A Voter’s Guide To Boston’s 2019 City Council Elections
On Tuesday Nov. 5, Boston voters will head to the polls to elect a new class of city councilors. We’ve interviewed each candidate running for a challenged seat and created a voter guide to take a closer look at each competitive race.
WGBH News reporters asked the candidates a series of consistent questions and compiled a summary of the issues each person highlighted as important.
Boston voters will pick four at-large councilors from a field of eight candidates. At-large councilors represent all residents of Boston.
In Districts 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 there are contested elections, with voters choosing between two candidates. In Districts 1, 2, 3 and 6, the incumbents are running unopposed.
Boston voters will also have one ballot question about renaming Roxbury’s Dudley Square to Nubian Square.
Find out what district you live in here.
Each Boston voter can select four at-large candidates on their ballot. They are listed here alphabetically.
The longest-serving current member of Boston’s City Council, Flaherty served as an at-large councilor from 1999 to 2009 and again from 2013 to the present. A South Boston native, Flaherty says his top priorities are housing affordability, responsible development and safer streets in Boston neighborhoods.
A Top Priority
Flaherty was a longtime proponent of the city adopting the Community Preservation Act and now chairs the council committee that helps decide how those funds — earmarked for historic preservation, green space and affordable housing — are allocated throughout the city.
The funds raised by the passage of the CPA in 2016 are now being made available. Flaherty said he looks forward to playing a lead role in seeing the money allocated toward the city’s greatest needs.
“It’s the creation of affordable housing, senior housing and veteran housing. It’s the protection and preservation of green space, the revitalization of parks and ballfields as well as refurbishing our historic monuments and memorials,” Flaherty said. “It’s pretty exciting stuff.”
- Flaherty wants to see more Boston students attending the area’s prestigious colleges and universities. He proposes a “Year 13” program in which local four-year colleges and universities admit Boston high school students for advanced courses; to prepare, students would take SAT and advanced-level preparatory classes in high school.
- On housing, Flaherty said he wants to make sure that future major development projects are better-planned, and points to the Seaport as an example of city planning gone bad. He said the city’s 13% Inclusionary Development Policy — or affordable housing requirement — should probably be higher in certain cases, but cautioned against a blanket raising of that number, noting that the requirement currently applies only to developments of 10 units or more. It might make more sense, he said, to apply the same requirement to smaller projects.
- Flaherty was a proponent of lowering the city speed limit and has chaired council hearings on safer streets. He supports protected bike lanes and wants to see traffic signals better timed to protect pedestrians — especially seniors. He has also floated the idea of a water taxi or “gondola” to take commuters from South Station to the South Boston Waterfront.
- Flaherty supports a return to a fully-elected Boston School Committee.
- He said he does not support supervised injection sites in Boston and cites a relative who suffered from opioid addiction as a reason he believes the sites would encourage dangerous drug use and would not help people suffering from addiction move toward recovery.
A Boston native, Flaherty grew up in public housing in South Boston. He attended Boston College High School, followed by Boston College and then Boston University Law School, while working as a teamster for Boston Teamsters Local 25 union. He went on to work as an assistant district attorney for the Suffolk County district attorney.
He has four children, all of whom attended Boston Public Schools. Flaherty was first elected as an at-large member of the city council in 1999 and served until 2009, when he left his seat to run for mayor of Boston. He returned to the council in 2013.
More information is available at Flaherty’s campaign website.
Althea Garrison has served approximately one year as an at-large member of Boston’s City Council, taking the seat vacated by former council member and current Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley. A self-described conservative on the council, Garrison’s top issues are senior housing, fiscal responsibility and enforcement of Boston’s laws.
A Top Priority
Garrison said her top priority is bringing rent control back to Boston, specifically to help seniors stay in their homes.
“Senior citizens are being priced out of their neighborhoods,” Garrison said. “I want to be there to fight for them and make sure they’re not thrown out on the streets.”
Garrison has filed a home rule petition to establish rent control in Boston. She is also concerned about making sure senior citizens who live in subsidized housing are safe from crime and violence. She will also advocate for more senior-only housing.
- Garrison said she sees one of her most important jobs as protecting the taxpayers’ dollars.
- She said she supports the aggressive enforcement of the city’s laws and thinks there should be more enforcement when it comes to drug use specifically. “We can’t have laws on the books we don’t enforce,” Garrison said in reference to areas of the city where public drug use is more prevalent.
- On education, Garrison said she believes testing is important and does not support calls for less testing in Boston Public Schools. Garrison favors moving toward a fully-elected Boston School Committee.
