Politics

Here’s what mayoral candidates said about the economics and equity of Boston’s future

In Roxbury Thursday, 4 mayoral hopefuls touted their plans for the economy, equity, and quality of life in Boston.

A mayoral forum was hosted at Roxbury Community College by A Better City, the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, and CommonWealth Magazine. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The final leg of campaigning before Tuesday’s preliminary elections is ramping up. Less than 24 hours after their first mayoral debate, four of the five Boston mayoral candidates joined a forum at Roxbury Community College Thursday morning. Current Acting Mayor Kim Janey was not present. 

The forum, hosted by Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, A Better City and CommonWealth Magazine, focused on questions about the economy, equity, and quality of life in Boston, and the policies the candidates hope to implement for issues targeted toward small businesses, education, transportation, housing and more. 

Here’s what each candidate had to say:

John Barros

As former chief of economic development for the City of Boston, many of Barros’s ideas revolved around investing in communities, especially Black and brown communities, and providing financial support and assistance in some way or another. 

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When candidates were asked how they would continue to support existing small businesses who were hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses, Barros seemed to embrace the idea of providing capital to these small businesses. 

“Small businesses, most of them micro businesses, have a hard time accessing capital,” Barros said. “They’re in dire need of capital and so during the pandemic, it was clear that if we didn’t provide direct financial assistance to our small businesses, we would lose most of them.”

Investments continued to be Barros’s mantra, as he discussed the need to invest in Boston Public Schools. More specifically, he urged the need to invest $4 billion toward all schools and neighborhoods in Boston, starting with those who haven’t seen investments in a long time.

“When we think about economic development, we think about growth, we think about equity, it starts with education, it starts with human development,” Barros said. 

On public transportation, Barros focused on investing the potential money coming in from the proposed federal $3.5 trillion budget to the MBTA to make it a better option for people than cars. 

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In a lightning round, when candidates were asked how they would provide the money for all of the investments they plan to implement, Barros said that the first task was to bring the economy back before the state could begin to collect taxes and revenue. 

Andrea Campbell

Many of Campbell’s answers centered on her experiences living in Mattapan as well as being City Councilor for District 4, and providing opportunities for previously underserved communities. 

When asked about supporting small businesses, Campbell talked about those in local neighborhoods and communities, which she said are not only are essential to bringing in revenue, but also provide job opportunities for those in the community. In order to keep these businesses from closing, immediate relief, business funds and resources should be much more accessible, she said. 

Her neighborhood approach was apparent when candidates were asked about addressing the equity gap and how they would work with the development community to provide a reliable path. 

“We need to go back to the table and sort of build upon that 2030 plan and add more meat on the bone,” Campbell said. “Neighborhood by neighborhood, listening to the residents, what is it you need?”

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Similar to Barros, Campbell called for more investments, in education, transportation and climate change, for local neighborhoods, especially the underserved ones that need better systems and infrastructure to function within the larger community. She proposed to look at inefficiencies in the city budget instead of having residents pay more taxes, and to redistribute the money toward these necessary investments. 

Annissa Essaibi George

Partnerships with those across Boston seemed to be on Essaibi George’s agenda if appointed as mayor. She spoke about needing greater partnership across the board between the city of Boston and the MBTA, as an agent in bringing back business into the city once again.

Most notably, former Boston public school educator Essaibi George committed to rolling out a strategic plan around Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in the first 100 days. 

“[Madison Park] should be a gem and a resource for the students to attend today and we should be making sure that it’s more than just the kids that are there today,” she said. “It should be a direct pipeline to the workforce and a direct pipeline to these new industries that want to come to Boston, that are arriving in Boston.” 

When asked about housing plans, Essaibi George outlined creating more opportunities for home ownership — including housing for older people, first-generation and first-time buyers — in order to promote more growth in the city. 

Michelle Wu

Wu, who has been endorsed by every climate advocacy group, stood out among the candidates when asked about the climate crisis, emphasizing the need to take action now. 

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“Aiming for the year 2050 only gives us a 50/50 chance that temperatures will be OK,” Wu said. “It is not acceptable and I’m not willing to sit by for that coin flip’s chance.” 

Referencing the recent flooding that occurred in New York City due to the remnants of Hurricane Ida, Wu mentioned that Boston needs to be ready for large-scale climate crises, and also long term think about the resiliency of the city, especially being a coastal city. 

Her responses to each issue spotlighted a sense of urgency, and a need for the city to take accountability to provide for communities. When asked about housing plans, Wu responded that these housing issues were urgent and intersectional, with families across the city in housing crises. 

“Right here in Boston, we know that this works,” Wu said. “Several of the families that I’ve spoken to on the campaign trail in the Fort Hill area and throughout our city were first able to buy their homes decades ago, through a program where the city of Boston was making homes available and land available at low cost for residents who would stay there, be part of that community and continue to contribute to our city.”

Notably, Wu also spoke about the need for the mayor to be more involved with the MBTA and its greater infrastructure plans around Boston. Wu, who also has been the most outspoken about free public transit, contrasted her approach with that of previous mayors, citing their hands-off approach to dealing with public transit issues. 

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