Seven of the eight candidates running to replace Rob Consalvo as city councilor in District 5 (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) made their pitches last night to a packed house at a forum sponsored by the Fairmount Hill Neighborhood Assocation (Ava Callendar had a previous engagement). Some excerpts:
Everybody hates all the money spent on school busing and said Boston schools need to be better.
Mimi Turchinetz, Patrice Gatozzi and Jean-Claude Sanon said they would oppose lifting a cap on charter schools in Boston. "Schools are built, they're not bought," Gatozzi said. Margherita Ciampa-Coyne said she would be willing to consider lifting the cap if it meant more great schools for parents and their children. Tim McCarthy said the issue is too complicated for a simple "chip in a political debate," and said he couldn't make a decision on the issue without a lot more study.
Ciampa-Coyne called for a "hybrid" school committee with a mix of appointed and elected members.
Cousino said the former Hyde Park High School "needs to be revamped," and that it would be a good place to put a new vocational school.
Ciampa-Coyne said she wants to see at least three vocational schools in the city - and an end to the city's plan to marry Madison Park High with Roxbury Community College. "You're taking two underperforming institutions and you're expecting success?" she asked.
"68% students cannot even read," Gatozzi said, citing what she said are figures from Stand for Children.
Vote on the Suffolk Downs casino.
Wells said only East Boston should vote on the proposal. "It affects that community the most," he said. Gatozzi agreed, saying Hyde Park residents wouldn't want people in East Boston voting on something in their neighborhood. McCarthy, however, said the entire city should vote, because it sets a dangerous precedent in "splitting up the city pie" and because city resources will be needed to deal with it. Ciampa-Coyne agreed. East Boston is only seven miles from Hyde Park and the city needs to consider such ramifications as a loss in lottery revenue when people go to bet at a casino. "We should have the whole town vote on it," Cousino said.
Wal-Mart in Boston
No way, Sanon said: It would suck money out of Boston and if it failed, Boston would have to deal with the mess. He said he had worked on a campaign against Wal-Mart when it looked like they might open in Roxbury. Ciampa-Coyne worried about the impact on mom-and-pop businesses. Turchinetz said she didn't like big boxes in general, but especially Wal-Mart, because they're anti-union, don't pay very well and the profits go out of state. Gatozzi also opposed the idea of a Wal-Mart.
McCarthy, however, said he'd be willing to talk to Wal-Mart - or any other big chain. He recalled that when a Home Depot was first proposed for West Roxbury, many people predicted the end of the world. Then he asked how many people in the audience had gone there in the past couple of weeks. He did not mention what happened to the local NHD and Ashmont stores after Home Depot opened.
All the candidates are for better public safety. "I'd love to change the name from Murderpan to Mattapan," Sanon said.
There's virtually none of it in the district, and several candidates said that needs to change.
Ciampa-Coyne said River Street in Hyde Park is "a very disappointing main street ... so much more can be done." She said Hyde Park should learn from Roslindale Square, which is thriving.
Gatozzi would work to have Hyde Park declared "a cultural district" and said she would do more to attract businesses to Hyde Park.
McCarthy, also a strong proponent of culture, said everywhere he goes in Hyde Park, people tell him "Cleary Square is a mess." He says he remembers when Roslindale Square was a dismal hole with used needles in every alley, and now "there's an hour and a half wait to get into a restaurant in Roslindale Square."
McCarthy said he'd revitalize Cleary Square partly by pouring "serious money" into improvements such as sidewalks - but that he'd try for something even larger, such as re-doing the streets around the square into a circular pattern, similar to Roslindale Square. He compared trying to park near Delfino's in Roslindale with parking near the Fairmount Grill in Hyde Park: In Roslindale, if you don't get a space right away, you turn and you turn and you're back where you started and then you find a space, but in Hyde Park, if you miss the Grill, you find yourself who the hell knows where on Truman Parkway or something and "you say the heck with it" and flee the area.
Ciampa-Coyne said the old Stop & Shop warehouse in Readville would be ideal for new businesses.
Turchinetz, an advocate of affordable housing, said the BRA is building up a huge "linkage" fund from development downtown and that some of that should be coming to the city's southern tier.
McCarthy said the reality is nobody wants low-income or homeless programs in their backyards and came out against building crime-spewing giant housing projects in the district, although he added he could get behind single-family homes or three-bedroom units.
Wells said he wants to get the state to reconsider its plan to replace the Forest Hills overpass with surface roads. "It's such a ginormous project," one that will affect motorists in the district, even though it's in Jamaica Plain.
Ciampa-Coyne called for term limits for councilors and the mayor.
Cousino said he would pay for better services for the homeless and hungry in part by extending the term of city councilors from two to four years, which he estimated would save $500,000 for each eleciton not held. Wells called for rebuilding the Archdale project in Roslindale. Gatozzi said the Hyde Park food pantry could be better promoted and said the homeless really need a place where they can go during the day for basic things, such as taking a shower. Turchinetz would set up an Office of Financial Empowerment to help the homeless get back on their feet, and said she favors the construction of more affordable housing in the district.
McCarthy said he would seek money to revitalize the Hyde Park community center.
McCarthy said his 21 years in city government, currently as a DPW manager, have prepared him for the tough challenges Boston will face over the next couple of years maintaining its good financial status.
Sanon said he would be a voice for Haitian-Americans, new immigrants and people across the district not currently getting fair representation from city government.
Wells said one of the most important parts of his job would be to listen, in particular in Mattapan, with which he acknowledged he was not familiar - he conceded he didn't even know it was part of the council district before he ran.
Voters will have two other chances to hear District 5 candidates: Wicked Local Roslindale moderates another forum at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at St. Nectarios Church, 39 Belgrade Ave. in Roslindale; MassVOTE, the Boston NAACP and the Future Boston Alliance sponsor a forum at 6 p.m. on Sept. 16 at the Mattahunt Wheelock Community Center, 100 Hebron St., Mattapan.