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At-Large City Council Candidates on Waterfront Issues

Responses to Coalition's Candidate Questionnaire

Ahead of the November 2nd General Election, candidates for At-Large City Council were asked to submit responses to a number of waterfront related questions compiled by our partner organizations. Their responses are published below.

David Halbert

[Q1] Describe your vision for the future of Boston's waterfront, including the harbor and rivers.

[Q2] Accessibility & Equity

Boston’s waterfront encompasses both the harbor and its rivers. What parts of the waterfront do you see as models for open and accessible space for all to utilize? As city councilor, how would you use those models to develop strategies to make it feel like a true waterfront for all and promote the waterfront to residents and visitors of all ages and races?

Piers Park in East Boston is a wonderful example of what can be done to activate our waterfront in community centered and widely accessible ways. As a former derelict pier that has been converted into one of the most vibrant and active waterfront recreation areas in the city, Piers Park provides a model that should be expanded.

As a City Councilor I would seek to replicate as many of the elements that have contributed to the park's success as possible. This begins with ensuring that there is adequate funding for development of new spaces, infrastructure improvements in existing ones, and a level of annual maintenance support that meets the needs of keeping the park in good repair.

This also means working intentionally to create a true sense of community based stewardship of the space. As a longtime board member of the Piers Park Advisory Council I know how important a community voice can be in promoting and protecting these spaces. So we must do everything we can to help establish active "friends of the park" groups, with a focus on ensuring a diverse cross-section of community voices is represented, and make them feel empowered in charting the course of these important spaces.

[Q3] Climate Resiliency

Many of Boston’s neighborhoods are in need of a true district wide coastal resiliency plan to protect from the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. In addition to the effects we see along Boston Harbor, the rivers, particularly the Charles River, also present a potential threat to residents from flooding. What actions would you take (or have you taken) on the council to protect the city from the impacts of climate change?

We must incorporate our approach to climate change into every element of city operations. This means changing our zoning codes with regard to promoting climate resilient, net-zero carbon emissions construction. We must make the necessary infrastructure investments in our coastal and riverfront protections for vulnerable communities - particularly environmental justice communities.

We must also lead by example in how the city operates and does business. This means providing support for expansion of vehicle charging stations and electrifying the city fleet of vehicles; making environmentally focused procurement decisions for city spending; encouraging the city retirement fund to make environmental impact & stewardship a leading metric for investments; and making Madison Park High School a national leader in green vocational education. It is only by taking a truly comprehensive approach to climate change that we will be able to make the impact necessary to protect Boston's future and ensure that it is literally here for our children.

[Q4] Coordination with Federal, State, and Local Governments

With the potential access to a massive influx of federal dollars from the infrastructure package, Boston is in a unique position to reshape its waterfront by creating a climate resilient space that is open and inclusive to all. To do so across all of the harbor and the rivers will take collaboration with neighboring communities. What role would you play as a regional leader to prioritize coastal resilience, access to open space, and economic vibrancy?

As a City Councilor it would be my duty to engage and promote regional partnerships on a host of issues facing Boston, with our response to climate change being one of the chief among them. We must use existing structures, like the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce as forums for this type of engagement. By shifting the conversation away from Boston's sole success, and moving it to a discussion of how our entire region can benefit from this type of investment and forward thinking, we will help create a permission structure for leaders of other communities, which often feel overlooked in favor of Boston, to see a benefit from such engagement. This is also an opportunity to highlight the interconnected nature of our environments, communities, & fortunes - of which the harbor is a living example.

[Q5] Development

Regulations and plans for the waterfront are still catching up to the pressing need to ensure that private development creates district scale flood protection, welcoming public space, and other public benefits like affordable housing. How would you reshape waterfront development to achieve your vision? Please explain what changes you would make, if any, to the BPDA or the city's development process to ensure that it's realized? 