Born in Georgia, Garrison worked as a state employee in Massachusetts in various capacities for 34 years. She served one term as a Massachusetts state representative, from 1993 to 1995, and has run as a candidate for Boston City Council more than a dozen times before, coming in fifth place for the council’s four at-large seats in 2017. Garrison describes herself as the “only conservative on the council” and “a proud black American.”
Garrison does not have a campaign website.
Essaibi-George is a second-term Boston City Councilor. A former high school teacher, she lives in Dorchester and said her two major priorities are education and family homelessness.
A Top Priority
Essaibi-George said one of the city’s most important roles is to create high-quality educational opportunities for Boston’s youth. She said, right now, a lot of the students face challenges and are dealing with trauma.
“I like to think the way I approach my work is with broad brush policy strokes, but in the weeds on issues that affect our students,” said Essaibi-George.
She said in another term, she would like to allocate more funding towards supporting the 4,500 Boston students experiencing homelessness. Essaibi-George said she led the charge on getting full-time nurses in every school and her next goal is to get full-time behavioral health and mental health specialists in all schools. “I think those are some of the key missing links when we think about how we help our students succeed,” she said.
She wants the Boston School Committee to continue to be appointed. However, she thinks the mayor should appoint some of the members and the city council should appoint others through a public process.
- Essaibi-George said one of her goals is to create and implement a plan to end family homelessness in the city and the region, but in her interview with WGBH News did not offer details about the plan.
- She said she would like to require developers to designate a certain amount of retail space for small, locally-owned businesses.
- She would like to create a Mental Health Commission charged with ensuring all Bostonians have access to mental health services, including for lonely elderly residents and immigrants who live in fear.
Raised in Dorchester, Essaibi-George is the daughter of two immigrants. Her Polish, Catholic mother was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany after World War II. Her Tunisian, Muslim father came from North Africa to Boston in his early 20s. She said both her parents were very focused on ensuring their children got a good education.
Essaibi-George spent 13 years as a social studies and electives high school teacher for the Boston Public Schools. Reflecting on her two terms as a city councilor and her time as a teacher, she said, “I often say that the skill set is very similar: It’s managing relationships and sometimes in meetings making sure that two people don’t sit next to each other or should sit next to one another because they could be helpful to one another.” But, she said, being a councilor is, in many ways, easier than being a teacher.
She also owns a small business, a knitting and sewing store called Stitch House Dorchester.
More information is available at Essaibi-George’s campaign website.
Halbert has lived in Boston for the past 15 years, and has worked in public service in various capacities for most of that time. Halbert said his priorities are making city government more accessible and accountable, and bringing more representation of minority communities and issues to the council.
A Top Priority
“My number one issue is: How do we bring the decision-making processes and engagement with City Hall closer to communities? How do we empower our communities and give them more agency in the overall direction of our city?” Halbert said.
Halbert said he would push to hold regular council meetings in communities around the city and in the evening to encourage public participation and engagement. He said he wants to reinstate an audit committee on the council tasked specifically with auditing how city dollars are spent. And, he said, he would create a “Budget 101” program for city residents to make Boston’s annual budget and budget-making process more transparent.
- Halbert said he will work to end disparities in who gets into Boston’s elite exam schools by pushing to align those schools’ entrance criteria and the BPS district-wide curricula for all students. He also wants to establish a “co-op” program in which city agencies partner with high schools to provide job training and opportunities in city government for students who wish to pursue those careers.
- Halbert wants to change how the city collects Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes, or PILOT payments, from major nonprofits like universities and hospitals that don’t pay property taxes. He said he would create incentives in which those institutions are credited for spending their dollars on local businesses.
- Halbert supports raising the IDP requirement and a proposal by City Councilor Lydia Edwards to revamp the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal.
- He said he supports the idea of supervised injection sites in Boston, especially because they could reduce the number of discarded needles in public areas.
Halbert lives in Dorchester with his wife and two daughters, the older of whom is a BPS student. He has a degree in public policy from Northeastern University and has worked as an aide to former Gov. Deval Patrick and to former Boston City Councilor Sam Yoon, as well as in the nonprofit sector. Most recently, he was deputy director of community affairs for the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office; he left that job to run for office. Halbert noted that if elected, he would be the first African-American man directly elected to a citywide seat in more than three decades.
More information is available at Halbert’s campaign website.
Mejia is a first-time candidate who lives in Dorchester and is originally from the Dominican Republic. She said her top priorities are education and housing.
