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At-large candidate forum in Mattapan

Challengers outline vision for City Hall

Anu Sawhney
At-large candidate forum in Mattapan
Fifteen candidates for the four at-large seats on the City Council participated in a forum sponsored by the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council at the Morningstar Baptists Church on Blue Hill Avenue. PHOTO: CHRIS LOVETT

At-large city council challengers and incumbents emphasized their ability to bring change to the city, speaking before residents at the Greater Mattapan Neighborhood Council meeting last Saturday.

The candidates came to the meeting, held at the Morning Star Baptist Church, prepared to offer both their vision and their inspiration.

Julia Mejia, originally from the Dominican Republic, explained how her mother, who was undocumented, and other mentors taught her to be the advocate she is today.

“I went to Dorchester High School, and the only reason I’m standing in front of you here today is because Reverend Liz Walker shared her story at my high school. At the time I was 20 years old, I was cleaning offices and I was selling shoes, but she disrupted my entire cycle of poverty,” Mejia said to those in attendance. “Those are the issues I’m going to be fighting for.”

She emphasized how her own experience has made her determined to provide students with the important resources that are needed to climb up the socioeconomic ladder.

“I know there are a lot of young people out here sitting in classrooms and they don’t have the support to be able to thrive,” she said. “I know, as the first person to graduate high school, it was my ticket out of poverty.”

If elected, she also wants to have public hearings with childcare provided so parents are able to attend.

“If this city is not for us, we’re going to take it back,” Mejia said.

Herb Lozano, who was born and raised in Dorchester, explained why this role felt like “a calling.”

“I consider myself to be a product of this city,” he said. “As I reflect on myself, my peers, and the families in this neighborhood, I’ve come to understand that we are the most impacted — and I believe that the people who are the most impacted should be leading the movements that change the city.”

Domingos DaRosa, a second-time candidate, small business owner and father of four, ran for council seat two years ago when there were no open seats. He discussed how the same issues have worsened, pushing him to pursue the race again. He pointed to the recent revelation of how few city procurement dollars are going to minority-owned businesses.

“The same issues continue to happen because we keep following the same suit,” he said. “$664 million came through City Hall and no one advocated to have that spread out fairly. … That was one of the reasons I jumped into this race.”

On another topic, he said, “My children are my world, but the children around them are the ones that I’m concerned about. There’s 4,000 public school students without a home. They go hungry from Friday afternoon to Monday.”

Candidate Erin Murphy, a veteran BPS teacher and Dorchester native, emphasized the need for education system reforms.

“We need to have more trauma-informed training,” she said. “We also need to address the fact that Madison Park High is not what it should be.”

William King, also a longtime resident of Dorchester, explained that his reason for running is the disconnect he sees between the community and the local government.

“I think there are too many people who feel like their voices aren’t being heard,” he said.

Michel Denis, who is a first-generation Haitian American Bostonian, emphasized the need to address the housing affordability crisis in Boston.

Incumbents at the forum included the four current at-large councilors: Althea Garrison, Annissa Essaibi-George, Michael Flaherty and Michelle Wu. Garrison left the forum early after moderator Fatima Ali-Salaam admonished her for attacking fellow candidates in violation of the rules of the forum. Garrison, who claimed other councilors did not attend community events, promptly gathered her belongings and left the forum.

The 15 candidates for the four at-large citywide seats will face off in a preliminary election on Sept. 24, after which the top eight will advance to the Nov. 5 ballot.

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