Any future waterfront development must prioritize climate resilient construction and maintenance of public waterfront access. A focus must also be on establishing and preserving an unbroken coastline connection for the public, rather than being interrupted by intermittent, inaccessible private spaces. The waterfront is a public good and must be treated as such. This also means working to create coastal communities that are as diverse as the city. This is why, in addition to raising the minimum affordable housing threshold for developments citywide, waterfront project should have a higher burden when attempting to site affordable units in satellite areas in order to increase profit margins.

Seeing these types of changes enacted is one reason why I have called for the separation of the BPDA into distinct planning and economic development agencies. Both are critical to Boston's success, but far to often the public feels that community voices are ignored and financial bottom lines are the only concern when decisions are made. This is bad for community building and inhibits our ability to take the boldest steps possible in order to meet the challenges of the day.

[Q6] Transportation

Investments in transportation are needed to connect more residents to the waterfront. This includes, but is not limited to, public transit, pedestrian access, and ferry services. Which projects would you focus on to improve affordable access to the waterfront and harbor islands? 

We must do more to make it easier to access waterfront spaces without the need for individual car trips. This means making investments in bus rapid transit and a citywide network of protected bike lanes on our streets, improving accessibility and maintenance to all sidewalks, and working with the MBTA to increase frequency and reliability of light rail and bus routes that bring people to the waterfront - both coastal and riverfront. This also means working with our harbor community to increase the amount of inner harbor and harbor islands ferry service, with a focus on increasing the access to small business development opportunities in this space for entrepreneurs.

When thinking intentionally about how to increase activity and access to the waterfront within the city we must make it a priority to provide direct, low or no cost transit options to communities that have historically felt cut off from the waterfront either geographically or culturally. This will not only lead to greater use, but also to greater care for these fragile spaces by a broader constituency.

[Q7] Working Port

In a recent poll commission by the Coalition, a majority of respondents, particularly residents of color, want to see more investment in the creation of jobs for local residents along the waterfront. Waterfront properties in the working port offer a wide range of good paying jobs in workforce training, provisioning and marshalling services, maintenance and repair facilities for ships and offshore wind equipment. What actions would you take as a councilor to support the creation of waterfront jobs within a modern working port?

I would work with our existing maritime industries sector to identify the areas of most need, then determine where training and workforce development opportunities exist within Boston Public Schools, with a primary focus on Madison Park High School. Next I would work with higher education institutions focused on workforce development, such as Roxbury and Bunker Hill Community Colleges and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, to see where training opportunities can be strengthened or established. I would also work with the City's Office of Returning Citizens and the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department to direct returning citizens towards maritime careers, as a component of successful reentry planning. I would serve as a strategic partner with the City's economic development team to ensure that a comprehensive, long-term workforce and economic development plan for the waterfront, which prioritized environmentally responsible development and business activities, was created, regularly reviewed, and enacted.

City Councilor At-Large Julia Mejia

[Q1] Describe your vision for the future of Boston's waterfront, including the harbor and rivers

[Q2] Accessibility & Equity

Boston’s waterfront encompasses both the harbor and its rivers. What parts of the waterfront do you see as models for open and accessible space for all to utilize? As city councilor, how would you use those models to develop strategies to make it feel like a true waterfront for all and promote the waterfront to residents and visitors of all ages and races?

There are spaces throughout the City of Boston where you can see the intentionality behind creating a waterfront that is free and accessible to all. The work that the New England Aquarium has done to make their space more accessible, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color, is particularly impressive. In addition, the recent Allston Viaduct conversation has been a model for how advocates can successfully push for a more accessible waterfront that does not sacrifice green space for the sake of cars.

[Q3] Climate Resiliency

Many of Boston’s neighborhoods are in need of a true district wide coastal resiliency plan to protect from the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. In addition to the effects we see along Boston Harbor, the rivers, particularly the Charles River, also present a potential threat to residents from flooding. What actions would you take (or have you taken) on the council to protect the city from the impacts of climate change?

