Boston Mayoral Forums 2017: Tito Jackson

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City Councilor Tito Jackson at a City Hall meeting in May 2016. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
City Councilor Tito Jackson at a City Hall meeting in May 2016. Jackson initially proposed the Office for Black Male Advancement several years ago. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Part one of our special Mayoral Forums Series, hosted along with UMass Boston, The Boston Globe, NECN, NBC Boston and Telemundo Boston.  

This fall, Boston votes for mayor, choosing to give Mayor Marty Walsh a second term, or to elect City Councilor Tito Jackson to the job.

On Wednesday, we presented the first of two mayoral conversations. We talked to the candidates about education, inequality, race, public safety and their own personal backgrounds.

Jackson joined us Wednesday, and we spoke with Walsh on Thursday. Here's WBUR's Fred Thys reporting on Jackson's forum, and you can watch it here:

Having trouble viewing the video above? Watch via YouTube here.


Tito Jackson, Boston city councilor and 2017 mayoral candidate. He tweets @titojackson.

Interview Transcript

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Meghna Chakrabarti: I actually wanted to start, Councilor, if I could, by taking a little trip back in time, going all the way back to March of 2013 when then-mayor Tom Menino announced that he was not going to seek another term. We actually had you and several other mayoral possibles all together in the studio that day. It was pretty tight. And while you didn't jump into the open race back then, you did talk about, possibly, your interest in running for mayor. Back in 2013, here's what your pitch was. Here's what you told me. You said, "My background is in jobs and economic development. I worked at the state level with the Patrick Administration and was able to create over 2,500 jobs and I would be focusing on job creation, education and a safer and cleaner city of Boston."

Tito Jackson: That's a great answer.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Well, it's four years later. What's your pitch now?

Tito Jackson: My pitch is also that we will focus on jobs and economic development for all in the city of Boston. We will help uplift small businesses in the city of Boston, and not give corporate giveaways like the governor and the mayor have done with over 151 million dollars given to General Electric. But we also must go back to not only job creation. We need to make sure that we have a livable Boston for all, that has housing that is affordable. Because we say affordable housing, affordable is like the word love. It gets misinterpreted by many people. 50 percent of people in Boston make under $35,000 a year. And we have a great deal of housing that's being built. And most of it is being built as luxury housing for 1.5 and 2 million dollars that is gentrifying the city of Boston not only from Roxbury to Dorchester, but also South Boston, East Boston and the city as a whole. So as mayor, I will work on making a livable and affordable Boston for all. But in addition, I will fully fund the Boston Public Schools and our public education will be job one. Also, we have seen Mayor Walsh cut public education every year for the past three years. We've seen Mayor Walsh actually put forward a proposal to increase the charter cap. And so I think folks need to understand that we need to have a mayor who is going to be a leader in public education, who will fully fund the public schools right down the street. The McCormack School was cut $950,000 this year ... Four librarians were cut. And so I will fully fund the public schools and wraparound services and we will uplift the city of Boston as a whole. And I look forward to being the next mayor of the city of Boston.

Meghan Irons: Councilor Jackson, we will get into education a bit further into the broadcast. But we want to learn more about you. You have served as a councilor since 2011, and by entering the mayor's race, win or lose, you'll be leaving that council post. What have you learned about yourself, governing, and city government in those years?

