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Meet the candidates for Boston City Council, District 7

Posted by Roy Greene  September 28, 2011 12:13 PM

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Incumbent City Councilor Tito Jackson and educator Sheneal Parker advanced in the Sept. 27 preliminary election for District 7, which consists of Roxbury and parts of the Fenway, South End, and Dorchester. Meet the two candidates, who will square off in the Nov. 8 general election:.

Tito H. Jackson
Age: 36

Grew up: Grove Hall, Boston

Education: University of New Hampshire, 1999; BA in Arts in History

Occupation: Civil Servant

Hobbies: Travel, Dancing

Family: Herb and Rosa Jackson, many loving foster siblings


Q. What is the biggest challenge facing District 7?

A. District 7’s biggest challenges are getting our resident’s back to work, making our streets safe for our families, and ensuring that our children receive nothing less than a world-class education. The business community in District 7 has a promising future, but it is important that we as a City and a community work together to sustain that growth. Furthermore, people need jobs to support their families and the stores in the District, ensuring that the dollars going into residents’ pockets flow back into the community.

Over the summer, we saw the toll that violence and crime play on communities throughout Boston, and especially in District 7. Parents need for their children to play in playgrounds without having to worry. Teenagers need to be able to learn, work, and grow in neighborhoods that support them and help them thrive to make their communities better in the future.

As the school year begins, and after the closing or merging of eleven Boston Public Schools, as well as the possible moves of Boston Latin Academy and Boston Arts Academy, we are facing new decisions for our children and their futures. In determining what’s best for the District 7 community and our young people, it remains of utmost importance for the community voices to be heard in by ears within City Hall. Promoting science, technology, engineering and math education in schools will help kids understand the promising futures that those sectors can provide to them if they are diligent and responsible.

In general, digging into District 7’s untapped potential has been my goal since deciding to become the area’s Boston City councilor. I look forward to continuing those efforts.

Q. If elected, how do you plan to unite the district's many diverse neighborhoods and groups?

A. Good neighbors talk to one another. This is as true of the family living a floor below you as it is of someone living two train stops away. Despite their differences, the adjacent neighborhoods of District 7 face common challenges: maintaining a clean and safe environment, connecting pockets of economic growth, and providing children with the best possible education.

In an effort to keep their neighborhoods clean and safe, a few of the neighborhood associations in the district have begun to confront their problems together. To the extent that I can be a conduit for fruitful relationships among my constituent neighborhoods, I intend to do so. I have pointed to the challenges in our path, but the heart of the matter is our vision for Boston. Those conversations are taking place in community rooms and homes across District 7. I look forward to continuing my efforts to promote conversations and facilitate partnerships among community members in different parts of the District so we can build a better Boston.

Q. Youth violence has emerged as a major theme during the election. How can the city curb youth violence?

A. Education, employment and a peer mediator/conflict resolution model are the first steps in addressing youth violence. At the school level, parents and teachers should collectively develop an engaging curriculum that is designed to help students envision a life that enriches their families and their communities.

Outside of school, internships, workshops and jobs provide practical experience while also occupying hours that might otherwise be spent getting into trouble. The StreetSafe team and the Boston Center for Youth and Families' Streetworkers have done monumental work teaching conflict resolution tactics, but these programs need to be expanded. As District 7’s city councilor, I will keep encouraging the city to support these programs so that young people acknowledge the hope and opportunities that fill their futures.

Q. Cuts are being made across the board. What programs would you cut and which ones would you save?

A. Federal, state and city governments have had to make difficult choices in today’s economic climate. The cuts coming from the congressional super-committee will damage our financial resources even more. This has meant too often that our most vulnerable citizens are affected first. Services that allow our seniors to age safely in their homes cannot disappear. Our schools deserve more funding, not less, especially in relation to programs that can help young people learn specific vocational tools and put them on the track to success.

Q. Foreclosures are rampant in the city. How would you help people avoid losing their homes? And if they do lose their home, how as a city councilor would you help them get back on their feet?

A. I will continue to advocate for constituents whose homes are at-risk as I have done for the months that I have been in office. Connecting District 7 residents with the opportunities that organizations like Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance and City Life/Vida Urbana offer will help my constituents avoid foreclosure or to help them convert foreclosed properties into affordable housing.

My office has done an excellent job of supporting community members who have become homeless by helping them find a place to sleep or assisting them in their search for permanent housing in the City. It is important to District 7 and whole City that Bostonians live stably and safely because that will lead to culturally rich communities inhabited by invested residents.

