As many of you reading this already know, we put Annissa Essaibi George on Here and Sphere’s suggested” list for the Primary. Of her we said the following :
“a Boston Teacher’s Union (BTU) activist, Essaibi-George has the radiance, class, and articulation for which Boston Public school teachers are justly respected. We met her and liked her instantly, and mot just because she’s from Dorchester, with strong support in East Boston as well (where she teaches at East Boston High School). She runs a small business, and has time, somehow, to also be a neighborhood activist. We think no one will outwork her on the Council, and definitely her voice for the BTU is needed, even if the BTU itself sometimes misses the political bulls-eye.”
Everything we said of Essaibi-George then, we found to be just as true as we had observed of her. We met her in the home neighborhood, that part of Dorchester centered on St., Margaret’s Church. It’s where the late House Speaker John McCormack lived, and it’s where Marty Walsh was born and still lives. Essaibi-George was born and grew up here too — and keeps her campaign headquarters nearby as well. (And yes, it was open with volunteers busy when we met her.)
Despite the exotic name — her Father came from Tunisia; George is her married name — Essaibi-George is a total Dorchester kid. She has the accent and she knows the people. When we met her at the Sugar Box on “Dot Ave” she was just finishing an intense discussion with District Three Councillor Frank Baker, who also grew up close to St. Margaret’s and still lives there.
We and Baker said our hello’s, and he left for other business, and we asked Essaibi George (AEG below) the questions we always ask of Council candidates. The first question that Here and Sphere (HnS) asks is, “what unique qualities do you bring to the Council if elected ?”
This answer we already knew : as a Boston Teachers Union memeber and activist, she will be a voice for teachers : who are, after all, the focal point of Boston’s most costly and biggest single city department.
HnS : What school reforms do you see as needed ?
AEG : “A lot of Catholic schools end in the eighth grade. We need to ramp up what we are doing in our high schools so bthat parents feel better about sending kids to them. Not every kid gets the exam schools. Each of our high schools needs to be partnered with a union, a big business, or a university. To give the kids hands-on training connected to learning. Bio-tech firms need to be in this mix). More than once a year. Let our kids see what it’s like to work. Universities: let sophomores at BU (Boston University) come to the high schools and mentor our kids. Our kids need to know what it’s like to go to college. They need to see what it’s like to do the work (that’s expected of them) in college.”
HnS : The BRA — replace it or reform it ?
AEG : “Reform it.. Don’t get rid of it. Community opinion (should be) heavily weighted.”
HnS : Doesn’t that simply enable NIMBY ?
AEG : NIMBY comes from a neighborhood not being included. There has been undue dumping of low quality housing in some neighborhoods. And too many methadone clinics. These are often for-profit, and the more people they can run through their system, the more profit. And the neighborhood ends up having to deal with it.”
HnS : As for neighborhood development, what about liquor licenses ?
AEG : “Every neighborhood has different characteristics. Again, if the neighbors feel that a liquor license is needed or useful, then the City should be able to grant it. And if it isn’t needed, then not.”
HnS : Do you agree with what Marty Walsh said a couple months back, that there os a heroin epidemic in Boston ?
AEG : “There is a heroin epidemic and a mrthadone epidemic. We need to hold the methadone clinics resposnsible for the quality of their care. Care and supervision needed.”
That discussion that we mentioned her having with Councillor Baker was, so she told us, about when the Council hearing would be held to discuss the 25.5% BPPA arbitration award — Baker did not yet know when it would be held. The subject being mentioned, we of course had to ask — indeed, she insisted we do so :
HnS : “All right then, what IS your opinion of the BPPA award ? Can we assume it is the same as everybody else’s ?
AEG : “I support the award ! We’ve negotiated, and we should make the decision before it gets to arbitration. After 24 negotiating sessions we should be able to settle ! Otherwise why have negotiations ?”
On this resolution she and we disagree. But we were impressed to find her giving so forthrightly a contrary opinion to our own. She has a point : how can a labor negotiation not reach settlement after 24 bargaining sessions ? The question wants to answer itself. Besides, we actually prefer to see diversity of opinion on the Boston City Council. If all four at-Large Councillors agree on matters, why have four of them at all ?
^ the candidate in West Roxbury, meeting voters at ward 20 Precincts 10 and 14, on Primary night
Essaibi-George finished seventh in the Primary. We’ll be looking to see her in the areas she is now focusing on, including, of course, West Roxbury and Jamiaca Plan. She has the active support of Catherine O’Neill, who was on our “suggested” list as well but finished ninth and thus missed “the top eight cut.” O’Neill comes from the opposite end of Dorchester and, as a television hostess and published playwright, has a different following from Essaibi-George’s but one that complements it. Did we mention that the Firemen of local 718 also support her ? They do.
—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere
NOTE : Our summer intern, Dave Morrison, contributed important research and reporting to this profile.