Tito Jackson: I've learned that Boston is the most amazing city. I was born at Boston City Hospital, which is now Boston Medical Center. I've learned what grace looks like and feels like. I was born to a 13-year-old mom who was assaulted by two men. That's how I got here. Part of my path has been standing up as a man against rape culture, standing up as a man to change who we define as a man. But also, I've learned what love feels like. Two months into my life, I was adopted by Herbert Jackson and Rosa Jackson. My mom had a daycare for 25 years and helped raise the community as a whole. And my dad was an entrepreneur and started one of the first environmental companies, and fought so hard to make sure that women, people of color, and Boston residents had jobs. So I've seen and felt what grace looked like. I'm one of eight actually. So my parents adopted four of us and had four biologically. I refer to them as the ones that they had, and us as the ones that they chose, which makes me feel very very special. I've learned the city of Boston, and neighborhoods and communities are so resilient. But I've also learned that neighborhoods in Boston need help. They need decisive leadership that will help uplift all of those neighborhoods. Two nights ago, I stood outside of a crime scene where a young man who was 18 years old was murdered. Yesterday, I received a call from that young man's mom and found out that I spoke at his graduation. Yes, we are resilient, but we as a city need to come together. We need to innovate not only in the Innovation District, but we need to innovate and stand up as a city, and uplift everybody in the city.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Councilor Jackson, you are the challenger in this race and it is customary for a challenger to come out swinging against the incumbent. So I am hearing a lot of criticism from you of Mayor Marty Walsh, but we've got a question here from the audience. The audience member wants you to name some things you did at the City Council that have made a difference in the quality of life for Boston. Criticisms don't count. This person wants specifics.

Tito Jackson: Definitely. So in fact, I saved the financial — helped save the financial future of the city of Boston. I'm the only city councilor to step up and subpoena the Olympic documents that showed the finances. So they came before the council, and I asked them five times in a row to hear and see what they had promised to the United States Olympic Committee. They told me no. I sent them a letter and I gave them a week and they told me no. And I was the only city councilor to step up and put forward a subpoena. And within a week, a bid that Mayor Martin Walsh had actually signed was retracted and we saved the financial future of the city of Boston. They said it cost $9 billion. And what we ended up finding out was that it cost $12 billion.

Meghan Irons: Well, wasn't there strong opposition already swirling against the Olympics?

Tito Jackson: So I would say, I want to give a great deal of credit to No Boston 2024, No Boston Olympics, and the community as a whole that stepped forward. But what I would note is that I did move forward and led in that regard. I also co-sponsored the Family Leave Act with two other counselors — Counselor Wu as well as Counselor McCarthy. In addition, I put forward the resolution to support the Boston City Council standing up against a catastrophic proposal called Question 2 ,which would have taken much-needed resources from the Boston Public Schools and moved them over to charter schools.

Meghna Chakrabarti: You have been very outspoken on issues of education in Boston, and Question 2 is a perfect example of that. So let's dig deeper into the question of education in the city of Boston. As chairman of the Education Committee, you've led protests and pushed for more school funding for Boston Public Schools. But do you have examples of how your advocacy has created real, tangible results for children in Boston's schools?

Tito Jackson: Well, I think additional funding — an additional $5 million of funding — in last year's school budget is a tangible result. In addition, we have --

Meghan Irons: Can you explain that a bit? What do you mean by that?

Tito Jackson: I'm sorry about that ... So understand. We spent about $1.1 billion on public education in Boston. And so what I look at are the increases because we know there's something called inflation. And we know inflation is generally 3 percent per year. And so when I'm looking at a budget, I look at whether or not the budget proposal meets or closes that gap with inflation. [In] last year's budget, Mayor Walsh put forward a 13 million dollar increase. That is about a 1.3 percent increase. That does not cover inflation. And so I stood with the young people from the Boston Youth Organizing Project and other organizations ... who stood up. And remember 3,600 young people stood up last year and said, you are not funding our public schools. And I stood with them, and we were able to force the mayor and his administration to add $5 million for public education last year. In addition, I do want to note that it is critical that we stood up against Question 2, because that would have been catastrophic for the Boston public schools. Because the higher number of charter school seats, the lower number of dollars that the Boston public schools receive from the state of Massachusetts.

Meghan Irons: Let me ask a question about some of the statements you've made in the past. You've repeatedly said that the Walsh administration should fully fund Boston Public Schools. The administration has said it has given the district an extra $143 million since the mayor took office, including $40 million that's in the budget for the next academic year. What do you mean when you say the administration should fully fund the schools?

