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.
8 Replies to “Edwards & Passacantilli, District 1 City Council Candidates, at North End Forum [Video]”
Thanks for posting Matt! NorthEndWaterfront.com is an invaluable resource for our neighborhood—really the only way that residents can learn about the issues facing the North End. Your hard work is especially critical in an election year, and we all appreciate it!
Thanks for the notes too. It was a lengthy exchange, and it’s hard to summarize. I’d encourage folks to watch the video if they have time, because there are a lot more specifics and substance in some of the answers, and there are pretty clear distinctions between the two candidates that come through in the video. I’m going to throw in a few observations of my own here (full disclosure, I support Lydia—I’m sure someone else can chime in for Steve), but I’d strongly encourage folks to watch the video and make up their own minds.
Influence and Donations from Developers and Special Interests
There’s a question around 19:40 in the video about the influence of developers, and neighborhood concerns about development in the past being met by “crickets from our councilors.” In the example, concerns had been widely voiced to our councilors, but the development was only stopped when hundreds of neighborhood residents came to the Nazzaro Center in opposition. Looking at situations like that, the questioner wonders about the influence of developer donations on city councilors & asks both candidates about how much money they have received from developers in this campaign.
Steve says that he doesn’t waste his time looking at who’s donated to him, to see whether he’s getting a disproportionate amount of money from real estate interests. I take this to mean that he thinks researching this should be the voters’ job. Not to shirk my responsibility, I just did! It took 5 minutes in OCPF.
Stephen Passacantilli has received at least $90,000 from real estate interests, a little over 30% of his ~$300,000 total. If you search OCPF in more detail (and know the names of Real Estate developers and brokers, because a good chunk of the donations don’t have occupation/employer listed), that number would likely go up. Lydia was able to provide her number on the spot (but I double-checked) it’s around $14,000 or 6%.
Role of City Councilor
The candidates’ two different visions of the role of City Councilor are really well highlighted on this video. Steve talks about how the job is really about “operations” and talks about the mechanics of constituent services. From my POV, that’s largely how it’s operated in the past, as a vehicle for residents to reach out when they have an issue. If you see a pothole, you don’t like the traffic on your block, etc. call your councilor’s office and ask them to fix it for you.
Lydia also speaks about the importance of responsive constituent services, and making sure every problem is addressed. She lists concrete ideas for how she would improve constituent services: technology solutions to ensure transparency & accountability, listening tour, convening residents so they have a seat at the table when addressing problems, standing by residents who have an issue before the ZBA, etc. But since much of the nuts and bolts of constituent services is the role of a councilor’s constituent services staff, Lydia’s answers focused more on how a councilor can be proactive, rather than reactive—and how councilors can advocate for policy-driven solutions to improve the lives of everyone in the district in a more permanent way.
Lydia describes the City Councilor role as being our advocate for individual residents, but also for smart policies, so that we can address current problems and avoid future problems that impact everyone in this neighborhood—not just the person who calls. The examples of solutions that she provides aren’t just quick fixes. Clearly her policy & advocacy experience has taught her that making improvements at the system level is the only effective way we can fix the problems that we have now, and prevent problems that may face us in the future.
Strength of Mayor v. Weakness of City Council
The question about what the city council could do differently (around 12:10 on the video) was another exchange where you can see the candidates’ two different visions clearly. Lydia advocates for a city council that isn’t content to be subservient to the mayor, and lists ways that city councilors can hold the Mayor, the BRA, the ZBA, developers and special interests accountable. Like using the power that the city council has to control the city’s budget to dissolve agencies that aren’t doing their job, and replace them with ones who will, with stricter controls built-in for oversight.
Steve says that he disagrees. He cites examples that support his position that the city council isn’t weak and that the mayor isn’t all-powerful. While he concedes that in his experience our city government “stinks at enforcement”, he stresses that he will use the relationships that he’s made over his many years at city hall to hold city agencies accountable.
My big takeaway from this exchange was that just because the role of a city councilor has been limited in the past, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There’s a lot of significant change being proposed right now in Boston, and not much chance of a change in the Mayor’s office, so trying to achieve a healthy balance of power is more important than ever. Thankfully, the city council has been slowly changing from a group of machine politicians representing and rubber-stamping the mayor’s interests, into a group of experienced, knowledgeable, independent thinkers who can stand up to special interests and bring Boston into the future. I’d like to see District One continue to tip the balance in that direction.
Looking forward to the debate in Charlestown on Wednesday! Oh, and for the record Victor, I don’t think you’re tedious! 😉
Thank you for the breakdown of campaign donations, Lisa. I was very curious about that issue.
