12 candidates for city council. The 13th, Felix Arroyo Jr., arrived late because he was busy formally launching his campaign. Two other candidates did not attend.
Colleges and hospitals would face greater demands of payments in lieu of taxes and the Boston Redevelopment Authority 2ould face a threat to its existence if most of the 13 at-large City Council candidates had their way.
The 13 talked at a forum sponsored by the Wards 4 and 5 Democratic committees on Boylston Street tonight. Here are their answers to three broad questions:
What makes you different and what would your priorities for the first six months be?
John Connolly. First-term councilor. Said his first six months would be "focused on safe streets, great schools and a healthy, sustainable Boston." He said as a former teacher, he is particularly concerned about education, but also about making Boston a green city.
Ego Ezedi. As executive director of Roxbury YMCA, turned a $1-million deficit into a $250,000 profit in a year. "I will deliberately look for opportunties to cultivate and develop leadership from across the city" and hold office hours across the city.
Tomas Gonzalez: Senior level experience in City Hall and non-profit and for-profit organizations. Expert in urban affairs. "I don't need a road map to figure out City Hall. I've been there for the last seven years."
Tito Jackson: Born and raised in Boston. Last two years working in state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development as industry director. "I'm the only candidate here with experience in delivering jobs." Use my proven experience in job development to bring jobs to the people of Boston.
Andrew Kenneally: Lifelong Bostonian. "My lifetime theme is public service." Worked for Joe Moakley, on conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, came back to work as aide to Councilor Flaherty. We have the highest unemployment rate in decades. "We need somebody who can hit the ground running." Running because he was diagnosed with a brain tumor 10 months ago, is OK now, but decided he didn't want to have any regrets in his life.
Stephen Murphy: 13th years as an at-large councilor. "It's a privelege to be before you today." Tax and budget issues are foremost. What's being cut are schools, police, fire because of ever growing demands from fixed costs such as pensions.
Hiep Nguyen: I have a strong background in tax, accounting and finance. CPA by trade. My life experiences include coming from a different country, having to adjust to a totally different environment, as a small businessman. First time running: "I am not indebted to any special interest."
Ayanna Pressley. Worked as aide to Joe Kennedy and John Kerry. Knows how to use relationships and resources to get things done. Only woman in a field of 15. "There has never been a woman of color on the Boston City Council."
Sean Ryan. I was born and raised in JP. Helped me to see people as individuals, rather than as members of groups. I went to Boston public schools for 14 years. Believes in limied government, would end busing, decriminalize marijuana use, try to make Boston more independent of the state and federal government.
Bill Trabucco: 41, Born and raised in Dorchester, Spent 12 years in Boston public schools. Hospitals and non-profits need to pay more. Not accepting campaign donations.
Scotland Willis: As a single parent, raised three boys and put them through the Boston school system. I have non-profit experience as a consultant, former small-business owner. Government accountability needed.
Doug Bennett. Taxes are too high. "There's a lot of corruption in City Hall and we need fresh blood. I'll take City Hall, flip it upside down and shake the change out." Lower taxes, less violence and cleaner sidewalks.
Felix Arroyo. Born and raised in this city. Product of BPS. "I'm an organizer, that's what I am. I'm proud of the fact I have been trained to be a community organizer." Worked to organize cleaning workers for SEIU, now a healthcare organizer.
Ego Ezedi. Teamwork is the key to solving city budget issues, as he did at Roxbury YMCA.
Tomas Gonzalez. We could lose $80 million in local aid, but possibly gain $95 million in increased meals and hotel taxes. Use the money to get smart, get more efficient. Things we cannot cut are public safety and schools.
Tito Jackson. People can't afford to pay more taxes, can't afford more fees, can't cut essential services. Key to balanced budget is economic development. Example of his ability to do this: We worked with Microsoft and Cambridge to bring Microsoft into Cambridge.
Andrew Kenneally. Need to look at new technologies, such as project tracking. Colleges are not paying their fair share. We need to stimulate business. Look at the hole in the ground in Downtown Crossing.
Stephen Murphy. The only revenue we get is from the property tax. We don't get revenue from the sales tax, we don't get revenue from an income tax. PILOT is not high enough. Only getting $15.4 million in PILOT; we should be getting at least $87 million.
Hiep Nguyen. As a CPA, call for internal audit of city workstaff. Limit overtime. Not cut fudning to schools, public safety, clean streets, park. "Increase real-estate taxes on those big buildings downtown, South Station, Copley."
Ayanna Pressley. Concentrate on maximizing what's already there, a lesson she knows as a parent. Supports meal and hotel tax increases.
Sean Ryan. Opposed to the government taking any more of our money. All city workers should take at least a 10% pay cut. Phase out school busing. Cut DPW. Save money by not enforcing laws against non-violent drug use.
Bill Trabucco. Held up a handwritten sign: GREED! Harvard University owns probably half of Allston/Brighton. They don't want to pay their fair share. We can suffer more for them. I say they pay their fair share. And if they paid their fair share, we wouldn't even have a deficit.
