BOSTON — Charlotte Golar Richie wants to take the place of her one-time boss. A former housing official in Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration, Golar Richie is the only woman in the race to take his place. But she says gender has little to do with her motivation.
“When I wake up in the morning, that’s not the first thing I think, ‘Wow, I am the only woman in this field,’” Golar Richie said. “I think about, what am I going to say when I go on WBUR this morning? How am I going to present myself to the voters today? And can I impress upon them that I have a track record of 20 years in politics and government?”
On the campaign trail, Golar Richie — who has also worked for the Patrick administration — talks about her career in federal and state advocacy, youth education and jobs training, as well as housing and community development. She talked with us this week as part of our series of conversations with the candidates for mayor of Boston.
Charlotte Golar Richie: My personal motivation is to really dig in deep and address many of the problems that have felt like they were intractable problems here in the city of Boston, and really try to bring some solutions to improve conditions in our city for all Bostonians.
Bob Oakes: In terms of digging deep on the issues, why don’t we start with housing? As you know, Mayor Menino has floated a $16 billion housing plan only months before he actually leaves office. And the numbers are huge: not only $16 billion, but 30,000 new housing units by 2020, including 5,000 affordable units, with 3,600 units approved before the end of this year. Your take? Too many, too fast, or not?
I’m comfortable with the number of 30,000 units, but I would say I’d look for affordability for those who are on the lowest rungs of the ladder, and then also want to spend some special attention on the hard-pressed, middle-income prospective buyers and renters in our city who feel that they don’t earn enough to be able to afford the average priced home or the average rent here in the city. But I think we can look at our inclusionary development policy; we can look at other ways to incentivize developers to carve out some of those units so that they would be for middle-income homeowners and for renters.
You’ve mentioned that you want to push more development outside the city center onto outlying neighborhoods. How would you accomplish that and give us an example of a neighborhood you want to push developers into.
So that’s a good question. So when we talk about jobs, I understand from a recent report the BRA predicted that 17,000 jobs will come online in the next three years. I’m thinking that if we get this thing right, working with our business sector, nonprofit sector, and a whole host of other folks who contribute to our economy here in the city of Boston, that we might be able to even double that number.
On the subject of school facilities, you’ve said you want to build and renovate facilities. You already talked about vocational education. What are your other top priorities in that regard? What new needs to be built, and what’s so rundown it needs to be rebuilt?
I will look at the capital budget to determine what projects have been approved and slated for improvement. I will go around to the 127 schools and personally, with a new school superintendent there, determine where there is need. And then when you step into the school, does it feel institutional? Or does it feel like it’s going to be a warm, nurturing environment where parents are gonna say, “Wow. I feel good about my children being here.”
You’ve called gun crime in the city of Boston one of the intractable problems. What’s the Boston police department doing right and what’s it not doing correctly?
I think we have here in the city of Boston a tale of two cities. One where joblessness is down, crime may be down, and that’s important. But still we have pockets where there still continue to be problems — around poverty, around substance abuse, around gun violence. That’s something that has to be tackled.
I think there are definitely layers of things. It’s around prevention; it’s around intervention. I am a firm proponent of community policing. I would want to make sure that we have more police on the streets where needed and that those police officers have the tools to fight crime. And our young people are right at the center of that, which is a motivating factor for me in why I want to set up this office of youth affairs at the cabinet level, so we have a connection with our young people right there with the Boston police commissioner, with the school superintendent and the Department of Public Health, and others.
There’s been a lot of recent criticism of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis by minority officers over what’s viewed as a lack of promotion of minority officers inside the department into supervisory positions. Commissioner Davis has defended his record. What’s your take?
I did work with him for a period of time and was impressed with how he interacted with me and city government. The issue around diversity is not one that is unique to the police. I think that that’s an issue that affects the city government across the board. I am often in meetings and I am one of very few people of color still in this city where 53 percent at least of people here are people of color. And I often hear things like, “We couldn’t find the people. We couldn’t figure out who to hire. We didn’t know who was there. No one’s qualified.” Those are bogus kinds of arguments. We have to get beyond that. That doesn’t mean that I don’t value my white employees. In fact, I think that we, you know, it’s not about pushing people out, it’s about making the circle bigger.
Back before you were a state representative, the story is your friends, neighbors and family had to kind of talk you in to running for that job. In the mayor’s race, you were the last candidate to jump into the field. Do you have the fire in the belly for this?
I think that I do. The first time when I was encouraged to run for state representative, to be honest, I did not see myself necessarily in that role. In the case of the mayor, I thought Mayor Menino was going to be running for another term. So I did not necessarily put together an organization saying that Mayor Menino is not gonna run again, and Charlotte, you need to be ready for this race. Once he decided to step out, however, I did want to consider it.