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Jackson announces run for mayor

Stresses income inequality, educational investment

Jule Pattison-Gordon
Jackson announces run for mayor
Tito Jackson announces his candidacy for mayor of Boston outside the Haley House Bakery Café in Dudley Square.

Pledging to fight against income inequality and increase support for public education, District 7 City Councilor launched his mayoral campaign today from the parking lot of the Haley House Café in Dudley Square as a crowd of about 200 looked on.

“Boston is at a crossroads,” he said. “We’re at a fork in the road. A decision point. The middle class in the beloved community, the neighborhood that I grew up, in stands in the balance.”

Citing studies that show Boston ranking number one in income inequality in Boston, Jackson criticized the mayor for prioritizing development of luxury housing and the multi-million dollar deal to secure a new Fort Point Channel headquarters for General Electric, Jackson said his campaign would bring attention back to the pressing needs of ordinary Bostonians.

“We have lost our way,” Jackson told supporters. “We are not focusing on the right things in our city. We are not focusing on the right people. I am focused on education for all young people in the City of Boston and funding that public education.”

“Working families need to be given a chance to thrive,” he said, adding that his message is true for all communities across the city.

Jackson, 41, was elected to represent District 7 in 2011. The Grove Hall resident supported incumbent Mayor Martin Walsh in the 2013 mayoral race, but has clashed with him over issues including cuts to the city’s education budget and the displacement of middle- and low-income city residents.

Jackson, who chairs the City Council Committee on Education, raised his profile in the media during clashes with Mayor Martin Walsh over the Boston Public Schools budget. The funding shortfalls and changes to factors considered in the weighted student funding formula produced larger class sizes for autistic students and reduced allotments for students who experienced trauma. Jackson suggested that Walsh had demonstrated misaligned budget priorities in forcing schools to make budget cuts while also pursuing expensive ventures such as luring G.E. to the city.

“When the city of Boston had over $150 million in new revenue, the city turned its back on 57,314 students in the Boston Public Schools and 30,000 families when they only gave them $18 million to fill a $40 million hole,” Jackson said.

Under questioning by reporters, Jackson stopped short of saying that he would not renew G.E.’s deal or that he would have preferred G.E. not come to Boston. He said Boston had bid too high.

According to Jackson, the money is there to support his educational vision: wraparound support services, enough early education seats to meet demand, free public transit passes for all students and more computer science. The councilor, who campaigned heavily against lifting the cap on charter schools, said there must be a move away from divisiveness and toward a focus on students in any type of public school.

“We must begin to budget not for sustenance, but success,” he said.

Jackson said he would budget several years in advance to prevent shortfalls and better utilize revenue.

Youth and economic inequality

He also said he would be a mayor who listened to youth, and praised the 3,500 high school students who walked out to protest Walsh’s original budget proposal. He also blasted Walsh for his treatment of the students, whom the mayor last year said were being manipulated by adults.

“We need a mayor who sees our young people not as an expense, who doesn’t disparage them and knows that youth leadership is what we need in the City of Boston,” he said.

Tackling income inequality requires stimulating job creation in all neighborhoods for all education levels, along with job training and criminal justice reforms so that CORIs are not a barrier to employment, Jackson said. Also needed, he added, are incentives directed at small businesses and greater commitment to ending disparities. He said Walsh’s pursuit of Indy Car and Boston 2024 posed risks to the city’s financial strength, and that he would take more real action to end the gender wage gap and racial economic disparities.

“[We need] a mayor who will not only talk about issues on race, but do something to close disparities of unemployment and jobs in all neighborhoods in Boston. Who will not only study gender inequality but ensure there is equity in pay in the city departments he has control over,” Jackson said.

Running throughout Jackson’s speech was the theme that politics in the city too often have focused on downtown and the wealthy. Jackson said he would be a mayor focused on uplifting all neighborhoods.

Jackson included among his causes increasing access to affordable housing and combatting rent burdens, shielding immigrants and reducing incidents of crime.

Going grassroots

Walsh has a hefty campaign war chest, with $3.6 million to Jackson’s $65,000, but Jackson said he believes he can generate a grassroots campaign with broad appeal.

Those present at Jackson’s announcement included affordable housing activists, public school parents and political activists. Bridget Colvin, a District 7 resident and parent of two children in Boston public schools, introduced Jackson.

State Rep. Russell Holmes, the only elected official present, said Jackson’s candidacy would focus attention on the needs of the city’s neighborhood residents.

“Our neighborhoods will get the attention they rightly deserve,” he said, adding that residents of his Mattapan-centered district are concerned about rising rents and displacement.

Holmes, however, said he and other black elected officials have not yet decided whether they will back Jackson or Walsh, whom he called a friend.

“We want to hear concrete plans,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hear the mayor’s State of the City address.”

Holmes said competition in the mayoral race is important, and that he will withhold his decision until he sees the candidates’ stances on critical issues such as wage inequality, education and public safety.

Walsh is due to give his annual address, outlining his plans for the year, on Tuesday, Jan. 17. At last year’s State of the City address, parent activists, students and teachers picketed in front of Symphony Hall, protesting cuts to BPS that set off several months of unrest, including three city-wide student walk-outs.

Jackson’s campaign has energized many people of color, who have been waiting since Mel King’s 1983 run, for a candidate who reflects them. When speaking to Jackson six to nine months ago about the potential mayoral run, Holmes said he advised Jackson to ensure his message resonates with communities of color. After hearing Jackson’s speech, Holmes said he believed the right message was conveyed.

Viewing Jackson’s speech from the Haley House parking lot, Mary Battenfeld, an activist with the parent group Quality Education for Every Student, said Jackson won the support of many with his spirited defense of public education funding and his leadership in the “No on Question 2” charter campaign.

“There are a lot of people who worked with him on ’No on 2’ who saw how he stepped up,” she said. “The message that he’s supporting schools is a good one.”

Retired teacher Bob Marshall said Jackson’s focus on inequality should resonate with residents of his Roxbury neighborhood, many of whom are being displaced by rapidly-rising rents.

“Folks are coming into this city and jacking rents up,” he said. “Folks are sick and tired. I’m disappointed in Walsh. I like him. I think he’s a decent guy. But I’m deeply disappointed.”