EGLESTON SQ.—Seven candidates, including one who is running a write-in campaign, are now sprinting toward District 7’s Preliminary Special Election day on Feb. 15.
The top two candidates will face-off in a Final Special Election March 15.
The District 7 City Council seat, formerly held by Chuck Turner, mostly covers Roxbury and Dorchester, but includes some of Egleston Square in Jamaica Plain. It also includes sections of the Fenway and the South End.
The candidates on the ballot are: Natalie Carithers, Althea Garrison, Tito Jackson, Cornell Mills, Roy Owens and Danielle Renee Williams. Another candidate, Haywood Fennell, is running a write-in campaign.
Carithers, a Dorchester resident, former chief of staff to retired state Rep. Willie Mae Allen, and talk radio personality on Boston’s TOUCH 106.1 FM Morning Show, told the Gazette her political experience and communication skills are key strengths she would bring to the job of City Councilor.
“Working for Rep. Allen, I learned constituent services skills and budget skills. I can read a state budget and understand it—see how dollars are disseminated to cities and towns, and see what we need to do to get funding into the state budget,” she said.
She said she sees the job of the district city councilor as being a liaison between government and the community. “In this community, the majority of the residents are not politically savvy. My job would be to make them politically savvy,” she said.
She said she would continue Turner’s practice of maintaining an active district office. The office would be “a reservoir of information” for constituents, and would be opened Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday, she said. City Council meets on Wednesdays.
Carithers said she is a patron of the Egleston Square Branch Library, and would be a strong advocate for that branch.
Describing the square as a “very important and vibrant area,” Carithers said she is concerned about violence in that neighborhood. She said she would like to work with residents, business leaders and “the diverse populations of people from various cultures” in Egleston to “get on the same page.”
Carithers, like many of the candidates, identified youth violence, education, public health and job creation—including stricter enforcement of the Boston Jobs Policy, as key issues she would focus on if elected.
The city jobs policy calls for 25 percent of covered city-funded construction jobs and construction jobs on projects over 100,000 square feet to go to city residents, 25 percent to minorities and 10 percent to women.
For more information, see NatalieCarithers.com
Garrison has run for city and state elected office many times, and served one term as state Rep. for the 5th Suffolk district, which includes Dorchester and Roxbury.
Garrison’s “focus will be to address the crime problem of kids killing kids, fight for real affordable housing, upgrade our public schools and fight for job creation, jobs and more jobs for all District 7 residents,” she said in a press release announcing her candidacy.
“If the voters of district 7 give me a chance, I believe I will far exceed their expectations,” Garrison told the Gazette in an interview around the time that she announced her candidacy.
Garrison does not have a web site.
An unsuccessful Boston City Council At-Large candidate in 2009, Jackson was among the first candidates to throw his hat into the ring following Turner’s ouster from City Council in December. He formerly served as information technology industry director at the state Office of Business Development under Gov. Deval Patrick and served as political director for Patrick’s recent successful re-election campaign.
Jackson did not return Gazette phone calls for this story, but in comments to the Gazette when he announced his intentions to run, Jackson told the Gazette he is bullish about the neighborhood’s prospects.
“Driving around the district, all I see is opportunity,” he said. ”We have to get things started again so folks in the community are able to get jobs. We need to make sure we are providing a world class education, so that people have the tools to compete.”
Economic development is also front-and-center on Jackson’s campaign web site (www.TitoJacksonForBoston.com). “I am the only District 7 candidate for Boston City Council with experience delivering jobs and economic investment to Massachusetts cities—a skill the Council needs now, more than ever,” he says on his web site.
Public safety, and curbing gun violence in the district, is another one of his focuses. On recent shootings in and near Egleston Square, he said he wants to help make sure that businesses, non-profits and residents continue to come together to “make sure we are all on the same page and moving in the same direction.”
“Violence is not good for anyone. This is something we need to nip in the bud,” he said.
An early candidate, and widely perceived frontrunner—especially thanks to his high-profile City Council At Large bid in 2009—Jackson was early in laying out some of the positions that other candidates in the District 7 race have also taken: During the 2009 campaign, he spoke extensively about improving enforcement of the Boston Jobs Policy, and economic development in minority neighborhoods, two issues that almost all of the candidates highlighted speaking to the Gazette.
One of the first things Mills told the Gazette was not that his mother is former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson.
Instead he went straight to his own qualifications for the job. “My resume stands out in terms of the [District 7] candidates,” he said.
Mills is a real estate broker who has also worked as a civilian homicide investigator with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, a foreclosure prevention councilor, and has run a restaurant.
He has “spent 10 years actively involved in politics,” worked on a lot of campaigns, including Governor Deval Patrick’s; at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s and the campaigns of state rep Linda Dorcena Forrey, Marie St. Fleur and Willie Mae Allen.
And he has volunteered as a youth mentor through the alumni association at his high school alma mater Boston College High School.
Mills lives two blocks from Egleston Square, he said, and described it as a “microcosm of the city.”
He said he is concerned about an apparent recent uptick in violent crime in Egleston as well as in other neighborhoods in the district. The area “would do well to focus on crime,” he said, “We need to clean up the neighborhood to restore a sense of community that has been lost over the years.”
