Althea Garrison is not on Twitter or Facebook. In an increasingly left-leaning city, she describes herself and her base of voters as “moderate to conservative.” And, alone among sitting city council members, she is openly campaigning for the defeat of her at-large colleagues.
“Replace all three of those councillors that have been there for years. Get rid of all of them,” she said at a Roxbury forum early this month where she also asked for a “bullet vote,” meaning just vote for her and leave the other candidates’ ballots blank.
Although she has identified as a Democrat in the past, Garrison, who, as runner-up in the at-large election in 2017, moved onto the council early this year when Ayanna Pressley went to Washington, said in an interview that she believes her views align more closely with Republican values. “Democrats don’t protect taxpayers or the working class, even though they pretend to,” she said.
Her approach to the race is unconventional for a candidate who has been on city or state ballots dozens of times over the last four decades. A Dorchester resident, Garrison was elected in 1992 to represent the Fifth Suffolk district in the Legislature. She served a single term.
As to this fall’s race, she said she’s “feeling good” about her bid, although “voter turnout could’ve been better” than the 11 percent who voted in the September preliminary election where she earned 7.09 percent of the total, placing her in the sixth position of a field of eight, closely behind Julia Mejia (7.7 percent) and just ahead of Erin Murphy (6.84 percent.)
As she goes door-to-door across the city – she was spotted on Butler Street in Lower Mills this past weekend – Garrison said, she talks about “real affordable housing.” She says she is also fighting “City Hall corruption,” caring for senior citizens, stopping the over-development of Boston, improving the MBTA, and advocating for veterans, police officers, and firefighters.
“Affordable housing has to be redefined,” Garrison she said. “We need to talk about what the term ‘affordable’ means and the City Council should have addressed this a while ago. Rent control also needs to be specific to Boston.” Noting that “seniors have been priced out of their apartments,” she added that she would also work to make sure that Meals on Wheels is available and accessible to every senior.”
At a recent candidate forum in Roxbury, Garrison said that her solutions to the city’s housing crisis would involve rent control, eviction control, and price controls over anything that has to do with development.
“You can’t build your way out of a housing crisis,” she said. She also chided her incumbent colleagues, saying they “have not taken steps to address the crisis although they know there is a crisis and they’ve been elected over and over.”
Michelle Wu, the top vote-getter on the ballot last month, is Garrison’s most frequent target. She is particularly critical of Wu’s proposal to raise revenue by instituting fees for residential parking permits, and she dismisses Wu’s proposal to “abolish” the Boston Planning and Development Agency.
“She’s just saying that for re-election,” said Garrison, although she adds, she does support a “community-based” approach to planning and development.
During her term in the Massachusetts House, Garrison served on the Housing and the Election Law committees. She also worked for 34 years as a clerk in human resources for the Massachusetts State Comptroller’s Office and served as vice president of the board at Uphams Corner Health Center in Dorchester.
As she keeps at her meetings with voters, Garrison said she wants voters to know that she’s available to them in ways that none of her colleagues could be.
“I’m constantly campaigning, and I really listen to the people,” she said. “I even answer the phones. I’m probably the only councillor who still does that. I don’t need social media. People know me and I’m very accessible.”