A Top Priority
Mejia said access to affordable housing is key to breaking the cycle of poverty that many Boston families find themselves trapped in. She pointed to the fact that 4,500 Boston school children are experiencing homelessness. Mejia said she’ll advocate for the state and federal government to start using a hyper-local definition of affordable housing rather than the current system that includes wealthier neighboring towns in calculating Boston’s Area Median Income.
Right now, Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy requires 13% of new units in larger developments be affordable. Some candidates have pushed for that number to be closer to 20 percent, but Mejia is advocating for 50 percent of all new units to be affordable. “I tend to be a little more aggressive,” she said. “If we ask for 50, we might get 30.”
- Mejia would like to see the Boston School Committee become elected, rather than appointed. She said this is the best way to make sure parents and students have a seat at the table.
- Mejia said the first thing she’d do if elected is make city council hearings more accessible, holding them in the evenings and throughout the city as well as offering daycare and translation services during the hearings.
- She said she worries that low-income neighborhoods will be the hardest hit by climate change, since there’s minimal green space and a lot of traffic pollution. She said for people who feel disconnected from discussions about climate change, she’d help connect them to the bigger conversation and inform them about how it’s relevant.
At the age of 5, Mejia moved to Boston from the Dominican Republic. She said she quickly became the unofficial translator for her block in Dorchester, accompanying her mother and her neighbors to their doctor’s appointments and to the welfare office.
She used to work for MTV, covering the presidential election in 2000. Since then, she’s worked for and run nonprofits aimed at making politics more accessible and making parents more involved in their children’s schools. She lives in Dorchester and is a single mom. If elected, Mejia would be the first Latina elected to the council.
“I feel like every day I am dodging my own bullets, and I think a very different perspective to these issues is the missing link in city government,” said Mejia.
More information is available at Mejia ’s campaign website.
Murphy has been a Boston Public Schools teacher for over 23 years, mostly teaching kindergarten. Born and raised in Dorchester, she is active in various neighborhood organizations and charities. Her top issues are public and vocational education and the city’s role in helping people recovering from substance addiction.
A Top Priority
Murphy said that the uneven quality of Boston’s schools leaves too many families behind, and she believes more families should have access to the quality of education provided by the city’s prestigious exam schools. She wants to see more funding for vocational education for families that want that option.
“We need to recommit to the vocational [programs] at Madison Park High School,” Murphy said. “College is not the option for everyone.”
She said that while having one nurse in every school is a step forward, schools need staff members trained in what she calls trauma-informed counseling to better serve students experiencing homelessness or other difficulties at home.
- Murphy has had personal experience with addiction in her family and supports the city’s efforts to re-establish a treatment center on Long Island. She also thinks schools can play an important role in preventing addiction through outreach, support and jobs programs for children. Murphy does not support supervised injection sites in Boston.
- As a renter herself, Murphy says she understands the struggle of the many Bostonians who rent. Murphy says she’s open to raising the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy requirement, which currently compels developers to make 13 percent of new units affordable, but doesn’t believe that would solve the city’s affordability crisis. She wants to see other creative solutions, like expanding a middle-income affordable housing lottery program and expanding city-backed loans to help would-be homeowners.
- She wants to see a municipal oversight panel for the MBTA and supports the idea of “road diets,” which would reduce traffic on streets known for speeding or other roadway dangers.
Murphy says her life has been defined by overcoming adversity. A young mother, Murphy spent 10 years earning a degree in education from Umass Amherst while working and raising her children. She has a son who struggled with addiction and says that experience has informed her desire to run for office. Murphy received the James F. Gavin Award in 2015 for her fundraising efforts for the Dorchester-based recovery center, and in 2016 was a winner of the mayor’s EXTRAordinary Woman Campaign for women in public service.
More information is available at Murphy’s campaign website.
ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN
St. Guillen has worked as a public school teacher in New York and in the nonprofit and public sectors in Boston, where her work focused on immigrant rights and Latino voter access and engagement. She left the city of Boston’s Office of Immigrant Advancement to run for city council. The issues most central to her campaign are advocating for immigrant students in Boston schools, affordable housing and equity in transit services.
A Top Priority
As a former teacher and immigrant advocate, St. Guillen wants to work to end what she calls the “school to deportation pipeline,” in which reports by Boston school police officers can be used by federal immigration officials to justify deportation proceedings.
“The criminalization of young men of color in general is an issue. When this is happening to young men who are not citizens, it can have dire consequences,” she said.
- On housing St. Guillen supports a proposal by City Councilor Lydia Edwards to impose a fee of up to 6% on sales of property of over $2 million by non-occupant owners, as well as City Councilor Michelle Wu’s call to shut down the city’s redevelopment authority and overhaul how the city does planning. St. Guillen supports the idea of a city rent control program.
