Boston District 7 candidates face off in debate over city issues
Eleven of 13 display varying knowledge of policy
The tone was mostly cordial as 11 of the 12 candidates for the District 7 City Council seat shared their views during a candidate forum last week held at ABCD’s Thelma D. Burns building in Grove Hall.
But the answers the candidates gave on issues — from gentrification and displacement to safe injection sites — showed a wide range in their understanding of public policy and the City Council’s role.
Former state Rep. and Department of Neighborhood Development Director Charlotte Golar Richie posed questions to the candidates, alternating among them.
When asked about the lack of affordable housing in Boston and the displacement of low- and moderate-income renters, Brian Keith, an executive with a startup airline company, said he would rely on his experience as a neighborhood activist, engaging for-profit developers to negotiate more affordability in their developments. Youth worker Rufus Faulk said he would galvanize neighborhood associations to advocate for more affordability.
Education advocate Kim Janey cited a menu of policies she supports, including regulating short-term rentals, supporting the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act and creating more home ownership opportunities by leveraging funds from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust.
Business owner and activist Deeqo Jibril spoke about her experience as a single mother living in subsidized housing and suggested that 30-40 percent of all development should be affordable. Attorney Hasan Williams spoke from his experience as a formerly homeless person, proposing the city allow the development of more rooming houses.
When asked about curbing police abuse, most candidates called for establishing a civilian review board. Janey recommended expanding the department’s body-worn camera pilot program to all officers. Jibril, who came to Boston from Somalia when she was 12, spoke about her experience forging better relations between police and Somali teens. Hasan Williams said the police Cadet Program ought to be housed at Madison Park High School. “That tells our students their education means something,” he said.
Henriquez noted that changes to police policy would have to go through the other 12 city councilors. He said he would establish a close working relationship with the captains in Area B2 in Roxbury and D4 in the South End, as well as supportstate legislation sponsored by Rep. Russell Holmes that would institute reforms to civil service exams aimed at increasing the number of people of color eligible for to become police officers.
Charles Clemons Muhammad — who began every answer by standing up and announcing, “I’m Charles Clemons Muhammad, and when I’m your next city councilor…” — suggested the department deploy more officers on walking beats. Muhammad also said that men in the community take responsibility for preventing crime.
“Men need to take responsibility for their families and their streets and make sure they’re safe for our women and children,” he said.
There are 13 candidates in the race. Not in attendance at the Grove Hall forum were Steven Wise and Roy Owens. Among the 11 who did show up, there was little apparent difference of opinion on any of the issues raised, although the assembled gathering of politically-active District 7 voters was able to assess the candidates’ grasp of the issues and working of the council.
With the mayoral race on the ballot, as many as 9,000 voters could turn out for the September 26 preliminary. Due to a larger universe of likely voters, campaign funding for items such as mailings and candidate promotion could be a key factor in this year’s race, due to the need for a larger base of volunteers and staff. With little more than 11 weeks to the preliminary, each campaign will need a small army to identify likely voters.
So far, Kim Janey leads in fundraising with $30,569 in her account as of the June 15 filing date, the most recent available on the Office of Campaign and Public Finance website. Other war chests by mid-June: Jibril had $18,067, and DePina came in third, with $13,377 on hand. Hasan Williams reported $12,505 in his account, $10,000 of which he loaned his campaign. No other candidate had more than $10,000 on hand.