Tito Jackson: Definitely. So let's let's unpack the $40 million that was was said to be given to the Boston Public Schools this year. So first, let's note that the Boston Public School teachers, which is mostly women in terms of their union — they do not have a contract. And most of the unions that are predominantly male actually do have contracts. I just need to note that. The $11 million of the $40 million is for the teacher contract, and cannot actually be used in the operating budget until there is a contract, which does not exist. In addition, $20 million of that is in new programs that didn't exist a year before. So if we add $20 million and $11 million, that's $31 million. So that leaves only $9 million in resources to maintain the current programs that occur. In a $1 billion budget that is less than 1 percent. So that means — that actually is a cut. $950,000 to the McCormack School. $455,000 to Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, which is our only vocational school in the city of Boston. We have $7 billion of construction going on in the city, and we are not fully funding Madison Park. In addition, we must note Madison Park was a level three school, and under Mayor Walsh, [it] has fallen to a level four turnaround school. Mayor Walsh continues to fail the public schools and the young people in them, as well as the families. And I will lead as mayor of the city of Boston, as someone who understands the needs of public education and the parents and the students.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Councilor Jackson, just to switch back to Question 2 for a moment. You were a leading opponent of the charter school question in last year's ballot. But as mayor of Boston you would be mayor for all Bostonians, including those Boston families who would like to see the cap lifted because they are on waiting lists for charter schools in the city of Boston. Now granted, citywide, Boston overwhelmingly voted against Question 2, save for a couple of neighborhoods. But I'm thinking of those families specifically who want to get their kids into charters and can't. If you were to be their mayor, what would you do for them?

Tito Jackson: Well, what I would do for them is what the mayor of the city of Boston should do for them. I would make the Boston public schools the best large public school district in the whole United States of America. Understand, what those parents are saying is not necessarily that they want to be in charter schools. They want their young people and their future to be in the hands of folks who are going to take care of them and also schools that are going to prepare them for the colleges and universities like UMass Boston that are going to elevate them to the next level.

Meghna Chakrabarti: And how specifically are you going to do that? Because this is a problem that's been going on for years and years. So what are your specific ideas to bring those schools up to the level that would make all families happy?

Tito Jackson: So one of the areas that we need to deal with is wraparound services. We do not have enough guidance counselors in the Boston Public Schools. Some schools have a one to 1,100 ratio for guidance counselors. We don't have the wraparound resources, in particular for special education students. I would also go back and increase the funding for autistic students, that Mayor Walsh cut two years ago out of out of the budget, which was a 21 percent cut that increased the class sizes for autistic students. In addition, we have to prepare our young people for the future. So I would add computer science classes for all young people, kindergarten through 12th grade. And the reason why I would do that is because there are 1.4 million open jobs in the United States of America that will be unfilled by 2020, that we need to make sure that our young people are prepared for. We will also partner our schools with the private sector. We need to have pathways into the jobs not only of today, but the jobs of tomorrow. And that is what I will do as mayor of the city of Boston.

Meghan Irons: One of the things that you did identify was that if you were to become mayor, you would tap into the parking meter fund to help cover some of the shortfalls in education. That money is being used right now to fix squares, the administration says, to fix libraries, the administration says. Furthermore, the parking meter fund, they've said, is for transportation projects and not for education. So are they wrong about this and are you right? Help us understand this.