- She thinks Boston should have a designated representative on the MBTA’s board, but also thinks officials can do more with city-owned streets, including bus rapid transit, more and better bike lanes, and initiatives like low-cost car sharing programs.
- St. Guillen thinks Boston can put more funding into its public schools, and wants to see a social worker in every school and investments in a stronger vocational education. “Being a center of technology, with all the universities around us, we should have a state-of-the-art vocational school,” she said.
A native of Mission Hill and the daughter of an immigrant father from Venezuela, St. Guillen taught in public schools in New York and Boston before turning to work in the nonprofit and public sectors. She served as the director of ¿Oíste?, a Latino civic education and advocacy organization and more recently as director of Boston’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, which post she left to run for office. She lives in West Roxbury with her wife and son. If elected, St. Guillen would be the first Latina and the first openly gay woman elected to Boston City Council.
More information is available at St. Guillen’s campaign website.
Wu has served three terms on Boston’s City Council, including one as president. She lives in Roslindale and said her three big picture issues are climate change, income inequality and racial disparity.
A Top Priority
“Boston is a city of incredible resources, but not everyone is sharing in that prosperity and opportunity,” said Wu. “And the foundation for much of that inequity, I believe, lies in how we think about planning and development.”
Right now, Wu said, the city operates through a process of special approvals and exceptions that further empowers the most privileged.
Wu proposed abolishing the Boston Planning and Development Agency, which she said operates with insufficient oversight. Instead, she has called for the re-establishment of a City of Boston Planning Board to oversee a detailed citywide master plan. She said this would enable the city to make progress on addressing climate change, traffic and congestion as well as housing prices and affordability.
- Wu said Boston should only permit new buildings that meet the climate action plan’s goals: “We should not be allowing buildings that we know will need to be retrofitted in the near future,” she said.
- She argued the city should be more proactive about traffic safety. She said any time a street gets repaved or somehow redone, there should be design updates such bike lanes, curb extensions or stop signs.
- Wu said she does not support moving to an elected Boston School Committee, given how politics and finances could impact campaigning. However, she said, she does thinks changes need to be made, including possibly having certain organizations appoint members.
Born to Taiwanese immigrants, Wu grew up in the Chicago area. She came to Boston as an undergraduate at Harvard University but, soon after graduating, her mother began struggling with acute mental health issues and Wu returned to the Chicago area. Becoming the caretaker for her mother and younger siblings, Wu ended up moving everyone to Boston.
At Harvard Law School, Wu studied under Elizabeth Warren and started working for Mayor Thomas Menino, creating a guide for restaurant permitting in the city. When Wu was first elected to Boston City Council in 2013 at the age of 28, she became the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council.
More information is available at Wu’s campaign website.
Correction: This article previously stated Michelle Wu was the first Asian-American on Boston City Council. She was in fact the first Asian-American woman to serve on the council.
Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain
Campbell is in her second term as a district councilor, and currently serves as Boston City Council president. She said if she had to pick one top issue, it would be education.
A Top Priority
Campbell argued that a good school is a critical force in a young person’s life and can be a key stabilizing force in a community. However, she said, not all Boston children have access to high-quality schools, and many parents in District 4 feel disconnected from Boston Public Schools’ central office.
“I have taken on education as a significant issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that every student and family has access to a good education because we don’t need more reports to determine how important and essential that is,” Campbell said.
She said she would push the city to do a better job at identifying inequities in the school system, breaking down the data by race and neighborhood. She argued it’s important to give more control to individual schools so they can serve their specific population. She would also like to see more public information around how all the city’s schools are rated and more resources for young children. She’d like to see pre-K not just focus on 4- and 5-year-olds, but on all children from birth to age 5.
- Campbell said she thinks the Boston School Committee should work without interference from the mayor. However, she has not taken a stance on whether it should be elected, appointed or a hybrid model.
- Campbell has proposed selling city-owned, vacant lots in District 4 to developers who lay out a community-focused project, such as building affordable housing. She said reducing the number of blighted properties will also help address public safety issues.
- She said she was instrumental in the creation of the Positive Youth Development Fund, which supports things like youth mentoring and after school programming. She said she’ll keep working to increase the size of the fund.
Campbell and her siblings lost their mother at a young age and spent time in foster care before their father was released from prison when Campbell was 8 years old. She attended five different Boston Public Schools before going to Princeton University and UCLA Law School. However, she said, her twin brother, Andre, cycled in and out of the criminal justice system and passed away while a pre-trial detainee. He was 29 and died without sufficient treatment for an autoimmune disease.
