Mayoral candidates discuss poverty issues at forum
By Ling-Mei Wong
Ten of the 12 mayoral candidates participated in a forum on reducing poverty on Sept. 11 at 178 Tremont Street, Action for Boston Community Development’s headquarters. The candidates discussed youth jobs, neighborhood disparities, homelessness, nutrition, the planned Suffolk Downs casino and alternative education.
City councilor at-large Felix Arroyo proposed investing Boston’s public funds in banks that support local business and lend to homeowners to inject money into communities.
District 5 city councilor Rob Consalvo planned to increase youth summer jobs by 15 percent and boost literacy for young people not in school or underemployed youth.
District 8 city councilor Mike Ross advocated for more youth jobs to keep kids out of trouble. “I don’t think we should be putting money into the police for preventative programs, but into community programs, which are jobs in the summer and year-round,” he said.
State Rep. Marty Walsh proposed an Office of Economic Development to bring in new businesses for greater employment. He also supported leasing city lots for housing developments.
Former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie talked about her experience with homeless issues. She said the city should partner with more nonprofits, management companies and emergency agencies for placing homeless families. “Hotels and motels should be the last resort. We need to get families into stable, affordable housing,” she said.
Bill Walczak vowed to oppose the casino in Suffolk Downs, as the gaming license will not be approved until April 2013. He added that education needed more job training directly connected to businesses and health care.
John Barros supported more funding for alternative education, as each alternative education student is funded at a third of the amount of a regular student. About 12,000 students have not graduated and are unemployed, but only 3,000 alternative education seats are available in the Boston Public Schools system.
City councilor John Connolly proposed more private partnerships to address federal cuts to nutrition programs. He mentioned his daughter Clare’s school — the Trotter Elementary School — which partnered with Target for a monthly food bank. The school has a poverty rate of more than 90 percent and the highest rate of homeless families in Boston. “We ask those who benefit from the great parts of Boston to help the parts not doing so great,” he said.
City councilor Charles Clemons spoke about his experience with adult diabetes and improving nutrition awareness. “Education is key … there are so many fried chicken places and fast food locations,” he said.
City councilor Charles Yancey promised to work with private and public organizations to deliver food to seniors, as federal program Meals on Wheels suffered cuts. “The sad reality is food is literally thrown away,” he said. “The nutritious and unexpired food can go to Meals on Wheels.”
District attorney Dan Conley and candidate David James Wyatt did not attend the forum.
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