Q&A: Ayanna Pressley – Fighting for Girls, Women, Healthy Communities, Cyclists and More

At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley is seeking reelection on Tuesday, November 3rd. All four incumbents are seeking reelection with only one challenger, Annissa Essaibi-George (read a Q&A with her here). Pressley, who was first elected to the council in 2009, answered questions from Jamaica Plain News via email. 

Q: Why should someone vote to re-elect you as an at-large city councilor? What have been your accomplishments in the last two years?

A: I have governed as I have campaigned. I ran to be an advocate. I believe that my advocacy has put previously neglected issues like human trafficking, sex ed, cycling infrastructure, gender-responsive programming, trauma support, and liquor license equity on the agenda. Through cooperative governing, partnering with residents and organizations from the ground up, I am so proud of the reforms we have advanced.

Some highlights: I worked with a diverse coalition over four years to pass a sex ed and condom availability policy and expectant and parenting student policy in BPS (Boston Public Schools). I spent a year working with the Boston Cyclists Union to pass a first-in-the-country side guard ordinance to protect cyclists in collisions with large city vehicles; and we held another hearing this fall about improving roadway infrastructure. And of course, liquor license reform! I worked with the City Council, two mayors, the state Legislature, and Future Boston Alliance to undo 100 years of economic disenfranchisement and hurt through passage of my home rule petition to return control of the liquor license process to the City of Boston. The board is now under the city’s control (rather than the governor’s) and we have been granted 75 new licenses over three years, 80% restricted to historically underserved neighborhoods, including Jamaica Plain.

Ayanna Pressley

Ayanna Pressley

Q: If reelected, what would you like to focus on?

A: The issues I work on, won’t change. They’re too big and important. If re-elected, I will continue to work intentionally to build healthier communities by continuing to fight for women and girls, to break cycles of poverty and violence (in all forms), and to reduce trauma in our communities. My advocacy has evolved into holistic and meaningful institutional change that will stand the test of time, and remain, regardless of who is mayor and who is on the council.  I will continue to push for full local control of liquor licenses, because in two years, we will be back to square one with no licenses available. Every neighborhood deserves an equity in opportunity to build community and to build wealth. I will also continue to push for a city-wide coordinated trauma response and recovery system. Trauma is choking at the promise of our city. 

Q: What are the major issues that constituents talk to you about? How can you address them?

A: We live in a parochial city with 22 distinct neighborhoods, but I often hear the same concerns throughout the city: affordability, city planning, jobs, schools, public safety. And that is why my advocacy and policy agenda has always been informed by a neighborhood transcendent lens. As for the solutions to these issues, I’ve always found them in community. We “address” challenges best when we seek the input and advice from those impacted.

One of the many things I love about JP is its demonstrated commitment to preserve socio-economic, racial/cultural, and inter-generational diversity.

Q: What are the major issues in JP?

A: Affordability. Affordable housing and commercial space. People are fearful they will be priced out, and that everything they love about JP, why they’ve stayed, why they chose it, will change. One of the many things I love about JP is its demonstrated commitment to preserve socio-economic, racial/cultural, and inter-generational diversity. JP remains actively engaged in fighting to maintain the uniqueness of JP and to prevent the displacement of residents and small businesses. I want to stop retail redlining, the concentration of goods in a neighborhood that do not add value. I want every neighborhood to have access to a variety of retail options and amenities, while also keeping residents in their homes. I’ll continue to fight to preserve affordable, quality housing for everyone — our families, seniors, and young professionals. I’ll also continue to advocate for good jobs that provide livable wages and real health benefits.

JP’s activism in protecting our green spaces, ensuring equal access to roadways for our cyclists and pedestrians, and stopping methane gas leaks is noteworthy. Many JP residents have been partners in my efforts to address these issues. 

Q: What would you look for in the next City Council president?

A: O’Malley for president! City Council president that is. Matt’s a great leader and friend. I’ve complete confidence in his ability to fairly, thoughtfully, and effectively lead the council.

Q: Anything else?

A: Six years ago, I was proud to earn the confidence of JP, your votes and partnership in advancing a progressive agenda. I hope to earn your support once again. We’ve accomplished a great deal together, but much work remains. I thank you for the awesome honor, responsibility, and opportunity to represent you, and to actualize our shared values.