Our office has worked collaboratively with our Council colleagues, city officials, advocates, and community members to preserve and expand climate resilience measures. On the Council, I have been a proud supporter of BERDO 2.0, an ordinance designed to reduce harmful emissions from Boston’s biggest polluters. As an advocate, I have worked with residents throughout Roxbury and the South End to preserve the street trees along Melnea Cass Boulevard which were at risk of being torn up. I have also been a vocal opponent to the proposed substation in East Boston, which as currently proposed would disrupt and harm a neighborhood already experiencing some of the worst impacts of climate change in our city. As a Councilor, I have worked to be a microphone for the voices of the people, envisioning a climate resiliency plan that encompasses policy, programming, procedures, and protocols.

[Q4] Coordination with Federal, State, and Local Governments

With the potential access to a massive influx of federal dollars from the infrastructure package, Boston is in a unique position to reshape its waterfront by creating a climate resilient space that is open and inclusive to all. To do so across all of the harbor and the rivers will take collaboration with neighboring communities. What role would you play as a regional leader to prioritize coastal resilience, access to open space, and economic vibrancy?

As mentioned in my previous answer, my role as a City Councilor is to be a microphone to the voices of the people who are often being left out of these conversations. Growing up in Boston, the conversation around climate resilience never felt like something that made its way into my neighborhood, so as a City Councilor I have worked to create civic engagement pipelines in our city. Our language access ordinance requires all vital documents to be translated and released at the same time as they are released in English. We have also filed an ordinance that seeks to make zoom meetings a permanent alternative in the City of Boston so that more people, particularly people who cannot afford to go all the way to the City Council just to make their voices heard, are paid attention to.

[Q5] Development

Regulations and plans for the waterfront are still catching up to the pressing need to ensure that private development creates district scale flood protection, welcoming public space, and other public benefits like affordable housing. How would you reshape waterfront development to achieve your vision? Please explain what changes you would make, if any, to the BPDA or the city's development process to ensure that it's realized? 

While the City of Boston urges that waterfront developments keep the physical waterfront itself accessible and free to all people, there is a culture that is being created where folks do not feel welcome in spaces that belong to everybody. This may not be a policy change but it is a change in practice that is one of the biggest barriers to overcome when it comes to creating an accessible waterfront. We need to do a better job of reminding people, both residents of waterfront properties and visitors, that the waterfront is here for everybody.

[Q6] Transportation

Investments in transportation are needed to connect more residents to the waterfront. This includes, but is not limited to, public transit, pedestrian access, and ferry services. Which projects would you focus on to improve affordable access to the waterfront and harbor islands? 

We absolutely need to better invest in transportation to and around Boston’s waterfront. I am a proponent of bringing back late-night T service, which could help frame our waterfront as a safe and accessible evening alternative to bars and nightclubs. In addition, I continue to support freeing the T as a way to encourage people to take public transportation in order to enjoy everything that our city has to offer.

[Q7] Working Port

In a recent poll commission by the Coalition, a majority of respondents, particularly residents of color, want to see more investment in the creation of jobs for local residents along the waterfront. Waterfront properties in the working port offer a wide range of good paying jobs in workforce training, provisioning and marshalling services, maintenance and repair facilities for ships and offshore wind equipment. What actions would you take as a councilor to support the creation of waterfront jobs within a modern working port?

As the Chair of the Committee on Workforce Development, this is an issue that I take very seriously. During the last budget season, I advocated for millions of dollars in youth jobs spending, including the first-ever line item for jobs aimed specifically at young people aged 19-24. I see these youth jobs funds as a way to encourage young people, particularly people of color, into a pathway of stable trades work, including working without our city’s waterfront ports.

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Ruthzee Louijeune

[Q1] Describe your vision for the future of Boston's waterfront, including the harbor and rivers

[Q2] Accessibility & Equity

Boston’s waterfront encompasses both the harbor and its rivers. What parts of the waterfront do you see as models for open and accessible space for all to utilize? As city councilor, how would you use those models to develop strategies to make it feel like a true waterfront for all and promote the waterfront to residents and visitors of all ages and races?

As a City Councilor, I would work to ensure that all of Boston’s waterfront are accessible and welcoming to all residents and visitors. Specifically, I would advocate for developers and landholders who build alongside these assets (including governmental agencies like MassPort) to include publicly developed space that is inviting for all to utilize. I would make sure residents who live adjacent to these areas (like East Boston, for example) are well-represented in conversations to make sure that their needs and interests are considered. I would work to fight for low-income and BIPOC interests and ensure they have equitable access to these important City assets.

