The two final candidates to represent District 1 (North End, Charlestown & East Boston) on the Boston City Council participated in a forum on October 12, 2017 at the North End / Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA). Moderated by NEWRA’s Sergeant at Arms Cheryl Delgreco, candidates Lydia Edwards and Stephen Passacantilli made opening statements followed by an extended question and answer session.
Please view the video above for the full statements and answers by the candidates. Below is a video timeline with excerpts from the forum.
Opening Statements (00:00 in video)
Lydia Edwards emphasized her record of service and desire to advocate on behalf of district constituents. She recounted “this district is at a crossroads” with regards to neighborhood schools, traffic and development. “One of the most beautiful things about Boston is that it is a city of neighborhoods. That is what separates us from New York,” said Edwards highlighting enforcement of zoning laws.
Stephen Passacantilli said he is the best candidate because of his experience in the office of outgoing councilor Sal LaMattina and more recently in the city’s Department of Transportation. “I have a passion for this city that is second to none. I’ve been here through thick and thin when (the North End) was not the greatest place to live. Now that it is the one of the most desirable places to live, I will find a way to stay here as long as I can so I can raise my children here and they can do the same.”
Short Term Rentals (04:45)
Both candidates spoke about the problems with AirBnb and short-term rentals that are “destroying our neighborhoods” and “taking away housing stock.”
Edwards called it a “black market hotel system” and wants a registry. “I liked the balanced approach once proposed by Sal LaMattina in restricting AirBnb to owner occupied units” to “contain it as much as possible.”
Passacantilli said “I am experiencing AirBnb next to me at 404 Hanover Street … trash violations are constant. I want to know who my neighbors are. Owner occupied is something I am in favor of. We should also limit the number of days that a unit can be used for AirBnb.”
Is the city and the North End better or worse than before the Big Dig? What will you do to make it better? (8:15)
Passacantilli: “This neighborhood is a great place to live with a great public school.” He would advocate for a new community center, after school programs and senior housing.
Edwards said “the question is whether Boston and our district are going to be places for families and the middle-class in 10 years.” She said, “I would always look to the neighborhood and listen” emphasizing working together for the future of the North End, Charlestown and East Boston.
What more can the City Council do under the strong Mayor system, such as regarding zoning and development? (12:10)
Edwards said, “It’s about shining a light and transparency. Part of making it stronger is holding developers accountable … I would be a voice of the neighborhood.”
Passacantilli agreed that the city charter is “top heavy” but the “City Council is strong and has done great things in the past … as a city councilor, you hold the administration accountable. I would use my relationships in City Hall to hold public works and transportation accountable.”
Name one or two issues where you disagree with the current administration. (16:20)
Passacantilli: “I disagree with the Brooks Act that the Mayor filed and recently passed by the City Council. I do not think it was balanced enough.” The Brooks Act requires landlords to alert the city within two days of serving eviction notices. “There are multiple developments where I disagree with the Mayor such as on Maverick Street.”
Edwards: “I disagree with the current process of housing development and how many luxury units we are building … I would like to see more units for the middle-class, telling developers that Boston is not for sale.”
Battery Wharf turned out to be a great project after the neighborhood issues were finally heard and the developer plans changed. How much money have you received from developers and how will this impact your ability to serve the residents of this district on development issues, such as Lewis Wharf? (19:10)
Passacantilli: “I have raised over $300,000 and the maximum donation is $1,000. If anyone thinks that $1,000 is going to buy my support on a project, then they don’t know me. You made a great example of how we filled this room on the Battery Wharf project … and the nursing home … Lewis Wharf is not happening.”
Edwards: “6% of my donations have been from developers … I am proud to say that 70% of my donations are $100 or less … my grass roots campaign has been low dollar … Any elected official and city councilor should hear from everyone regardless of their donation or if they gave nothing.”
What can the City Council do to effect the decisions being made by the all-powerful Boston Planning and Development Agency? (25:30)
Edwards: “There is a conflict of interest between planning and economic development. Now that urban renewal is over, do we really need that type of system? The City Council can hold hearings, stand by people when they go to the ZBA. I would love to set up an electronic notification system regarding ZBA meetings for the neighborhoods.”
Passacantilli: “The most powerful tool we have with the BPDA is sitting here in this room. The people in these neighborhoods underestimate how powerful their voices can be. The nursing home is the most recent example when we work together. I agree with Lydia about late notifications and there is no excuse with today’s technology not to communicate.”
Would you support an amendment to Article 80 that requires the BPDA to classify the comment letters they receive on a project and tell us whether you accepted those comments and made changes to the developers plans? (30:10)
Edwards: “That idea is worthy of consideration …. I haven’t seen the language, but I support your goal of classifying letters and getting a response … I support community associations setting standards for the North End … I would like to see more power given to the neighborhoods.”
Passacantilli: “Your information is very helpful … I won’t make a commitment now but I agree with you … With regards to the Garden Garage project, I am certainly not supporting that with over 700+ letters of opposition and only 7 in support.”
What is your ability as a city councilor to enforce rules and regulations? (36:00)
Passacantilli: “The City does not do a good job of enforcing speeding, blocking the box, etc. Rep. Michlewitz filed a bill where trash violations (green tickets) are now attached to your property tax bill … I want to see similar enforcement of block the box through a home-rule petition to the State Legislature.”
Edwards: “Part of enforcement is accountability and city government can do that by bringing the agencies with these jobs of enforcement whether it is ISD or transportation … when an agency is not working, we need to hold them accountable … I would like to look at a flipping tax on properties.”
Should you be elected, what is the first thing you would do? (40:00)
Passacantilli: “I would like to create a Business Improvement District (BID) specific to the North End to supplement city services. I’m big on clean streets … I think the businesses can afford a few bucks to support a BID. Downtown Crossing has done a 180 because of its BID … I would also like to see ‘don’t block the box’ and off-peak deliveries on Hanover Street.”
Edwards: “The first thing I would do is to say thank you. I would be humbled with this responsibility to give a voice to our neighborhoods with unique challenges. Next, I would do a listening tour and talk to as many people as possible to hear ideas on development, BPDA, parks, schools, seniors. And then come back with responsive solutions.”
The general municipal election is November 7th, 2017. Polls are open 7am-8pm. For more information on the District 1 City Council Race, follow our District 1 Tag.