Sheneal Parker
Age: 41

Grew up: Born in New York City, raised in Beaufort, S.C. Boston resident since 1991.

Current Residence: Symphony Road, the Fenway

Education: B.A. in criminal Justice, Northeastern University; masters in public administration, Suffolk University

Occupation: Boston Public Schools teacher; small-business owner

Personal: 15-year-old son

Hobbies: reading and traveling


Q. What is the biggest challenge facing District 7?

A. Jobs -- too many District 7 residents are unemployed and those who are employed do not make enough to be fully self-supporting. Unemployment in communities of color is twice the statewide average. The causes are far deeper than hiring policies and the health of District 7's business community: too many of our residents lack the education and skills to have good-paying jobs in our high-skilled economy.

There must be a multi-pronged approach to creating, sustaining and expanding job opportunities. As a member of the Wentworth Community Task Force, I advocated for hiring priority in construction projects to Boston residents, and to hire a liaison to monitor application of the new policy.

In addition, I’ve worked with teenagers to teach them to be entrepreneurs. I have started a company called Sp Unlimited. I think that education is more than just about academics and I say that as a teacher who believes in the value of education writ large.

There is also a need for stronger vocational education, learning about the trades. There is a need to have programs that work for those looking to upgrade their jobs or find other educational opportunities.

A close second is violence. Children cannot learn properly under fear of violence. Parents arrange their lives around keeping their kids safe and this has an economic and social impact. For example, a parent might turn down overtime, an extra shift or a new job because it would mean they cannot shuttle their child from school or an after-school activity. Businesses considering locating in District 7 are hesitant due to both actual violence and the perception of violence.

I've coped with violence in my life and so I feel my perspective is based on experience. One of the things I'd like to see is a more comprehensive approach to pooling crime prevention efforts among police in different neighborhoods. Some of the things that work in the Fenway might work in Roxbury or Dorchester. I feel that we need more programs to keep young people working, not just in the summer but throughout the year and that there needs to be more work on CORI reform.

Q. If elected, how do you plan to unite the district’s many diverse neighborhoods and groups?

A. Roxbury makes up a large part of District 7. I am a Fenway resident. I have relationships throughout the district. As a former President of the Fenway CDC, I have worked on initiatives that have helped to keep the neighborhood affordable and build a more diverse community.

As an African American, single mother who has lost someone to violence and has been a victim, I walk in solidarity with those who have experienced my plight no matter in what part of the district. I have ties in every part of the district. I am a board member with the Bird Street Community Center in Dorchester.

My campaign reflects a diversity that will be reflected in my administration. I have top advisers and supporters in my campaign who are gay. I am supported by the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. I don't just talk diversity, I live it and respect and value it.

Q. Youth violence has emerged as a major theme during this election. How can the city curb youth violence?

A. One way would be to curb the cycle of retaliation and to "interrupt" it with the help of our street workers, police, community activists, faith leaders, and other anti-violence activists. I encourage everyone to see a documentary premiering in Cambridge this week called "The Interrupters" -- about Chicago's program that puts former perpetrators of street violence to work as outreach workers in a public health & scientific approach to curb homicide - a program that ironically was inspired by the "Boston Miracle."

We need to strengthen Boston's street work program to "intervene" before a "beef" leads to violence. We need a comprehensive scientific approach in Boston that uses talented and committed outreach workers who no the street and the players. We need more mentoring programs and we need to teach our young people in grade school the value of conflict resolution. I believe prevention is a critical piece of the solution but only one of a number of approaches.

Q. Cuts are being made across the board. What programs would you cut and which ones would you save?

A. I think that one solution is finding and cutting inefficiencies within programs and departments. The administration has done a good job consolidating duplicate programs, such as the merger that created Boston Centers for Youth and Families. However, there is still work to do to make sure that there are top flight managers in place and that the programming extends to serve the greater need and is not diminished.

Q. Foreclosures are rampant in the city. How would you help people avoid losing their homes? And if they do lose their home, how as City Councilor would you help them get back on their feet?

A. I would put my hands-on experience to work. I have some of the best affordable housing and limited equity housing cooperative experience than probably any candidate running in Boston this year, not just in District 7. I was president of the board at Fenway Community Development Corporation and sit on its board; I live in a small co-op in the Fenway and sit on that board as well. I will advocate for and support programs like Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance who offer housing and home loan opportunities.

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