In an effort to keep you informed, Caught in Southie will be bringing you candidate Q&As before the upcoming preliminary election on Tuesday, September 26th.
City Councilor Tito Jackson, who was raised in Roxbury’s Grove Hall neighborhood, has been a force in Massachusetts politics since 2007, when he became the Industry Director for Information Technology in Governor Deval Patrick’s Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Later, Councillor Jackson became Governor Patrick’s Political Director in the Governor’s successful re-election campaign in 2010.
Tito won a 2011 special election to represent District 7 in the Boston Boston City Council, a position he’s held ever since. He currently represents all of Roxbury, parts of the South End, Dorchester, and some Fenway neighborhoods. Councillor Jackson is the Chair of the Committee on Education, and the Chair of the Special Committee on the Status of Black and Latino Men and Boys. Councillor Jackson also serves as the Vice Chair of the Committee on Healthy Women, Families and Communities. Councilor Jackson loves Boston and wants to become your next mayor, the first mayor of color in Boston’s history.
Why run for Mayor now? Why is 2017 your year?
Boston is a great, strong city. However, we are heading in the wrong direction and we must reinvest in our neighborhoods and residents. That’s why I’m running for mayor.
As a lifelong Bostonian, City Councilor, and as the Council’s Chair of the Committee on Education, I hear from residents every day in every neighborhood: it’s harder and harder for working Bostonians to access good jobs, affordable housing, efficient public transportation, and high-quality education for their children. It doesn’t have to be this way. When we make the development of a healthy middle class the priority, we will turn things around.
Boston has a mayoral system that gives too much power to one person – the Mayor of Boston. If the mayor decides on one path, even if it impacts the rest of us adversely, the residents of Boston have very little room to advocate for themselves and their neighborhoods. When I am Mayor, I will reduce the power of the Mayor’s office. I mean it, I really will. It is time for us to work together to actually return decision making back to the people of Boston.
And I believe my record of advocating for and with residents shows my commitment being an elected official that will uplift all Bostonians. This is not just only my year, it’s our year to reclaim our city.
What do you think is the most pressing issue is in South Boston?
People are being priced out of South Boston. Lifelong residents can’t afford to stay in the neighborhood where they grew up, which they love, and where they are committed to being good neighbors.
The average rent in South Boston is $2,928 (boston.com) and over a quarter of South Boston residents make under $50,000 (US Census Bureau). This points to two factors we know must address: Bostonians are extraordinarily rent-burdened and income inequality continues to rise under Mayor Walsh’s pro-development policies where developers profit while the integrity of our neighborhoods are eroded away and we grow more and more disconnected from each other.
How you would improve the quality of life for people who live in Southie? And for people who work here?
When people in Southie have been forced out, we don’t call it gentrification, we call it “moving to Quincy.” I will give every neighborhood control over their development destiny. As Mayor, I will abolish the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA, formerly called the BRA) and create a human-centered and accountable planning agency within city government. For South Boston, this will mean that the priorities of South Boston residents will come first, and the interests of developers will become a distant second. I will restore the former strength of Neighborhood Councils so that communities can advocate directly for both stability and change in their communities.
I will invest in our collective future by fully funding our public schools. As Chair of Education, I fought for our young people against a total of $140M in cuts to our schools over the last four years. This year alone Mayor Marty Walsh’s budget cut $11M from 49 schools, including the Joseph Tynan Elementary School; under Walsh’s leadership Excel High became the third school to drop into state turnaround status. It’s about priorities. We should leverage our strong economy to fully invest in our future by investing in our youth.
While remaining open to national and international opportunities that forward Boston (and South Boston’s) prosperity, I will not mortgage our future for the benefit of outside interests. Mayor Marty Walsh has shown time and again that his priorities are not the priorities of our neighborhoods. City-resources were misspent on ill-fated deals with the Olympics and IndyCar, and I stood with South Boston residents infuriated with a proposed taxpayer-funded helipad and $25M in tax breaks for GE.
As Mayor, I will concentrate on proven solutions that improve neighborhoods and the lives of residents: increased opportunities for affordable home ownership, support for neighborhood businesses and small, innovative companies that create the jobs we need, and improvements in our transportation infrastructure including bus rapid transit and a comprehensive, safe bike infrastructure. I will address parking concerns by planning for transportation infrastructure, rather than building relentlessly without looking at the bigger picture of how development impacts the entire neighborhood and the wider city.
Most important, I will implement citywide processes that give neighborhood residents a say. People closest to problems can be counted on for new ideas and fair solutions. Democracy is not always smooth, but I believe participation in civic life is vital to the future of our city and our country.
What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been as a City Councilor?
There are two things in particular I am proud to have helped accomplish: partnering with the people of Boston to oppose the Olympics so that Boston avoided bankruptcy, and my work on opposing Ballot Question 2 on the expansion of charter schools.