“I decided to run for office asking one question: How do two twins, born and raised in the city of Boston, have such different life outcomes?” said Campbell. “That is the question that frames the work that I do everyday and the issues that I focus on.”
Before becoming a councilor, Campbell started her legal career representing students and their parents in education cases for free. She also worked as deputy legal counsel for Gov. Deval Patrick. She is the first African-American woman to serve as Boston City Council President.
More information is available at Campbell’s campaign website.
A lifelong resident of Boston, Durham is a first-time candidate. He said his main concern is the quality of life of residents.
A Top Priority
Durham said that within District 4, there is a large discrepancy in the experiences of residents, with some who are wealthy and others who are struggling with things like boarded up stores and a high incident of drug addiction. He said he would like to create a mobile app for the district so that residents can find information about how to join the neighborhood association and when trash is collected.
“I believe with a District 4 app, everybody who is a registered voter will get notifications. So there we can build our village,” said Durham.
Durham also said he would like to see a nursing home built in the district as well as an increase in the number of halfway houses. Also, he said, it’s important to do youth outreach since many of the residents engaged in neighborhood associations and other communities are older.
- Durham said he would push for the creation of a 1% real estate tax on colleges and universities. He said he would put the money toward buying an iPad for every BPS student and technology for BPS teachers.
- He would like to see the minimum wage increased immediately. “It’s on target to hit 15 [dollars an hour] eventually, but why wait?” said Durham. “Will it hurt some mom’s and dad’s shops? It may put a damper. We’ll have to find a way to generate that additional income.”
- Durham said he strongly disagrees with allowing supervised injection sites in Boston because the drugs are illegal.
Durham, who grew up in what was then Roxbury but is now Dorchester, said his birth mother suffered with heroin addiction and he entered foster care at a young age. He was adopted by a couple that took in numerous foster care children. Durham said he was acutely aware of safety concerns growing up and witnessed violence in his neighborhood as a child.
Durham previously worked for Lean Enterprise Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit that helps organizations become more efficient by streamlining their processes. He said his work focused on consulting for manufacturing companies. However, after years of traveling nationally and internationally, he said he left his job in order to spend more time with his family in Boston, deal with health problems and become more active in his community.
More information is available at Durham’s campaign website.
Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan
Councilor Tim McCarthy is not seeking reelection.
Arroyo lives in Hyde Park and worked as a public defender until running for city council. Arroyo said his campaign is focused on income and wealth inequality in Boston, and expanding home ownership opportunities for minority and low-income communities.
A Top Issue
“One of the bigger issues for the district happens to be one of the bigger issues for the city — that’s income inequality, and what that means for working-class groups and when it comes down to gender and racial inequalities,” he said.
Arroyo cited studies showing great disparities by race in net wealth among Boston residents, and said that much of that disparity comes down to the difficulty low-income and minority communities have had in purchasing homes in the city.
He said he would advocate for city policies that discourage property speculation and make home ownership more achievable for low-income and minority communities. He pointed out that rent payments are often more expensive for families than mortgage payments and called for the expansion of city-funded loans and grants for home ownership.
- Arroyo supports a proposal by City Councilor Matt O’Malley to tax vacant storefronts and rental units; he would push to expand such a tax to vacant residential units owned by absentee or investor owners. He supports raising the city’s affordable housing requirements for larger developments where feasible.
- On transportation, Arroyo said District 5 is one of the most poorly served districts in terms of public transportation, noting that much of the area is served only by buses. He would push for bus lanes on the busiest corridors. He also noted that District 5 residents who use the MBTA’s commuter rail have to pay a surcharge for boarding in a different zone and said he would push for the lowest fare for residents commuting within the city.
- On education, Arroyo said he supports many elements of a new school funding formula coming out of the state legislature, but said the state and Boston need to do more to fully fund bilingual education programs for immigrant students.
- Arroyo said he wants to see more alternatives to incarceration or other criminal penalties for older defendants, who he said are often not served by the kinds of diversion programs targeted toward younger defendants. He would support supervised injection sites in Boston.
Born and raised in Hyde Park and educated in the Boston Public Schools, Arroyo left Boston to study law, obtaining a J.D. from Loyola University. He returned to Boston to work as a public defender in Suffolk and Essex Counties. Both his father, Felix D. Arroyo, and his brother, Felix G. Arroyo, served on Boston’s City Council as at-large members.
More information is available at Arroyo’s campaign website.
