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Suzanne Lee to challenge Linehan for District 2 City Council seat

Posted by Cara Bayles  February 1, 2011 11:13 AM

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Suzanne Lee, an education professional and activist who has been organizing in Chinatown and the South End since the late 1970s, will challenge City Councilor Bill Linehan for his District 2 seat this fall.

Linehan has represented the district, which includes the South End, South Boston, Chinatown and the Leather District, since 2007.

While she doesn't have any previous experience holding office, Lee has deep political roots in the district. She retired after a 10-year stint as principal at the Josiah Quincy School in 2009, and in 1977, she helped found the Chinese Progressive Association, an organizing force for labor, voting rights and community services (she spearheaded an effort to bring a library branch to Chinatown) in the immigrant community. She is still a leader and mentor in public education and sat on the Chinatown Master Plan oversight committee.

"My whole adult life has been organizing people to have a greater voice and helping to make decisions that impact their lives," she said, adding that while the city has provided greater access to its services and resources online, much of the city's working-class and immigrant communities don't know how to access the information. "A lot of times people expect the city to something for them, but they don't necessarily know how decisions are made, or what their part should be in that."

With Lee's political roots in Chinatown and the South End, and Linehan's following in Southie, the race could be a landgrab for votes. Lee plans to run a "grassroots campaign," which would involve door knocking and listening sessions all over the district.

"I do know that people are very concerned about who can afford to live in the city. So much of the developments in the last 10 years have been focused on luxury housing," she said, citing the South End, the Seaport District and Fort Point as areas that are rapidly becoming too expensive. "It pushes everything else up too. We need a more balanced approach to development. A lot of groups and artists who live in the Fort Point area are concerned about whether they can afford to stay there."

Rumors have circulated that Michael McGee—fresh off a run for the state representative seat formerly occupied by Brian Wallace, and won by Nick Collins last fall—may also vie for Linehan's seat. McGee said there is "no truth" to the speculation.

E-mail Cara Bayles at carabayles@gmail.com.

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