Tito Jackson: So we're going to go into the weeds so I'm going to put my gloves on. We're going to go into the weeds and do some gardening. What is being said here is not particularly — it's not right. And so I'll tell you what can happen. Every time you pay a parking ticket, it goes into a fund called the parking meter fund. Those dollars can only be used for transportation. On an annual basis, the transportation budget of the city of Boston is about $20 million. So what we can do is take money out of the parking meter fund, and move it over to the Department of Transportation budget, the $20 million there. And then you can liberate that $20 million and move it to where you want to move it. Interestingly, in years past, the Walsh administration had not allocated funds. I sent them a letter last year to teach them and help them understand how to close the budget gap that we had around education. And I let them know directly that we could use those dollars from the parking meter fund to fund the Department of Transportation, and take the Department of Transportation dollars and move them over to the Education Department. In addition, it must be noted, in last year's budget, that Mayor Walsh used $15 million of operating money, which is very valuable money, on the Northern Avenue Bridge. The reason why that is significant is that money was used for a promise for General Electric. And let me say, I believe that the private sector is a partner. But I believe that General Electric should want to come to the city of Boston. They should not have to be paid to come to the city of Boston or incentiv[ized]. We are a great city. We have great, hardworking people who are very educated in the city of Boston. So to answer your question, this is one of the things that I am very knowledgeable in, because I have done now six municipal budgets. And I will make sure that we have a budget that is thoughtful and forward-facing. And I would also say to you, we will be doing a budget, and you will get to see a Jackson budget in September, prospectively, about what I would have done this year to ensure that we are doing the right thing by people in the city of Boston. That we plan for the 5,000 youth summer jobs that we should have had this past year, and we plan for a safety plan for summer. So you will see that in the September timeframe.

Meghna Chakrabarti: We want to definitely touch upon some other things that are of great import to Bostonians and absolutely inequality is right up there. I'm just going to restate a couple of facts here. According to the Brookings Institution, for example, Boston is one of the top three American cities when it comes to inequality. Huge disparities exist. We have a median net worth of $250,000 for whites in the city compared with $3,000 for Hispanics and $8 for African-Americans. Median net worth in Boston. So it's shocking, the disparity. How would you address it? How would you close that gap?

Tito Jackson: So those numbers actually translate not only into financial numbers, but they translate into life or death. I represent currently from a sliver of the Back Bay to Roxbury. In my district alone, in a two mile radius, there is a 33-year difference in life expectancy. So the life expectancy in Back Bay is 91.9. And the life expectancy in Roxbury is 58.9. That's less than the life expectancy of Gambia. That's less than the life expectancy of Iraq. So these are urgent issues. So one, I think it's important, when we think about wealth — we need to look at businesses. In the city of Boston, we have an administration that said that they would do a disparity study. And a disparity study is a prerequisite for including women-owned businesses and including businesses owned by people of color to have goals at the city level.
We spend about $2 billion a year in contracts with the city of Boston. Currently, less than two percent of those contracts go to businesses owned by people of color.

Meghan Irons: So what would you do differently?

Tito Jackson: So first, I would make sure that we have an office of equity and opportunity. But how I would do that is that, there is a requirement that we do a disparity study. And that keeps us in the legal requirements. So I would do that from day one.

Meghna Chakrabarti: How would that differ from the office of resilience that the mayor has already set up?

Tito Jackson: The difference is, this is actually business-oriented. So there are a couple of categories that we think about in how we build wealth. Wealth is most often built through real estate as well as business. The office of resilience would also be different in my administration because I would actually fund it. This administration has done, I believe, a disservice to one of the most amazing leaders that we have in the city of Boston. Dr. Martin is a nationally-renowned leader, and she, for the past year, has only had her salary as her budget. If you believe in changing issues of race, you can't only talk about it. You need to be about it. People of color in the city of Boston do not want to have more conversations, and by the way I'm glad that the mayor was able to get one million dollars. But we don't need to talk about the million dollars. We need to make sure that that 2 percent that businesses owned by people of color goes to 30 percent in the first four years as mayor of the city of Boston. In addition, we have to deal with the fact that instead of chasing New York comedians like Michael Che to tell them that Boston is not the most racist city in the United States of America, we need to acknowledge that racism does exist in the city of Boston, and that we have to hit it head on. And I did that with Meggie and Kylie at Boston Latin School.

Meghna Chakrabarti: They are the two young students --

Tito Jackson: I stood with, and addressed that issue head on. And as mayor of the city of Boston, we will address those issues but we will also address the issue--

Meghna Chakrabarti: But councilor, let me just jump in here for a second since you did bring up Michael Che. Do you think Boston is a racist city? He said it was the most racist he'd ever been to.

