- Justin Dynia
BU Student Government Hosts Mayoral Forum Days Before the Nov. 2 Election
Boston University Student Government and the Boston Intercollegiate Government hosted a mayoral forum with candidates Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George (CAS ‘96) on Friday at the Howard Thurman Center. The two outlined their plans to deal with the hot-button issues of the election, including housing and small businesses.
Each candidate spoke for thirty minutes and were asked a range of questions by the two moderators, Hessann Farooqi (CAS '22),Vice President of BU Student Government, and.
Gabriela Ramirez (CAS '23), Deputy Director of City Affairs.
Photo Courtesy: Boston Globe
Essaibi George spent much of her time explaining the flaws of the Boston Public Development Agency (BPDA) in slowing down the process of adding new homes and excluding community input.
“We need to embrace the voices of residents in the development process,” Essaibi George said.
Essabi George, herself a small business owner, also mentioned the importance of helping small businesses own their property to weather difficult financial periods.
On the issue of Mass. and Cass, Essaibi George supported creating a bridge back to Long Island as the most effective means to addressing the homelessness and opioid crisis plaguing the city.
Photo Courtesy: Justin Dynia/BU Today
She spoke directly and cut straight to the chase on all questions, listing a host of facts and figures that reversed her attitude as a policy wonk.
“I exist in reality. That’s how I govern,” Essaibi George said.
Wu defended her positions on rent control and her to stance to immediately abolish the BPDA. Wu, also a former small business owner, also proclaimed small businesses to be the backbone of the city’s economy, hoping to use federal funds to assist a range of diverse businesses.
“I know what a difference it makes for neighborhoods to have thriving small businesses,” Wu said.
Wu vowed to create “public transit where everyone can access it” by subsidizing free fare to ride the T rather than spend $930 million for a planned update to the fare collection system.
Photo Courtesy: Justin Dynia/BU Today
Wu spoke in a cerebral manner and consistently incorporated the bigger picture into her answer, as she imagines all public policies are tangentially linked and require a cohesive vision to link them.
“We need to be planning for 5, 10, 25, and 50 years in the future,” Wu said.
Perhaps the biggest difference of the night came when the moderators asked the candidates about their preference of coffee or tea.
“I’m a Dunkin’ girl,” Essaibi George said. “Large iced coffee with cream, no sugar.”
“I’m a tea drinker,” Wu said. “Green tea is probably my favorite.”
The questions lightened the atmosphere and allowed laughter to fill the space of the analytical and serious responses that preceded. The distinct ideological divide on caffeine and politics between the two should give voters a straightforward choice when they head to the ballot.
Michelle Wu has served as a city councilor at-large since 2013, winning election at the age of 28. The Harvard graduate was elected as City Council President in 2016, becoming the first woman of color to do so. She made paid leave and healthcare equity a key focus of her tenure, overseeing the unanimous passage of significant legislation signed by former Mayor Marty Walsh.
Wu describes her progressive platform as “a call to action” to offer multifaceted policy solutions that will ultimately make Boston a more just, efficient, and sustainable city. Wu has drafted a City Level Green New Deal which takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to addressing climate change and would make Boston the first city in the nation to adopt such a plan. She has committed to having net zero carbon emissions by 2024, running on 100% renewable energy by 2030, and being carbon neutral by 2040.
On the subject of housing, Wu intends to prioritize the federal funds from the American Rescue Plan for housing, allocating $200 million towards preventing displacement, community land trusts, and green, affordable housing. Wu also intends to put an end to urban renewal, which provides a loophole around community oversight and has been a major obstacle to a sustainable city-wide housing vision.
Annissa Essaibi George is a first generation Bostonian and lifelong Dorchester native. She is the daughter of Tunisian immigrants and received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Boston University, followed by a Master’s Degree in Education from University of Massachusetts Boston. Before being elected to City Council in 2015, Essaibi George was a teacher of Economics and Business Management along with Health and Human Services at East Boston High School. On the City Council, Essaibi George ensured that mental health clinicians were a part of each BPD precinct and has committed to also fighting the homelessness and opioid crisis. Essaibi George also has a background in small business as the owner of Stitch House, a yarn and fabric store in Dorchester that also offers various classes in knitting and sewing.
Essaibi George hopes to establish the first ever City of Boston Department of Economic Justice and Workers’ Rights to close the wage gap and ensure all workers get fair wages and benefits. To address the homelessness crisis, Essaibi George will be taking a largely preventative approach through social work services and education, along with incentivizing affordable housing projects so that homeless persons can find a place to live.
Wu handily placed first in the September 14 preliminary election, taking 33.4% of the vote, as Essaibi George finished in second place with 22.5% of the vote. Many anticipated a one-horse race, and the endorsements flooding in for Wu- particularly from Acting Mayor Kim Janey and the Boston Globe Editorial Board- cemented that position.
Boston is the nation’s largest “college-town,” so the candidates’ pit stop at Boston University demonstrates their desire to earn the large student vote in the city. A record 66% of college students voted in the 2020 election, but that energy does not always translate to the local stage. Wu and Essaibi George both hope to tap into this key demographic before they face off for a showdown at the polls on Nov. 2.