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Downtown View: Introducing Jay Livingstone

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the profound fatigue that last fall’s presidential and senatorial election brought on. How could we face another round of debates, accusations and ads that two special elections were bound to produce? As I was trying to shed the dismal feelings, Jay Livingstone called me up.

Dismal feelings gone. Jay is a Democrat running for state representative in the Eighth Suffolk District, the seat Marty Walz held for many years.

And it’s not just Jay. It’s the two other candidates that are bringing me out of my funk. They’re good citizens, and they’re smart. They are brave to do this. All are well versed in the legislature and in local matters, even though they are fresh faces, with youngish inclinations that will challenge the old guard.

Local elections are often (not always) less acrimonious, less dependent on dreadful television ads, and more dependent on meeting people face to face. I decided to embrace at least this one election. (I may ignore until election day the one to fill Senator Kerry’s seat.)

None of the candidates in the state rep race is well known outside of a small group of people. So I’ll introduce them, one at a time. I’m not endorsing any of any of them. Instead I’ll try to give you a sense of their personalities, credentials, and understanding of their neighborhoods and the legislative process.

Jay goes first because he was the first to contact me, making it easy. Making it easy for a columnist is always appreciated.

He is 39 years of age, has practiced law for 15 years, lives on Revere Street on Beacon Hill and has been a member of the Democratic Ward Committee since 2008, when he moved into the neighborhood. He worked in Mac D’Alessandro’s unsuccessful campaign to unseat Congressman Stephen Lynch in 2010 and helped out with Elizabeth Warren’s campaign too.

He works now in private practice in an office on Tremont Street. Previously he worked at the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor. He has had an experience most lawyers wouldn’t think of—for four years he served in Saipan, the largest island in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean. (Think World War II, if this name seems familiar to you.)

Jay took a job as that territory’s assistant attorney general, located in the governor’s office, and was chief of the civil division. It was there, he said, that he realized he liked representing the community, where he was able to promote fairness in a particularly effective way. It was there, too, that he got involved in messy policy issues over labor regulations, labor law, utilities management, environmental concerns and the particular problems that come from a piece of land that is part of the United States, but lies thousands of miles away from the mainland and has only commonwealth status.

The problems surrounding geography and commonwealth status may have little to do with Massachusetts, but the other policy matters are similar to those our legislature deals with.

In Boston, besides helping Democratic candidates win (and sometimes lose) elections, Jay has served on the zoning and licensing committee for the Beacon Hill Civic Association and also on that organization’s board of directors.

Jay said these experiences would help him have impact on both the policy and constituent levels a state legislator must deal with.

Three arenas have captured Jay’s attention. He said the neighborhoods in his district face development pressures from the Longfellow Bridge reconstruction to MIT’s development around Central Square to air rights parcels over the Mass Pike. He points out that large developments have benefits—for example, the Prudential Center generates more money for the city than several neighborhoods combined—yet such developments create problems too. He said he respects the public process that draws out concerns and works out ways to resolve them, and he has experience in that process.

Another arena that interests him is the lack of a public school in the downtown neighborhoods. Although Mayor Menino intends to create a new school in a building on the edge of the North End, it’s too far for Back Bay kids to walk and it’s a long haul even for Beacon Hill. While this is a city matter, Jay believes the legislature could do more in funding to ensure that schools can improve and that new schools can arise where they are needed.

He’s also emphatic about restoring social service funding. When he worked in the Middlesex DA’s office he saw the problems caused when elderly, disabled or at risk persons weren’t getting help. “They do much better with support,” he said. “Short-term budget savings are causing long term problems.”

His goal is to follow Marty Walz’s lead. “She brought to the seat independent progressive leadership to get things accomplished,” he said. “I want to show that type of leadership, and I’ve been able to do that in my life to date.”

Jay has a campaign staff in place. His strategy is to connect to as many voters as possible. “I’ll leave no stone unturned,” he said.

Downtown View is a regular column by Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times weekly newspaper in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Her column appears in those newspapers as well as the Regional Review, which serves Boston’s North End. These weeklies are now owned by the Independent Newspaper Group. She is the author of “Blue Laws, Brahmins and Breakdown Lanes: An Alphabetic Guide to Boston and Bostonians” and the co-author of “The Lady Architects,” a book about three women who practiced architecture in New England and elsewhere in the early 20th century. She lives in downtown Boston and blogs at

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