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Meet the candidates for Boston City Council, District 2

Posted by Roy Greene  September 28, 2011 11:46 AM

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Incumbent City Councilor Bill Linehan and challenger Suzanne Lee were the top two vote-getters in the Sept. 27 preliminary election to represent District 2, which is based in South Boston but includes parts of the South End, Bay Village, the Leather District, Dorchester, and Roxbury. Meet the candidates, who will face off in the general election Nov. 8:

Suzanne Lee
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Grew up: Came to the United States from Hong Kong at the age of 11. and lived in the Grove Hall section.

Current residence: Nassau Street, Chinatown

Education: Attended Boston Public Schools, including the Girl’s Latin School. Earned a scholarship to Brandeis University — becoming the first in my family to attend college. Master’s in Education from Harvard University.

Occupation: Retired BPS teacher and principal, community Organizer

Personal: Husband Yoshihisa Matsusaka, one son, Kenji.

Hobbies: Traveling, attending plays and concerts, and trying new restaurants.

Website: www.SuzanneLeeBoston.com

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing District Two?

A. The biggest challenge facing not only District Two, but our entire city, is our public education system. Boston has some great schools -- and we should be proud of that -- but I believe we can do better. My life’s work has been improving education and making our children’s lives better. I have 35 years experience as a teacher and principal in our local schools. I’ve taken on tough fights, and I’ve gotten results. I took over one of Boston’s lowest-performing schools and in just four years made it a nationally recognized model for school reform. I’ve also served as principal of the Josiah Quincy School for 10 years, which was named one of the best public schools in Massachusetts during my tenure. I know what a good education can mean to our children and to our city. I believe that great schools build strong communities and as a city councilor, together, we can make our schools better and make education Boston’s top priority.

Q. If elected, how do you if elected plan to unite District Two’s many diverse neighborhoods and groups?

A. I’ve spent more than three decades bringing people together to make real change that benefits the children and residents of Boston. I believe that right now, in District Two, we need proactive leadership rather than reactive leadership. I don’t think having our councilors sit in an office and wait for constituents to call with problems is the answer to improving our city, nor is it the way I have led in our communities and turned around schools as a principal in our school system. My custodians used to have a joke that if you want to hide from Ms. Lee, go sit in her office, because she’s never there. I’m always out and about, talking with people about the issues that concern them before they become a problem and getting everyone in the community’s input on issues before decisions are made.

People want to be involved in the decisions that affect their block, their community, and their families. Our city government needs to do a better job of being transparent and involving everyone -- new residents, immigrants, young people, seniors and working families -- in the decision making process.

Q. Youth violence has been brought up as a major theme during this election and recently in the news. How can the city curb youth violence?

A. As a teacher and principal, I understand that during a child’s early development, adults must make sure that we are sending our children the right message. When children hear that we are closing schools, libraries and community centers and cutting funding for arts and music programs as well as youth summer jobs - what kind of hope are we giving them? We must always be mindful that children are affected by things everyday that shape their development and often lead them down either the right or wrong path. Additionally, I believe that we have to increase our investment in non-school hour opportunities for our children such as after-school learning programs, arts enrichment, and school-to-career development.
Beyond the positive approaches, I do believe that we need more police officers in the areas of our city that have increased in population, we need to expand foot patrol and bicycle police, work to develop more community policing, and build better relationships between police and the community.

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

A. We have to be realistic about budget shortfalls and have serious discussions about where we can afford to make cuts and where we can’t. That being said, I firmly believe that we cannot cut money from our schools nor can we cut programs that provide our children with non-school enrichment and learning.

We can’t afford to cut libraries, community centers, after school art and music programs, or summer job funding for teenagers. I also firmly believe that we can’t cut police and first responder services. As Boston’s population grows, we have seen the increased need for police presence as well as fire and emergency medicine services and so we cannot make cuts in an area that effects the health and safety of our neighbors.

The reality is that we have too many programs that we want and not enough revenue, so I believe we must look at new and creative ways to raise revenue. Also, when the time does come and we are faced with making these tough decisions, I believe we need to take a close look at which programs are working and which aren’t, and involve the community in making the decisions as to where the cuts should be made. It is the responsibility of city government to make sure they get input from the community and involve people before these difficult decisions are made.

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. As the child of working-class immigrants, I understand the importance of ensuring that all who wish to live in Boston can afford to do so and committed to helping those at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure stay in their homes. In my work in the community I’ve organized tenants in over seven Chinatown developments and worked closely with the City of Boston to keep these residents facing eviction or foreclosure in their homes.

I also will help bring together residents facing foreclosure with organizations like City Life/Vida Urbana and help organize people to stand up to the banks as well as fight to ensure that all of our neighbors have all of the resources they need to help them through tough times.

Bill Linehan
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Age: 60

Grew up: South Boston

Current residence: G Street, South Boston

Education: South Boston High School, University of Massachusetts Boston, B.A. in political science

Occupation: City councilor. Previously, director of operations for the city’s Parks Dept. and most recently special assistant to the chief operating officer of the city.

Personal: Wife Judy, four adult children, five grandchildren

Hobbies: Running, music (guitar/vocalist), golf

website : linehanforcitycouncil.org

Q. What is the biggest challenge facing District Two?

A. Presently, the balance of growth and neighborhood integrity. Jobs and new revenue vs. the impact of development. Also redistricting, underway this year it will change the make up of the District Two for the next ten years. It will be implemented in 2013.

Q. How do you plan to work to unite District Two’s many diverse neighborhoods and groups?

A. As a City Councilor for the past 4 years, I have worked closely with folks from across the district to demonstrate that we all share the same interests and desires for our neighborhood. Boston is changing it continues to grow, especially in District 2, but we will all want safe, clean, and a pleasant place to live. I can honestly say that during my tenure, folks cross neighborhoods much more frequently and enjoy them the culture and quality of each.

Q. Youth violence has been brought up as a major theme during this
election and recently in the news. How can the city curb youth violence

A. Youth violence is always a serious issue, but not as common as substance abuse, overdose, and the fact that in Boston there are nearly 10,000 young people 16-24 not working or in school. Many problems form a troubled youth and especially those who would injure or kill someone or abuse themselves to death. The violence must be identified and removed from the streets. Programs need to be funded that will address the other issues raised. There is no simple solution, but it's cheaper and more effective to spend our resources on the front end than a lifetime of incarceration.

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

As a City Councilor in most difficult times, I have made painful cuts and protected most-needed services. My record stands for itself.

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. The Boston City Council has developed programs to address the issues related to foreclosures. I voted for and worked as the chair of Economic Development to fund programs that work to help people keep their homes and protect thee neighborhoods for the blight and impact of foreclosures. District Two was and is quite fortunate and we had the least amount of foreclosures in the City of Boston.

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