Candidates line up in race for District 7
Janey’s departure triggers increased interest in Roxbury-based council seat
Within weeks of acting Mayor Kim Janey’s announcement that she’s running for a full term at the helm of the city, at least six candidates appear to be vying for the District 7 City Council seat she will vacate in January.
Bowdoin-Geneva Main Streets Director Tania Anderson, public health and community advocate Angelina Camacho, Northeastern University Campus Engagement and Collaborations Manager Marisa Luse, attorney Lorraine Payne Wheeler and community activist Santiago Rivera join veteran District 7 candidates Rev. Roy Owens and anti-violence activist Joao DePina in the race for the seat.
In alphabetical order, here are the candidates and some of their positions.
Anderson was born on the island of Santiago in Cape Verde and grew up in Roxbury’s Academy Homes housing development. She spent much of her working life in social services — including stints at the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers and Project HOPE. She worked in Boston Public Schools’ Family Resource Center and has since 2018 served as executive director of the Bowdoin-Geneva Main Streets business-assistance nonprofit.
She also is a fashion designer, and in 2019 she launched a pan-African masquerade band in Boston’s Caribbean Carnival, for which she designed costumes.
She said she is running because she wants to help improve the district.
“I feel like I’m in a place where I can be of service to my community,” she said.
Anderson said she would work on COVID recovery, housing issues and violence and trauma while on the council.
She said she supports rent control.
“I think we definitely need to support rent stabilization,” she said. “We can look at best practices, but our community is suffering. We need stabilization.”
She supports a fully-elected Boston School Committee and said she would support diverting some funds from policing to anti-violence and social services.
“I’m not going to say I have the answer, but I know we need to have that conversation,” she said.
Camacho was born in Boston. She grew up in Roxbury and spent some of her childhood in Mattapan. She has worked much of her adult life in public health, including a stint with the Multicultural AIDS Coalition. She said her experience in housing services and the public health field have prepared her to advocate for her community from City Hall.
“We have a lot of critical issues plaguing our community,” she said. “As somebody who has experience in different fields and has passion for local issues, I felt as though I should stand up and run.”
While Camacho doesn’t think the city should return to the form of rent control that existed before it was abolished in 1995, she said she’s open to some form of stabilization.
“I would be looking at all options,” she said.
She supports a hybrid elected/appointed School Committee and noted that she sits on the citizens’ nominating panel for the current appointed committee.
“The mayor doesn’t pick a committee member out of the phone book,” she said. “There’s a community process. I think the public needs to be better educated on the process.”
On the issue of police funding, she said she supports greater funding for anti-violence programs and social services, but said funding diverted from the $400 million police budget would not be sufficient.
“We need to do a lot more than cutting police funding to fund anti-violence,” she said.
DePina was prompted to run for office by what he said is a lack of leadership in the district, which has had three races for an open seat in the last 10 years.
“We need someone who’s going to do the do the work and not be afraid to speak their mind,” he said.
He said he would like to work on issues including policing, housing, the drug epidemic and illegal guns.
DePina lives in an affordable apartment and said he supports bringing back rent control in Boston.
“We need some kind of rent control,” he said.
He supports a return to an elected School Committee and said parents should have more say in decisions surrounding the schools.
DePina is not in support of cutting the police budget as a whole, arguing the department is short-staffed, but said some areas such as the Internal Affairs Division should be cut.
“The department has some good people,” he said. “I want to make sure there are more women and more men of color in power.”
Roxbury native Marisa Luse has served as a special assistant to Northeastern University’s director of neighborhood partnerships and programs since 2015. Prior to that, she worked with Discover Roxbury and the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute.
She plans to work on addressing the root causes of violence in the city, the opioid crisis and quality-of-life issues in District 7.
“We are a very diverse district, economically, socially, racially,” she said. “I want to ensure that everyone in the district has access to City Hall.”
That diversity is threatened by real estate development, she said. She serves on the Roxbury Strategic Masterplan Oversight Committee and has a bird’s eye view of the development projects underway in the Nubian Square area.
Real estate development in Roxbury has not benefitted long-term residents, she said, due to rising housing costs.
“History has shown that when there is development, there is displacement,” she said. “We can’t keep repeating history.”
Luse said she would support bringing back rent control in Boston.
“I think everyone should have an affordable place to live,” she said. “I don’t think people should have to leave the city because they can’t afford to live here.”
She does not have a position on whether the police budget should be cut or whether the School Committee should return to an elected model.
“It’s still an issue I’m researching,” she said.
Rivera has lived in Roxbury his whole life. He said he became interested in politics when, as a 17-year-old, he reached out to the late City Councilor Chuck Turner to have a stop sign installed on Magnolia Street where he lived. Several children had been hit by cars on the busy side street.
Turner brought officials from the city’s Transportation and Public Works departments, who consulted with him on where to install signs and traffic calming measures.
“That moment, a lightbulb went off in my head,” Rivera said. “I knew you could actually improve your community.”
He said he would like to make the city’s budgeting process more transparent and inclusive.
He supports a return to rent control in Boston and a return to an elected School Committee.
“The youth should have a vote on that committee,” he said.
He also supports cutting the police budget to fund violence prevention services.
“The police budget goes up every year,” he said. “We can put some of that funding into social services and into our schools.”
Lorraine Payne Wheeler
Wheeler is an attorney who helped found the Roxbury Path Forward Neighborhood Association, which is active in the Moreland Street Historical District. She grew up in Roxbury and said she decided to run because too many of her neighbors are struggling.
“In our neighborhood, we have a lot of development,” she said. “Developers are turning triple-deckers into condos, but then they’re too expensive for the people who live here.”
She said she would like local residents to have a greater say in what is developed in the community.
Wheeler would support some form of rent control.
“Certainly people need assistance in paying housing,” she said.
She said she supports a hybrid elected/appointed school committee and would support a reduction in funding for police.
“We’ve all seen that the police don’t have the tools to handle incidents involving people with mental or emotional health challenges,” she said.
Roy Owens could not be reached for comment for this article.