Tomás Gonzalez attended the Candidate Forum that took place on Monday, August 3, 2009.
Tomás Gonzalez’s Questionnaire and Conversation 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?
Future housing development efforts must be prioritized for individuals and families on the BHA waiting list with a greater emphasis on single room occupancies for men 18-50 and for affordable rental units for single mothers in transition.
When it comes to development in Jamaica Plain specifically, what are your top three priorities?
There are three development projects in Jamaica Plain that I believe require additional attention and financial support. They are as follows: Jackson Square, Forest Hills T yard, and Blessed Sacrament.
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?
The City should set the example by aggressively replacing an aging fleet with hybrid, bio-fuel and/or electric vehicles. Furthermore, the green cab program needs to be expanded to the greater Boston area to all Taxi companies that operate with in the Boston Area. Finally, the stimulus money projected for the City of Boston for the weatherization of municipal building and public housing developments need to be implemented in earnest. On the consumer side, we need to introduce Renewable Energy Payments (REP), like the ones newly in use in Gainesville Florida. REPs would allow consumers to put solar panels on their homes or install windmills on their properties, which would feed the energy back into the grid. Consumers would get paid for the energy produced.
- 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?
Communication, prevention, and opportunity are biggest allies in this struggle. I would work to establish better working relationships between pre-existing partnerships, Boston school police, local law enforcement, neighborhood crime watches, community groups, parents and youth groups in order to develop real strategies for three focus areas youth employment, truancy, and neighborhood turf wars emanating from drug money. Finally, I would work with our local universities to recruit mentors for our youth in Boston public High School.
I believe every child in the Boston should graduate from high school and can succeed in whatever career path they choose, as long as, they are guided and mentored correctly; they will attain their goals. Additionally, I want to see an end to street memorials. Our children’s lives are too precious to loose them to senseless violence. We need parents to act as such and take a serious role in the growth and development of their children. Adults should not fear children but that’s where we are today and that needs to change.
What are the top three specific improvements you would suggest to improve accountability and transparency in city government?
I would publish the city budget on-line and force the BRA to adhere to community-based principles that guarantee community input and compliance in all future development projects, especially those that directly impact the quality of life of a given neighborhood. Finally, I would make sure all calls to the Mayor’s constituent service line are tracked, so residents can know the status of a request and when it will be completed.
- 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?
Ensuring bus routes are more efficient and make sure parents make an early determination as to whether or not their child will be using transportation on a regular and consistent basis. I would also make sure that children with special needs are transported to their schools without any disruption to their lives.
Literacy and varying learning styles are possible impediments to us closing the achievement gap. Yet nothing is more imperative then parent involvement. There is a serious lack of parent involvement not only in the schools, but also in the socio-emotional development of their children. Parents need to take an active part in nurturing the uniqueness of their children and placing them in a school environment that nurture their unique learning styles. They need to read to their children and expose them to good learning habits as early as possible.
I would assign the school a pilot school status, hire new administrators that will work with the teachers and parents to strengthen the overall school community and raise the student expectations to one of excellence. I would also engage in an extensive and aggressive outreach strategy to the families of struggling students in the hopes of providing assistance and support for the betterment of the family and child.
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 would fully support the “Thrive in Five” Initiative. This public/private partnership seeks to address the needs of children 0 – 5 ensuring their success in school. It would also provide young families with much needed support and resources, so they can raise their children in a nurturing and healthy environment.
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?
- I would demand a safer commute for riders by ridding the buses and trains of unruly and disrespectful behavior. I would also look to expand the surveillance of buses and trains.
- I would also advocate for the increase of evening services such as the “Night Owl”.
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 would seek greater enforcement of the residency requirement law for Boston’s building projects, so the money being invested in a given community stays there and circulates.
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?
The City of Boston should develop a new employment program for BPS juniors and seniors. This would take the form of a Mayor’s Youth Council, which would devise a clear career path for these students from entry-level jobs such as administrative work to more sophisticated employment opportunities in information technology and research. These would be ideal places for students to learn and gain real work experience but more importantly provide them with career options and the city with an integrated and diverse workforce.
- 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?
Interestingly enough, the city now has the ability to levy local taxes on hotels and restaurants as well as charging a property tax for telecommunication poles. The local options tax would allow the city to generate roughly 100 millions dollars in revenue to be used to offset the cuts to local aid received from the state. Moreover, realizing that property tax accounts for the majority of the taxes raised in the city, I would also look at larger nonprofits paying their fair share of property tax to the city for infrastructure and public safety cost.
If given the power to reduce the budgets of two city departments, I would consider limiting the Mayor’s Office from hiring special assistants and consultants and use those discretionary dollars towards strengthening the Mayor’s Youth Council and creating new employment opportunities for high school students. I would also consider merging the city’s recreation program and community centers into the Boston Public Schools. This would increase the presence of community centers throughout the entire city and enable the schools to provide recreational opportunities and more structured after-school time for BPS students.