In their second, and final, debate, Mayor Marty Walsh and Councilor Tito Jackson highlighted their differences in a debate moderated by WGBH's Margery Eagan and Jim Braude:
Walsh said this was one of the first topics his new administration tackled, coming up with a plan to build 53,000 units of new housing - with 9,000 of those "affordable." He said 22,000 have gotten permits to proceed over the past three years, plus voters approved the Community Preservation Act which will mean more money for affordable housing and he has increased the percentage of units developers have to build as affordable from 13 to 18 percent. He said the city is spending $57 million on affordable housing out of funds from developers. The city has seen "a bit of stabilization in rents" in some areas, but more work is needed to ensure Boston remains "a city for all people."
"We need to increase the supply" especially as more people move to Boston, he said, adding the city is also looking at ways to improve the BHA's large holdings because the federal government no longer invests in public housing.
Jackson said the city is building way more luxury than affordable housing and said the first thing he would do as mayor is dismantle the BRA and create a city planing department. He said he would up the minimum requirement for affordable units in new projects to 25% - but would require any buildings erected on land purchased from the city to have at least two thirds of their units for low- and moderate income residents.
He said he would set aside $5 million for housing vouchers because, he said, a lot of the "affordable" housing is only affordable to people making more than $70,000 a year.
Walsh said he'd rather spend that $5 million building new units.
Walsh opposes rent control, says he's not sure it would work here. Jackson said the city should at least look at it.
Braude asked Jackson if he really meant it when he said earlier that "Marty Walsh doesn't think black lives matter."
Jackson did not answer yes or no, but said Walsh delays doing anything until a problem becomes a crisis. He pointed to the 2016 Boston Latin School protests, which ultimately brought in the federal Department of Justice. He added it's not right that barely any city contracts go to people of color or women in a city where white families have far higher net worth - and life expectancy - than black families. He said And he said Walsh's recent dismissal of an NAACP report criticizing his tenure shows Walsh just doesn't believe in dialog.
"He's making the wrong decisions," Jackson said.
Walsh said that's nonsense. He said he's held the first citywide meeting on race in Boston history. He acknowledged that while city contracts to people of color had been low, he moved last year to bring the number up. And the number of teachers, police and firefighters of color is on the increase, he said.
He said it was unfair of the NAACP to criticize him for "generational issues" that were happening for decades before he became mayor and that "nobody's ever tackled."
Increasing minority numbers in BPD
Jackson said the mayor needs to work more with the local minority police union to increase recruiting among minority communities and stop defending a drug test BPD uses for applicants that has a high rate of false positives with short, curly hair. And police need to start wearing body cameras and elevate the arrest rates for non-fatal shootings.
Walsh said that he has ade sure BPD has the most diverse command staff in city history. And he said that when he asked Jackson to give him names of black potential academy candidates, Jackson supplied just a single name.
And yet, Jim Braude said, 66% of Boston cops are white. Anything more?
Walsh said the simplest answer would be to eliminate civil service testing and veteran preference, but he said he's not willing to do that. Instead, he wants to try to recruit more veterans of color to apply.
Jackson repeated his charge Walsh doesn't want to deal with the minority-officer union. Walsh said he had breakfast with its president on Thursday and has met with him repeatedly in his time in office.
Walsh said he is hoping ot get findings from a recently concluded study of the cameras before December. But he said the real issue is not body cameras but building trust in the community. And that involves a host of issues.
Jackson said Walsh's decision to wait for the results of a study show his "paralysis by analysis" and proof of his "timid, tepid leadership" and that if he were mayor, he would simply get police to don the cameras - and to install dashcams in their cruisers, because both are proven technologies. He pointed to $38 million in lawsuit settlements involving BPD - all stemming from cases before Walsh's tenure - as proof of the need. "Those dollars are taken away from the Boston Public Schools" and other programs, he said.
Walsh replie that crime is down in his time in office and that he has spearheaded programs to keep young people from getting involved in crime, such as mentoring and job programs.
Amazon and corporate incentives
Jackson says he would welcome Amazon - but would give them no incentives to move here. As an economic-development officer in the Patrick administration, he said he helped convince Google and Microsoft to open offices here because Boston is such a desirable place to be, without having to offer them a $12-million helipad. And he said the city should not have given GE a $25-million tax break.