MARIA ESDALE FARRELL
Farrell is a first-time candidate who has worked in Boston City Councilor Tim McCarthy’s office as an education advisor for the past five years. She said development is a top issue.
A Top Priority
Farrell said the biggest thing facing District 5 is all the development that’s happening. “A lot of people are afraid of losing the characteristics of the communities that they love,” she said.
However, she said, each of the four communities — Hyde Park, Readville, Mattapan and Roslindale — has a different feeling about the changes. She said the key is to understand each community individually.
She said she has ideas about how to look at zoning differently, including respecting the zoning that’s in place while also making changes. She did not elaborate, but said her goal is for zoning “not [to be] something that upsets people so quickly.”
Farrell also suggested putting planning and development teams in place to make sure there’s a group demanding things from developers and making sure they follow through.
- Farrell would like to rethink how schools are funded. She disagrees with the weighted student formula in which funds are distributed based on the demographics of the students in a given school. “It may be the most equitable way to distribute funds, but I don’t believe it is working well. I would like to investigate that,” said Farrell.
- She would like to see foreign language in all BPS schools starting in kindergarten. Farrell said her children in BPS did not get the chance to study a foreign language until they were in high school.
- Farrell said she “absolutely does not support” supervised injection sites. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to perpetuate a habit that is going to kill them. It’s illegal for a reason,” she said.
Farrell is a lifelong resident of Hyde Park. She said she’s a first-generation American on her mother’s side and second-generation on her father’s side. She said, as a child, she witnessed how busing tore Boston apart. “I found myself losing most of the friends and family that lived around us,” she said.
She said when she sent her children to BPS, she was disappointed and decided to get involved. “It just wasn’t the experience I wanted for them,” Farrell said. “I spent my life coaching, building sports programs — youth programs, girl scouts, cub scouts, hockey, football. Anything I could do to bring [the] community together.”
Farrell has also worked on constituent services for Boston City Councilor Tim McCarthy, in addition to serving as his office’s education advisor for the past five years.
More information is available at Farrell’s campaign website.
Roxbury, South End, Dorchester, Fenway
Janey has served one term as a district councilor for Boston. She said her top three priorities are education, economic inequality and affordable housing.
A Top Priority
Janey said that by every measure, the city of Boston is thriving, but residents of color are being left out of the economic boom. She called the wealth gap shameless and said that city government can and should do more to ensure black and brown residents are able to benefit from the city’s growth.
Janey proposed addressing this problem partially by changing how the city spends money on goods and services. She suggested breaking up large city contracts into smaller ones so that small, local businesses can compete for them or requiring large contractors to subcontract with local companies.
- Janey is pushing for a fee on the sale of luxury units that go for more than $2 million. She said that revenue would go to creating more affordable housing.
- Janey would like to see Boston’s School Committee become a hybrid with some members being appointed by the mayor and some being elected.
- She said in the emerging cannabis industry, she wants communities that were victims in the war on drugs to be able to benefit; she has proposed legislation that would support small business development in communities that have been impacted. “I want to make sure that those who have been locked up through a focused war on drugs, are not locked out of a billion dollar industry,” Janey said.
Raised in Roxbury, Janey’s family has been in Boston for generations. She said growing up, she saw firsthand the inequities of Boston through the city’s schools. Her first school was a private community school founded by black leaders because they felt Boston Public Schools were failing black kids. Later, Janey went to BPS and was bused during desegregation.
“Our buses needed police escorts on a regular basis,” said Janey. “There were big mobs of adults and their children screaming racial slurs and throwing rocks at our buses. All of that I experienced as an 11-year-old and 12-year-old girl.”
Eventually, Janey became a METCO student, going back and forth to school in Reading. Before Janey was elected to the city council last term, she spent 17 years working for the nonprofit Massachusetts Advocates for Children. She said she led their education policy work, including helping formulate BPS’s plan for closing the opportunity and achievement gap.
More information is available at Janey’s campaign website.
Owens has not held elected office before and he is the only candidate not accepting any donations or making any expenditures in connection with his campaign. He said the biggest issue is death within the African-American community.
A Top Priority
Owens said the biggest thing that faces District 7 is death. He said African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and incarceration.
Owens proposed that every church provide open access to the Internet for young people who are homeschooled. He envisions young people forming small groups and creating youth programming. He said his hope is that churches instill “moral values — respect for the elders, respect for the family” in the younger generation.
- Owens said he would like to see churches run prisons because, he believes, it will reduce the recidivism rate.
- Owens said he is distressed to see a reduction in the amount of housing for poor residents of Boston. He called it “stealing.”
