As candidates scramble for votes in the first wide-open mayoral election in decades, a transformed Boston begins to emerge.
“I’m killing it,” District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo said, taking a break from meeting a gaggle of elderly women at a breakfast event hosted by the mayor’s office at Hyde Park’s Iacono Playground. “These are the events you need to be at to win,” he added. “I’m not missing any of them.” It was not long after Mother’s Day, and in the past week or so, his Twitter feed—“We’re killing it on social media”—had been flooded with pictures of Consalvo flanked by elderly moms, smiling his big chipmunk-cheeked smile.
His strategy, he told me, is to secure his base neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Mattapan, then pick up votes in the rest of the city. It seems like a good plan: Voters in the southwestern neighborhoods are as reliable as they come, even in generally ignored municipal elections. But there’s a hitch. He’ll have to share those voters with Connolly (who lives in West Roxbury) and Conley (the previous District 5 City Council officeholder). That means that all three candidates will have to court voters who don’t traditionally show up as reliably at the polls.
Like Menino, the 44-year-old Consalvo is known for his ubiquity—he’d go to the opening of a Sam Adams bottle—and as a master urban mechanic. Also like Menino, Consalvo has been praised for his attention to detail but criticized for his lack of big-picture vision. Leaving the breakfast and heading back to City Hall that day, he spouted ideas: He wants cops to have portable fingerprint scanners and to outfit more of their cruisers with dash cams. To fight the scourge of tree roots growing into concrete, he has a plan to introduce newfangled rubber sidewalks.
We talked about rubber sidewalks for a long time—there is nothing, it seems, that Rob Consalvo does not know about rubber sidewalks. He went on to tell me how Governing magazine, a treasure trove of such municipal fix-its, is his bible. But when I asked if there’s one big thing he’d like to change about Boston, he stalled out. “That’s a tough question,” he said. “Can I get back to you on that?”
It’s tricky for Consalvo: He’s always been close with the mayor (also a former District 5 city councilor), and any criticism of the city is, in essence, a criticism of Menino’s stewardship. Later, in his office, Consalvo insisted there are differences between him and the mayor, but claimed he didn’t mind the comparison. “The guy’s got an 80 percent approval rating,” he said. “He’s the longest-serving, hardest-working mayor. I hope I am equated with him.”