On Oct. 4, Democratic Ward Committees 8, 9, 10, 11, and 19 held a forum with candidates for mayor and at-large city councilor at the English High School. The event was well-attended by the community, filling the English High School auditorium to capacity, but about half of the attendees left before the city councilor candidates spoke.
Eight city councilor candidates participated in two forums of four candidates each. Each candidate answered the same questions from the Ward Committees and made a closing statement. The questions asked about their priorities as a city councilor, a pilot program for safe injection sites, and how to make effective change as a city councilor.
Four existing at-large city councilors are running for office again, and include Michelle Wu, Michael Flaherty, Annissa Essaibi George, and Ayanna Pressley. The additional candidates running are Pat Payaso, Domingos DaRosa, Althea Garrison, and William A. King. The top four vote getters in November will earn an at-large city councilor seat.
Priorities for Garrison were rent control, senior citizens and veterans, and schools.
“Too many of our fellow citizens are being thrown out and becoming homeless,” Garrison said. She also said that she would fight to ensure that there is affordable daycare in the schools and the workplace.
Garrison said that she did not support gun control, but favored more policing and criminal control. She was also critical of the Community Preservation Act for imposing an unfair tax on property owners.
She also said that she was “disgusted by the current city councilors who voted themselves pay raises.”
King, a 27-year-old lifelong Dorchester resident, said education, accessibility to the community as a city councilor, and the housing crisis are his top priorities.
He said that it’s important for students to have access to vocational programs so that students can graduate with a diploma and a certificate as opposed to “teaching to the test.” King said that the City needs to make sure that middle-income families are able to afford to stay in the city.
“Everything about me is Boston,” King said. “I’m just like you, an average citizen.”
Flaherty said he wants to focus on improving quality of education, reducing crime and violence, and making improvements through the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
“For me, it’s not just enough for students to graduate from our schools, we need our students to be able to compete at the collegiate level,” Flaherty said.
In order to solve the problem of gun violence in the city, Flaherty said “we need to create more jobs, close gun loopholes. We’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of the problem, we need to educate people and put them to work.”
Wu said that her top three priorities are climate change, income inequality, and racial disparities.
“There are a couple things we can do at the city level immediately that cut across all three [of my priorities],” Wu said. Those things include reducing commute time, increasing renewable energy, and early access to affordable childcare.
Wu said she wanted to look at campaign finance reform as a means of encouraging more people to run for office.
To deal with gun violence, Wu said “the best way to treat violence is opportunity.”
For housing, Wu said that we need to make sure that Boston is a desirable place to invest in, but also an affordable place to live.
“The number one issue for every elected official in the United States is healthcare, and I’m for universal healthcare,” Payaso began. “I realize City Council is not like being in congress or in the statehouse, but we need to fight this.”
Payaso, dressed as a clown, went on to say that his top three priorities on City Council would be education, changing the time of year that we vote for mayor to the same time we vote for President, and transparency.
“I’m the only candidate who promises to visit every single school in my two years,” Payaso said.
Payaso emphasized that he would be “the candidate to stand up to keep an eye on the finances,” and that everything comes back to healthcare.
Payaso did not have a position to state on safe injection sites because he was “not an expert,” and said that the City needs to build more affordable housing stock.
Essaibi-George said that as the chair of the Committee of Homelessness, Mental Health, and Recovery, those are her top three priorities. She wants to work to end homelessness, especially in student populations, increase access to mental health care, and tackle the opioid crisis.
In terms of safe injection sites, Essaibi-George said that she was opposed, but needs to understand more about it and how it would affect Boston residents.
She also said she wanted to ensure that housing lotteries for affordable housing is more transparent, and that opportunities need to be made for families to stay in the city, so developments should build larger than one-bedroom and studio units.
Domingos DaRosa’s top priority is education.
“We should merge our Boston School Department and BCYF to provide services like arts, music, and recreation for our students,” DaRosa said. “We have a lot of chiefs between each department who are paid extremely well, but the children aren’t receiving the services they need.”
DaRosa also said his other priorities were public safety and the opioid epidemic and reducing traffic.
Pressley, a self-declared activist, said “I believe in the power in you, in the power of us, and the power of policy,” Pressley said about her top priorities.
According to her literature, Pressley will fight for increased services and programming for women and girls, improved transitional services for BPS students, a nurse in every BPS school, increased access to trauma response and recovery services, and a living wage.
Ward 11 Democratic Committee endorsed Essaibi-George, Pressley, and Wu “because of their record on issues of concern to our Ward: homelessness, women, families, and small business owners,” according to a statement for the Gazette.
Ward 19 endorsed Essaibi-George, Presley, Wu, and DaRosa.