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                                  Boston City Council Candidates – District 8

The City Councilor for District 8 will represent Mission Hill, the Fenway, Audubon Circle, Kenmore Square, the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the West End.  The District 8 Councilor will be a critical partner in our efforts to improve our schools and our neighborhoods.  We asked a number of questions of the candidates for the office, and have included the responses below for the two candidates who are on the ballot in the final election.  Be sure to vote on November 5th!

Question

Mike Nichols

Josh Zakim

If elected City Councilor, what would be your top three priorities?

1   Improving the location - and quality - of our schools. (It is and has been my top issue throughout.)

2   Support for the development of affordable housing in areas (like Fenway and Mission Hill) that seek such options.

3   Combatting institutional expansion & development into historically residential neighborhoods by supporting the community and our civic associations.

1.   Increasing the quality and accessibility of the Boston Public Schools, with particular focus on creating downtown K-8 public school options.

2.  Supporting small businesses & entrepreneurs, promoting economic growth in Boston's job-creating, innovation-driven economy.

3.  Keeping good families in our neighborhoods by fighting for more affordable housing.

Why should residents of Boston’s downtown neighborhoods vote for you?

I am the only candidate in the race with City government experience, the only candidate with State government experience, and the only candidate neighborhood/civic association experience. When I say that I'll push for Downtown Schools, it's not just an abstract idea. I currently work as the Research Director to all 13 city councilors and am intimately familiar with city finances. As a former Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel (for bond projects), I am familiar with the Boston legislative delegation on Beacon Hill as well as the Mass School Building Authority. As a current member of the Board of Directors for the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association and as a homeowner who lives next to a re-purposed public school, I know well the impact our lack of schools is having on our neighborhoods. *No one* is better positioned to tackle this problem than me and I look forward to making it my #1 priority as City Councilor.

As a resident of the Back Bay who intends to raise a family downtown, I share with my neighbors a vested interest in fighting for public K-8 schools downtown. The focus of my campaign is social and economic justice for ALL Bostonians in every neighborhood. This cannot happen without a quality public school option in every neighborhood. From day one, my top priority on the City Council will be ensuring that District 8 families have equal access to good public schools close to home. I will take an active, hands-on approach as the 585 Commercial Street project develops, while also fighting every day to get additional schools built in the Back Bay and Fenway/Kenmore neighborhoods. I view this as a social, moral, and economic imperative. Families should never have to leave our neighborhoods because of inadequate public schools.

Question

Mike Nichols

Josh Zakim

With regards to public education - what specifically would you try to get accomplished in your 2014-2015 term and how would you do it?

 

1.  Push the City/BPS to enact a long-overdue, common-sense Master Plan and Capital Plan for our schools and school facilities. The population trends are known and obvious. The habitual exodus of young families out of downtown neighborhoods and Mission Hill is clear. I would push for the BPS to stop this haphazard, annual school closure and relocation process and start thinking long-term so every area of the City is well served by local public schools. This would also help repair our relationship with the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

2.  I would push through the process described in #1 for downtown schools. The Mission Hill K-8 should not move to JP. Fenway & Back Bay should have their own school, including the possibility of recouping existing BPS facilities for K-8 public school use. And there is property coming up for sale soon on the Beacon Hill/West End border on Cambridge Street that would also be suitable for a school. I will push - HARD - for those three outcomes in the 2014-2015 term.

3.  Once we have in place for the location and development/renovation of school facilities, I would look to address the quality of public education in our schools, ensuring that ALL our schools are offering a top-notch public education. Boston is the city that FOUNDED public education and we should look to ensure it is being delivered in a way that equips all of our students for success. This includes studying and supporting alternative education models if they prove to produce results not occurring in our district public schools.

There are obviously a number of issues that we must address in the Boston Public Schools but my focus would be twofold. First, as previously mentioned, I will fight every day for the city to site another K-8 school downtown that falls within the walk zone "desert" in west Back Bay and Fenway/Kenmore. This will involve working with local families, the new Mayor, Downtown Schools for Boston, my colleagues on the Council, and the Massachusetts School Building Authority to collaborate and arrive at a solution that serves the interests of our children. I will also lean heavily on the expertise of my good friend Mike Ross, whose experience in the 585 Commercial Street siting will be an invaluable resource. Second, BPS needs a longer school day. Our students receive less instruction time than children in nearly every other American peer city. It's not only an educational issue, but also one of public safety and socioeconomics. Parents should never have to make the choice between working to support their families and providing a safe environment for their children to return home to. I would be a leading voice on this issue. I would work closely with all stakeholders - parents, students, teachers, and the new Mayor - to make sure this issue receives public attention immediately.

