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Downtown View: Two More Candidates for District 8

(Ed: District 8 includes the West End, Beacon Hill, Mission Hill and Back Bay. District map pdf.)

District 8 City Councillor Mike Ross is running for mayor, and his seat, which includes parts of the Back Bay, Beacon Hill and the West End as well as Mission Hill and the Fenway, is up for grabs. Last week this column featured two candidates, Mike Nichols and Tom Dooley. This week, you’ll get to know Gloria Murray and Josh Zakim.

Gloria Murray, 50, is a native Bostonian. She attended Boston Public Schools, and was bused to the Michelangelo in the North End, which, she says, opened her eyes to new people and new experiences. She went to Northeastern, and earned a master’s in community development from Southern New Hampshire University. She has worked as a community organizer and as a fair housing information specialist. She says she enjoys helping people find their voice and advocate for their rights.

She has published an electronic community newsletter since 2001. Her latest effort has been to hold Winn Management’s feet to the fire in the Mission Main Apartments in Mission Hill. Although the pleasant complex is only 14 years old, a bomb scare recently showed that Winn’s plan for getting residents out of the building in an emergency was not up to par. Gloria worked with a tenant’s task force to create a comprehensive safety plan.

Gloria says her skills in organizing and advocating would help all neighborhoods in the district. She’s concerned that each neighborhood fights for improvements alone. She could bring them together to become more effective.

She believes the Boston Redevelopment Authority favors developers over residents, even though it asks for neighborhood input. She wants a separate planning and development arm within city government to balance the BRA. She fears that luxury housing is being built, but not affordable housing.

Better schools, longer hours for public transportation, a tighter rein on university expansion and improved public safety are her priorities. She cites the 120-plus shootings that have occurred in some Boston neighborhoods since the marathon as demonstrating the need for more community policing and more police interaction with the schools.

She says she is the only candidate in the race with hands-on experience in advocating for her community. In Boston’s city council, advocating is one of the few powers a councillor has.

Gloria is a board member of ABCD and the Mission Hill Health Movement.

 

Josh Zakim, 29, grew up in Newton in a family noted for its social justice activism and philanthropy, with the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, named after his late father.

Josh went to UPenn and got his law degree at Northeastern. He worked at Greater Boston Legal Services, where he helped families avoid foreclosure and at the law firm of Mintz Levin where he worked on municipal bond transactions, helping him gain an understanding of how public entities operate. He serves on the board of the Lenny Zakim Fund, which funds small non-profits who are addressing intractable social problems.

Through the fund he has been introduced to such innovative organizations as a weightlifting program for boys that keeps them out of trouble they’d otherwise get into. He wants to bring good ideas such as this to the city council, expand them, measure their effectiveness and get the city involved in the most successful ones to combat youth violence.

Josh advocates for community policing, and building coalitions throughout all of Boston’s communities. “I want this to be a city where everyone has opportunities,” he says.

Poor public schools and inadequate housing are the two most important problems holding Boston back, he says. Families leave because the schools aren’t good enough and they can’t afford housing large enough for more than one or two people. He would make sure new developments have room for schools on the ground floor and convert buildings such as those Suffolk University is leaving into schools. The school day, he says, is far too short. He would circumvent union opposition by staggering the work day so that some teachers started early and left early, while others started later and worked later.

He supports Ayanna Pressley’s effort to put Boston, not the state, in charge of its own liquor laws, but believes the city’s need for new liquor licenses should be considered on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis. Some neighborhoods, he says, are already well served.

He endorses programs like Hubway, but says that the city suffers from inadequate planning in real estate development and transportation and from not enough participation from neighborhood groups.

The primary election will be held on September 24, one week from today, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Vote.

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