Scotland Willis. We've got to raise more money. Economic and housing growth. Trade, tourism, manufacturing. We cannot take money out of the pockets of residents. We have to make sure non profits are held accountable.
Doug Bennett. Go after utilities, make them pay for use of city street resources. Universities and hospitals need to pay their fair share as well.
John Connolly. 60% of our revenues generated by property tax. We're overly reliant on that. End up squeezing people out of the city. It's about PILOT reform as the number one key given the amount of land and commercial square footage our non-profits take up. We don't want to squeeze non-profits, "we just want our fair share."
Development and the BRA
Tomas Gonzalez. Community-based master plan: Excellent schools, job creation, smart management, safe streets. Community input required. BRA probably needs to be split.
Tito Jackson. We need a strategic plan for the next 25 years. Split up the BRA.
Andrew Kenneally. I have my master's in city planning and urban affairs. Unless you plan, they're never going to happen. BRA has no plan, so developers get away with a lot. We want more greenspace and smart growth. Split up the BRA.
Stephen Murphy. New development coming online will help with new property taxes, but development has to be done with input from nearby residents. Fatalistic about BRA because it was created by state law and the powers that be don't want to give up their grip on development, "so it's probably not going to happen."
Hiep Nguyen. 25 years too long for a plan. We should focus on a greener Boston: bike paths, green energy, transit-focused development.
Ayanna Pressley. I would consider the separation of BRA and planning. Would support whatever would make the BRA an efficient agency. Real community input required for a master plan, for each of our neighborhoods.
Sean Ryan. Abolish the BRA. Complete overhaul of zoning to allow denser residental development and taller buildings downtown. Allow for triple and even quadruple-deckers. Facilitate lower rents by increasing supply of affordable units.
Bill Trabucco. We have too many problems need to be resolved right now, but if we have to talk about planning: Denser housing development, transit-focused.
Scotland Willis. I sold both my cars and motorcycles as commitment to going green. Growing density is the way to go. Dismantle the BRA. But you can't just rip down the BRA, you have to replace it with something: inclusive process of planning.
Felix Arroyo. Break up the BRA: "Sometimes they forget there's a community they respond to."
Doug Bennett. I think government should stay out of planning, unless you absolutely need it. I don't see how we're going to be growing that much more (in population), but to grow economy, I have a program to add 10,000 jobs through maintenance of air conditioning and heating systems and replacing light bulbs.
John Connolly. Yes, a master plan is a good idea. Make Boston the greenest city in the world. On BRA: Transparency and accountability, didn't say whether he'd favor splitting it up..
Ego Ezedi. Absolutely there should be a master plan, absolutely be dictated by the needs in the community, not by businesses or politicians.
Tito Jackson. We could have one of the best school systems in the world. We have great teachers who are doing great things but they don't have the resources or the time that they need. Mentorship program for all 55,000 public-school students.
Andrew Kenneally. My mom is a nurse in the BPS. Parental involvment is vital, increase that. First, need to let parents send kids to schools closer to their homes. Not charters or changing the schools around, but more resources. Also need mentors, especially for single-parent homes.
Stephen Murphy. Money is the problem, obviously. We're not routing the buses properly. We need more early learning centers, more after-school and tutorial programs. MCAS, teaching to the test is a mistake, drop MCAS requirement.
Hiep Nguyen. Product of BPS, got a good education. High dropout rates. Invest in K-1. In high school, invest in programs to help kids succeed in college. Get parents more involved.
Ayanna Pressley. Biggest problem facing our school system is disparity. Every child deserves that same quality of education. Some neighborhoods don't even have schools. Mentoring.
Sean Ryan. $14,000 a year per student now already. Charter schools are the answer. "Bring competition back. Bring free-market principals back to the school system." Eliminate busing, spend money on sports and arts.
Joe Trabucco. Teachers are heroes. Set up Boston City College: Free college education for Boston residents. Everybody should have access to a Boston Latin-quality education.
Scotland Willis. Mentoring. We need to think about the importance of relationship between public, charter and pilot schools, how each can improve the other. Busing: Can't just tear it down in one day. Green buses, green police cars could save money through lowered fuel costs.
Felix Arroyo. Five years ago, drove his wife to her first job as a teacher in a school in Dorchester. "We saw a classroom that didn't even have chairs." Where is the money going? After-school programs are vital. We need to link our schools and community centers better. We need to change the thinking of some folks in BPS: All children deserve a chance.
Doug Bennett. Very alarming dropout rate. 54 "underperforming" schools. Get rid of busing. Invest the money in the underperforming schools.
John Connolly. Former teacher. "Education is my passion. I know urban schools can work, because I taught at an urban school that worked." We need to try different things. Build an environmental-science academy. New approach to truancy - those kids on a pathway to drop out and things just get worse from there.
Ego Ezedi. Holistic approach to education. "Education is more than just what happens between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m." Use our street workers to pull our youth into our community centers - more enrichment and educational opportunities. Let's not get caught up in the small stuff, such as neighborhood schools vs. school choice.
Tomas Gonzalez. Wife is a teacher. Half the candidates here are BPS graduates. Education can be top notch. Biggest thing is choice. As parents, we want the choice that's best for our kids.