Candidates envision a hipper Boston, with blossoming arts scene

Is Soundgarden better than The Smiths? Does graffiti art have a place in Boston? What are the musical merits of hip hop?

Four of the 12 candidates running for mayor, who have spent weeks discussing sober topics like crime and overhauling the school system, confronted these and other topics Thursday during a forum that focused on the arts.

During the hour-long forum, radio station owner Charles Clemons and city councilors Michael P. Ross, John Connolly, and Rob Consalvo seemed relaxed, joking easily as they debated how to make the city hipper and friendlier to musicians and artists.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“Sometime I feel we’re in the movie ‘Footloose,’ ” quipped Ross, 41, referring to the 1984 Kevin Bacon film about a town whose elected officials refused to let the high school kids dance.

Promoters have to wait too long to secure permits for art and music shows, and the city resists too fiercely requests to hold concerts for people 18 years and older, Ross said. Such a strict policy drives many to hold illegal musical shows in their basements, which the police then crack down on, he said.

Connolly, who is 40, agreed, saying police do not want to spend their time trolling social media websites looking to find out where the next impromptu concert is going to be.

He crowed about the work being done at Bartlett Yard, a temporary art and music space in Roxbury at the Bartlett Bus Yard that graffiti artists have covered in murals. Connolly noted that organizers have said they went through a cumbersome process at City Hall which required they obtain several permits from multiple agencies.

“We need to be customer friendly,” he said.

All four candidates agreed that nightclubs should be allowed to stay open longer and that the hours the MBTA operates within the city should be extended. Consalvo, however, warned that there should not be a blanket policy on extending nightclub hours throughout the city, because some neighborhoods could have a difficult time adapting to the change.

Consalvo, 44, who claimed to be a break-dancer in the 1980s, said the next mayor should be creative about where musical acts can perform, noting there are several venues in Hyde Park, which is part of his district.

But, he said, as mayor he would welcome his favorite band, The Smiths, the English indie rock quartet, to reunite at City Hall and perform.

His eyes lit up when Connolly said as a college student he loved alternative music.

“What’s your favorite Smiths song?” he asked.

“I detest new wave, Rob,” Connolly responded. “I’m more of a Soundgarden kind of guy,” referring to the Seattle grunge rockers.

Ross said the city needs to be less timid about inviting hip hop acts, compelling Clemons to interject.

“Mike, let me correct you with love,” Clemons said. “Hip hop is a culture. Rap is the music.”

The candidates were also asked what they would do to keep artists living in Boston, where rents and home prices are increasing.

All of the candidates agreed that the city needs more housing that focuses less on market rates and more on affordable prices for the middle class. Clemons, 52, said that future development also needs to take into account the homeless and the poor.

The candidates were then asked what would be the most difficult challenge as mayor.

“Getting the city [residents] to love and respect each other,” Clemons said.

“Less time with my three children,” said Consalvo.

Connolly, also a father of three, agreed.

Ross, who is single, said: “Maybe starting my process to get three children?”