By Michael Coughlin Jr.
In what took up a majority of the Community Alliance of Mission Hill’s (CAMH) monthly meeting on Wednesday, Apr. 19, those in attendance had the chance to hear from the departing District 8 City Councilor Kenzie Bok and her potential replacement Council Candidate Sharon Durkan.
Just last month, Bok announced her decision to step away from her role as District 8’s City Councilor to replace Kate Bennett and become the new Administrator of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA).
In her address to those at CAMH’s meeting, Bok said, “It’s just been the honor of my life to represent you all, and I am also really grateful. If I could ride both these horses at once and like continue to be your Councilor and run the Housing Authority, I would.”
“It probably would be a bad idea, so it’s probably good that you’re not allowed to by charter,” she added with a laugh.
With her departure, Bok indicated that her team would be running a District 8 Office for the months between her leaving and a new Councilor coming in.
While this office will be able to handle some constituent issues, it cannot take policy positions formally for things like BPDA projects or Zoning Board of Appeals issues. Due to this, a special election will be held, and in the meantime, City Council President Ed Flynn has offered to, in Bok’s words, “backstop the office.”
“If there’s a big neighborhood issue that the office staff are not getting enough traction from the departments on, President Flynn will kind of escalate it,” said Bok. She also said that residents could always reach out to the At-Large City Councilors for help too.
After Bok addressed those in attendance, many offered their thanks for Bok’s work of representing Mission Hill over the years. However, in addition to giving thanks, many residents dished on issues plaguing Mission Hill – namely, the need for affordable housing, issues with a transient population, and frustration with students misbehaving in the neighborhood.
Moreover, one resident, Eric Alden, also underscored the frustrations that come with welcoming a new City Councilor.
“We build on who’s in the office; then we get to a great spot in two or three years as the wheels move very slowly, but then we get a new Councilor, and we start from scratch again,” said Alden.
“It’s beyond frustrating to do that over and over and over and to keep our place in line, you know, our voice in the front of the line in the city.”
While Bok understood Alden’s position, she had a bit of a different take in that the short absence with no City Councilor might be the impetus for departments around the city to build a better relationship with the neighborhood.
Bok also indicated that during her first few months at the BHA, she would not be taking the reigns fully, so she would be able to check in with City Hall about things going on in the neighborhood.
“I can’t be like writing letters and taking like positions, but certainly what I can do is if I hear through the grapevine that things are not being attended to, I can kind of say like, hey somebody needs to own this,” said Bok.
“I do plan on being a little bit of a pest on behalf of Mission Hill.”
In addition to the appearance of Bok, those in attendance also got the opportunity to meet and hear from the neighborhood’s next potential City Councilor – Candidate Sharon Durkan.
Durkan, who is originally from Georgia, moved to Massachusetts to attend Smith College in 2010 and has been a resident of Boston now for eight years.
In her political work, Durkan has worked with many politicians, such as Mayor Michelle Wu when Mayor Wu was a Councilor and was even elected Chair of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee in 2019.
In her time addressing residents at the meeting, Durkan mentioned some campaign themes like affordable, attainable housing and climate-resilient neighborhoods.
She also committed to doing a walk-through of Mission Hill during party nights to better understand residents’ frustrations with college kids misbehaving in the neighborhood.
Moreover, Durkan addressed Alden’s point about ensuring the neighborhood’s voice is still front and center.
“I know that it’s not that Mission Hill has to earn that. It’s that I have to earn your support in figuring out and sort of showing that I’m going to put Mission Hill at the top of the list,” said Durkan.
Durkan even offered to help support the neighborhood during Bok’s vacancy, saying, “If there are ways that I can help and push the ball forward even during my campaign, I’m happy to do that. I’m not only happy to do that, I’m really excited to roll up my sleeves.”
To learn more about Durkan and her campaign, visit https://www.sharondurkan.com/.
“I care so much about this, and I want to serve you. So if you ever need anything from me, I’m here,” said Durkan.
“I’m here to represent every single person – Republican, Democrat, Independent.”