In a forum for District 7 (Roxbury, South End, Back Bay) council candidates tonight, Tania Fernandes Anderson said she would work to increase affordable housing in the district by boosting the minimum number of "affordable" units developers have to provide - from the current 13% to at least 33% - and by making such units actually more affordable by changing the formula the city uses to determine what's affordable to only include the median income in Boston, not richer surrounding communities.
Her opponent, Roy Owens, spent much of his time complaining about "illegal, undocumented immigrants" stealing homes, jobs and pandemic aid from long-time American citizens in the district and said City Hall, in particular, ISD and the BHA, are deliberately trying to drive Blacks out or Roxbury by harassing homeowners and by restricting the number of Section 8 vouchers available to citizens.
In the forum, sponsored by Roxbury Main Streets and the Boston Jobs Coalition, the two candidates in the November final agreed that Mass and Cass is a crisis that needs far more attention than it's getting currently.
Anderson called for more social workers and other resources, including housing, counseling, recovery services and safe-injection sites - but said they need to be spread out, not all concentrated in one small area. She added that as a councilor she would work to get more state resources for the problem as well.
Owens called for a regional commission to solve a problem caused in part by people winding up at Mass and Cass from across the area. But he said government needs to get over the separation-of-church-and-state thing and start giving local churches money to work on the problem. He also said government needs to stop closing roads near churches on Sundays - something he has been complaining about for years, long before anybody had ever heard of Methadone Mile.
Both candidates agreed it's time to make the School Committee elected again.
One of the first questions was how the candidates would work to represent a district that stretches from the Back Bay, which has some of Boston's richest blocks, to Roxbury, which has some of its poorest.
Anderson said she would return to Chuck Turner's round-table idea, of bringing together people from across the district to seek advice and allyship and even "truth and reconciliation at some level," in a district whee there is still some level of "unspoken segregation." She spoke of bringing together the unique assets of the Back Bay and the unique assets of Roxbury to create a better district.
Owens answered by railing against gentrification, which he said is being brought about by "tens of thousands" of undocumented immigrants. Even the workers at the local Burger Kings and Walgreens no longer look like the citizens who grew up in Roxbury, he said.
He returned to that theme when asked about how to spruce up Nubian Square. "Our vote is being depleted," he said, adding part of the proof is the growing size of "the Caucasian community" in Roxbury.
Anderson responded that she would work to employ local small businesses in the square to provide needed services - including hiring local artists to create projects in the area. "We need to integrate art" with 21st century businesses, she said.
The next question was on increasing employment in the Black community.
Anderson said she would work to ensure local businesses with city contracts are meeting their commitments under city policies for hiring certain numbers of minority and women employees. She added that part of that must also be to work with companies getting city contracts to hire minority candidates to oversee hiring in the first place.
Owens accused the city of limiting employment at local businesses by making it near impossible for them to expand - even as they invite suburban "outsiders and speculators" in to take over the neighborhood. And he accused government of setting aside "millions of dollars" for illegal immigrants even as "people who are already citizens" are being denied jobs.
In response to a question about making the community more welcoming to the LGBTQ community, Owens said the "LBG community" is getting jobs that should be going to local Black residents. Anderson said it's vital to make the LGBTQ community more welcome in the district, that it's time to stop ostracizing people.
Somebody followed that up with a question to Owens about a 2017 Universal Hub article pointing out Owens's opposition to teaching anal sex to kindergarten students; does he still feel that is even an issue? Owens said he does not remember saying that, but then railed against moral decay in the Black community, as evidenced by high divorce rates and high AIDS rates, especially among Black women. Anderson declined her chance to answer the question.