Mayoral candidates answer Mission Hill questions

September 6, 2013
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The Boston mayoral race is rounding the corner and coming down the home stretch. Last month, the Gazette reached out to all 12 candidates to have them answer questions specific to the Mission Hill neighborhood. Candidates Felix Arroyo, John Barros, John Connolly and Mike Ross responded. Here are their emailed answers, which have been edited:

Question: The growing college student population in Mission Hill is an issue with residents. What will you do to address this problem?

Arroyo: I will encourage colleges to increase dorm production and affordability to relieve some of this pressure. I strongly believe our universities should commit to working with the Boston Police Department and the neighborhood associations that exist to help address the concerns of our community.

Barros: There are particular pressures for neighborhoods next to large university populations, like Mission Hill. I would work to create more student housing options that are safe and help meet local demand. I would also work with landlords to ensure housing conditions are safe and meet City regulations.

Connolly: I will direct the Inspectional Services Department to enforce the ordinance that limits four undergraduate students to a single dwelling unit, make sure we enforce a new ordinance that increases fines for loud parties, and establish a housing policy, driven from a thoughtful plan and transparent development process.

Ross: I have successfully forged three problem property groups who provide police details for neighborhoods with high percentages of student housing. Those groups also hold colleges directly responsible for quality of life issues caused by students. I have also continuously expressed the need for dorm creation on college campuses. In 2008, I successfully implemented a zoning amendment to restrict undergraduate students living in apartments to no more than four per unit.

Question: Many Mission Hill residents were upset about last year’s school-move plan, both because it moved two schools out of the neighborhood and because they felt there was a lack of input and planning. How would you address these concerns?

Arroyo: I heard the strong opposition and voted in support of the amendment offered by Councilor Ross to prevent the move of the Mission Hill K-8 School. Unfortunately, the amendment was defeated. I believe government works best when it works with you and not over you.

Barros: As a School Committee member, I have publicly complained about the lack of comprehensive planning for different key aspects of Boston Public Schools (BPS), such as school facilities. I would launch a comprehensive facilities planning process that would address the approximately $600 million needs in school improvements and proactively work with [the community].

Connolly: I have long been advocating for the BPS to develop a long-term school facilities plan that would balance the supply of seats with the demand, reflect parent and community input, and begin to address the $3 billion backlog that our schools face in needed construction, repair and maintenance.

Ross: As city councilor for Mission Hill, I fought hard to keep those schools. Unfortunately, I had to watch a number of my colleagues vote against it. I would make engaging the community at the earliest planning stages a priority, and create a plan that doesn’t benefit some and hurt others.

Question: Although crime in Mission Hill has been reduced from previous decades, it is still an issue in the area. What will you do to address this issue?

Arroyo: I will ensure that our police, fire, EMS and street workers receive the funding they need to do their jobs effectively. Community policing is key to safe neighborhoods and we will ensure that we have police walking the beat and bicycling in all of our neighborhoods. We understand that by working together, we can ensure that all of our streets are safe.

Barros: I will improve public safety by creating a Community Response Authority that merges the work of public and non-profit human service agencies, public health agencies, law enforcement and community leaders; decrease poverty by creating more mixed-income communities; and invest in preventative programming, particularly summer and year-round jobs for youths.

Connolly: We need to consider a range of options, like expanded foot patrols, improved lighting, community notification and expanded access to free or low-cost self-defense courses and informational sessions. We have to act comprehensively to address all crime on our streets, and that means everything from committing to real community policing to improving schools and economic opportunities for all Bostonians.

Ross: I believe the opposite of violence isn’t peace; it’s opportunity. That’s why my public safety plan focuses on the need for more educational and job opportunities. We need to modernize our police department with the latest technology, and do more to build relationships between the police and the communities. One way to do that is building more local police substations.

Question: What do you like about Mission Hill?

Arroyo: The small businesses in Mission Hill are some of the best in the city. Al at WAN Convenience makes the best steak and cheese sub in the city. Mike’s Donuts, the Mission Bar and Grill, The Crossing, Lilly’s Pasta and Penguin Pizza are just a few of the small businesses that contribute to a vibrant Mission Hill community.

Barros: I like Mission Hill’s cultural diversity and strong community partnerships. This is best represented in the renovation of Brigham Circle. The intersection represents the best of Mission Hill’s strong local leadership and promising institutional and neighborhood partnership.

Connolly: I love Mission Hill’s diversity and its real spirit of community activism and involvement. I also love its architecture, from the Basilica to the row houses to the former breweries.

Ross: Everything. I moved to Mission Hill because it was the part of my district that didn’t just need me as its councilor, but also needed me as a resident. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The people, the food, the diversity, the parks and its resilience. I’m proud to call it my home.

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