Ego Ezedi attended the Candidate Forum that took place on Wednesday, July 29, 2009.
Ego Ezedi’s Questionnaire and Introductory Remarks with the JP Progressives
150 word maximum, no minimum. We will publish your answers in their entirety in the web version of this Candidate Survey. In the printed version, we reserve the right to edit for length, but not for meaning or intent.
There is limited space available for development in Boston. Given that, what sort of development should be prioritized, and how will you ensure that this development addresses pressing unmet needs, including affordable and low-income housing?
Boston is challenged by a shortage of housing stock, especially affordable units, so I would prioritize increasing those through developer agreements and incentives. I also believe the City’s Dept of Neighborhood Development must increase awareness of and access to the affordable housing application process. The current process is overly cumbersome and unwieldy to the average resident. Additionally I would work with banks and other finance institutions to help transition foreclosed properties as quickly as possible to new homeowners or renters.
When it comes to development in Jamaica Plain specifically, what are your top three priorities?
- Affordable housing
- Jackson Square Development
- Small business access to capital and job creation
Environment and Energy
If you are elected, what are three specific actions you would propose for the City of Boston to promote energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions, and improve the local environment?
- Green Space – better preserve and maintain what we have and develop more of them.
- Energy Efficiency – move the City towards municipal building energy reduction. The
City’s hundreds of municipal buildings must moderate temperature controls, have auto
shut-off systems, and utilize energy efficient appliances across the board.
- Building standards – work with the building industry to move all new construction
toward LEEP-type building standards.
- Given the resurgence of youth violence in the city, what specific steps would you take to ensure the safety of youth in our city?
- What is your positive vision for youth in the City of Boston, and what do we need to do to get there?
Focus on Out-of-School Time
- Fund it! Our children only spend 6-8 hours/day in school. The hundreds of programs that serve them the rest of the time must be adequately funded, professionally staffed, and employ a positive youth development approach.
- Professionalize it! Raise youth-worker base pay and institute career ladders. Work with an agency like the Medical Foundation to create a standard training and certification process.
- Connect it! Use the hundreds of municipal—taxpayer funded—buildings such as schools, community centers and libraries to house all these programs: mornings, afternoons, nights and weekends.
Ensure safe streets
- Invest in prevention and intervention! Most young people do not commit crime; for the 5 percent that may, we must employ wrap around case management that supports the interconnected issues of family, education, mental health, substance abuse, system-involvement and employment. That investment will pay off. Support services like those described cost $5,000-$10,000/year per person, incarceration costs $46,000/year.
- Strengthen community policing! Enhanced support for community policing strategies such as foot and bike patrols; support police officers working in the neighborhoods they come from; and, encourage department support for officer attendance at community meetings.
- Reform CORI laws! Roughly, 97 percent of those in Massachusetts prisons and jails eventually return to society. Research shows that an unemployed ex-offender is three times more likely to return to prison than one with a job. Support a comprehensive community-government reentry partnership. Reward, support and connect with CORI friendly businesses that hire ex-offenders.
What are the top three specific improvements you would suggest to improve accountability and transparency in city government?
- Open up government to the people!
- Bring city council meetings to the neighborhoods; hold online budget forums,
post council agendas in all local newspapers.
- Invite civic associations or schools to spend a day shadowing a councilor or a
Cultivate and support new leaders! In sports, a good coach is always cultivating the bench. We need to cultivate our political bench and prepare the next generation of leaders to be great public servants. Will create the Electoral and Public Service Mentorship and Training Initiativethat will pair aspiring leaders with seasoned politicians and garner private support for recruiting and training them in non-partisan civic engagement programs.
- There will be a debate in Boston over the next few years about whether and how to revise the school’s transportation plan. What will be your priorities when approaching this topic?
- What do you believe are the primary causes of the achievement gap in the Boston Public School system, and what is your plan for closing this gap?
- What specific actions would you take to improve the failing schools in Boston?
- At the focus of this debate, it is important to keep the main idea the main idea. What we ultimately want is for all the Boston Public Schools to meet and/or exceed academic standards. That is the discussion we should focus on. Yes, we should revise the school’s transportation plan, but we cannot do it by taking away a parent’s ability to choose the school that best fits their children’s educational needs.
