Meeting The Candidates For Mayor Of Boston: John Barros

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John Barros, at WBUR, in September 2013 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
John Barros, at WBUR, in September 2013 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Boston mayoral primary is two weeks away on Sept. 14.

WBUR's Radio Boston will join WCVB, The Boston Globe, and the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston to bring you a debate among the major candidates next Thursday, Sept. 9.

All this month, we are bringing you interviews with all the major candidates for Mayor of Boston. We wrap up this series today on a conversation with John Barros, the city's former chief of economic development. Then, WBUR's deputy managing editor Todd Wallack joins us for a wider view on the race for mayor.

Interview Highlights

On why he's running for mayor in this particular moment:

"I believe I'm the the best person to lead the city in this particular moment because I'm ready to hit the ground running and help Boston meet our challenges, both in trying to get our economy back up and make it more equitable and just, trying to deal with COVID as we get out of this pandemic, trying to get us to making sure that we have the best school system in the country and trying to address affordable housing. These are all things that I have extensive experience in as a former chief of economic development, as a former executive director of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.

"In the first 100 days, I will make sure, in fact, that we have a plan for 3-year-old and 4-year-old seats for every Boston child that's eligible. We need to make sure that early childhood education is a priority and that we're moving on it. I've also announced a a guaranteed minimum income program, a pilot, in fact, in Boston to help our educators from birth to 2 to make sure that they have the kind of resources and the wages and training that they need to get back to work and to and to get quality child care seats available in Boston. So all of our women are our primary caregivers for children can get back to work and we can have our children reading by the grade three."

On why he's focused on early childhood:

"It is critical that we start there as we try to improve Boston public schools. And then I've made the commitment to make sure that we have really better schools. We need to invest in our school buildings. Every Boston student should have access to a world class quality school in all of our neighborhoods that take us to a program from birth to career. I've announced a $4 billion plan to do that. There should be no reason why a parent shouldn't pick a neighborhood school. There should be no reason why your neighborhood school shouldn't be the top school in the city. That's my commitment. We also have a rich ecosystem of educational institutions in our city. So I've also announced a college, a citywide college system to make sure that we have a college to career pathway with internships and opportunities to make sure that our students are taking advantage of the emerging jobs in our marketplace. And then finally, because if we get it right in schools, that means that Boston would have coordinated the family support services that we need to make sure that all of our children are getting to school ready to learn. That means that we have economic security, food security, health care, and we have safety for all of our children and families."

On how a four-year mayoral term can handle huge systemic issues:

"I think the first and foremost is in investments. Right? So I will float $4 billion in Boston bonds. Part of it will be green bonds to make sure that we have a climate resilient school buildings. And then I will make sure we also have social justice bonds as part of the debt that we issue. We'll issue those at 2.5%. Why? Because we have AAA bond rating in our in our city. And as a city official, we did a great job to make sure Boston can issue some of the cheapest debt in the country. That'll cost us about $80 million a year so we can build within the next eight years or so a new school building in every neighborhood, making sure there's early education that's quality, making sure that every child is reading a chapter level book at grade three, making sure grade eight algebra is available, science, arts, making sure that our children have libraries, that they have innovation lab, science labs in their schools, art studios. We know what it takes to provide a quality school. And we also know that for many of our children we need a full-year school system, one with summer enrichment. One with longer school days and weekends to make sure that people have quality programing and enrichment that they need for their whole calendar year."

On the argument for a man during a time when woman are claiming space in politics:

"Women and women advancement and leadership doesn't mean that we can't hire or elect a Black man to be the mayor of the city of Boston. In fact, that would be revolutionary in a statement itself. So it's not only historic, but it is encouraging that we have a field of qualified candidates that would give us opportunities to send many different statements. But one of the things I heard from men of color early on in this campaign is, 'Wow, John, we are inspired by what the women are doing. We are inspired by the movement that is happening around the country and locally by some of our women. How should Black men step into this moment and do the same? How should we use them as inspiration?' And that's exactly what we're saying. Yes. Let's use that as inspiration to get more Black men, more brown men, more Black and brown boys involved in ways that can be more productive for all of us. The more of us that are involved in our democratic process, the more of us that are taking leadership, the more representative and the more we all win."

On the pandemic, and vaccination requirements:

"I am absolutely in favor of vaccination. There's no question about it. And I'm also in favor of keeping us safe. And so in some of our larger venues, and particularly I'm thinking about the performing arts spaces, the spaces where you have large crowds, we need to do more than just ask people to wear masks, although that's critical. We need to actually make sure that they've been vaccinated. We know that vaccination is the best way to protect yourself, but it's not foolproof. So let's get vaccinated and get masks and then when in places where we have to have more sustained presence by people like schools, let's make sure we keep our students and staff staff safe by making sure people get vaccinated, wear masks and get regularly tested. It is critical that we continue to test. We've dropped off on testing and we need to make sure that testing is part of how we keep people safe and sustain locations. ... I think before we start shutting down our economy because it's unsafe, let's make sure that we keep people safe, keep people in their jobs and continue to get people back to work."

On how economic development would be different with Barros as mayor than when he served as economic chief under former Mayor Marty Walsh:

"Investment in our schools. I believe in the human potential and so human development would be critical. Human development and talent development is the first part to economic development, which was your question. And so it starts with people first and then we need to make sure that we're providing opportunities for all people. ... We would make sure to be aggressive in affordable housing, to make sure that we can house all Boston residents. It's something that I did all my professional life as as executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative — to make sure that we can develop our neighborhoods without displacing our neighbors and then youth development to make sure that we were providing the opportunities for those in our neighborhoods to be able to be their best selves and reach their promise. Those are the types of things that John would do and a Barros administration would do differently and do more aggressively than a Walsh administration."

This segment aired on August 30, 2021.

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


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Amanda Beland Producer/Director
Amanda Beland is a producer and director for Radio Boston. She also reports for the WBUR newsroom.



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