(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.2012)
Voters and residents turned out Thursday evening for a chance to see candidates vying to represent them in the coming year. While the candidates were the main speakers, residents had more on their minds than who had the best campaign speech.
Sponsored by RoxVote, a non-partisan group of neighborhood organizations and service providers, the forum, held at Roxbury’s Madison Park Village, featured incumbents and their challengers, answering question generated by local groups and residents.
In addition to the Seventh Suffolk District, Second Suffolk State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who represents portions of Roxbury, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester, the South End, and the Back Bay was also in attendance. Her challenger Roy Owens, was not in attendance but RoxVote staff said he had been invited.
“I think there needs to be a change in office,” said Brenda Lopes, 50, a retired Roxbury resident and registered Democrat. “We need someone who is more visible and I need to see what they have done.”
Others also said they wanted to see more of their elected officials out on the streets, but in the end violence, housing, and work were what many were most concerned with.
“The safety of our neighborhood is a big concern for me,” said Beverly Lara, 59, a disabled Roxbury resident and registered Democrat. “The kids need something and there needs to be more police. I feel like I only see them after something happens.”
Jobs and business were also on the minds of residents.
“I own my own business and I’ve seen business decline in the last 18-months,” said Sydney Janey, 31, a graphic designer and Roxbury resident. “There are a lot of things that need to be done locally and I want to know what kind of progress they are going to make.”
As potential voters settled in their seats, the forum got underway, moderated by Fantasia Pearson, a youth leader for the Madison Park Development Corporation and Sean Daughtry, political action chair for the Boston NAACP.
In the Seventh Suffolk, Gloria Fox the incumbent, who has been in office since 1985, faces challenges from Rufus Faulk, 30, a coordinator with the TenPoint Coalition and Jed Hresko, 45, a former Street Worker and former manager of the Baker House.
All three Democrats highlighted their records, with all including Fox concentrating on their dedication to the neighborhood's youth and their ability to address all residents, not just the poor or rich.
Candidates took a number of questions from organizations and audience members including their views on affordable housing in the neighborhood, how to stop the street-level violence and bring jobs and more resources to the inner-city district.
The two-term Second Suffolk State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Democrat, also addressed the audience Thursday, touting her record and commitment to education and jobs access.
In the end though a candidate’s ability to bring fresh ideas and new solutions to old problems is what many wanted to hear.
“We need to get the hate and animosity out of our neighborhood," said Serena Grooms, a Roxbury resident and administrative assistant that didn’t provide here age. “We need jobs for our youth; we need something new to happen.”