Mayoral candidates share their visions for Boston’s economic future at forum

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Four candidates discussed easing the city small business procurement process, public school students to jobs after graduation and creating a climate resilient city without financially burdening residents.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey initially accepted an invitation to the event, but stepped down on Wednesday evening, saying she was to help oversee the first day of public schools in the city, forum organizers said. Janey has recently been criticized for missing 30 of the 60 town hall public events organized since April.

Janey’s campaign manager Kirby Chandler said Janey attended as many forums and debates as her schedule allowed.

“[Janey] has participated in over 30 debates and forums so far, including a televised debate last night and another debate tonight, ”Chandler said. “She regrets not being able to attend this event but she worked closely with [the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts] and supports their work, and looks forward to working with them in the future.

At the forum, mayoral candidate Councilor Andrea Campbell said she helped a neighbor secure a bus for her son who was late that morning, calling the situation “unacceptable”.

“Our kids don’t need free pencils,” Campbell said later at a press conference on the bus shortage, referring to photos of Janey handing out pencils to students as they arrive at school. “They need their buses to show up on time.”

At the forum, the four candidates debated the need to create more opportunities at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, the only high school in the city. The mayor’s hope, city councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, said the city should invest in a “16-hour-a-day campus,” including after-school and evening programs for prepare students for careers in emerging industries.

“Madison Park should be the crown jewel of our school system,” she said. “I made a commitment in my first 100 days… to deploy a strategic plan around Madison Park.”

Each candidate presented plans to streamline the small business application process and encourage economic growth. John Barros, the city’s former economic development chief and mayor’s hopeful, said a key step is to include neighborhoods in the economic planning process.

“Growth is not a default position for cities. You have to design cities, ”Barros said. “A city that is not growing is not in the right place.

Easier business start-ups “starts with better planning,” Campbell added.

The candidates pointed to the housing shortage in Boston as an obstacle to economic growth. Michelle Wu, a city councilor, who leads the polls, said she supports rent control and integrating housing into libraries and community centers.

“We cannot continue to nibble on the edges of a broken status quo,” Wu said. “We have to look at the city level. “

The candidates too have defined their point of view on public transport. Wu, whose calls to make the MBTA free for cyclists have been an important part of her campaign platform, said she push to create more bus lanes, improve connections between the red and blue lines and electrify the Fairmount line. Barros pushed back on the practicality of eliminating MBTA tariffs.

“About releasing the T, it’s a beautiful dream, but it’s $ 700 million a year in tariffs that would have to be paid out of the city’s budget. It’s not doable, ”Barros said. “We have to make them a better alternative than cars. “

Campbell said she would not commit to making the MBTA free, but would push for the removal of bus fares.

“I don’t like to make promises I can’t keep, especially to communities of color,” she said.

Towards the end of the event, contestants raised concerns about Boston’s ability to significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2050 and the economic burdens that would entail.

Essaibi-George recalled coaching the East Boston High School softball team and worrying about the emissions his team was exposed to near Constitution Beach. Boston’s next mayor should make sure the city’s response to climate change encompasses all neighborhoods, she said.

“We cannot handle a response in some part of our city or our coast if we don’t look north and south as part of our response,” she said.

Wu said she would push to plant more trees, electrify school buses and provide funds to homeowners and tenants to make homes more energy efficient.

“Going for 2050 only gives us a 50-50 chance,” Wu said. “I’m not ready to sit still for this chance to flip the coin.”

Rick Dimino of A Better City and Segun Idowu of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts hosted the event. Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth Magazine facilitated the event.

The preliminary municipal elections take place on September 14. The top two candidates will pass in the general election on November 2.


Tiana Woodard is a member of the Report for America corps covering black neighborhoods. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @tianarochon.



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