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Boston Mayoral Candidate John Barros10:26
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John Barros, at WBUR, in September 2013 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
John Barros, at WBUR, in September 2013 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Now there are five. On Thursday, John Barros, who had been Boston's chief of economic development until last week, officially announced he's running for mayor.

Barros ran for mayor in 2013, placing sixth among a crowded field in the preliminary election. Marty Walsh, who won that race, made Barros chief of the city's first cabinet-level economic development office. He joins us to talk about why he decided to run and what he hopes to accomplish should he be elected the next Mayor of Boston.

Interview Highlights

On why he believes he is the right person to lead Boston:

Barros: "Well, I think I'm the right next person to lead Boston because of my rare executive and management set of experiences and skills. As you know, I started very early on as a young man organizing my community and trying to give back to a community that gave me so much.

"Not long after, I was the executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), where I led for about 13 years...we were able to not just vision and plan. We were able to implement those visions and plans and build housing and build community centers, schools, playgrounds, urban agriculture, a 10,000 square foot greenhouse that we're really proud of. I took those same skills to government — to the same value of community participation, resident led planning — to go in and find a mayor who wanted to reform government."

On what a John Barros agenda looks like: 

Barros: "You know, John Barrow's agenda would prioritize equity, would prioritize participation and involvement, would prioritize climate change. We would make sure that Boston was a city that was welcoming to everyone, that our economy allowed for participation.

"We would also make sure that it was accessible in a way where people can buy housing, they can pay for rent. Affordable housing has been a passion of mine as we were able to build housing at DSNI. And I also found an administration that really sort of cared about housing. And so we have built record level of affordable housing in Boston will continue to do that under Barros administration.

"[We would] make sure to prioritize children and young people. My work has always been about young people in their development and in a Barros administration...education would be a priority and child well-being."

On the federal complaint filed last month by minority business advocates over a report finding only 1.2% of Boston's annual contracting went to businesses owned by people of color and women:

Barros: "Let's be clear: There is no time in the city's 400 years where minority or women-owned businesses participated in a fair way in discretionary spending. There is none. But the Walsh administration — and I, particularly — wanted to make the numbers transparent. We wanted to do something about it. The only way you can handle an issue like that is you've got to look at the data. You've got to look at the information. So we spent some years learning from...the fears of some of the other administrations and then decided that a disparity study was a critical tool needed to shift that trend.

"So after cleaning up the information, we launched the disparity study that looked at the spending for five years — which is what disparity studies do — in order to create the legal framework for goals. And I'm super excited that Mayor Walsh was able to sign an executive order that now has created a goal of 25% of Boston's discretionary spend would go to women and minority-owned companies. That's about $160 million a year. It's far beyond any other goal the city has had. And its true commitment that comes from the roadmap that the disparity study laid out. We now know more and the public knows more. And we didn't shy away from it...we went on head first, which is why the disparity study was done."

On what it means to the city to have this much diversity in the race for mayor:

Barros: "It's clearly an honor to run with this diverse group of candidates, you know, good candidates. Boston's ready. Boston's ready to make a statement about its leadership. It's ready to have someone of color, it's ready to have a woman, it's ready to have a Black man like me in office. And I'm proud to be part of a city that is so accepting of the diversity of quality candidates that are in this race."

This segment aired on March 4, 2021.

Jamie Bologna Twitter Producer/Director, Radio Boston
Jamie Bologna is producer and director of Radio Boston.

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Tiziana Dearing Twitter Host, Radio Boston
Tiziana Dearing is the host of Radio Boston.

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