Mayoral candidates address student issues

by Beacon Staff • October 19, 2005

During a forum held Oct. 12 at Boston University, the two mayoral candidates for the city of Boston fielded questions from students and addressed issues concerning college life within the city, including the extension of bar hours and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) service.

The Mayoral Issues Forum was hosted by the Boston Intercollegiate Government, a group of students from seven area colleges that works to voice student issues in Boston government.

The forum was moderated by 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis and was conducted in a question-and-answer format, with each candidate answering one question at a time.

Current Boston Mayor Tom Menino and opposing candidate City Councilor at-Large Maura Hennigan responded to the queries from about 100 to 200 students in attendance.

In response to a student question about drug use around Boston Common, Menino said his office is dedicated to working on the issue of homeless substance abusers in the area-an issue that has affected the Emerson campus recently. Menino said a key to solving the problem is education.

"Though we have suffered cutbacks in this area, I am working hard to educate students early on about the dangers of substance abuse," he said. "Besides that, I have been recently given a grant and am working on providing more homeless shelters. The key is to get them off the street."

Hennigan focused on the idea that bar hours should be extended to increase revenue and put Boston on par with other cities whose bars close later, but she emphasized that student safety should be taken into account.

"If we extend hours I am worried students will drive drunk to last-call bars," she said. "I want the MBTA to set up a bus system for these bars that will be free of charge to students so that they will not risk getting hurt leaving bars so late at night. I want to meet with students to see how they feel about extending the hours."

Menino, who has been the mayor of Boston for 12 years, said he is against the extension of bar hours. He said Boston has survived until now without 4 a.m. bar closings so, therefore, there is no need to extend the hours.

When asked about those who must return home from work after the subway stops running, however, the mayor expressed interest in reviving the Night Owl service, a late-night MBTA program, to ensure the safety of college students.

Because of the forum's format, the candidates were not allowed to debate the issue.

In statements before and after the question-and-answer period, Hennigan, a city councilor for 20 years, expressed her wish for a more debate-oriented public meeting during the campaign.

"I know tonight you wanted a face-to-face debate," Hennigan said to the audience. "I am not afraid to face Tom Menino, any question from the press or any question from you. I will wait outside after this forum until 5:15 to see if Tom Menino is willing to have a real debate."

Menino did not accept the offer.

Some students in attendance agreed with Hennigan's statement. Samantha King, a senior organizational and political communication major and Student Government Association vice president, said she would have liked to see Menino address more ideas for change within the city.

"It would have been more effective if done in a different format as a debate," said King, who attended the forum. "I do feel that Menino needs to show his vision for Boston instead of just being re-elected because he's done it before."

Menino's office could not be reached for comment at press time.

Some students said they support his new campaign.

"I feel like Menino has done a great job in office and I would re-elect him," said Clark Crowley, a sophomore marketing communications major. "I haven't given much thought to his policy on student issues, but I think he has a great job reaching out to more urban areas like Jamaica Plain and South Boston."

[gallery]