He said he is eager to support the neighborhood’s business district and to ensure that his children’s neighborhood is a safe one. “My kids get off the bus everyday and walk up Walnut Avenue,” he said.
Egelston “is a largely Hispanic area,” Mills said, noting that he is connected to that community in part through his wife, who is of Peruvian descent.
Mills said that if elected, one of his early focuses would be making sure that the district’s business community is taking full advantage of federal neighborhood stabilization funding. In addition to supporting small business, “My main issues are youth violence and crime and reducing the black and Latino drop-out rate by creating alternatives to deal with them where they are” including bringing education opportunities to incarcerated youth.
Mills’s mother, former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson lost a hard-fought Democratic primary to current state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz in 2008, shortly before Wilkerson was indicted on federal corruption charges. Mills said, though, that he looks forward to working with Chang-Díaz whose senatorial district overlaps with District 7. “I have talked with Sonia Chang-Díaz in the past couple of weeks and plan to sit down with her. Our relationship in the past is in the past,” he said.
For more information, see CornellMills.com.
Another regular candidate for elected office, Owens told the Gazette he is “pro-life and pro-family.”
He is opposed to abortion and believes that marriage rights should be restricted to heterosexual couples, he said.
“That will not happen if my opponents are elected and have their way,” Owens told the Gazette, claiming that abortion and gay marriage are responsible for many social ills in communities of color, including the high murder rate.
He also suggested that, along with HIV/AIDS, abortion and gay marriage are causing a decline in the African American population in the city that could mean the black community will lose its political clout.
“Babies are a direct relation to our voting power,” he said
“Jobs…are not what we should be talking about when our house is burning down. It is out of context,” he said.
Owens did not respond to Gazette questions about what issues are important in Egleston Square.
For more information, see www.royowensboston.mysite.com.
Danielle Renee Williams
A former aid to state Rep. Gloria Fox and constituent services director for former City Councilors Chuck Turner and Felix Arroyo Sr., Williams highlighted the importance of bringing city government to the people when she spoke to the Gazette.
Most of District 7 falls under the Boston Police Department’s Area B, and Williams said that, speaking to voters in the district, she has heard a number of people complain that they have not met the Area B police captain.
“Older residents say they had relationships with past district captains, and that they were more confidant crimes were being solved,” Williams told the Gazette.
With a number of schools in District 7 closing under Boston Public Schools’ recently approved school closure plan, she said organizing to ensure equity in public education is more important than ever. “Will there be overcrowding? People need to start organizing to see what they can do now,” she said.
She also said that she would continue Turner’s practice of maintaining a district office “so people have the opportunity to come together and make decisions as a district.” Noting that the district encompasses a diverse array of neighborhoods including Fort Hill, Uphams Corner and the South End, she said, “Right now everyone is very segregated. People are feeling very isolated.” But the district office would be a place where people could come together.
On Egleston Square, she said that from her days working on constituent services, she recalls parking was a major issue that she would “love to be able to sit down with business owners and residents and come up with a plan that is feasible for everyone.”
She also said she would push for a city initiative to beautify District 7’s business districts.
Williams does not have a web site.
Fennell’s name will not appear on the District 7 Preliminary Special Election Ballot. A veteran activist, playwright, children’s book author and Vietnam War veteran, Fennell is running a write-in campaign.
His years of activism have included advocating for reform of the Criminal Offender Registry Information (CORI) system—a system that allows prospective employers to view potential employees criminal records. Many criticized the system as discriminatory and it was the subject of significant reform legislation last year.
He told the Gazette a series of children’s books he has written based around a young fictional Roxbury resident named Coota, are used as part of an early education literacy program called “The Coota Literacy Enhancement Project.”
“Children who cannot read cannot find jobs, and become tax payers. They become tax burdens, “ he said.
Broadly, Fennell said, “My focus has been for community responsibility and more community involvement. We need to awaken the sleeping giant that is District 7.”
The effects of globalization have been apparent in demographic shifts in the district over the past 20 years, he said, and the neighborhood needs to embrace those changes, both to understand itself and to compete in an increasingly global economy. “We, as a people, need to speak different languages. Our children need to learn different languages—put down the baseball bat and pick up a book,” he said.
Fennell said he would also work to increase federal Veteran’s Affairs Department’s presence in the neighborhood, and generally work to develop initiatives to address public health and elder affairs issues. “I would form a District 7 Health Coalition to work with institutions of higher learning and the City of Boston” to address those pressing issues, he said. “There is too much breast cancer and prostate cancer, too much asthma and too many mental health issues in the community,” he said.
He lauded Egleston Square as “one of the examples of what we need in other part of the district,” saying it has a vibrant local business community and solid non-profit infrastructure, including the offices of the Boston Neighborhood Network cable access television station, where, he said, he had recently produced a show.
Fennell told the Gazette that he is stuck running a write-in campaign because he had assumed that the deadline for picking up nomination papers from city hall was extended when a snow emergency was declared on the last day.
Fennell does not have a web site, but he has an active campaign Facebook page that can be accessed by searching www.facebook.com.