Tito Jackson: The question is wrong. We need to acknowledge the national perception that many people do believe that. But the question should be, not are we the most racist or the second least racist city in the United States of America. We should ask, are we the most open? Are we the most embracing city of people in the United States of America? And we know we have not gotten there yet. And so as mayor of the city of Boston, I'm willing to take that criticism, but I'm not only going to take the criticism, I'm actually going to do something about it, and we're going to change how people are living in neighborhoods and communities. I want to make sure that a life lost on Blue Hill Ave is worth the same as a life lost on Commonwealth Ave in the city of Boston. And that may not be — I don't necessarily believe that that that is the case in the city of Boston right now. And it will take a leader — a courageous leader — like me to make that happen.

Meghan Irons: But in terms of what you would do to address the income inequality issue — we talked about an office of opportunity, but what else is on your list?

Tito Jackson: I would also ensure that we are working with evidence-based models that help people do better in their communities. Because understand, when we talk about affordable housing, there are two components. One is how much the housing costs, but also, how much you make. I would partner with organizations like Year Up that have been shown to transform a person's earnings in one year. I would partner with organizations, or start something like an evergreen, which is a model from Cleveland. That is a worker-owned co-operative that helps people who have CORIs [Criminal Offender Record Information]. Because one of the other issues that we have to deal with in Boston is there are many people who have been precluded from being in the workforce. And so that's one of the other things that I would do. I would also partner with organizations like the United Team Equality Center and my friend Greg Hutto.
They are doing mattress recycling. One of the other components is, I will also require those who are building in the city of Boston to follow the laws of the city of Boston and the Boston Residents Job Policy, which requires them to hire 50 percent Boston residents, 40 percent people of color, and 10 percent women in Boston. Those are not being enforced today. I will enforce those laws, and create more jobs and more economic opportunity.

Meghna Chakrabarti: So let me just jump in here, because inequality has so many facets to it. I want to dig into housing a little bit more, because for example, Mayor Walsh has set up an office of housing stability in order to try to begin to grapple with some of the major issues that especially renters face in Boston. But also, as you point out, there actually has been quite a bit of construction as well. And we're looking at some numbers here from the last quarterly report. Of the 13,500 new units of housing completed, 40 percent of those are affordable for low and middle income households, and nearly 40 percent of permitted units that are scheduled to be available — those are for low and moderate income households when complete. Now I know you take issue with the language about affordability, but nevertheless, you can't deny that progress is being made.

Tito Jackson: Well, the language is critical because the language is about reality. When you say affordable in Boston, that generally means $70,000 to $120,000. That means that the affordable units in a place like Roxbury or Dorchester served to gentrify the people out of the neighborhood that they currently live in. Because in Roxbury, seventy-five percent of people make under $50,000. That's a problem. So that affordable unit might as well be a million dollars to that person.

Meghna Chakrabarti: So what would you do to incentivize developers to make units available to lower-income Bostonians?  Because there's some real structural challenges there.

Tito Jackson: There are structural challenges, but we know that developers are making lots of money in the city of Boston. So one of the things that I would change is the inclusionary development policy. What does that mean? If you build over 10 units in the city of Boston, you're now required to build 13 percent of them "affordable." Two things that I would do. I would change the 13 percent to 20 percent, like my friends in Cambridge have done, so there is more affordability in the units that are being built. But then I would redefine what the word affordable means. In a Jackson administration, affordability would be based on what the median income in that neighborhood or community actually is. So that affordable unit is actually affordable to the families that that need it. I would also create city-backed vouchers. For $5 million of city operating money, we can house 400 families. And I would begin to deal with a blemish on the city of Boston's history. The city of Boston and the Walsh administration turned its back on the people who were on Long Island. It is still tragic, what happened to the most vulnerable population in the city of Boston on Long Island. There are hundreds of people who had to be moved across in four hours, who were homeless, and many of them were in the throes of trying to get rid of their addiction. And they moved them to an open-air drug market in the city in the Newmarket area. And people lost their life. And there are still many people who are displaced from Long Island. And as mayor of the city of Boston, I will actually address that issue. I will reopen Long Island and I will use this new technology that Jack Connors put forward, called a boat.