- In order to address climate change, Owens would like to reduce the number of stop lights in his district and the amount of time cars spend idling. He said more affluent areas often have walk signs that are activated by a button only when a pedestrian is present and would like to see more of those in District 7.
Owens moved from Texas to Boston to attend Boston State College, which has since merged with UMass Boston. He stayed in the area and said he became a correctional officer and a social worker before becoming a teacher and football coach. He is now a minister.
“I really didn’t want to run,” said Owens. However, he said that whenever he’s helped others get into office, they never follow through with their promises. “They always tell people they believe in God … but when they get in there, they vote against the very spirituals.”
Owens added that “God invented voting,” and it dates back to the Garden of Eden.
Owens has filed paperwork with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance declaring his intent not to accept any contributions or make any expenditures in connection with his city council campaign.
More information is available at Owens’ campaign website.
Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway-Kenmore, Mission Hill, West End
Councilor Josh Zakim is not seeking reelection.
PRISCILLA KENZIE BOK
Bok has served as a budget director for At-Large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George and as policy and planning director for the Boston Housing Authority. Bok’s top campaign issues are affordability of living, public infrastructure investment and city transportation initiatives.
A Top Issue
“Affordability for the city at every income level – that’s number one,” Bok said. “The reason I’m running is I really started to see … the city being more and more a place you can’t live in unless you have a lot of money. That’s not reflective of the wide diversity of people who built the city and who rely on it for opportunity and community.”
Bok points to a number of ways to tackle housing affordability, including raising the city’s Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) — which currently compels developers to make 13 percent of new units affordable — but also issues of special importance to the 8th District, like cracking down on illegal short-term rental units.
Bok also advocates adopting higher thresholds for what is considered “affordable” in city policy and requiring that developers build more affordable units into market-rate developments rather than off-site, a practice she says contributes to housing and income segregation.
- Bok wants to invest more in the district’s public infrastructure, including its parks and greenways. A lead proponent and organizer to pass the Community Preservation Act in 2016, Bok wants to capitalize on the funds that program has raised to put toward affordable housing and public infrastructure.
- On transportation, Bok wants to take a more proactive approach to planning for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to achieve the city’s “Vision Zero” goal of eliminating traffic-related deaths and serious injuries. She would push for the long-proposed “Red Blue Connector,” which would allow MBTA riders to switch between the Red and Blue Lines easily and could, Bok says, convince a new group of commuters to take the T rather than drive.
- Bok said her district, which borders the Charles River, is prone to flooding and supports more stringent requirements for developments on or near waterfronts to be able to help mitigate impact from climate change.
A lifelong Bostonian who grew up in Bay Village, Bok was a lead proponent of the 2016 Community Preservation Act, which raises funds for affordable housing, the preservation of historic buildings and green space via a 1% property tax surcharge.
More information is available at Bok’s campaign website.
Nassour is an attorney who has worked in the nonprofit sector, public service, and as a chair of the Massachusetts GOP. Her biggest issues are reducing trash in the district, making streets safer for pedestrians and providing more addiction treatment services.
A Top Priority
Nassour said she was motivated to run in part because of what she sees as a disconnect between residents of the 8th District and Boston city government.
“City Hall seems not to care for the quality of life we have despite the fact that we pay a lot of taxes,” Nassour said.
Nassour said she would focus on improving city services she says have been lacking in the district, including trash collection and street cleaning, rodent control and snow removal. She would also push for improvements to pedestrian safety.
- Nassour said pedestrian safety is a priority, pointing to what she called poorly timed traffic lights and intersections that allow vehicles to turn while pedestrians are in crosswalks. She would push for better planning around traffic signals and road design and would explore enforcement tools like traffic cameras to fine drivers who block intersections.
- On housing, Nassour does not support increasing the city’s affordable housing requirements. She said Boston is already unfairly bearing the brunt of affordable housing creation over suburban communities. She wants the city to push harder on universities and hospitals when it comes to its Payments-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) program.
- Nassour said the 8th District has been disserved by not having its own public school and would push for solutions like “micro schools” in developments going up. She said the city has not lived up to its promises on pre-kindergarten education, and she would push for more Pre-K seats faster.
Nassour grew up in New York, and has worked in politics and public policy since she was a teenager. She earned a degree in political science from SUNY Stony Brook University, put herself through law school at St. John’s University School of Law, and moved to Boston in 2000.
