All eight of the candidates running for at-large seats on the Boston City Council expressed reservations about the idea of Amazon building its second headquarters in Boston, at a forum in Roslindale tonight. All eight of the candidates running for at-large seats on the Boston City Council expressed reservations about the idea of Amazon building its second headquarters in Boston - with or without tax subsidies - at a forum in Roslindale tonight.
Even incumbent Councilor Michael Flaherty, who was the most sanguine about the prospect, saying Amazon would mean not just new jobs but new opportunties for Boston Public Schools, says the sheer size of the proposal - possibly 50,000 jobs over ten years - raises issues of whether Boston's already groaning transportation systems and other infrastructure could handle the new load. And, at the forum sponsored by WalkUp Roslindale, he said he worried whether all those new workers would drive housing prices even higher up, displacing even more longtime residents.
Incumbent Michelle Wu praised the potential of the deal, but said she's concerned about the impact on the city's small businesses, and whether they would benefit at all from Amazon moving here. Fellow incumbent Annissa Essaibi-George said the city's 40,000 small businesses are the true lifeblood of the city - "it's the local coffeeshops that make neighborhoods special" - and shared Wu's concern.
The final incumbent, Ayanna Pressley said she's not sure at all she could support Amazon moving here, if it means yet another bit of Boston's soul is chipped away in pursuit of a giant corporation that does little or nothing to decrease the city's existing economic inequities. "I don't want us to just be a compelling brand," she said of Boston.
The four challengers for the seat were all united in opposition to doing anything to help Amazon move here.
Pat Payaso, ne Kevin McCrea, said he's fed up with the city and state throwing millions at large corporations, from Liberty Mutual and GE, to the Olympics, IndyCar and the Red Sox with the Yawkey Way deal. Let Amazon move here, but only if it pays its fair share, he said.
William King said he is tired of government "doing backflips to bring in big corporations" when small businesses often have to spend months or even years just getting permits to open up shop. He said he's worried many of those 50,000 jobs would go to out-of-towners who would flock here, driving up housing prices and pushing out long-time residents.
Domingos DaRosa said he's still bitter from the time Amazon Prime rolled out everywhere in Boston except Roxbury, that Amazon has yet to provide any details about what sort of jobs it's talking about and that maybe it's time for Boston to share the wealth, and let another city, such as Worcester, Fall River or New Bedford, benefit from a possible new Amazon headquarters.
Althea Garrison said she would fight any effort to provide any sort of deal for Amazon.
The candidates addressed a number of other issues, some specific to Roslindale, including:
High housing costs
Garrison: Enact a moratorium on conversion of small buildings to condominiums. Bring back rent control.
DaRosa: Opposes rent control, but said landlords should be encouraged to give longer leases and to not price gouge.
King: Also opposed to rent control, wants more affordable-housing units builts. Supports the Jim Brooks Community Stablization Act, which would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants without a "just cause," such as failing to pay rent.
Payaso: Elminate the BRA/BPDA and do a citywide rezoning that would target increased housing development to "urban corridors" to reduce prices through greater supply. Do a better job of identifying unused city parcels and sell them for housing.
Pressley: Supports the Jim Brooks act, wants the percentage of units developers have to set aside as affordable to be increased from the current 13% and wants tenants to be given the "right of first refusal" to buy buildings up for sale. And it's time to reconsider rent control as another tool to manage housing prices in Boston.
Essaibi-George: Require developers to included affordable units in their buildings, rather than simply paying into a city fund for affordable housing somewhere else. Ensure the city remains open to families by requiring developers to build more than just studios and one-bedroom apartments.
Wu and Flaherty had not yet arrived to answer this question.
How to improved public transit - in particular the clogged bus routes of Roslindale
Garrison: Would pressure the T to add more buses and to get rid of the bad drivers she said are all too common.
DaRosa: Extend the Orange Line to Cleary Square. Add more bus lines in Roslindale. And do something about the mess at Forest Hills.
King: Would also extend the Orange Line to Cleary Square. Wants a dedicated bus/bike lane on Washington Street between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills.
Payaso: Wants more dedicated bus lanes - but also enforcement of no-parking restrictions, like the ones he said are now routinely ignored on the Silver Line in front of his house. Pledged to bicycle or take the T to work at City Hall at least one day a week.
Pressley: Does not own a car, called for a concerted effort to bring accessible, affordable and reliable public transit to more parts of Boston, said "its demoralizing not to be able to navigate the city."
