By Beth Treffeisen
Outside the Calderwood Pavilion in the South End, proud residents rooting for their favorite District 2 candidate held up colorful signs and posters. Inside, a large crowd formed to listen to the six candidates on topics ranging from displacement of residents due to high rents to traffic safety.
The Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee, Ellis South End Neighborhood Association, South End Forum, and the South End News hosted a candidate forum for the City Council District 2 race on Wednesday, July 26, at the Boston Center for the Arts.
The candidates included Mike Kelley, Peter Lin-Marcus, Ed Flynn, Joseph Kebartas, Corey Dinopoulos, Erica Tritta and Kora Vakil, who was absent from the forum. District 2 encompasses a diverse range of neighborhoods including the Bay Village, Chinatown, South End, South Boston and downtown.
Sue O’Connell, the co-publisher of the South End News and Bay Windows and host of NECN’s “The Take with Sue O’Connell,” moderated the forum.
After a brief introduction from each candidate questions from the audience were answered through note cards sent down to the moderator. A one-minute response was given from each candidate.
Recently gaining support from various elected officials two favorites, Kelley and Flynn seem headed to win the upcoming Sept. 27 primary.
A major topic that was brought up was how to keep housing affordable in neighborhoods that are getting more and more expensive to live in.
Kelley who was the director of the Rental Housing Resource Center under the former Mayor Thomas Menino said that many residents in these neighborhoods are at risk of losing their homes.
“We need to think about the needs of people in this community,” said Kelley. “What do we want to build in this neighborhood? I would like to see more work-force housing and make our buildings affordable. I think we can do it; I just think we need the will to do it.”
Lin-Marcus said that he would work to create a pathway to home ownership to low-income residents or anyone who is retired.
Kebartas said that city should be able to provide a home for everyone in Boston. In order to do so, more revenue sources should be coming from the pilot program that allows schools to pay in lieu of taxes and to create more regulation around Airbnb and house- rental services.
“We have to go back to what the city is approving to be built,” said Tritta. “It is convenient to have companies paying a lot of money and having it approved…the city is allowing developers to build luxury buildings, but that’s not what we need – we need to allow families to remain in our city.”
Tritta said that she would work towards having xity-owned land redeveloped to build a larger inventory of affordable housing.
Dinopoulos said, “We have to look at the stark inequality in our city.”
He believes the Inclusionary Development Policy, which requires developers proposing a housing project in city to have 13-percent affordable units on-site, should increase to 20-percent affordable units on-site.
“There are a lot of great big glass towers [in South Boston] but no one can afford it,” said Dinopoulos.
Flynn said that in South Boston a lot of people have been pushed out.
“I want to give everyone an opportunity to live in Boston,” said Flynn. “We need to not allow more luxury apartments because we don’t need any more of that. There is vacant land the city owns that should go towards affordable housing and even to public housing.”
He continued, “Its important Boston maintains a working city not just for the wealthy because that’s not a great city for everyone.”
Other topics included the Boston Public Schools and strengthening them for all students and creating safer streets in all of the neighborhoods.
One question that arose was how the candidates will represent the smaller neighborhoods such as Bay Village and Chinatown.
“Chinatown has yet to vote for anyone from the neighborhood,” said Lin-Marcus. “I will make sure the neighborhoods are not forgotten. Whether or not I am voted in as city councilor, I will remain to represent the people and make sure elected officials do not ignore them.”