She has worked for the Worcester District Attorney’s Office, served as chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, and founded and directed a nonprofit, Conservative Women for a Better Future, aimed at getting more women elected in Massachusetts and the Northeast. Nassour is the COO of ReflectUS, a nonpartisan organization also aimed at increasing the number of women elected to office.
More information at Nassour’s campaign website.
Councilor Mark Ciommo is not seeking reelection.
A longtime community activist and first-time city council candidate, Breadon said the biggest issue in Allston-Brighton is the scale of development and ensuring it serves the local residents.
A Top Priority
Breadon said Allston-Brighton is at a critical juncture with a building boom that’s redefining the neighborhood. She said developers have been able to set the agenda, and they are creating thousands of expensive new units that are out of reach of the people who live and work in the area. Breadon said one of her top priorities is ensuring the wave of development serves the current residents by maintaining an affordable and diverse community.
Breadon supports increasing the percentage of units developers must include as affordable in the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) from 13% to 20%, and increasing the range of prices that constitute as affordable. She said she would push for universities to house more of their students in order to relieve some of the available housing stock. She said she would also work to reduce the number of overseas investors purchasing properties but never living in the area. Breadon said they are using the neighborhood like a “cash machine.”
- Breadon would like to see Boston create a new planning department. “We don’t do planning very well in the city. We just judge each project on its own without looking at the big picture. We desperately need comprehensive planning,” she said.
- Breadon supports changing to an elected School Committee, and she would push for universal pre-K. She said she’d ensure changes impacting Jackson Mann – which houses two schools and a community center in Allston – would be more transparent.
- She said she would push for the early construction of West Station, a planned station that will be located in Allston’s Beacon Park Yard, as well as increasing the number of bike lanes and designated bus lanes.
Growing up on a farm in rural Northern Ireland, Breadon remembers her father campaigning to bring electricity to the area. She was 14 when her father passed away, and she immediately assumed more responsibility for her siblings and the family’s country store. Later, she became a physical therapist and, in 1995, her work brought her to Boston.
For the past 20 years, Breadon has been involved in local, grassroots campaigns including several efforts to preserve buildings slated for closure and turn them into community spaces.
“[I’ve] been involved in many campaigns that have, in fact, been successful in bringing change,” said Breadon. “People know that I show up and speak up.”
She is a founding member of the Brighton Allston Community Coalition, which advocates for more affordable housing. Her campaign for city council has pledged not to accept donations from developers. “I really wanted to focus on having a community-based, locally funded, grassroots campaign,” she said. If elected, Breadon would be the first openly gay woman elected to Boston City Council.
More information Breadon’s campaign website.
Cashman has been a legislative aide on Beacon Hill for 11 years. This is his first time running for elected office. He said the single biggest issue facing Allston-Brighton is affordable housing.
A Top Priority
Cashman said the rising cost of housing and cost of living in the area is negatively impacting the quality of life of local residents and is causing them to leave. He said that while parts of the neighborhood are in need of development, he’d like to see developers required to build more housing that’s affordable for working class families.
He supports increasing the percentage of affordable housing that large developers are required to build. He is calling for the Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) to go from 13% to 20% — “or maybe even a little higher,” he said. He also wants to see affordable housing serve a broader range of incomes. Cashman suggested big developers should be required to pay money into a fund that could be used by local groups to build affordable housing. Finally, he’d like more of the local student population to be housed in affordable on-campus housing, proposing a potential cap on college and university enrollment that is tied to available on-campus beds.
“I am not anti-development. What I would like to see is certainly development that is more affordable — that we’re not just building luxury housing — but also making sure that there is a plan,” said Cashman.
- Cashman would like to stay with an appointed Boston School Committee. However, he said he wants the city council to appoint some of the members in addition to the mayor’s appointees.
- He would like to ensure all 4-year-olds have a pre-K spot and would like to see a move toward universal pre-K for 3-year-olds.
- He said he wants to see West Station — a planned station that will be located in Allston's Beacon Park Yard — happen in the first phase of the I-90 realignment project. He’d also like more raised street crossings in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood.
Cashman was born and raised in Brighton. “It was a great neighborhood to grow up in,” he said. “I had pretty much the typical childhood growing up, going to school and playing sports.”
He remembered being inspired by his grandfathers, who were both part of the Boston Fire Department, his mother, who was an educator, and his father, who was a telephone worker and involved in youth sports.
Working as district director for State Rep. Mike Moran, Cashman said he’s been involved in a variety of neighborhood issues. He handled constituent services, attended local meetings and worked on local legislation. Cashman also serves as president of Allston Brighton Youth Hockey, and he’s active in the local little league.
More information is available at Cashman’s campaign website.