The mayor’s push for the 2024 Olympics would have led to a month-long party for elites paid for by the taxpayers — $12 billion to be exact. It was simply a terrible idea without a thoughtful, inclusive planning process. I am proud to have joined ordinary people in opposing the Olympic bid. I subpoenaed the bid documents because I wanted to make sure we got to see the budget the organizers wanted to keep secret. It took Montreal 30 years to get out of their Olympic debt which delayed and defunded their essential, everyday priorities. The people of Boston showed the world what a world-class city really looked like: one that didn’t give in to an unaccountable body like the International Olympic Committee that bulldozes over a city’s finances and residents’ everyday needs. Together, we made sure we put people before profits.
As Chair of Education, I vigorously opposed Ballot Question 2 to expand charter schools in Massachusetts. The proposed, ill-conceived legislation would have harmed our public schools, existing charters schools, and our parochial schools. I fought for our schools in 12 debates, including at the Harvard School of Education (my mom was proud!), and was the lead author of the City Council’s Resolution opposing the measure. I am proud to have taken a leadership role in a statewide coalition of students, parents, teachers, and community activists to soundly defeat the well-funded proponents. Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy and I was proud to do my part to protect it.
These efforts exemplify my leadership style – joining with ordinary people to protect the greater good. We were counted out and faced large odds – yet we won decisively. This is how I plan to become Mayor of Boston. My campaign is a grassroots campaign. You can join us at www.titojacksonformayor.com.
Do you think households should be able to get unlimited resident parking stickers?
Every resident is entitled to accessible and available parking. I understand cars are one form of transportation that people often must rely on for all their activities. That said, I am unsure whether having unlimited resident parking stickers is the only or most desirable solution. As Mayor, I would implement a neighborhood-driven, bottom-up process that identifies long-term solutions to our parking problems and our larger transportation challenges.
Is Boston doing enough to prepare for Climate Change?
The simple answer is no. There are immediate actions we need to take. For example, we currently budget less than $5 per person for Vision Zero initiatives compared with $13 for New York City, or $75 for San Francisco. We need to invest in a network of safe, connected bike lanes. We need to adopt Community Choice Energy (an initiative to buy more renewable electricity without increasing costs to businesses and residents) and implement a plastic bag ban. At the same time, we need to understand and take action in even more substantial ways. We need to be concerned about sea level rise because of our geographic location; additionally, recent snowstorms have brought our city to a halt because, in part, of an aging infrastructure. As Mayor, I would leverage the knowledge of our neighbors, including some of the brightest, most forward-thinking scientists in the world, to address our short- and long-term needs.
How do we make Boston a city that people want to raise their children in?
First, I will fully fund Boston Public Schools (BPS). A strong public school system is the foundation for building healthy neighborhoods with active citizens, contributing workers, and justice-seeking Bostonians. Our city can’t succeed if BPS isn’t succeeding for every student. In a Jackson administration, I will work with a BPS Superintendent to prioritize a well-rounded, high-quality education that includes K-12 computer science classes, arts education, and access to in-school libraries. Students can only learn when they are healthy so I would guarantee a school nurse in every school. Additionally, every high school student will receive a free MBTA pass so they can get to school, enrichment activities, and work.
Second, I will create an elected School Committee. Boston remains the only appointed school committee out of the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities. The people of Boston must be trusted to make decisions about our children’s education, their future, and our shared future.</span
Third, a Jackson Administration would create housing that families need and can afford. I would work across city departments to prioritize the creation of three- and four- bedroom units. Currently, the majority of the housing units we are building are rent-based studios and one bedrooms. That is a recipe for a transient future rather than one where people put down roots in our neighborhoods.</span
Fourth, we need to create a city that is safe for our children. We currently have a 4% arrest rate for non-fatal shootings, a 28% increase in shootings since last year, and a 38% increase in homicides. We know that a relatively small number of young men commit the majority of gun violence in Boston. Along with a plan to engage these young men, I will offer high quality summer learning programs and invest in our community centers. We also need to support our police officers. They have difficult jobs. No officer should work more than 10 hours at a time or for more than five days in a row. I believe our police department is under-resourced, therefore I will hire more officers to make sure the police force fully reflects the diversity of Boston and cuts down on the nearly $60 million in overtime financed by taxpayers in 2016.
I say it often: a budget is a value statement. As Mayor, I would fund the school day, out-of-school opportunities, housing, and public safety efforts that support our children and families.
Favorite Boston sports team?
Pats! Also, a shout out to the awesome Renegades who just missed out on the National Championship.
Favorite place to eat in Southie?
I have to say the Amrheins. I go for the amazing steak tips and best chocolate cake, made by the chef (who, admittedly, is a friend). I love the Fruity Pebbles pancakes at Lincoln Tavern. And, you can’t beat Mul’s Diner for a great, tasty, and affordable breakfast.