Scotland Willis attended the Candidate Forum that took place on Thursday, August, 6, 2009.
Scotland Willis’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?
I would work with City Councilors and the Mayor to coordinate a town hall meeting in different parts of the city to gather a sense of what the desire is for different areas. I would express the opportunities and limitation based on current data and solicit input from the different communities and inform them that we would move forward based on the sentiments of the communities. I would emphasize green development and ask that it be built into the zoning laws to help set higher standards, create jobs, and use it as a tool to educate residents and students. I would also put forth that density is an important part of improving city services and strongly emphasize the need for affordable and mixed income housing.
When it comes to development in Jamaica Plain specifically, what are your top three priorities?
Identifying specific needs based on community feedback. I have heard from local business owners, and residents; I am concerned about the Jackson Square work and would like to ensure that traffic patterns and sustain designs are taken into consideration. There is also the parcel by Forest Hills, I need to do a little more research on it but from my understanding there is a concern about mixed income housing. I am not in favor of rent control and affordable housing I prefer one or the other. I do believe that with either loopholes need to be safe guarded so that any housing subsidy is designed in a way that help people advance their lives and careers.
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?
- I would propose that municipal departments set a target for hybrids fleets over the next 5 years
- Investigate the use of wind energy and related technology including solar and geothermal and collaborate with business and schools that are doing R&D to advance this effort
- Since development is one of our most significant sources of revenue, we need to ensure the BRA and Zoning work to change zoning laws and requirements to address modern issues by ensuring LEED standard requirement for all new structures
- We need to get more people think about transportation and produce a campaign to encourage public transportation and bicycling to and from destinations.
- 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?
Providing the belief that individuals have opportunities is one of the most important factors in changing behaviors. Additionally I would personally spend time engaging youth as gang members and otherwise in conversation to listen to their stories. Let them know that I am accessible and listening. I would spend time in youth violence programs and speak with schools and parents to develop the best understanding of what can be done and what is working.We need to ensure that education is used as a vehicle to transform the belief that when students enter high school a promising future awaits. We can achieve this by promoting financial and political literacy in the school curriculum. Since both represent respectively, the most influential factor in our society, and the largest employer in our society. With better education we can curb youth violence. My vision for youth is that each one of them at bare minimum understand that the opportunity exists to lead a productive healthy and save life. Creating a community that cares means all residents offer support by volunteering through existing organizations and by their own volition. I believe this will impact youth’s outlook and produce different results.
What are the top three specific improvements you would suggest to improve accountability and transparency in city government?
Make all aspects of real estate transactions visible to the public using the City web site
Require all municipal employees responsible for decision making disclose any relationship to all RFP’s
Provide online access to all categories of all transactions and ensure that they are traceable so long as they are tied to budgetary matters. And an annual review by randomly selected individuals will work with an audit team to ensure legitimacy
- 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?
I would place a focus on local school quality, to reduce the need to out of area busing- ensuring continuity among the schools. Each neighborhood should have a school equivalent in quality to the next. We could also submit an RFP for hybrid or low emissions buses I believe that teaching quality plays a large role in closing the achievement gap. Better performance standards for teachers rather than just better teachers. Transforming the belief of school age children as mentioned above; MCAS provides valuable opportunities to look at performance, but it does not provide life skills, yet most students feel more pressure from MCAS than most forces in schools (based on my conversation with high school students). MCAS should be a tool not a threat.
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?
I believe it is important to educate the public and should invest more money in campaigns to do so. These campaigns would include seminars and counseling. They would offer more support in preventing teen pregnancy and drug usage.
I would also focus on early intervention programs and encourage more healthy lifestyle targeting the most vulnerable populations that face diabetes and high blood pressure (African Americans and Latinos)
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?
Certain systems can be automated and that should be taken into consideration to reduce costs. I also believe that transparency would help prevent the debt load the T accumulated when the big dig contracts were established.
I would focus on learning what the most effective transportation systems in the country are as well as out of the country, including London England and the BART in San Francisco.
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 believe we need to encourage more education for Black and Latinos in the greatest areas of employment including government and development / construction. I would also encourage passing local legislation to require local projects for local workers. I have heard numerous stories of workers coming from out of state on different construction sites.
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 am a strong supporter of affirmative action. In its best form, it creates an opportunity to ensure employers are exercising fair hiring practices. Again I recognize the opportunities in city government for employment. Public engagement in terms of job fairs, public schools visits and presentation all could have a positive impact. And I would argue arduously against any requirements to dismantle affirmative action.
- 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 am certain that we can reduce our budgetary concerns by encouraging more local business ownership. We need to have user friendly policies for local business owners. Dollars stay in the community longer when a business is a local business. It also offers a particular culture that makes neighborhoods more appealing. In addition I believe we need to ensure that licensing and permitting is a more seamless process so that when a business is prepared for growth, the city entities support that by having more online services available and functional for the business owners. I would also strongly support growing the green economy. There are thousands of jobs that are and will continue to be available. At the end of 2008 GE had back orders of windmills of over $12 billion (as of August 2008). In addition to that the sustainable energy field has grown by 30% year over year for the past 8 years. This has opportunity written all over it and we need to train and prepare our workforce for this industry before it is established elsewhere. More green housing also means population growth which translates into increased revenue bases. I would cut the budget of the BRA after deeper review to ensure that the revenue streams go to neighborhoods and the city itself rather into the agency. I would also look at spending in city administration where multiple concerns come including personnel increases of $416 m. My question is are we getting over $416 in productivity to offset that expense? An annual independent audit that produces a public report is important to transparency.