(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/1995)
Q. What have you been up to since taking office?
One, we have been reaching out to schools, like today. The objective is really to make sure that schools, administration as well as young people know that we are there to support them. We are going to do everything we can do to push for academic excellence and to put them in a position to really live up to their potential, which is that of excellence.
We also have begun our economic development work and strategy. We have a couple of organizations who have already pledged to hire young people over the summer. I won’t toss those organizations’ [names] out yet. But our objective is really to make sure that folks get back to work, that young people have summer jobs and that we really push the economic development aspects of our community that are going to really create jobs. We’ve already met with administration officials on the Ferdinand Building as well as the development that is going to be occurring in and around the Melnea Cass Boulevard area.
The other piece is that we got the budget the other day. We have been really looking at all aspects of the budget, but in particular how the budget will affect District 7. And, there are many things that we are going to have to work on. We need to make sure that even in these most difficult economic times that we are maintaining the social services and many of the countercyclical aspects of social services. As folks lose jobs, their needs go up and that also means we have less money. So there are lots of things that are going on as it relates to that social service side of things. But we want to make sure that this budget reflects the values that we have in our city of: a focus on excellence for our young people, that we are helping businesses – which are really the economic drivers in our city – grow and hire folks, as well as a community in which everyone can feel safe and to walk around and connect with not just those people that live next door, but their neighbors.
Q. You laid out your five-point plan for the district when you began campaigning. It was “Jobs and Economic Development, Education, Affordable Housing, Public Safety and Partnerships That Include You.” Based on anything that may have happened since you drafted this plan, would you make any changes to it now? And, are you more or less optimistic about that plan now compared to during the campaign.
You know what, honestly, I remain optimistic on the platform that we ran on, and also on the community partners and base that we have in our community to get all aspects of our platform achieved.
We know that when we look at the total number of people in the city of Boston who are unemployed, 55 percent of them are black. We know that we need to make sure that all folks are going back to work.
We have a great deal of development that’s going to be occurring right in the Dudley Square area. We want to ensure that people from District 7 have an opportunity to take full part in that job site as it relates to development, also as it relates to getting jobs on the ground in the construction trades as well as all elements of that job site. There are so many folks who are out of work and we want to make sure that as we build this neighborhood and this community that people from this community are there to lay those bricks and to build it up.
Q. What are some of the specific ways you can get the community involved in the Ferdinand development project?
The Ferdinand Building is really the beginning of a new renaissance in Dudley Square – that of the bright lights of new businesses, that of the attraction of folks who want to open new businesses in that area, artists who would like to even expose their stuff more in that Dudley Square area.
When we look at the south of Washington Street area – “SoWa” –and the rejuvenation that occurred there, I think we need to look at the west of Washington Street area, which some people in our district are calling “WoW, ” which would be west of Washington Street.
We have all of the elements of a really bustling and robust city center. We have Dudley Station, which has been for too long been a hub rather than a destination. We have over 35,000 riders that go through there every single day. We are losing out on an opportunity by not keeping them there. And, also, obviously downtown we’ve had a hole in the ground [former Filene’s store space] for about three or four years, we’ve had this hole in the ground [former Ferdinand Furniture store space] for about 40 years. It is time and really this will serve as a cornerstone of that economic development that we want to see.
And, as I’ve said before, I’m continuously having conversations with folks in the mayor’s shop as well as the BRA [Boston Redevelopment Authority] to make sure that this project is one that the community benefits from, that the community also gets and is able to get folks on these job sites and that as we rejuvenate this community that the folks who actually live here – as we rejuvenate the city because this is really the heart of the city of Boston – that the people in District 7 are in a better place as that occurs.
Q. Some of the specific components of your five-point plan – creating “Tito’s Job Bank;” holding “Job-landing workshops;” establishing a “District 7 Hotline;” and you told WCVB’s “On The Record” program recently putting “that word ‘neighbor’ back in the ‘hood’” – are you finding ways to achieve all of these?
In the next two weeks we will be beginning our office hours. And, office hours will not be in an office. Our office hours will be in the community. We will do the first round at Haley House. And, really it’s about bringing government to the community. Many folks will not travel to City Hall for anything other than a crisis. And, we want to make sure people in our community have a strong connection to their District 7 City Councilor and also really the government because often times people seek out help that may be at the city, state or federal level, but it’s our job to connect them with the proper resources to make sure that they get what they need want and deserve.
Q. Are there any specific orders, resolutions, ordinances, hearing or motions you plan to file?
You’re going to have to stay tuned for that … We will be filing. We do have an aggressive agenda.
Q. Have you spoken to your predecessor Chuck Turner at all since you announced plans to run for this seat? Why or why not? And, if so, what did you two discuss?
Understand Councilor Turner spent 40 years dedicating his life – many folks don’t know Councilor Turner came here from Ohio to go to Harvard [University]. So he went from Harvard to our neighborhood and really helped to organize and gave his life to organizing in the community.
I did speak with him prior to the campaign and let him know that I thought about running and asked for his support. And, also, I spoke with him a couple of times during the campaign. It would be a waste of a resource for someone who has done the job and knows the issues to not have that contact, and I again continue to pray for him and wish him well.
But the objective now is to make sure we have proper representation in District 7. We went without representation for several months. There are many – and I understand more and more each day – many amazing things happening in the community and we need to make sure that we are paying attention to those things, that we have the pulse on those things and that we are making sure that they really are for the betterment and the inclusion of this community of District 7.
Q. Your term expires at the end of this calendar year. Do you plan to run for re-election this coming fall? Why or why not?
I’m very effective. I think we have a very effective and awesome staff. But, I think we may need a little more than six months to get everything done that we want to get done.
So, yes, I do plan to run. And, we will be running a full campaign – a campaign that is representative of the great people in the community and one that reaches out and continues to reach out to all of the amazing people in District 7. And, our objective is to do right by this community, to bring this community the resources that it needs and also to make this community proud by the service we’re able to provide to it.
Q. How will you tackle the challenge of having a very short term before you’ll need to start campaigning again?
The great part is I think we have the wherewithal and the fortitude to work the long hours as we did in the campaign. We know that much of the work that we have to do starts well before 8 o’clock and a lot of the other work is work that we have to do past 7 or 8 o’clock at night. So, we will continue on a day-to-day basis and, actually, me personally, I will continue on a day-to-day basis to meet with community organizations to connect with folks on the ground and to run the real grassroots campaign that this community deserves.
And, the issues – we have many things going on at City Hall – but also that needs to be balanced and really much of the work also really is in this community: making sure that folks feel safe when they walk down the street, making sure that people who want a job – in particular, those folks who have a CORI, who might have made a mistake, who say ‘hey, I want to change my life around’ – to make sure that they have an economic opportunity and are connected with a job. And, also to make sure that we have an opportunity to educate our young people in a way that allows them to not pursue being average, not pursue getting over or just graduating, but an education and environments that are focused on true academic excellence.
E-mail Matt Rocheleau at email@example.com.