Meghan Irons: So would you build a bridge? It's $100 million dollars for that.

Tito Jackson: Again, Jack Connors hearkened back to someone named Noah ... Understand, the island is actually being used now for private companies to grow things, but also, young people are being ferried back and forth. So what we do there is really about who we are in the city of Boston. Who are we when we leave people who are homeless behind? Who are we when we leave people who are addicted behind?  And I would also note that I was yes on Question 4. And the reason why I was for the legalization and taxation and regulation of adult-use cannabis was, one, because of the issues around mass incarceration. But two, if we're having a conversation about dealing with addiction without talking about additional detox beds and treatment on demand, and paying for treatment on demand, then we're not having a serious conversation. And $172 million by year three will come to the state of Massachusetts, and we should use those those dollars to help our brothers and sisters who are addicted and need our help. And they are are sick, and we need to treat them in that way, unlike how we treated people who were on crack who were in that same area 20 years ago. We can learn from that.

Meghan Irons: Let's talk about jobs. When you were first elected to the city council, you told your supporters in Grove Hall — you said, "What I'm looking to do, and what I want you to grade me on, is on how many jobs we were able to bring to this neighborhood, to District 7, a district that has too long been neglected. Well you know what? With me as your city councilor, it will not be neglected anymore." As you know, Roxbury in particular has been mired in double-digit unemployment. Poverty still reigns, and violence. So now you're looking to take the top job in the in the city. How should people look at you now, and what you've done, in terms of bringing jobs to this district that really needs it?

Meghna Chakrabarti: In other words, what grade would you give yourself?

Tito Jackson: I would get myself a B plus ... As a district councilor, we have four staff, and we have an amazing group of folks. I am always a hard grader on myself, but ... I would like folks to go back and look at the inclusion numbers of Boston residents, and of people of color and women, at the Ferdinand Building. I'm very proud that every two weeks, I met with Shawmut Construction, the folks who built that building, to ensure that they were including people in the community. And I want to give a great deal of props to the many organizations who monitored that job. I've also negotiated a deal with the hotel that is being built ... at the corner of Washington Street. And in that deal I was able to negotiate $18 an hour for all of the full-time permanent employees who will work there. But in addition, when you look at the construction numbers on that site, they are some of the highest in the city of Boston. So I am very happy that, in particular in construction that is happening in my district, that we will create jobs. But I think we also need to understand that our money should be spent in helping small businesses and innovative businesses in the city of Boston, and not writing large checks to companies like General Electric who, by the way, are one of the largest polluters. If we have people who are interested in the environment, General Electric polluted the Housatonic River and still owes over $600 million to clean that river up.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Let me jump in here, because you've mentioned G.E. a couple of times. But I keep coming back to this idea that, as mayor of Boston, you would be mayor of all of Boston. And presumably if you won the race, eventually you'd sit down with with the CEO of G.E. and, he might come to you and say, "You took a couple of shots at my company. Do you not want us here? Do you not want one of the biggest companies in the world to call Boston home?"

Tito Jackson: Well, what what I would say to you is, of course G.E. is a great addition to the city of Boston. But at what cost? How is it that this administration is willing to write a $151 million check with the governor to G.E., and cut schools? How is it that this administration is willing to sign onto a $12 billion Olympics, and not have enough money for homeless people who have addiction issues? [There is] an opportunity cost to the dollars that we spend. And in addition, the Kauffman Foundation has actually told us that companies who are over 11 years old lost the highest number of jobs during the economic downturn. The companies that still added jobs were innovative companies. Those innovative companies need a couple of things. They need technology — that's a prerequisite to an innovative company. They need capital, which we have a lot of in Boston. And they need talent. How is it that we are not helping that pipeline of talent in the city of Boston with our public schools, so that we are prepared? So I would love to partner with G.E., as well as the whole private sector. And I would also not only want to partner with them on these issues, I want to partner with the private sector on how we stop violence in the city of Boston. How we provide alternatives to many of the individuals who have not been able to find jobs. So they are a critical component and I look forward to working with them.

