By John Lynds
With the Primary Election for the District 1 City Council seat set for next Tuesday (September 26) the three candidates have been sprinting to the finish line. In the final week of the election East Boston’s Lydia Edwards and Margaret Farmer and the North End’s Stephen Passacantilli have been knocking doors, phone baking, holding standouts of street corners throughout the district and attending candidates’ forums.
Last Tuesday night Edwards, Farmer and Passacantilli attended a candidates forum at the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association and Edwards and Farmer took part in a second forum Thursday night at the Mario Umana Academy (Passacantilli was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict).
At the JPNA forum each candidate told the audiences that had gathered why they are running for City Council.
Edwards touted her experience helping families, workers and tenants as an attorney and later working in the city Office of Housing Stability as qualifications while Farmer pointed to her civic engagement since arriving in Eastie 15 years ago as a volunteer and later as a chair of the JPNA board for several years as reasons she could lead the District. Passacantilli pointed to his experience at City Hall since 2007, first as an aid to City Councilor Sal LaMattina and later working in the Walsh Administration, as something that sets him apart from the other two candidates.
When asked how they stay in tune with the issues affecting the District and prioritized what needs attention first and foremost Passacantilli, who worked on constituent services for LaMattina, said ‘when a real issue comes up the phone in the office will be ringing off the hook. I was very hands on in the detract during my time in Councilor LaMattina’s office. It’s pretty manageable to figure out what it going on in each neighborhood and prioritize the issues. I’ve been out door knocking and listening to residents so I hear everyday what is important to people so I think being a candidate can seamlessly roll over to your function as a city councilor.”
Edwards said she would hire folks from the community that make up and represent each unique neighborhood in the district.
“I will be a hands on city councilor and I will be out there attending meetings, initiating conversations with residents and being accessible,” she said. “I want to be able to empower residents to organize and take issues to the next level so they get solved.”
Farmer said there is a technological aspect she would hope to implement through social media that keeps her in tune with residents but plans to be ‘physically present’ throughout the community.
“I want to know what the community wants,” she said. “I want you to be able to say to my face that something is a problem and ask me what I plan to do about it.”
On schools Passacantilli said the city’s schools are in most need of our attention.
“I have talked to several families who have told me they are moving because their child did not get into the school of their choice,” he said. “This is pushing families out of Boston and our neighborhoods at a time when we need families to stay. There is a rebirth of families coming back to the city and there should be quality schools close to home for every family. There a few things I think we need and I will advocate for like universal pre-K, mandatory music and arts, easy pathways to high school and fresh food that is prepared daily for breakfast and lunch.”
Farmer said she believes every school should be a level one school in the city. Like Passacantilli, Farmer said she knows of people, even a former JPNA board member, that are selling their home and leaving Eastie because their child didn’t get into a ‘good’ school in the district.
As someone who worked in the mental health field, Farmer said there needs to be more focus on guidance and social services within the school system to help students succeed.
“A lot of these students are having far more problems than just not getting math,” she said. “A lot of kids are seeing violence at home, coming to school hungry, are abused. We need to address these issues within our schools.”
Edwards wants to add more services at schools to keep kids busy.
“Busy kids are safe kids,” said Edwards. “There needs to be more services after school and more free programs that helps kids in the hours of 2 to 6 p.m.”
Edwards added that she also wants to add more vocational components to school so students can learn a trade because, as she put it, ‘college may not make sense for every student.”
At the Umana Forum both Farmer and Edwards fielded questions about development, gentrification, displacement and airport issues.