What do you believe are the key issues the BPS has to address?

 

1.  Locate schools where our families reside and want to reside.

2.  A Master Plan for our school facilities.

3.  a longer school day and a stronger plan for negating the 'summer slide' for low-income students.

4.  Be willing to innovate in the manner with which we deliver education in Boston, including the decentralization of hiring and curricular authority to principals at the individual school level.

5.  Work to retain our high-achieving teachers and embrace and perhaps go farther than the reforms required by the recent change in state law. regarding the evaluation of teachers.

1.  Lack of downtown K-8 options.

2.  The student achievement gap and variation in school quality across the city.

3.  Unacceptably short school day.

4.  Insufficient support services for our neediest students.

5.  Excessively centralized administration.

Question

Mike Nichols

Josh Zakim

What would you do with regards to charter schools?

 

I am constantly learning more about charter schools, but at the end of the day I just want the best education possible for our 75,000 school-age children. Whether it's district public schools, district charter schools, charter schools, parochial schools, private schools, or home-schooling ... I want every child to have a chance at success. The charter schools in Boston - separating them from concerns elsewhere - have brought a lot of value to the table. There are still challenges that can be addressed, but if charters continue to out-perform other types of schools in closing the achievement gap, I would look to follow the model that gives the most children an opportunity for success in life. I support our school children first.

Charter schools are an important aspect of our public school system. They serve as laboratories for educational innovation and provide healthy competition for our traditional in-district schools. I am for what works. Charter schools that improve outcomes for our children and close the achievement gap should be applauded and supported. While the charter cap is a state-level issue, I would support relaxing (but not eliminating) it in Boston to provide families with more public school options. I would also strongly advocate for either a universal lottery or common application system to ensure that every Boston student has equal access to charters, and that charters enroll a greater proportion of our special needs and at-risk children. I am opposed to for-profit charter schools.

Would you support forming community-based task forces to work with BPS on (a) the future of schools in the downtown neighborhoods; and (b) the future of the new 585 Commercial Street school?

Absolutely. And win or lose that would be something I'd hope to be a part of.

(a) Yes. (b) Yes.

What would you do to support placing a new elementary school in the Fenway/Back Bay area, a large section of the city with no public elementary schools, to serve families living in those neighborhoods and in other neighborhoods?

I'm a data guy ... a policy guy. The data shows the Fenway & Back Bay deserve a school. I would continue the good work done by Downtown Schools and others to show, numerically, the number of children and families that are underserved by the status quo. I'm also a living anecdote of this. I'm in my 30s and will look to start a family in the next few years. I often say that I have everything in the world I need within a 1/2 mile of where I live in Fenway/Back Bay with the exception of somewhere to send my children to school some day. That's not right, not fair, and I'm not well-served by the status quo and will push to change it through the avenues suggested in earlier responses to this questionnaire.

Siting a K-8 public school in these neighborhoods will be a top priority of mine on the Boston City Council. I will use the bully pulpit of my office to publicly advocate for District 8 families in these areas who deserve a public school, and draw on my relationships in the political and activist communities to move the ball forward. I have no illusions that it will be an easy process; but I have great confidence that I can be a coalition builder who facilitates collaboration and brings people together to get the job done.

Question

Mike Nichols

Josh Zakim

The list of facility needs in Boston Public Schools is long and expensive. Some schools have been waiting for renovations for close to 10 years. How do you propose addressing those needs, and where would you get the money to pay for them?

