The mayoral candidates agree: Boston is in dire need of more nightlife, bars, and restaurants.
But City Councilors Mike Ross and Rob Consalvo, and state Representative Martin Walsh, differ on the best way to bring them to the city.
The exchange today was one of the few points of disagreement during a one-hour Lab Debate held at The Boston Globe between the three candidates. It was the first of three mini-debates being hosted by boston.com.
Consalvo said the best thing the next mayor can do will be to offer tax breaks for restaurants to move to Boston’s most-lacking neighborhoods.
No, Ross countered – earning agreement from Walsh. The biggest component of bringing new businesses to Boston is reforming the permit process.
“You shouldn’t have to call an elected official to get a business open in Boston,” Ross declared. “We’ve got to get out of our own way.”
The candidates also spent the hour discussing affordable housing, expanding nightlife, cutting crime, and improving police diversity in a forum that, like most so far during the mayor’s race, contained much agreement between the competitors.
Even in the small group setting, the candidates largely stuck to their stump scripts.
Ross peppered his responses with anecdotes from his council district. Walsh stressed his work and relationships in the State House.
Consalvo stressed that the next mayor must be willing to adapt the best practices of other major US cities.
“We shouldn’t be turning anything down that could move our city forward,” Consalvo said, before pivoting to one of his most-often used forum lines: “If it’s a good idea and New York is doing it, we should embrace it and not turn it away because we don’t like the Yankees.”
The candidates agreed that there is a need for more diversity in the police force. Earlier today, Ross appeared at a news conference where some minority law enforcement officers called for the resignation of Police Commissioner Ed Davis over diversity issues.
But the bulk of the forum focused on economic development.
One way to encourage that, Walsh said, is to speak with building owners in the downtown area about retrofitting their space to allow for more start-ups and small companies to move into the neighborhood.
“I think the next innovation district is Downtown Crossing,” he declared.
Another point of contention came when the candidates were asked if they would support removing of the city’s ban on happy hours. Walsh, who has made his background as a recovering alcoholic central to his campaign, quickly shot down the idea, with Consalvo agreeing.
Ross, however, offered up a sliver of hope for voters with fingers crossed that half price drinks may soon be on the menu at Boston’s bars and taverns.
“It’s the same law that we had on the books that said you can’t drink on Sundays until noon—that’s crazy!” Ross said. “I think it’s time that we kind of grew up on those issues.”