Last night’s debate, organized and facilitated by the Harbor View Neighborhood Association, was well run and informative.
To begin, each candidate was given time for personal remarks. Those comments gave a sense of how they approach public service. Lydia Edwards (LE) focused on her path of service and record of advocacy. Margaret Farmer (MF) detailed her community-based volunteerism and the need for the city to “plan for changes.” Stephen Passacantilli (SP) referenced his “passion for public service” that began after he reached a turning point in his life and he felt that the councilor position is about helping people who are down and out.
The “tough questions,” as they were described by moderators, began the Q&A portion of the event. Each candidate was given one “tough question” and there was time allowed for the others to speak briefly to questions posed to their opponents. As referenced in an earlier post, SP was asked to weigh in on his OCPF filings, specifically the perception that he has accepted donations from developers and others involved in the building boom in the district. He felt that there are 200 or more donations under $100.00 from people in the district, too. Acknowledging the $1000.00 donations from others, he wanted the gathering to know those donors “can’t buy” him because his integrity means a great deal to him. He explained that he has helped abutters and neighborhorhood groups go against developers. His final comment in that segment was “I’m fiesty and don’t let people push me around.” (LE responded that the issues of the campaign should be the focus.)
LE was asked about her position on the the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act in light of her being appointed to the Housing Department of the City of Boston by Mayor Walsh. It was interesting that she acknowledged that she is a homeowner and it is for her retirement, which is a stance taken by many in this community who have sold their homes to others or to developers. LE is concerned with speculative land and property owners and she worked to tell tenants their rights. She advocated for a “balanced approach to housing.” (MF stated our neighborhood is in danger due to Airbnb and large luxury development. “We need more workforce development.) (SP felt fortunate to rent from a family member; doesn’t support Jim Brooks Stabilization Act and not a fan of Airbnb.)
MF’s tough question from Mr. Marcella was more of a statement, i.e., that her Jefferies Point neighborhood was ground zero for large development and no city hall experience made her the least qualified candidate. Her answer was pointed and direct: she has worked with the community and neighbors, with no pay, to push city departments to do their jobs. She stated she knows she doesn’t have the special connections, but she doesn’t owe anyone anything (in city hall.) MF offered an example of her advocacy for East Boston: The city doesn’t tow cars in Charlestown for street cleaning, why do East Boston cars get towed? She suggested that a $90.00 ticket was a better idea to get residents to see the need for street cleaning and to move their cars. (SP: feels he can get things done and can help people navigate city hall.) (LE: worried that the people who planned the tunnel situation will be planning the ferries. Instead of hearings, she will have listening sessions.)
Next came the questions written by audience members. These are some of the responses to a mix of questions.
SP: Development in East Boston is out of control.
LE: City Hall should be giving free legal advice to small business owners.
MF: Wants to create a working harbor ferry system that will move people, not cars.
SP: Admitted he didn’t know a great deal about Massport issues. Felt City Hall lacked in the way Zoning Board of Appeals hearings, etc., are handled. “Pace of process” is too fast, in his opinion. He would revisit the timelines to give people time to prepare for their input to the ZBA. He would be more deliberative.
Closing statements were given by all three candidates.
MF: “We’re not preparing for change, (but) not against change.”
SP: Doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as old Boston because he has worked at City Hall.
LE: Stated she is passionate about helping East Boston as a neighborhood within a city.
— Mary Berninger / a loyal Here and Sphere reader