At a candidate forum at the Blue Hills Collaborative tonight, six candidates for the District 5 (Hyde Park, Mattapan, Roslindale) seat being given up by Tim McCarthy agreed in broad strokes on almost everything, differing mainly on the specifics of how they would accomplish their goals on specific topics.
Six of the eight candidates in the Sept. 24 preliminary attended the forum, sponsored by the Friends of the Hyde Park Branch Library. Jean-Claude Sanon and Yves Marie Jean did not attend.
The one major issue on which candidates disagreed was on the idea of an elected school committee. Candidates Ricardo Arroyo, Ceciliy Graham, Justin Murad, Alkia Powell and Mimi Tuchinetz all said they supported having at least some committee members elected by the public, saying that would lead to increased accountability and transparency. Arroyo said he could also support a "hybrid" committee in which some seats were reserved for experts in certain educational specialties, for example, special education. Turchinetz agreed, but said she would like to see seats reserved for students, parents and teachers.
Only Maria Esdale Farrell said she would oppose an elected school committee. Farrell, who works as an education advisor to McCarthy, said she is not sure candidates for elected seats on the committee might "not have the best intentions" and could use the committee only as a stepping stone to higher office.
All the candidates agreed the current commuter-rail zone system, in which riders getting on at Readville or Hyde Park pay far more than people getting on at Fairmount, is unfair.
Murad called for lower fares in general.
"I think we can all agree that the MBTA currently is a disgrace," Turchinetz said. She said that the Fairmount Line should be electrified, the frequency of the trains increased and CharlieCards be allowed for use on it. She added that something needs to be done about the 32 bus.
Graham, who worked as an intern for former T General Manager Beverly Scott, called for free fares across the T, which she said could be paid for by increasing the system's efficiency, electrifying commuter-rail lines and by reducing costs through increased used of solar power. She said the T also needs more bus routes and more dedicated bus lanes. She said she would bring in consultants from places that have figured out how to run good transit systems, such as the UK.
Arroyo said he would also support free fares on the T, said he would push for new bus lines that let riders get around the neighborhoods rather than just go to and from Forest Hills and would push for more bus shelters at stops. He added the success of a morning bus lane on Washington Street in Roslindale shows the area needs more dedicated bus lanes.
Farrell also supported free fares - and a 32 express bus from Wolcott Square to Forest Hills - but said transportaton also means figuring out how to increase bicycle ridership - she noted Hyde Park has no Bluebike stations and said it needs more bike lanes - and speeding up car speeds on main streets and lowering them on side streets. She added she wants to look at clustered "community" school-bus stops, which she said would both reduce the number of places where school buses stop traffic and which would create a new sense of community among the parents and kids who use the new stops.
Powell also called for free fares.
All the candidates acknowledged it will be hard to get the T, a state agency, to change, but said they could use their seat as a bully pulpit to call for change. "The squeaky wheel gets the oil," Murad said. Farrell noted the city now pays an MBTA assessment of $89 million and could use that as leverage to seek improvements.
All the candidates supported changing city zoning regulations to require new construction to adopt "Net Zero" techniques that would bring their carbon footprint down to zero.
Arroyo said he would want to adopt a Watertown regulation that requires new construction above a certain size to include solar panels.
Turchinetz said that in addition to requiring Net Zero for new construction, she would look at how to begin to help owners of existing buildings retrofit to achieve a net-zero carbon footprint. She said she would make this a part of rewriting Article 80 - the section of city code which establishes standards developers have to follow to win BPDA approval.
Graham said she supports the Green New Deal and will not take any donations from energy and other carbon-generating industries.
The disgusting condition of Cleary Square
Candidates all agreed Cleary Square is currently a litter-strewn mess, despite the best efforts of local volunteers to keep up with local litter pigs.
Powell said the city needs to stop up its recycling programs and educational programs to help homeowners and merchants recycle more to reduce the amount of stuff that now winds up on the street.
Farrell said the reason Roslindale Square is so much cleaner than Cleary Square is because of the "incredible activism" by Roslindale resident and merchants to keep the place spiffy. She said one answer might be community-service programs at local schools in which students could be sent out on litter patrol.
Graham said she would work to help small businesses better clean up the sidewalks in front of them.
Turchinetz said the problem in Hyde Park and Mattapan Square is that they "don't have equity in basic community services," that she would push for better attention from Public Works - and from the DCR, which owns so much land in Hyde Park and which she said also does a poor job of litter control. "We can't 'volunteer' our way out of it," she said. "Logan Square, Cleary Square, there's trash everywhere and it's a disgrace."
Biggest issues facing the district
Turchnietz said they were inadequate affordable housing and the lack of community control over local development, such as the two large residential projects planned for either side of the Readville train station. Turchinetz, a board member of the Southwest Community Development Corp., which last year cut the ribbon on a 27-unit affordable apartment building at the Fairmount T stop, said people keep telling her of local rent increases of $300 to $700 a month.
Powell cited affordable housing and public safety - she said she personally knows too many people "lost to the streets" and called for more anti-violence programs.
Arroyo cited housing affordabilty and transportation. and said he would work for "community benefit agreements" with developers as well as increases in the number of affordable units and "linkage" funds developers have to provide in exhcange for city approval.
Murad cited tranportation and education - Boston, he said, needs to provide both more schools and more resources for them.
Farrell also cited transportation and education. She said education is the main reason new parents leave Boston.
Graham pointed to housing displacement and education. She called for a 2% real-estate transfer tax to help fund more affordable housing and said schools need more counseling, language services and teachers of color.
In District 5 race, voters will get to decide whether to go more progressive or stick with the status quo.