Public safety, education and affordable housing were major issues discussed at a District 4 Boston City Council forum with incumbent Charles Yancey, 66, and challenger Andrea Campbell, 33, held at the Great Hall in Codman Square on Monday evening. The two will square off on November 3rd.
In the September preliminary Campbell received 1,982 votes or 57%, Yancey, who was first elected in 1984, received 1,159 votes or 33%. All statistics are according to the City of Boston’s Elections Department website. District 4 represents Mattapan, Dorchester and a little bit of Jamaica Plain. Ward 19, Precinct 12, is the JP portion. That is the Woodbourne neighborhood including all of Northbourne, Bournedale, Goodway and Catherine streets and most of Southbourne, as well as the odd side of Bourne Street from Patten to Neponset Avenue in Roslindale.
The forum was moderated by Thabiti Brown, principal of the Codman Academy Charter School. The forum began with how each candidate felt about charter schools.
Yancey said that despite his admiration for Codman Academy, charter schools "...threaten the Boston Public School system. It is a drain on the resources from BPS." Charter schools were supposed to be "experimental schools" and "they were never intended to supplant public schools." Charter schools, he added "...privatize the school system" and will lead to the "deterioration of the Boston Public School system."
Campbell, who attended Boston Public Schools, which she credited with giving her the foundation necessary to attend Princeton, said she is not opposed to charter schools, but is rather concerned about "...why parents opt out of the Boston Public Schools." She asked, "What can we do to improve the schools in District 4? District 4 has some of the worst schools in Boston."
Campbell said she would like to set up advisory councils to keep parents more involved in the schools their children attend. She would also like to link foundations with schools to provide resources to increase schools' proficiencies.
Regarding public safety Campbell said she wants to see more community policing, adding that police officers who are more familiar with their district would be more effective and increase public confidence in police.
She added the city needs to do a better job at recruiting officers and that more should live in the city, but also posed the question: "Who should be a police officer in the first place? We need to do a better job in assessing internal biases about this community."
Yancey said policing needs to begin at the "...preemptive stage. It is not necessarily enforcement... We've made a lot of progress with that in community policing."
He said investing more in youth programs and supporting the Boston Public Schools will "go a long way to reduce violence" in Boston. A longtime supporter of more street workers, he repeated his call for increased funding for that program.
Drug abuse is a major cause of violence, said Yancey, but the city cannot just jail drug offenders without drug treatment programs. He advocated for a $4-million law enforcement trust fund to be used for drug treatment programs.
Bicycle safety is another big issues in the city and District 4, and the candidates were asked about the topic.
Yancey said there should be more bike lanes and he said the fiscal year 2016 city budget calls for more lanes. "We also need to educate bicyclists, too" about road rules and courtesy.
Campbell said she took a bike ride through the district with a group of bicyclists one recent Friday and she said it was "scary and dangerous." She also said there needs to be more bike lanes and "they hardly exist in District 4." She added that intersections are where bicyclists are most at risk and that they require more study to improve their safety.
Both Yancey and Campbell agreed that passage of the Community Preservation Act would provide more financing for more affordable housing in Boston.
Yancey said that gentrification is the result of success in better transit in Boston and he pointed to the new Fairmount commuter rail line with new stations at Talbot Avenue and Washington Street/Geneva Avenue in Dorchester. But he added better transit has increased rents and housing costs.
Campbell said she supports Just Cause Eviction legislation and a program getting underway in the Four Corners section of Dorchester that makes foreclosed houses available to new moderate income buyers. She said she wants to expand that program across the district.
She said residents have to push back, "I don't see abutters standing up and saying 'that's not affordable in this district' like they have done in Jamaica Plain."
Yancey said he supports expiring use legislation, and added he would demand that all new housing be set aside in thirds: 1/3 low income, 1/3 moderate income and 1/3 market rate. He said, "The city can have more of an impact on this. It controls a significant amount of land."
The candidates were asked how the district could be more welcoming to seniors, immigrants and LGBT youth.
Yancey said he has been opposed to "any cause for discrimination against anyone" in his 32 years on the city council. He said immigrants are all of us, "My family is from the islands... We're not asking anyone to give up their identity. This is your city. Walk around like you own it because you do."
Both candidates said that LGBT youth in the district need to be more connected with the district as a whole. "No one should feel alienated because of who they are or who they love," said the incumbent. He added he was an early supporter of LGBT rights legislation.
Campbell said she would be a fully-accessible fully-accountable city councilor. She also wants homeless LGBT youth to move out of motels and into permanent housing. "This is a big issue," she said.
The candidates were asked to provide closing statements.
Said Campbell, "I want to be accessible. I want to be accountable. Hold me accountable. This is a new generation talking. I'm 33. My brother is 19. It's the new Boston."
District 4's current city councilor Charles Yancey said, "I'm not the establishment candidate in this race. I've been reelected 16 times. I have a solid record of effectiveness and achievement."