I fail to see how this candidate can claim to have a track record. She has not contributed to the district in any way concretely shown, and as councilor would have no influence over so many problems she claims to own. What has she done in her job to fix these problems? She talks about housing, and some say she’s made strides. Where? I want a list. The community participation in so many matters is more robust here than anywhere, and all that has meant is a voice making compromises to satisfy consensus. If anyone thinks Lydia is going to fix housing, they should ask for specific and detailed accomplishments from her job—and a PLAN. I mean, at this point–she should have a definitive path. Long-winded barrages against Steve cannot change the fact that Steven has experience, reach and the right network. I’d hate to think anyone believes Lydia can come in on day one and build relationships with folks after curating a campaign of insults. It seems to me that these comments Lisa makes are vetted campaign articles, if not advertisements for Lydia. What is Lydia’s hand in these? I think it is very fair to investigate emails regarding that undue influence in this forum.
Stephen has served us all, and well. He is the right choice to get anything done. Speaking of these close ties with Walsh some cite, now Stephen would be working for us more than the Mayor’s office. It’s a whole new ballgame. His prior success, his sensitivity to the real issues facing residents and his understanding of mechanics and operations as regards the MBTA, developers and government itself will prove invaluable. I think getting into how he speaks only reveals he understands all of the switches and levers. We all want the same things. Steve can actually make it happen. Today.
It has not been his job to fix anything. Lydia has not fixed anything in her job to fix things. Her office could be said to be wholly vested in what’s happening to date. What is her plan? Steve starts from a perspective of achievement and results, not failure.
WHY DO YOU CARE SO DAMN MUCH ABOUT THIS ELECTION? You live in Providence, RI, not MA. not Boston and not the North End.
Your opinion on this City Council election is irrelevant. Worry about what happens in your own city and stop trying to force your opinion into this race.. You have no vote. You have no influence here.
That’s a terrible attitude, smdh. I lived there for the better part of 20 years. Your definition of a stake is flawed. I may not have a vote, but I have a stake in many ways. I can worry about any election I want. Lydia has outside support. Are you upset about that? Many candidates you and I might like do garner support from all over the world. I can have influence in dollars and in sense. I am all for applying the standards of citizenship wherever they might allow me freedom of speech and expression. My opinion is far from irrelevant, as my opinion is based on in vivo experience. I would argue as to what you mean by influence. I would hope that your opinion has no unfair influence against Lydia, which you risk. It seems all the voices for Lydia are very combative. There is an air of exclusion. Stephen is for everybody. I used my name. Bless!
It’s CLEAR you don’t encounter many smart people RI Bri, so it’s confusing for you but that’s how they all talk. Complete sentences, relevant comments, telling the truth, knowing what words mean. FARM TEAM is a baseball term!! Google things you don’t understand before you rant like a fool!!
OK PAY ATTENTION! Lisa is not Lydia. Reporters writing articles about Lydia are not Lydia. All of the organizations praising Lydia with big words in their endorsements are not Lydia. They’re all just smart people who can tell a very qualified public servant from a guy with a lot of big signs & $300K in his pocket from real estate developers.
You like it around here so much? Then you’ll understand this: VA FA NAPOLE Stop picking on women and mind your own business. You’re a disgrace!
While some are hurling insults, I will simply clarify. VL, while you criticize my writing, I get paid thousands just to write a few pages of copy. This is a rare level of pay signaling rare talent and rare command of language. There are more errors in your prose than insults contained within it. My summa cum laude Psychology degree from B.U. stands on its own. Sports just aren’t my thing, and most people would reflexively defer to the conceptualization I presumed. I was on Team Charlotte. When we have to resort to making things about gender or anything else categorical, we are typically talking about the beneficiaries of outside dollars and support. Stephen and Lydia both received donations from donors,simply put; whether you or I prefer just which matters not. It seems Team Lydia is filled with vitriolic stone throwers.
Every election we witness from coast-to-coast that gets hot gets outside voices coming in. I was the beneficiary of Stephen’s service, and I believe in his candidacy enough to speak up. I am allowed to post here, to donate — and to speak freely. So I won’t be taking any trips back to my ancestral home near Naples, but ironically some of my U.S.-based family still influences things in that region. I guess one does what one wishes within bounds that you do not determine. Socialism and suppression are themes of any rule that can’t get by on its own two feet. Let’s focus on the candidates!
Makes for interesting reading: ‘On the other hand, as one political activist who did not want to be named talking about the candidates and who supports both Passacantilli and Flynn concedes: “If you get Frederick Langone’s grandson and Ray Flynn’s son in there, it’s hard to say that things have changed.”’
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