"We didn't write a check to General Electric," Walsh said. He said the tax break was in recognition of the company's work in fixing up a dilapidated part of Fort Point Channel and its value in attracting other talent here. He said the break has already paid for itself in the $25 million GE committed to local educational efforts, along with $15 million for job training and $10 million for health care. And he charged that while Jackson was with Patrick, "they gave plenty of tax credits away."
Walsh said the Amazon bid contains no specific economic incentives, although he noted it does call for certain transportation improvements, such as connecting the Red and Blue lines, which the state said in 2011 would cost $750 million.
Lessons from the Olympics?
Walsh said the city learned a lot from the failed Olympics bid, which he said helped the city launch various planning programs for building a better Boston. He said. He said he was the one who canceled the Olympics bid when he realized it could mean mortgaging the city's future.
"He is misremembeing what actually happened there," Jackson said. Jackson said he was the only councilor to demand the Olympic documents the city was keeping secret. "We wasted a whole year on this issue," and Walsh kept dismissing opponenents, whom he referred to as "ten people on Twitter."
"He expedited the Olympic, he expedited the Grand Prix, he expedited GE" and yet only recently came up with a capital plan to improve Boston schools, he said.
Walsh said the proof is in the pudding: Boston has 60,000 more jobs than four years ago, the most number of Level 1 and 2 schools in city history and an excellent bond rating. And the Indycar debacle cost the city nothing, he said. He then added that two city officials who face federal indictments remain on the payroll at $250,000 total each year, even as BPS keeps getting cut.
Walsh denounced Jackson's charges as "all false," but acknowledged the two city officials remain on the payroll. "In the United States of America, you're innocent until proven guilty," he said.
Jackson said 49 schools are losing $11 million in funding this year. He said he would put more money into the school budget for nurses, art and music programs and computer-science classes at all schools. And he said qualified teachers now unassigned would get jobs teaching. He said he would bring back an elected school committee.
Walsh said he has increased school funding each year he's been in office and this year increased funding specifically for special education and for schools at risk of being downgraded to Level 4. He said that "the money follows the child," so schools that lose students lose the funding that otherwise would have come with those students.
He said voters have twice chosen an appointed school committee - and that his appointed school committee has more minority and parent members. And he said he is trying to convince the state legislature to let the city divert funds from the South Boston convention center for universal pre-K.
Walsh said the T needs to do more - such as connecting the Blue and Red Lines. He said the city is looking at ways to reduce congestion, even self-driving cars, but said he remains especially committed to bikes, despite Margery Eagan's assertion that some Boston roads are just too narrow for them.
Jackson also supported bikes. He said Boston needs to spend more on bike paths. "No one should die riding a bike." And he said the city should use the $87 million it pays into the T as leverage to get it do more. Also, the city should be devoting more effort to the impact of new development projects on transportation. "We develop, but we don't plan," he said.
Late-night T service
Both agreed the T blew it giving it up.
Braude asked about people putting out items, which he said included refrigerators, to save spaces after snow storms. Both candidates agreed residents who shovel out a space should get 48 hours to keep them.
Public restrooms in the Public Garden
Walsh said he plans to put $20 million into the Common and Franklin Park and that part of that will included permanent staff. He did not dismiss the idea of restrooms.
Jackson said, yeah, well, that money comes from "a shady deal" - the sale of the Winthrop Square garage - and said the city should be concentration more on solving homelessness. He said 4,000 BPS students are homeless. And he said the city needs to rebuild the Long Island bridge and restore the homeless and drug programs that were there. "We can pull together a plan for Amazon in a month and a half" and yet Long Island remains shut, he said.
Walsh pointed to city programs to house the homeless. And he said that while the Long Island bridge will get rebuilt someday, he no longer supports restoring Long Island as a home for shelters and treatment beds. He said the city has recreated its programs on the mainland and that it's wrong to hide the less fortunate and programs to serve them on a remote island in Boston Harbor.
Jackson said the $20 million spent to tear the bridge down could have gone a long way to improving services.
"The bridge was crumbling into the Atlantic Ocean," Walsh retorted.