[Q3] Climate Resiliency

Many of Boston’s neighborhoods are in need of a true district wide coastal resiliency plan to protect from the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. In addition to the effects we see along Boston Harbor, the rivers, particularly the Charles River, also present a potential threat to residents from flooding. What actions would you take (or have you taken) on the council to protect the city from the impacts of climate change?

I believe that environmental justice means having a focus on how environmental impacts disproportionately affect low-income and BIPOC residents. Climate justice can be a pathway to create stable union jobs that pay living wages for Black and Latinx communities. Climate justice is racial justice. While keeping environmental justice at the forefront, our top priority needs to be committing to 100% renewables: divesting from fossil fuels, converting our electricity to renewables, converting government transportation to electric, requiring new developments to meet net-zero emissions standards, and converting all existing buildings and transportation to renewables.

At the city level, we need to double down on our environmental justice investments by looking at what the city has control over: public transportation, urban spaces, disposable good regulations, and building energy requirements. First, transportation equity and reducing car use is crucial. A free MBTA will go a long way in changing behavior and reducing fossil-fuel pollution from cars. Second, we need to grow the tree canopy in urban spaces and continue making Boston Harbor more resilient by ensuring flood protection-- particularly in neighborhoods that have been under-invested in. Thirdly, we need to educate the public about our recycling crisis particularly when it comes to plastic. There is not enough demand for recycled goods, and a very small percentage of plastics are ever recycled. We can implement regulations requiring businesses to use renewable and biodegradable materials like paper mache and glass. Finally, we need to improve current energy requirements by requiring all new buildings to meet a net-zero emissions standard. We need to convert our existing public buildings to 100% renewable energy, and we need to implement a regulatory timeline that requires all existing buildings to convert to renewables.

These are just the first few steps that need to be implemented in Boston. All of these initiatives and others should have a central focus of job creation and equitable investment, targeting the areas of the city hardest hit by climate change.

[Q4] Coordination with Federal, State, and Local Governments

With the potential access to a massive influx of federal dollars from the infrastructure package, Boston is in a unique position to reshape its waterfront by creating a climate resilient space that is open and inclusive to all. To do so across all of the harbor and the rivers will take collaboration with neighboring communities. What role would you play as a regional leader to prioritize coastal resilience, access to open space, and economic vibrancy?

As a city councilor, I would work to ensure that the various government stakeholders involved in implementing a coastal resilience plan are working collaboratively to ensure that openness and inclusivity are at the forefront of the infrastructure investments in Boston.

[Q5] Development

Regulations and plans for the waterfront are still catching up to the pressing need to ensure that private development creates district scale flood protection, welcoming public space, and other public benefits like affordable housing. How would you reshape waterfront development to achieve your vision? Please explain what changes you would make, if any, to the BPDA or the city's development process to ensure that it's realized? 

I believe that the city and BPDA’s development process ought to be the most forward-looking and resilience focused in the country. We ought to be leaders and ensure our regulations are up to the task of ensuring a climate resistant future.

[Q6] Transportation

Investments in transportation are needed to connect more residents to the waterfront. This includes, but is not limited to, public transit, pedestrian access, and ferry services. Which projects would you focus on to improve affordable access to the waterfront and harbor islands? 

I would focus on public and low-cost methods to improve affordable access including public transit and pedestrian access.

[Q7] Working Port

In a recent poll commission by the Coalition, a majority of respondents, particularly residents of color, want to see more investment in the creation of jobs for local residents along the waterfront. Waterfront properties in the working port offer a wide range of good paying jobs in workforce training, provisioning and marshalling services, maintenance and repair facilities for ships and offshore wind equipment. What actions would you take as a councilor to support the creation of waterfront jobs within a modern working port?

I would work to ensure that the needs of residents are represented in all development conversations that occur with the owners of those waterfront properties.

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