Some people might not remember, having erased the memory with the warm summer sun, but last February a huge blizzard buried the city. City Councilor Matt O’Malley—who faces a re-election fight in JP’s District 6 against West Roxbury’s Luis Valerio—said he began getting complaints after the storm passed about the cleanup taking too long.
O’Malley said he put on his boots and walked around West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, surveying the area and helping prioritize the streets that needed the most work. For O’Malley, that is the role of his job.
“A city councilor is the first line of defense working on these quality-of-life issues,” said O’Malley, who lives in Jamaica Plain and represents most of the neighborhood.
O’Malley sat down earlier this month at the Gazette’s office for an interview that covered a variety of issues, including his leaning towards voting in favor of the police contract; being the only councilor against an East Boston-only vote for a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs; and listing his past accomplishments. O’Malley faces off against Valerio on Nov. 5.
An arbitrator recently ruled that the Boston police patrolmen deserve a 25.4 percent raise over the next six years, which would cost the City about $83 million. O’Malley said his “jaw hit the floor” when he initially heard about the award. But, he said, after “digging deeper into the numbers” and talking with the police union, a labor attorney friend and constituents, he is leaning towards voting yes.
O’Malley said that the police contract will cost “significantly less” than the firefighter contract that was approved several years ago. He said that the firefighter contract was a 19.5 percent raise costing $103 million. O’Malley said that the base pay for the police is $77,000, while it is $91,000 for firefighters and said it is about “parity and fairness.”
O’Malley said he wants to continue to do research on the matter and talk with constituents, so he can do his “due diligence.”
While the police contract vote awaits him, O’Malley has already weighed in on another controversial matter. He was the lone city councilor to vote against an East Boston-only vote for the proposed Suffolk Downs casino.
O’Malley said there is “no doubt” that the proposed casino will disproportionately affect East Boston, but he said it will also affect the entire city. He said a casino can’t be equated with a typical development, which he said his colleagues attempted to do.
The councilor said while there is “a lot of good” in the proposed casino, such as jobs and significant tax revenue, there are also “a lot of concerns,” including affects on small businesses and addiction to gambling. He said every “Bostonian should be able to vote.”
“It’s something I’m proud of,” O’Malley said of his vote. “To be an effective public official, you have to stand up for what you believe in, so that’s why I did it.”
During the interview, O’Malley also discussed what he has been able to accomplish so far in his tenure, which began after winning a 2010 special election to fill a seat vacated by John Tobin. O’Malley talked about helping to secure $8.5 million for the renovation of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library, finding funding resources for the Curley K-8 School, and working with QUEST—a citywide group of Boston Public Schools (BPS) parents—during the process to form a new school-assignment plan.
O’Malley listed other accomplishments, such as bringing hazardous material and prescription drug drop-offs to the community and his record on the environment, including his effort with At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo to initiate a citywide composting program. He also said he is an accessible city councilor, noting that his cell phone is listed on his business card, he is active on social media and holds office hours and town hall meetings in the community.
One of the newer initiatives that O’Malley is working on is a college savings plan for BPS students. The plan, which O’Malley said is similar to one in San Francisco, would deposit a small sum—around $50—into a savings account for every kindergarten student in the school system. When students graduate high school and are enrolled to a two-year or four-year college, they receive the money from the account. If they do not attend college, the money goes back into the program.
O’Malley said he is “not naive enough” to think that the money comes close to paying for college, but that students can use it for textbooks and it teaches them the “value of saving money.”
O’Malley also discussed his love of Jamaica Plain and said one of the reasons he lives here is so he can be near Hyde Square, where his mother taught school at the former Blessed Sacrament Church and where he attended Mass.