The Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association (WSANA) hosted mayoral candidate and District 4 Councilor Andrea Campbell at their meeting last week, Nov. 24, for a lengthy question and answer session.
The neighborhood has historically had support for Mayor Martin Walsh, but the meeting has also historically been open to any candidate as well. That said, several in WSANA have become frustrated with the Mass/Cass 2.0 plan and its execution over the last several month – and are more than open to shopping around and seeing what the candidates have to say.
That was the case when Campbell, who has focused mostly in her career on her Dorchester and Mattapan district, appeared in the online meeting to present her case for mayor and take questions in what was about a 45-minute session with a healthy group of neighbors.
Campbell introduced herself by saying she grew up right on the boundaries of WSANA, living in Grant Manor on Washington Street for a time with her grandmother when a girl.
Her focus, she said, has been on increasing equity in the City for marginalized populations, and also making Boston Public School more accountable and better for all students.
That said, one of the main issues on the minds of WSANA residents would be her approach to the opioid situation at Mass/Cass. She scored points in September by being invited to and showing up for a walk-through with neighbors – something she said was a hard thing to witness.
In that letter, she said that even though there are long-term plans in place for the problem, short term solutions need to be implemented. In that letter, and in the conversation on Nov. 24, she elaborated on three suggestions – that being to address immediate sanitation and shelter space; decentralizing services from the Mass/Cass Corridor; and convening leaders from all over Greater Boston to call them to do more for their communities.
“Decentralizing is not only about equity, it is also necessary for effective recovery as individuals commented on (the walk-through) how hard it is to get sober when a safe injection site is right next to recovery services,” she wrote.
One of the questions last Tuesday was about what she would do to reach out to the state and region to push them to provide more services. She said there hasn’t been a lot of push that she’s seen, and she put forward the idea of working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) – the regional planning agency for Greater Boston- to see what the overall plan is, if there is one.
“I firmly believe we need to push the state and Gov. Baker in this,” she said. “The hands-off approach they’ve taken isn’t working…Let’s talk to MAPC and find out what their plan is for these neighboring communities. If they don’t have a plan, that’s a problem because we in Boston have to step up and serve their residents because we know many of those down there aren’t from Boston. We have to call out the state and Gov. Baker to do better.”
She also stressed once again that she would let the Task Force and the 2.0 Plan work – along with the long-term solutions of the Recovery Campus on Long Island. However, she stressed that what is missing is the short-term plans to address quality of life issues that happen now. She reiterated many times she would “pull every lever” she could to get action locally and at the state level – and noted her experience as an attorney in the Deval Patrick Administration.
Another question put to her was her opinion on sanctioned Safe Injection Sites (SIFs) being operated in Boston – perhaps in the South End. Campbell said she hasn’t done all the homework on that issue, but knows they are not wanted in her district.
“I’m studying it and keeping an open mind, but certainly in my district people are overwhelmingly opposed,” she said. “If you want to do that as a solution you need to take it on the road and say why it is a good solution at this moment in time…I will say that is not (a solution) that’s been on the top of the list. Frankly, what I hear is how do people get access to services that are existing now and not to locate those services in one area of the city.”
•STRESSES OF BUSINESS
Andre’s Café owner Haido Barnett appeared before WSANA and expressed frustrations with the business climate and lack of support from the City in the face of the opioid crisis where she operates on Harrison Avenue.
She said she has a lease for a few more years, but the way things have been going, she said she’s tired and wants to sell her shop.
“I put my business up for sale well before the pandemic,” she said. “That was tough for me. I have a daughter and it’s not in the cards…We have to clean feces off the side of our wall every single day. My employees do that every day and it’s tiring – very tiring. It’s disheartening to go through that and not get the support of the City…This is not what I signed up for as a business owner. It’s no one’s fault, but I don’t want to wake up to it every day.”
WSANA residents decided to form a committee immediately to begin talking with Barnett and other business owners – some of whom don’t share her sentiments – about supporting them more in their travails.
Member Bob Minnocci is leading that up, along with help from Peter Sanborn.
•CHRISTMAS IS COMING
Christmas has put WSANA at a crossroads, said President George Stergios. It has become quite clear that having a big celebration as they normally do is not going to be possible this year. However, WSANA is the longest-standing tree lighting ceremony in the city, and there is already a tree in place.
Members decided they would light the tree in a short ceremony on Dec. 6 in the afternoon while gathered outside in a social distant way around the Square. In doing so, Stergios said they could keep the tradition going and not compromise anyone’s health.
“I think we should do something this year,” he said. “We’re forgoing enough this year. We’re just sort of raising the flag here and then we’ll do something big next year.”
•There is no monthly meeting of WSANA in December due to the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, but the meeting in late January could feature Councilor and mayoral candidate Michelle Wu for another Q&A.