An Early Taste of Victory: Here and Sphere chats with Councillor Frank Baker


^ Frank Baker at the Bowdoin/Geneva seafood Throwdown and looking pleased. (photo by Dave Morrison for Here and Sphere)

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You’ve seen them all around the streets of Boston. Urban Farms and the subsequent Neighborhood Farmers Markets have brought healthy food back to certain areas that have normally seen historically high levels of both poverty and obesity. 

At the Bowdoin/Geneva Farmers Market this past Thursday afternoon, Boston City Councilor Frank Baker was on hand,  not only to judge the best fish cuisine at the Market’s Seafood Throwdown, but also to celebrate the healthy actions that the Geneva/Four Corners Neighborhood has taken to assure its food arises locally, and fresh.

Baker was in a festive mood, as well he might. He’s currently running opposed. That’s quite a change from 2011, when he came out the winner of a hard battle against an opponent from the “fat” end of the District. Baker, on the other hand, comes from the 3rd Council District’s “thin” end : precincts of Ward 13 converging on both sides of “Dot Ave” between the Little House and Savin Hill Avenue. His roots there go deep politically; he’s one of many children of Little House activists Jack and Eileen Baker – the elder Baker weighed in on his own surfeit of political contact sport back in the day.

But gtoday it’s not Jack baker but frank baker who gets the spotlight. Here and Sphere caught up with him at the Throwdown and chatted with him about the goals he is looking to accomplish as the City prepares to usher in a new Mayor and, probably, a new play of Boston politics.

As the big issue this campaign has been the state of Boston Public Schools, we could not pass on asking Baker about it all: are the schools doing OK ?  Are the lunches in Boston  public schools (BPS) healthy ?  And what does he, as a Councilor, plan for making the BPS a first class school system in the Commonwealth ? Thus we spoke – briefly, yes; but there will be more as the campaign climaxes.

HnS: How has the Throwdown gone so far?

Baker :  “So, when we have the Throwdown, we’re going to have a pan sear for the two cuisines. They’re both dogfish, and the cooks are showing people how to cook dogfish. We’re out promoting it, as opposed to just cod and haddock.”

HnS: About the state of the BPS. What do you feel is the best long-term solution for the BPS?

Baker :  “There has to be some way to first, look at the schools that are working and then there are those who will just beat up on PBS and go for the Charter Schools. I do think that Charter Schools have a useful place in the whole discussion, but I don’t think that they’re the end all be all.

“With that being said, I think that we have to go into the schools that are working, like the Murphy in Dorchester (Popes Hill) or the Roosevelt in Hyde Park (Fairmount). We have to see what’s happening in those schools. The long of it comes down to Parent Councils and Site Councils. Every school should have a Parent Council and Site Council.”

HnS: Do you support lifting the Charter Cap? And you also mentioned the idea of a “Hybrid” School Committee a while back. What do you mean by “Hybrid” School Committee?

Baker: “I’m not in favor of lifting the cap because what makes the Charter system special is that there aren’t so many of them. 

“With the Hybrid School Committee, my thought was that the majority of the Mayor’s Office (who is ultimately responsible for the decisions in the School Committee), but as a City Councilor, when it comes to constituent service cases where you have someone who might want to transfer, we felt that people in the City should know who the School Committee is.”

HnS: We’re here at the Bowdoin/Geneva Farmers Market tasting all of this healthy food. Recently Mayor candidate John Connolly ran an ad touting how he uncovered rotten food that was being served in the BPS. If that is true, what will you do to help make sure that something like that doesn’t happen again?

Baker: “That’s something that you have to deal with the contractor about. I just toured a rooftop garden in Montreal. It’s a business that wants to come to Boston, and they’re looking for rooftops. We should be looking at our schools, and putting that on top of our schools. We’re serving frozen products to our kids when they could be getting a salad !”

— Dave Morrison / Here and Sphere correspondent.

 Michael Freedberg contributed some Frank Baker background information to this article.

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