District 4 City Councillor Andrea Campbell’s election in 2015 brought new eyes to a seat held for the past 32 years by Charles Yancey. Now running unopposed for a second term, Campbell said her first was about “building trust” with her new community. The district includes most of the western portions of Dorchester, as well as Mattapan and parts of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale.
Her office has been coordinating development and visioning sessions with constituents to guide her district priorities. But chief among the asks, Campbell said, is that politicians keep their word on bringing affordable units to Dorchester or Mattapan while advocating for more amenities and open space.
In a conversation with the Reporter at the close of the most recent budget cycle, the councillor, Mattapan resident, and expecting mother discussed her first term and her sense of her district.
On the budget: “I’m happy with the overall process. We went in with a few different requests, and we got some of those. My number one was the Youth Development Fund, and establishing some sort of fund in the budget for programs that serve youths, programs that keep youths out of the criminal justice system, and out of trouble, frankly. So we got that funded at $250,000; my initial request was $500,000, but it’s a win-win. I will work with BPD – it’s housed in their grant division – on the logistics on how we roll it out. I want it to be a matching program.”
Campbell also highlighted $50,000 for an indigent burial fund for the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, as well as investments across the city in Vision Zero and safe street programming and quality of life issues. “So those were huge; I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get the Overcoming the Odds pilot program funded, but we’ll continue those conversations.”
On school funding: “I’m still concerned about BPS, and the large amount of money they have. Frankly, I wanted to see us hold them more accountable, FY17 in particular. When it came to transportation, they talked about a $10 million cost savings measure, now that’s come to, “well, we’ll do $5 million in FY17 and $5 million in FY18” and we’re not even getting the full $10 million because the overall cost of transportation has gone up.
“So for me, I really am troubled by the lack of strategic planning and forward thinking by BPS, and I think, frankly, rather than continuing to give them more money, we need to look at departments that have a lot of money. If you’re looking at $120 million for transportation, how do you get that down while at the same time still providing a reliable, accessible, safe, efficient transportation system for our students and families?”
On the District 4 community: “This is a district of caring residents, or invested residents, of active and engaged residents, of young people who are doing incredible things for their community, in their community… there’s incredible things happening. You look at civic meetings and the breadth and the number of them. This is what I want District 4 to be highlighted for, and the challenge can be that it’s now.
And we who live in District 4 know what an incredible district it is.” By convening community cabinets from across her neighborhoods, Campbell says her office’s approach is “very intentional” about bringing together groups who disagree to foster a sense of a broader community.
On resources: “What’s challenging sometimes about that is it’s going to require a lot of investments. Franklin Field needs to be renovated – it hasn’t been in 30 years. That requires tremendous investment. And it’s sad that the federal government is pulling back on these grants, because it requires the city to step up in a way that it hasn’t in the past.
“When we talk about C-11 and B-3, my biggest police districts, they get a large amount of calls. They need more officers. That’s going to require additional investment. When you look at the condition of our schools, some parents are very happy with the choices they’ve gotten, others not so happy. We have to do something for those schools, and what they want to see is, not plans that are over 10 year, 20 year, 30 year periods; we need immediate responses.”
On growth in the community: “There doesn’t seem to be a plan for the various issue that face District 4, how we’re going to combat them, and I share some of that frustration. And development is definitely one of them. We had this incredible development and visioning session with Greater Ashmont [Main Street] and came out of that with so many plans, ideas, all of which focus on the Dorchester Avenue corridor.
And it’s big, right? So what would it mean to revitalize this corridor, not just in terms of housing and large housing structures, but things as simple as, what if we put a dog park somewhere... Or what does it mean to have bike lanes, or the possibility of taking a parking lane off of Dorchester Ave. And there was a planner there from the [Boston Planning and Redevelopment Agency], which is great. People came up with all these incredible ideas, but now my residents want to see something come of that.”
On a local planning study: “I would love that in District 4. And even if it couldn't encompass all of District 4, looking at major corridors -- Dorchester Ave, Bowdoin and Geneva. We got a transportation study in the capital budget, waiting for something to happen with that, and that plays a critical role in thinking about how you plan in the Bowdoin and Geneva section of my district… and I think my residents, not all of them, but many of them, because they have seen underinvestment or they’ve been under-resourced, and this is their perspective, they look around at other neighborhoods and can’t help but say, but see, we’re being treated differently. And why? We’re poor.
“And I want to push back on that, sometimes, and say it may not be because of that. It may be because we never all worked together to actually come together with a plan to change that, or we never advocated for what you actually wanted, something specific and concrete.”
On problem properties: “I think, in going forward, it’s looking at taking a those smaller issues -- for instance, the amount of constituent requests and concerns we get related to vacant and abandoned lots in District 4 -- particularly in the fall and especially as we’re elected to a new term, and really working with the problem properties task force, the Office of Neighborhood Services… about how do we make sure that the problem properties task force, that we are maximizing the effectiveness of this tool; and if we need to change it to give it more strength, then how do we do that? And then, what else can we do to encourage landlords, especially absentee landlords, to do something with these vacant and abandoned lots?”
On homicides: “The goal of next term is to develop a written, coordinated response to homicide. And we also need to expand that to other acts of violence, so that any time there’s a homicide in the city of Boston, the response that’s generated by the city, elected officials and the mayor included, and every department in the city of Boston is the same. Sometimes you have a homicide and you get Response A, some homicides get no response whatsoever. That’s unacceptable. And I think, in addition to the trauma work that Councillor [Ayanna] Pressley's been doing, and there being a trauma response, every department plays a role in a homicide response. "
Last: Frank Baker on District 3.