Meghan Irons: But Councilor Jackson, G.E. will bring with it 600 jobs, a $25 million donation to the schools which you care so much about. And why are those things so bad? Or are they bad? What's wrong with that?

Jackson: It's not bad. Well it's bad when General Electric said they were going to bring 800 jobs and now you're talking to me about 600 jobs.

Meghan Irons: Sorry — it was 800.

Tito Jackson: But you're right, actually. And I need to pull back. I see one of my friends in the audience who worked with me when I worked for Governor Patrick. I did economic development. It was my job to attract information technology companies to the state. One of the companies you might have heard of, Microsoft. One of the other companies you might have heard of, Google. We helped them increase their footprint in the state of Massachusetts. What we didn't do is, we didn't give them the whole farm. They wanted to come here because of the talent. They wanted to come here because people in this region are very hardworking. And we have amazing colleges and universities. So that is the reason why I am critical of the way that these deals have been put together. It also must be noted that the smaller, innovative companies grow jobs much faster. G.E. said they were going to bring 800 people to Boston, but they fired 260, or laid off 260 people from other plants in the state of Massachusetts when they came here. So the question is, are we at a net loss? Or what will we have done with those 276 million dollars?

Meghna Chakrabarti: So Councilor Jackson, I want to switch gears a little bit here and talk about public safety. You did mention that, and obviously it's another major issue for the city of Boston. But I want to ask about the Boston police and fire departments specifically because there's overlap here. You're talking about how key departments should reflect the diversity of the city, and that the city has actually taken steps to address diversity at City Hall — but perhaps not enough for who makes up the police and fire departments. What specifically would you do to increase diversity in the fire and police departments?

Tito Jackson: So one of the things that I would do is, I would begin to work on the culture of both departments. And I would have implicit bias training in each department ... I want to note, I believe that Boston has the best police and fire department in the United States of America. But I don't believe that the individual who recently put put out a blatantly racist video belongs in our police department. This is the video that said that that black people need to beware during the summer. As leader of the city of Boston, I would step forward and make sure that I made the decision that this individual is no longer in the Boston Police Department. The law is on our side, but not only is the law on our side — if we say that we want to be a more inclusive city, if we say that we want to be a more inclusive culture in Boston, we must show it in our actions and particularly with our police department.  Under the Walsh administration, 75 percent of the new officers that have been hired are white, and 90 percent of the new fire people are white. I would double the size of the new classes. We have about 600 folks who are up for retirement. That is critical. We will do a much better job at going after veterans, who are people of color in the U.S. Because there are many people who are coming to the city of Boston. And we will double the size of the cadet program, because each class has to take one third of its class of cadets.

Meghan Irons: Do you support the fire cadet program that's being talked about right now? The proposal, I should say.

Tito Jackson: I'm very intrigued. There's a hearing coming up on the fire cadet program. I am very intrigued by that program. One of the other pieces — I've led this effort at the Council — I will ensure that every single police officer wears a body cam. It is unacceptable in 2017 that we do not have --

Meghna Chakrabarti: How would you ensure it? Just getting the pilot program off the ground with the Boston police was a challenge.

Tito Jackson: It was a challenge. But $38 million of our money has been lost in suits over the past seven years. $38 million of money that could have gone to schools, of money that could have gone to bike infrastructure, of money that could have gone to many other departments. And do we even know if those those transgressions were actually real?  I don't know that to be the case. I do know that body cameras actually provide transparency and accountability, and I believe democracy, when it comes to how we police in 2017. And by the way, these are not only for the community. The body cameras are also to ensure that our police officers are safe. One last thing — I would have a civilian review board that actually has teeth in the city of Boston, and the current civilian review board simply does not cut muster. And they've already said that they don't cut muster.

