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Ruthzee Louijeune, 35, is running for an at-large City Council seat and is a lawyer. Born and raised in Hyde Park and Mattapan, Louijeune attended Boston Latin School before moving to New York to attend Columbia University. After her undergraduate degree, Louijeune moved to Cambridge to attend Harvard Kennedy School and then Harvard Law School.
Why are you running for at-large city councilor?
I am running because there’s an urgency to the issues that the city is facing and I am ready to meet the moment with my passion, deep love for this city, and past work experience and advocacy. Affordable housing and homeownership, equitable and excellent schools, climate & transit justice, racial equity, and support for our small businesses – that’s what voters care about, and that’s what I care about. I have a track record that demonstrates that I show up for Boston’s working-class families – whether as an attorney representing individuals facing eviction and foreclosure, or as an appointed member and only student on an education committee working on fixing our student assignment process under Mayor Menino. I was born and raised in Mattapan and Hyde Park, a graduate of BPS, and a daughter of Haitian immigrants. I know the issues facing our residents, and I’m ready to hit the ground running to make this city more equitable, inclusive, and affordable. I would be the first Haitian person elected to Boston city government and bring language access – I speak Haitan Creole, French, & Spanish. I’m a collaborative problem-solver with a lot of grit and determination – skills that will serve the city well.
There are 17 candidates for at-large city councilor. What accomplishments and proposals do you think make you stand out from the others? Please be specific.
Helped a non-profit negotiate $10 million to make homeownership a reality for first-generation homebuyers. The biggest barrier to homeownership is the lack of intergenerational wealth to help with upfront costs. More of the city’s budget must be allocated to developing affordable housing. I represented families facing eviction and foreclosure, gaining experience with anti-displacement work and successfully keeping clients in their homes. Proposals: Increasing IDP, increasing linkage fees, rent stabilization measures, use public land to develop affordable housing, and a percentage of city budget to directly help the very poor via a guaranteed income. I was the only student appointed to an education committee under Mayor (Thomas) Menino, which encouraged my advocacy for: two students on the Boston School Committee with voting power; bring back sign-off authority of new hires to the BPS Equity office to monitor diversity; and federal funding for universal pre-k, more licensed guidance counselors, and capital improvements. In 2011, my friends and I were denied service at a downtown business simply because we were Black. I testified before Boston City Council and the AG’s office, a fine was levied against the business, employees had to attend anti-discrimination training, and the business had to issue a public apology.
What would be your top three objectives during your term as city councilor?
My top three priorities are housing, education, and access to city contracting dollars.
My plan to address housing includes efforts to close the racial wealth gap and create wealth and community stability among working class families through a) first-generation homeownership grant-based programs targeted to communities that historically experienced blockbusting and redlining; b) increasing payments and advancing timing of payments made to city by commercial and residential developers to fund affordable housing and homeownership; and c) using more public land for the development of affordable housing and homeownership.
When it comes to education, I would a) support an elected school committee; b) robust funding for pre-K and early college access programs for high school students; c) more emotional and tangible support for students experiencing homelessness; d) enact policies to ensure diversity in teaching; and e) have more licensed guidance counselors.
Regarding city contracts, I would work to a) Break down contracts to make small, local, women, Black, and LatinX businesses more competitive in the procurement process; b) Increase supplier diversity by looking at the success Massport had with supplier diversity with Seaport projects; and c) Offer technical assistance to help complete RFPs to small and local businesses in low-income communities.
What is one thing you want the City of Boston to know about you?
That we can do hard things if we work together. I have a lot of neighborhood pride (Mattapan & Hyde Park!) but what’s more is I have a lot of city pride. Sometimes we put up these barriers across neighborhoods – it’s important that we see ourselves as one unified city if we are to solve the intractable problems of affordable housing, quality schools, racial, transit, and climate justice, and supporting our small businesses. I want to bring our city together while reckoning with our past. I call people in, I lead with a smile, but I come with teeth when defending my city and fighting for working families and racial justice. I believe it’s important for me to be a good neighbor, and I’ll do that when responding to constituent issues such as broken lights and potholes or a neighbor without enough food. I’ll be your City Councilor. If this was supposed to be a fun fact, I was a ball girl for the Celtics rookie team the summer of 1998. The players were very big and I was nervous the entire time as I carried them water and wiped their sweat off the court!
What is your typical Dunkin’ order?
Either a glazed donut or five glazed munchkins and a hot or iced tea. When I was younger the jelly donut was my jam but now I just keep it classic.
Previous candidate: Said Abdikarim
Next candidate: Kelly F. Bates
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