Murphy: ‘Local’ is what counts first with me

Erin Murphy spoke at a at-large council forum organized by several Dorchester civic associations on Oct. 1 at Florian Hall. Yukun Zhang photo

First-time candidate Erin Murphy says her “independence” and focus on local issues is what sets her apart from the field of eight finalists in the at-large Boston City Council election set for Nov. 5.

The Dorchester native and longtime Boston Public School teacher finished in 7th place in last month’s preliminary election with 6.84 percent of the overall vote.

Murphy sees a path forward to one of the four citywide seats if she can broaden her message beyond Dorchester and South Boston, where she performed well in September.

“I feel great, I feel that we’ve worked really hard,” Murphy said in an interview with the Reporter. “I just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing and meet as many people as possible. We have a small, grass-roots campaign and at first we wanted to focus on our base and then move outwards.” 

Murphy’s career as a school teacher is what inspired her to seek elected office. “It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided to run for city council,” she said. “This decision comes out of my whole life’s desire to serve, and politics is connected to how we help people. I grew up in a family knowing that you do better when you help others. And it’s not finite. We can have a wonderful community here, say in Adams Corner, Neponset, Dorchester, and we can grow that across Boston.” 

When speaking at candidate forums, Murphy emphasizes her interest in advocating specifically for mental health and recovery services, for better services at Boston Public Schools, for more affordable housing, and for a collaboration with other councillors on public transportation improvement initiatives. 

All of the at-large candidates have expressed support for moving toward a more community-based approach to planning and development in Boston, although their ideas on what that might mean differ.

Michelle Wu, an incumbent candidate and top-vote getter in the at-large field last month, published a report last week that called on the city to abolish the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and transfer its responsibilities back to the city under a Planning Department. The report has received mixed reviews. For her part, Murphy agrees that planning and development efforts should be more inclusive and community-driven, but she doesn’t think that abolishing the BPDA is the best solution to effect positive change within the development process.

“I’m not for any abolishing anything. Absolutely not,” she said. “I do think we need to be more transparent, but when something isn’t working, we don’t just blow it up. I think a wiser approach is to see what’s working and what isn’t. We need to look at who serves on the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeal), which is just one piece of the process. We need to work at being more transparent in the process to avoid corruption. And neighborhood [groups] also need more of a voice.”

On the subject of parking minimums for transit-oriented developments, Murphy said that each case is unique, but also directly tied in with transportation and development.

“Specifically, I think they should be looked at on a case-by-case basis because each neighborhood has its own issues,” she said,” adding, “But I support and agree that parking is part of the development conversation. We can’t build without taking into account transportation and how people get around.” 

Murphy said that her experience as a teacher and as a supporter of one of her children who struggled with drug-addiction and went through recovery helps her to think about the ways she would address policy making around education, mental health, and recovery services.

“I understand the struggles related to education,” she said, “And recovery and drug-abuse issues are also things that I really care about. There are so many people that this resonates with and that a lot of families struggle with. These issues are connected to mental health and trauma; there’s no easy solution to it.” 

Murphy supports the reconstruction of the Long Island Bridge, and suggests that in the meantime, resources for those who are struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, or homelessness need to be spread out and connected to those who desperately need them.  

“At first I wasn’t sure if I should share my life experiences,” Murphy said, “but as I was talking to people one on one, I realized that it’s important and it helps people connect.

“I grew up in Dorchester not having much, and I think being a public school teacher for over 20 years is huge. I also think my honesty and hard work is an example of my character. I want to do this work, I’m an independent voice, and I really do care about people in Boston’s neighborhoods feeling like they have a voice in City Hall.”