Essaibi-George: It's time for Boston to remind the T that the city pays nearly $200 million to the T on top of whatever residents pay in fares and that the state's capital and economic engine deserves to get back more from the T. She said she wants to see the development of good transit routes that connect the growing number of large job sites nowhere near downtown, "rings, not spokes."
Wu: Said she faces "a very difficult and frustrating decision" every day on how too get from her Roslindale home to City Hall and said it's time for the T to reduce the high fares Roslindale residents now pay to take the Needham Line.
Flaherty had not arrived for this question.
Making American Legion Highway pedestrian and bike friendly
Garrison: Build a bike path, reduce speeds on the road.
DaRosa: Make the wide median narrower to free up room for a complete and protected bike path and more room for walkways. Add more traffic lights between Walk Hill Street and Morton Street.
King: Lives on the highway, called for more traffic lights.
Payaso: Said the city should move mayoral elections to coincide with presidential elections, which he said would increase turnout and save millions of dollars that could be spent to build dedicated bike lanes, including on American Legion Highway.
Pressley: Would try to give the street more of a neighborhood feel, to encourage people to spend more time there, rather than just using it as a cut through. Part of that could be murals, part of that would be electronic speed signs that would make drivers slow. And change the name to American Legion Parkway.
Wu: Also called for the name change, said the urban wilds along the road are a gem waiting to be uncovered.
Flaherty: Better marked crosswalks, bump outs and other steps to slow traffic.
Garrison: Install meters in all municipal parking lots; consider banning parking in Roslindale Square.
DaRosa: The city needs to stop letting developers put up new buildings without adequate parking. And it needs to create a designated time for busineses to load and unload trucks on the street.
King: Install meters in municipal lots, increase the amount of parking developers have to put in.
Payaso: Make it more expensive to own a car in the city. He said when he lived in Hong Kong, he knew only one person who owned a car. Start charging for residential parking permit. But at the same time, invest in better public transit.
Pressley: Continue to investigate "flexible demand" parking meters that charge more at popular parking times. Start charging for residential parking permits - but recognize that as ideal as a car-free city might be, "there are just people who have to drive." Increase the number of bike racks across the city, make the city safer for pedestrians.
Essaibi-George: Whatever you do, recognize that each neighborhood is unique, that the parking issues in Roslindale are not the same as those in the Back Bay or South Boston.
Wu: Also wants to see a charge for residential parking permits, rather than letting people simply park "as many cars as they want" on the street. As she said earlier, at least in Roslindale, encourage people to give up cars in part by bringing down the cost of a commuter-rail ride downtown.
Flaherty: Require developers to provide at least two spaces per residential unit; and include those units in the cost of rent or the sales price; crack down on people fraudulently using handicap placards.
Stunning income gap between Boston's white and black residents
Flaherty: Education is the key: Boston needs more good schools and a "year 13" program to help kids qualify for top-notch colleges.
Essaibi-George. Agreed on the imporance of education, but said getting homeless families into homes is equally important.
Pressley: This is not a problem that lends itself to easy answers, in part because at its core is the fact that "racism is real, it is pervasive, and it will not change unless we are candid about that." She said she knows blacks men with master's who make less than white peers with just high school degrees even though they are doing the same work.
Payaso: Agrees with Pressley, says the problem goes back decades; he cited the post-World-War II GI Bill, which excluded black servicemen. He agreed education is important; said that unlike the other candidates, he has pledged to visit every single BPS school to find out what's really going on at them. He said the income gap is one reason why he would spend a large part of his time on the council fighting for universal health care; he said it's hard for anybody to get ahead when they have to either spend much of their money or their time worrying about basic health needs.
King: Called for the return of vocational programs to Boston schools and a continued fight against institutional racism.
DaRosa: A graduate of Madison Park, he agreed with the need for voke training - but for jobs in demand now, such as those related to computers, not older skills such as carpentry. And he said mentors are vital for shwoing minority kids why education matters.
Garrison: Said local colleges need to either do more to help Boston kids or they need to start paying taxes.
What differentiates the candidates
In general, the candidates stuck to discussing their own specific stances on issues. Garrison, however, said she is the only conservative in the race. "I'm running against seven liberals - extremely liberals," she said.
Payaso was the only candidate to openly admit to being a clown. He said the media paid no attention to him until they realized that, hey, there's an actual clown in the race, which he found sad. Unlike in past appearances, Payaso - whose name means "clown" in Spanish - wore two painted tear drops and a frown. He opened his statement by expressing his sorrow over the events in Las Vegas.