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Meet the candidates for Boston City Council, District 3

Posted by Roy Greene  September 28, 2011 12:01 PM

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Frank Baker, a former city employee, and John O'Toole, a realtor and plumber, topped the seven-candidate field in the Sept. 27 preliminary vote to fill the City Council seat being vacated by longtime Councilor Maureen Feeney, representing Dorchester. Meet the candidates, who will now face off Nov. 8:

Frank Baker
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Age: 43

Grew up: Spring Garden St, Dorchester

Current Residence: Grampian Way, Savin Hill

Occupation: Retired from the City of Boston Printing Department; on leave from Amtrak

Education: Don Bosco Technical High School

Personal: Wife Elaine, twin 5-year-olds, Benjamin and Maxine

Hobbies: Spending time with my wife and children.

Website: www.frankbaker.org

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing Dorchester?

A. I think the biggest problem we are facing is the schools. The school assignment process is broken. While my wife and I were fortunate enough to receive the school of our choice in the lottery for our children, I know the uncertainty parents face with the lottery system. We should not be gambling with our children’s future. As your city councilor, I will work to reform the school assignment process and improve underperforming schools to restore parents’ confidence in the system.

Q. If elected, how would you help to unite Dorchester's many diverse neighborhoods and groups?

A. With so many groups in Dorchester, we need to speak with one voice. As your city councilor, I will work with all of these groups. At the end of the day, we all want the same things. If we can communicate effectively among ourselves, I hope that we can speak louder and stronger together as one.

Q. How can the city curb youth violence?

Q. The city should continue to work with the public and private sector to provide outreach programs and jobs for teens, keeping them focused and active. I would also like to see real community policing. An officer walking the beat is more likely to be able to connect with the teens in his district and as a result, more likely to be able to curb teen violence and crime.

Q. Cuts are being made across the board in the city budget. What programs would you cut, and which ones would you save?

A. I do not believe in closing libraries and community centers or cutting jobs. I would rather conduct an audit in each department to see where we can save money in terms of efficiency and productivity.

Q. Foreclosures are rampant in the city. How would you help people avoid losing their homes? And if they do, how as city councilor would you help them get back on their feet?

A. I would support legislation similar to that which the City of Springfield has filed requiring foreclosing banks to pay a $10,000 cash bond to help the city in securing and maintaining vacant properties. I would also work with the legislature as they address foreclosure issues statewide. Additionally, I would work with the Department of Neighborhood Development to strengthen existing programs dealing with foreclosure. We need to develop programs to assist home buyers in a transition period caused by a lost job. Many times a homeowner could maintain ownership if they had short-term, temporary assistance.

John O’Toole
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Age: 47

Grew up: St. Margaret’s Parish; lifelong resident of Dorchester.

Current residence: Minot Street, Dorchester

Personal: Three sons, Jack, Ronan, and Danny.

Occupation: Realtor and co-owner of Olde Towne Real Estate, in Dorchester. Previously, a union plumber for 25 years.

Education: St. Brendan School and Don Bosco High School

Hobbies: Spending time with family and friends and reading history. Community involvement, including president of Cedar Grove Civic Association and a member of the Ward 16 Democratic Committee and of the St. Brendan’s Parish Council

Website: www.otoolefordorchester.com

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing Dorchester?

A. The city as a whole, not just Dorchester, is facing broad and complex challenges. The biggest challenge confronting Dorchester is that as a neighborhood we are in a period of decreased funding in the face of increased need. Students need after-school programs; seniors need access to reliable public transportation and resources which allow them to stay in their homes; families deserve the assurance of safe streets and parks; and the hard-working men and women of the building trades need to be put to work. Boston is charged with balancing these and so many more challenges without the federal stimulus dollars and grant funding available in previous fiscal years. We need to do more, with less. In an environment where it is widely thought that things have been significantly cut already, these decisions only become more painful.

Q. If elected, how do you if elected plan to unite Dorchester's many diverse neighborhoods and groups?

The diversity of District 3 is its strength. Over the past 20 years, I have had the opportunity to work with great leaders from all across Dorchester. Through these relationships and my commitment to having open dialogues across Dorchester, I will set up a community network that reflects the rich diversity of our district. For my office, if elected, I intend to find the most qualified staff that reflects the diversity of Dorchester.
Therefore, my staff will be best able to connect to each of Dorchester’s diverse constituencies, but at the end of the day, the responsibility of representing all of District 3 rests with me. Representing the entire district is a responsibility I take very seriously, and I look forward to having the opportunity to put my commitment into action.

Q How can the city help curb youth violence?

A. Government and businesses at all levels need to invest in our youth. Teens in Boston deserve summer jobs, mentoring and the opportunity to succeed. As City Councilor, I will advocate for early intervention programs, increased creative mentoring of at-risk youth and community policing. I will work with non-profits such as Action for Boston Community Development to push to get public and private funding for summer jobs. I will advocate for getting guns off the street. I will advocate for the neighborhood bike squads to be put back on the street. But most importantly, I will listen to those families most affected by these senseless acts of violence to hear their thoughts and ideas in order to end the hatred and violence.
I have three sons, I want the very best for them, and I know every parent wants the best for their child. Every parent in Dorchester deserves to have their children live on safe streets and play in safe parks. Every parent deserves to know that their elected officials will do whatever it takes to ensure our leaders of tomorrow have the resources and tools they need to walk a path toward success.

Q. Cuts are being made across the board in the city budget. What programs would you cut and which ones would you save?

A. The City Council does not have the authority to add to the budget. It is through the budget process that councilors negotiate additional funding in the resubmitted budget. One aspect of City spending which needs to be re-examined is the astounding $80 million Boston Public Schools will pay next year to transport students, close to 10 percent of the total school budget. Just imagine what the schools would be able to do if the City redirected even half of the transportation budget and reinvested into underperforming schools, new computers, additional staff and teacher incentives.

This infusion would not cost taxpayers anymore than we already pay, yet would pay dividends for decades and give our kids the competitive edge they need to succeed. The first step in the process is proving to parents in each community that their children will be well served by their local neighborhood public school and that there is parity across all schools within the City.

I fully support the maintenance of the Boston Public Library’s 26-branch system. I firmly believe that libraries provide an essential resource to all age groups, from children to seniors, and especially in a bad economy. I support the continuing evolution of library after school educational programming, and I support increasing the evening hours in branch locations throughout the City. I will do everything in my power to avoid closing any library in Dorchester.

Q. Foreclosures are rampant in the city. How would you help people avoid losing their homes? And if they do, how as city councilor would you help them get back on their feet?

A. It is important to remember the role that the speculative loan practices engaged in by some of our nation’s largest financial entities had in bringing us to where we are today. Practices such as no-document loans, ghost loans and the downright negligence of issuing loans to homebuyers who could not afford to enter into the terms of the loan. Many of those victimized were families who wanted nothing more than fulfill the American dream of owning their own home.

As city Councilor, I look forward to partnering with the numerous City and State agencies focused on the financial education of first time homebuyers. I am excited to work with Dorchester’s active non-profit community in the effort. I firmly believe the financial education of our City’s leaders of tomorrow begins at the earliest possible age in the classroom.

We need to lead the nation in ensuring that all students leave high school with a deep understanding of real-world personal finance. A solid understanding of mortgages, interest rates, credit cards and personal debt management needs to be at the forefront of our math education curriculum.

For those who unfortunately are entangled in the difficult process of trying to make payments on a home on which the property value has dramatically decreased and are on the verge of losing the home, something needs to be done. As city councilor with a background as a real estate professional, my door will always be open to constituents entrenched in this difficult situation.

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