US Senate candidate Alan Khazei (pronounced KAY-zee) lived in Jamaica Plain for over a decade before moving to Brookline with his family two years ago.
His flight to the suburbs is no slight on his former neighborhood, Khazei told the Gazette in an interview following a Nov. 15 candidates forum hosted by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization at Bethel AME Church in Forest Hills.
“We bought our house early, and the housing market in JP went through the roof,” he said. “We were able to trade up” for a bigger house with enough room for a swing set in the yard for his two children, the candidate said.
He said he still lives within a 10-minute walk of Jamaica Pond, and still largely considers JP his stomping grounds.
“I love JP,” said Khazei, who said he still gets his hair cut by Damaris Pimentel at Ultra Beauty Salon and is friends with the owners of Bella Luna/Milky Way.
Khazei also noted that City Year—the non-profit service organization he founded in college, which provided the inspiration for the national AmeriCorps program—has been “serving neighborhoods in JP for 22 years.”
That includes helping with the JP launch of Boston’s first recycling program. “We worked with Mayor Ray Flynn [on that] 21 years ago. That was the first thing we did,” Khazei said.
He also said City Year worked with Urban Edge around then to launch one of the first after school programs in Egleston Square.
“We have been serving the JP community for 22 years..[with] beautification projects, park cleanups, urban garden and playground builds…We have a track record in the community,” he said.
And while he has moved over the border, “A lot of City Year people live in JP” in a style befitting young activists, with “five people [living in] three-bedroom apartments,” he said.
Khazei, as has been widely reported, credits the expansion of the popular City Year program and of his recently founded national advocacy coalition Be the Change Inc. with giving him the unique opportunity to move legislation at the national level as a private citizen.
The most recent of those bills, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, was the “single biggest bipartisan victory for the Obama administration” to date, Khazei said, despite opposition from Republican party leadership.
Khazei said that Be The Change mobilized “over 200 organizations and 100 million people” in support of the service bill—which, among other things, triples the size of the AmeriCorps program.
The candidate said that type of “movement” leadership in the senate is what would set him apart as a US senator.
Khazei said a similar strategy of encouraging and leveraging national popular support for legislation on things like the expansion of community health centers and non-profit community development corporations is a large part of what made Kennedy so successful.
Khazei also said he has developed relationships with some of the famously bipartisan Kennedy’s allies across the aisle, including Orrin Hatch—who co-sponsored the Serve America Act—and former Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
“We have 60 Democrats [in the Senate] right now, and what are we getting? We are not getting environmental legislation or health care. We are not getting a bail-out for Main Street,” he said.
“Just like Kennedy, I have strong principles, and I want to get things done,” Khazei said. “I have lived my life this way.”