Meghan Irons: One of the holdups with the body camera initiative was dealing with a very powerful union. You know there's an impasse right now with the teachers union. What skills do you bring to the table in order to be dealing with these big city unions that have traditionally fought change?

Tito Jackson: My collaboration and negotiation skills were honed in the private sector. The first part of my career was spent in the private sector. I worked for Johnson and Johnson in sales and marketing. I worked for Eli Lilly in sales and marketing. I worked for another company called Al Pharma in sales and marketing, and I also went on to work at a company called Silverlink Communications, which was a startup. I come from the private sector. I've negotiated multi-million dollar contracts in my career, and in addition I have also approved many of the contracts that we are talking about. So I actually have the ability to hit the ground running when it comes to these contracts. And I greatly respect the work that all the city employees in Boston do. I think it is frankly a shame that the Boston school department has not struck a deal, and the Walsh Administration has not struck a deal, with the hardworking women and men in the Boston Teachers Union.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Let's face a certain fact — the latest poll in the race between you and Mayor Walsh was conducted by Suffolk University and the Globe. It gave Mayor Walsh a 31-point lead over you. Is that lead insurmountable?

Tito Jackson: I actually view that poll a little bit different. You have a sitting mayor who has five million or 10 million — I don't know how much he has in his account — and he can barely poll over 50 percent. I also view that poll a little different because I was on the other side of the Boston 2024 Olympics. And one side of the Olympics spent 15 million dollars to bring the Olympics. But the side that prevailed, the No Boston 2024 side, and the No Boston Olympics side, spent less than $10,000. So I question whether Mayor Walsh has too much money to win. And those millions of dollars — they might be able to buy you a multi-million dollar condo, but they're not going to buy you an election in the city of Boston.

Meghna Chakrabarti: I got to ask you something. Four years ago when Marty Walsh was running for mayor, you were one of his biggest proponents. You were one of his biggest champions. What happened? What changed?

Tito Jackson: What changed is, I'm disappointed in Mayor Walsh. What changed is, when I decided to roll my sleeves up to deal with the issues that are happening in the community relative to black and Latino men and boys, and I put forward a proposal that was unanimously voted on by the Boston City Council 13 to zero. Mayor Walsh — this is actually before My Brother's Keeper ever got off the ground. Mayor Walsh vetoed the commission on the status of black and Latino men and boys in the city of Boston. Yes, we are friends. But when it comes down to government, it is actually not about what you say. It's about what you do. And Mayor Walsh has not helped the people who I serve, and has not advanced the city of Boston in the right way. As mayor of the city of Boston, I will uplift all people in the city of Boston, regardless of how many commas you have in your bank account.

Meghan Irons: I do want to get to one audience question which is, a lot of people don't know you. Someone in the audience here asks, why should I vote for you?

Tito Jackson: You should vote for me because I believe in democracy, accountability and transparency. Because I have integrity, and I will run a scandal-free administration in a Jackson administration. You should vote for me because I care about the city that brought me up. I am still that young person who the city of Boston gave that opportunity to, by taking me in and raising me up, and I simply want to be that same person to the young people who are in City Hospital right now waiting to be adopted or put into foster care. I have worked hard. I have been a city counselor for six years, and I have a demonstrated record of leadership, and also taking on the hard issues and never shying away from the people that I serve. And I look forward to being the next mayor. And I ask you for your vote to become the next mayor of the city of Boston. My name is Tito Jackson.

Meghna Chakrabarti: City Councilor Tito Jackson, just signing himself out, I think, of this great conversation. Thank you so very much, Councilor Jackson.

This article was originally published on July 19, 2017.

This segment aired on July 19, 2017.


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Jamie Bologna Senior Producer/Director, Radio Boston
Jamie Bologna was senior producer and director of Radio Boston.


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Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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