- The primary causes for the achievement gaps in the Boston Public School system are varied and complex. There are several factors that influence and impact this dynamic such as:
- Lack of parental involvement
- Disproportionate resources being delivered to schools in the communities of color
- Unmotivated teachers
- To close the gap we have to build a comprehensive support system around the students (out-of-school time!), increase more parent participation through creative engagement strategies, ensure appropriate distribution of resources depending on the level of need and remove low performing teachers.
First, work closely with the School Department to assess the challenges and then establish a detailed improvement plan for each failing school. In addition, we should duplicate the successful models we have and make adjustments where necessary depending on the needs of the specific communities.
Boston’s Human Service and Public Health agencies are struggling with rising costs and shrinking budgets. If you could put $10 million just into those agencies, how would you invest it?
Most human services are provided by state agencies, however for those that are city-funded (Community Centers, Women’s Commission, Civil Rights/Disabled, Fair Housing) we need to rethink the government’s approach. First, I would combine Human Services with the Boston Public Health Commission (which is not financially struggling and happens to be very well managed) and create one Health and Human Services Cabinet. I would combine all youth violence prevention efforts under this new combined cabinet and put the entire $10 million there, encompassing and expanding the Street Worker Program, YSPN, and Youth Opportunity Boston.
State level transportation agencies have been reformed and combined, but still carry some of the highest debt load of any transportation system in the country. In light of this, if elected what would your priorities be for improving the overall transportation system in Boston?
Transportation is dealt with at a state level, but to the extent that the Boston City Council was given a voice in this conversation, I would advocate for the community’s needs. Community organizations like the T Rider’s Union are vitally important and should help drive transportation policy.
Jobs and Labor
Most job growth in Metro Boston has occurred in Boston suburbs, while minority populations have been growing in the central city. Black and Latino residents have faced unemployment rates 3 times the rate of white residents, and Asian residents twice that of whites. What single policy would you support that would have the greatest impact on unemployment and job disparities in Boston?
I will prioritize transitional employment, and think like a job developer (which I used to be for PIC). Seek out immediate transitional employment opportunities with private sector partners while developing long term-strategies for preparing and employing young people to serve in growing industries, such as healthcare, technology and green jobs. We also need to boost our investment in community colleges and vocational schools so that they truly serve as a means of equipping people with relevant marketable and skills and then connecting to employment opportunities.
Race and Diversity
Affirmative action policies have recently been watered down by court decisions at the federal level. Were the City of Boston to be forced to dismantle affirmative action policies as a result, what are three steps you would take to ensure and increase access to opportunities within city government agencies? What are some creative policies other than affirmative action that the city could implement that would support and retain diversity within its workforce?
I think this can and should be done through enhanced and intentional recruitment and retention efforts. I am 100% confident that there are as many women and people of color that are both qualified and interested in government jobs, we have to find them where they are, open up access to exams and selection processes. And once they are hired, ensure a safe and supportive environment in the work place. Violence prevention efforts under this new combined cabinet and put the entire $10 million there, encompassing and expanding the Street Worker Program, YSPN, and Youth Opportunity Boston.
- The city of Boston is very limited in the ways in which it can raise revenue. Given that, what changes, if any, would you propose to make city revenue policy more progressive?
- If you were given the power to substantially reduce the budget of two city departments and increase the budget of two others by that same amount, what departments would you cut from, and which would you add to?
I support allowing all municipalities to raise local option taxes: telecommunications, hotels,
meals, etc. I also support a property tax that is graduated and includes exemptions for people with various disadvantages. Additionally I believe we need to find a solution to the current exemptions that universities and hospitals across Boston receive under their non-profit status.
Having served as the Executive Director of the Roxbury YMCA, I am very familiar with
organizational budgeting and financing. At this time, any response I offer pertaining to the city’s budget would be ill informed and uneducated. The reality is that a deeper, more thoughtful collaborative review of the budget is required to accurately and appropriately assess our city’s budget challenges.