Continue repairing our relationship with the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Complete a Master Plan and Capital Plan that takes into account the following:

- Population trends and current populations for the location of schools

- Economic forecasting for dollars saved by a reduction (Note: not elimination) in busing

- Expansion of high-achieving school facilities

- Common-sense lease arrangements with non-district schools and others for use of unused school facilities to increase revenues

- State-bonded dollars from MSBA

- Possibility of working with BPL system to include K0/K1/K2 through grade 2 level schools as a part of future BPL branch library renovations

In order to approach this problem comprehensively, BPS needs a strategic building and facilities plan. This also ties in with the achievement gap and the vast disparities in school quality from neighborhood to neighborhood. Any strategic plan must focus on our neediest facilities first, furnishing them with the same resources that we would expect in our highest quality public schools. Funding these improvements will be a challenge, but we have many tools with which to get there. We should look closely at how efficiently the City is using its real and capital assets and seek improvements to underperforming areas. I would also encourage greater PILOT from non-profit institutions, especially our academic institutions, whose educational mission aligns closely with BPS. And of course, we can always grow our tax base by encouraging economic development, small business growth, and entrepreneurship

What else would you do to keep families living in Boston’s downtown neighborhoods

 

·    Top-notch city services that take no neighborhood for granted

·    Enhancements and support for public safety agencies

·    Support for the development of housing that opens the Boston market to all incomes

·    Re-evaluate property tax rates to ensure that long-time homeowners are able to continue to afford their homes and stay interested in investing in their Boston communities

·    Push for significant improvements to our transportation and public transportation infrastructure and service, including longer public transit service hours.

·    Advocate for higher capacity, higher efficiency MBTA service downtown and throughout Greater Boston.

·    Foster a regulatory environment that encourages innovators, entrepreneurs, and small businesses to locate and grow in Boston.

·    Provide well-maintained parks and open spaces for families to enjoy and interact with their neighbors.

·    Ensure that our streets are safe at any hour, in any neighborhood.

Website

michaeljnichols.com

joshzakim.com

Endorsements

·     Richard Andreucci, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     Adam Barrett & Krista Molettieri, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     John & Pam Beale, Kenmore Association*

·     Ed Burke, Fenway Civic Association* & Friends of Ramler Park*

·     Jim Burke, Community Alliance of Mission Hill*

·     Brian Clague, Fenway CDC Board of Directors*

·     Mary Clayton-Crozier, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     David Crossman, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     Suzanne Comtois, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     Cindy Diggs, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Emelia Encallado, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     Hef Fisher, Friends of the Charlesgate Association*

·     Pat Flaherty, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Chris Freiss, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Kate Gallivan, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     Mike George, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     Richard Giordano, Ward Ten Democratic Committee* & Fenway CDC*

·     Kathy Greenough, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association* & Fenway CDC*

·     Norman Herr, West End Neighborhood Association*

·     Tracey Hunt, Fenway CDC*

·     Pat Johnson, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     Bob Matson, The "Mayor of Beacon Hill"

·     Barbara McKinley, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     Alex Monreal, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     Alex Morss, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     Terri North, Kenmore Square Residents Group*

·     Barbara Nunez, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Richard Ong, Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association*

·     John Payne, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Rivekka "Rita" Perchenok, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Lauren Dewey Platt, Mission Hill Fenway Trust*

·     Susan Prindle, Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay*

·     Bill Richardson, Fenway Civic Association*

·     Marta Rivera, Ward Ten Democratic Committee* & Sociedad Latina*

·     Rev. Valarie Seabrook, Fenway CDC*

·     Maria Theresa Sosa, Ward Five Democratic Committee*

·     Ann Steinberg, Ward Ten Democratic Committee*

·     Chris Strang, Kenmore Association*

·     Eric Tingdahl, Fenway CDC*

·     Daniella Torres, Fenway CDC*

·     Louvere "Lou" Walker, Fenway CDC*

·     Sonia Weinhaus, Fenway Civic Association*

* In the endorsements above, while people hold titles in civic groups in the area, their support is as an individual and NOT on behalf of the group.

·     The Boston Herald

·     Tito Jackson, Boston City Councilor

·     Greater Boston Young Democrats

·    Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee

·    Kitty Dukakis, former First Lady of Massachusetts

·    Greater Boston Labor Council

·    Massachusetts Voters for Animals

·    ¿Oíste?

·    SEIU Local 888

·    The Sierra Club

·    UNITE HERE Local 26

·    Colette Phillips - Founder, Get Konnected

·    Joan Zahka

 

                                                                                                                          Updated September 25, 2013