Massachusetts State Representative Jon Santiago has officially entered the race to be the next mayor of Boston. He joined Radio Boston to talk about why he decided to run and what he sees as the most important issues facing the city.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
On why he believes he's the right person for the job
We are living in a consequential time. This pandemic has completely upended society as we know it: our health care system, our economy, our schools. I'm running for mayor to bring back a Boston stronger than ever to really lead the city through this crisis and to recovery rooted in equity and opportunity — because I really think this moment really transcends politics. And I think the city of Boston is going to require a leader and a public servant who's ready to tackle that crisis. And I've been doing that my whole life as someone who's dedicated it to public service, the Peace Corps, the Army, in the E.R. on the front lines and as a state representative. So I'm very much looking forward to ... meeting folks from all across the city and getting them on board as soon as possible.
On how he plans to address the opioid crisis
I am going to be the the mayoral candidate who figures this out and I'm going to be the mayor who addresses that situation in a comprehensive and equitable manner. I live one block from Mass Ave. I see what's going on from a neighborhood perspective. I've picked up needles. I have people sleep on my stoop, but I'm also working there in the emergency room. The emergency room is right there on Mass. Ave, a block away from Melnea Cass. Every shift I work, I take care of at least three or four people who've overdosed from a certain drug. I know the issue. I live the issue.
... And over the course of my first term in office, I was very fortunate, even as a freshman lawmaker, to bring significant amount of funding to City Hall to address that issue. But the fact is, that issue is incredibly complicated. It's multifaceted. It's the intersection of homelessness, mental health and substance use. And it's going to require all hands on deck approach and have the relationships with the Legislature and the governor to really move the ball forward. It's not enough to bring resources there. And that's what I did as a member of the Legislature. But it's about, how do we make sure that services are done in an appropriate manner? How do we begin to decentralize things?
On the possibility that Boston will have its first mayor of color
It's empowering. It's important. I mean, I think we live in a majority-minority city, where there are certain communities who feel they haven't had the same opportunity as others and that ... the folks in leadership didn't necessarily represent them. And I'm so honored to be a part of a community here in Boston and in Massachusetts — a community of color — particularly, as you know, the only announced Latino in the race.
You know, we make up one out of five Bostonians, 42% of the Boston Public Schools system are Latino kids. It's the fastest growing community in the city, in the state, in this country. And their voices, as well as those of other communities of color need to be at the table in the decision making process. And that's going to be a big part of this campaign. I'm looking forward to having that conversation throughout the next seven months.
This segment aired on February 23, 2021.