.

Leibowitz said they were getting some good responses already. However, he cited a quote in a Boston Magazine article that so far pols are afraid to be openly anti or even questioning of the Olympics. Until the public is also expressing skepticism, being anti-Olympics may be seen as “unpatriotic.”

~Mike

icon for podpress  No Boston Olympics [24:19m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

hkurdle.jpgBoston really wants to play with the big kids. That’s going to take more than local teams winning national championships. Olympics 2024 or bust! is the cry.

In the first of two parts on Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, I dealt with the pro side as framed by both Boston 2024 and the feasibility study commissioned by Massachusetts. I decided not to ask one of the organizing committee members to join us. Instead, I worked off and summarized their materials.

If you want details of how Boston might be able to pull this off, go to both links above. On the Boston 2024 site, be sure to start with the FAQ. The commission report lays out the challenges in venues, infrastructure, transit, housing and more, with their possible fixes.

Residents of the area are not yet sold on converting Boston’s success in winning the US bid into expectation of becoming the host city over its international competition. The selling has begun in earnest though. Meanwhile, I touch on the major pro side points.

Next week, Aaron Leibowitz of the No Boston Olympics folk joins me with a less sanguine view. If you can catch him live, click here Tuesday, Jan. 20th at 2:30PM Eastern. You can play it on demand later at that link or back here at Left Ahead.

~Mike

icon for podpress  Boston Olympics 1 of 2 [23:51m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

I’ll do two podcasts on Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games. We got the bid to represent the US. Let’s forget for the moment that major foreign cities, some of which have already hosted games, are in the running for the bid. The IOC decides that in 2017 after all the smiles, drinks, gifts (and worse), promises and more change hands.

Bostonians are already clearly divided. This week I’ll chat up the pro positions. I didn’t go for one of the Boston 2024 boosters. They’ve made their pitches, publicly and in camera. I’ll run down the promises without the hucksterism.

If you want to catch it live, click here at 2:30PM Eastern on Tuesday, January 13th.

Next week I’ll bring in a principal of the No Boston Olympics opposition group. Catch that live at 2:30PM on Tuesday, January 20th at this link.

After the shows, they’re available on demand at their live URLs, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes channel.

~Mike

Charlie BakerCharlie Baker trimmed his lumpy physique but not his wishy-washy ways. He did and said enough to win the governorship of MA. Now what?

I look back at an amazing 8-year run by outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick. He wasn’t supposed to win or get re-elected. He was buffeted with the dreadful economy an do-little legislature and big troubles form transportation to health care to education and beyond. He astonished us all. Plus he was a hero for diversity and non-discrimination, including squashing same-sex marriage opponents.

Baker campaigned on vague promises of upgrading nearly everything. Like a stereotypical pol, he sets up strawmen. He’s likely to claim victories over them.

We here love the idealized Republican governor — a necessary balance to a hypothetical lefty juggernaut and the huge dose of New England fiscal conservatism to which we pretend.

I touched on his vague promises and what we are likely to see.

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