The Ward 5 Democratic Committee endorsed Jay Livingstone for state representative of the 8th Suffolk district after he and fellow Democratic candidate Josh Dawson debated Tuesday.
In what many members said was a difficult decision, the committee voted 17 to 6 to endorse Livingstone.
Members praised both candidates for their work supporting Democratic candidates and the committee, and their active roles in their communities. The committee promised to actively support whichever candidate won the May 28 primary.
Few differences on policy emerged during the debate at the First Church Boston in the Back Bay as Dawson and Livingstone both tried to make the case that he would be the best progressive leader for the district.
Dawson, 30, a Back Bay resident and former chairman of the Ward 5 committee, has worked as the executive director of state Treasurer Steve Grossman’s campaign committee and as the legislative and budget director for Brockton state Senator Thomas Kennedy.
Livingstone, 39, of Beacon Hill, is an attorney in private practice and a member of the Ward 5 committee. He has previously worked as a prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office. He is a board member of the Beacon Hill Civic Association.
The candidates took on statewide and local issues at the debate. Both favor an expanded bottle bill; want a citywide vote if a casino is sited in East Boston; and list creating downtown public schools as a top priority.
On local development, Dawson and Livingstone both said they would work with developers, the city, and residents to make sure the community plays a role in any development process and that neighborhoods’ concerns are heard and addressed.
“There’s a lot of building trade unions that when I talk to them they don’t live in the neighborhood and they want to build Manhattan in our neighborhood, and we have to be very careful about not changing the character of the neighborhood,” Livingstone said.
Dawson, who has been endorsed by members of the Boston building trades, said he sees developers as long-term investors who want to maintain the neighborhood character that attracted them to build in the neighborhood in the first place.
“The folks who work in the building trades are your carpenters, your electrical workers, they care about being able to put food on the table for their kids and their families, send their kids to good schools, and I think as Democrats we care about that also,” he said.
“They are not trying to turn--like Jay said--Back Bay into Manhattan. It’s not going to happen,” he said, noting the historic neighborhood is protected by laws and the community process.
When asked if either would support legislation eliminating the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Livingstone said he would. Dawson would not.
“The Boston Redevelopment Authority is both the zoning and planning authority for the city as well as the marketing arm that actually does the development and mixing those two things often creates conflict,” said Livingstone. “I think now we’re going to have a new mayor, we’re going to have what looks like a vastly different city council, I think it’s now time to reexamine and separate those functions.”
Dawson said the changes in leadership were a reason to keep the authority.
“Because we have a new mayor coming in in less than a year that I would not advocate for the removal of the BRA to see how a new administration would work with the BRA and the communities on development issues, said Dawson. “I would say right now I don’t believe that’s a responsible decision.”
Dawson also said dissolving the BRA was not a decision for the state legislature.
“I don’t think it’s the job of a state representative to tell a municipality how they should deal with the development issues in their city,” he said.
Asked what their top legislative priority would be in their first term, Dawson said his is to create public schools in the downtown area.
Dawson said he would work to include amendments to the budget to ensure funding for a downtown school so more families can stay in the city.
“Getting that and keeping middle class families in Downtown Boston would be my number one priority,” he said.
Livingstone, too, said creating downtown public schools would be a top priority he would continue to work on, as would restoring funding to social programs, such as the Department of Children and Families.
Recalling his days as a prosecutor, Livingstone said, “The kids were getting into more trouble were getting into the wrong cycle solely because of significant cutbacks by the state.”
Both candidates said more time is needed to study the effectiveness of charter schools before they would support increasing the cap on the schools.
On taxes, both candidates said they supported Governor Deval Patrick’s tax plan that would generate an additional $1.9 billion annually for transportation and education in part by raising the income tax while cutting the sales tax.
Dawson and Livingstone said tax increases must be done progressively to fund vital services such as transportation and education while not putting the tax burden on low-income residents.
Livingstone has also been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Mass. Alliance, Progressive Massachusetts, ten Boston locals, and former primary candidate Nils Tracy.
Dawson has been endorsed by State Treasurer Steve Grossman, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, City Councilors Mike Ross and Tito Jackson, and local and state firefighters.
The candidates will meet again Thursday at a forum in Cambridge. The primary is scheduled for May 28, and the special election for the state House seat will be held on June 25, the same day as the US Senate special election.
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