Final conversation before historic Boston election: Annissa Essaibi George

BOSTON — Tuesday, November 2, 2021, will mark a historic election in Boston. Residents of the city will elect the first woman and person of color as mayor. Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh has been bringing us in-depth one-on-one interviews with candidates throughout the campaign.

This week she spoke with the last two women standing for one final conversation before election day.

We begin with her conversation with Boston city councilor Annissa Essaibi George.

Kavanaugh: If you take over on November the 16t, you’re a mayor of Boston, what’s the first thing you do?

Essaibi George: Absolutely, ‘Mass and Cass’ day one, I’m committed to it. Also, day one, starting a process of building a cabinet. We’ll also kick off a community process to start the effort around finding our next police commissioner. We’ve got a couple of things happening pretty rapidly with our schools, we’ll have a number of school committee positions.

The list goes on for candidate, Annissa Essaibi George. And Kavanaugh asked her how $558 million in federal pandemic relief money headed to Boston could help tackle that list.

Kavanaugh: How are you going to allocate that money keeping equity at the forefront?

Essaibi George: We need to make sure that our communities that have been most devastated by COVID and the pandemic are receiving the resources and the support they need to recover, to truly recover from this pandemic. So, for me, when I think about ARPA, in a general sense, I think about the opioid crisis. I also think about the opportunity for economic development. When we think about our small businesses, we think about our small businesses owned by people of color, the disproportionate impact that this crisis has had on them.

On the opioid epidemic, underscored by the public health crisis in the area known as ‘methadone mile’ at the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, Essaibi George says she’s committed $31 million to solutions and to helping people find the treatment they need.

Essaibi George: There are individuals who are in crisis today, who are in crisis yesterday, who will be in crisis tomorrow that need immediate response.

But she’s not sure about the Suffolk County Sheriff’s push to open some 100 beds inside an empty building on the jail’s campus.

Essaibi George: I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask individuals who are sick or not well, who are looking for recovery, to enter an incarceration facility, a jail corrections facility. You know, I’m open to the innovation that is being discussed around South Bay. As long as it’s very clear that this is a public health facility, that this is a wellness facility, that this is a place where people can find recovery. We can look at that and talk about that. I think we’ve got to separate it though, from a corrections facility.

Kavanaugh: Do you oppose rent control 100% across the board or are there any situations in which this is a way to stabilize rents?

Essaibi George: I oppose rent control 100%. The impact that will have on our seniors on our older residents who own a three-family owner to family have tenants have renters in their home can be devastating. And rent control also caps rents at a very high rate.

Essaibi George says she’d rather direct federal money into creating more opportunities for homeownership.

Kavanaugh: There’s obviously a difficult time hiring so many sectors, how would you recruit people to drive buses and be school bus monitors? Is it better pay?

Essaibi George: It certainly has to include better pay. And, we think about investing in our workforce, our city’s workforce has to be a priority. Simply put, a job posting on a city website, whether it’s a school district or City Hall’s website, and expect people to just show up and apply for those jobs is, again, we’re missing the mark and reaching our city’s people.

Kavanaugh: NOAA says that the sea levels around Boston rise 16 inches by 2050. How are you going to keep Boston above water?

Essaibi George: The work that we have to do to protect our city’s harbor has to be done in partnership with other coastal cities. I’m a Dorchester girl, we were flooded on a regular basis, this is real. We also have to think about the other places where we need to act as it relates to environmental justice in our city. You know that I was a coach in East Boston. And, you know, we practice on Constitution Beach in the middle of the summer and look at the ass-end of airplanes all day long. And then we’d ask ourselves, why do these spots and have such poor rates of air quality? Why do they have such high rates of asthma? And it’s such a silly question because we’re looking at airplanes all day long.

Kavanaugh: What is the most unfair or inaccurate thing that you think has been said about you during this campaign?

Essaibi George: Oh, I don’t even know where to start. But, you know, to be characterized as having no bold vision, and no, no sort of larger plan when it relates to Boston. The people of Boston deserve a mayor that is focused on Boston.

Kavanaugh: So people are voting right now. Early voting has begun. As they cast their ballots, what is one thing you want voters to think about when it comes to you and your candidacy?

Essaibi George: When I think about the Boston voter, when I think about our city’s residents, I hope they see in me, someone who wants to lead this city who wants to do this work. Running this city isn’t fancy work. Running the city takes someone like me who is committed to the city and committed to the work of rolling up my sleeves and getting this job done for the people of Boston.

To see a more personal and less policy-driven conversation, check out Kavanaugh’s Coffee With Candidates series with Annissa Essaibi George.

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