Deutsches Altenheim hosted five mayoral candidates on Friday for Stand up for Seniors, a coffee and conversation candidates event, co-sponsored with AgeWell West Roxbury and West Roxbury Business and Professional Association. Six more mayoral candidates will be at Deutsches Altenheim on Monday at 2 p.m. to discuss more senior issues.
In attendance was David James Wyatt, Rob Consalvo, Bill Walczak, Dan Conley, and Felix Arroyo (who was late). Mike Ross cancelled due to personal reasons.
Lord Mayor Richie Gormley of West Roxbury greeted the audience and the candidates and reminded them to not forget about West Roxbury one of them becomes mayor.
The format consisted of random questions being asked of the candidates.
The following is excerpts of the candidates responses:
David James Wyatt, 59, said he born in Roxbury, his mother was a teacher and principal in Hyde Park. Said Wyatt, "I’m a republican. I’m 100% pro-life and the only such person running for office this year (with that stance)."
He said he wants someone dedicated at Boston City Hall to deal with scams affecting senior citizens.
District 5 City Councilor Rob Consalvo said he is the only candidate who has state, city and federal level experience. Consalvo spoke of an city ordinance he authored for property tax relief for seniors called the Senior Property Tax Workoff Program. It reduces property taxes for homebound seniors, said Consalvo.
Consalvo said he would continue to support senior citizens by funding Boston's Elderly Commission. He added public safety is his number one priority.
Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley introduced himself to the crowd as "your neighbor" due to living in West Roxbury.
"This is how we can be better - for once and all, close the achievement gap for low-income residents and that can be done," said Conley, who said he would like to lift the charter cap limit on the amount of charter schools in Boston. He said he'd like every student to have an opportunity to have a preschool seat, lengthen the school day and create vocational schools.
Bill Walczak spoke of starting the Codman Square Health Center, and started two schools that promote health careers for young people. Walczak, a founder of the Boston Medical Center, emphasized 18% of all jobs in Boston are in the healthcare industry.
Walczak, currently a vice president for Shawmut Design Company, he said he helped start many organizations, which is why this is the first time he's running for political office. He added, "I bring a lot deal of skill level. How important is it that Boston runs well? It’s a $2.6 billion budget with 17,000 employees... I have strong stands on issues, I want to reform the education system, prepare Boston for the next horrible hurricane. I want to stop this casino from coming into East Boston. I’m the only candidate who’s said that."
Felix Arroyo said he's a community organizer born to a family who lived in subsidized housing in the South End, and eventually bought a home in Hyde Park.
Arroyo spoke of being a union organizer for janitors, a group that few see or realize the importance of. He said he helped them raise their hourly salaries from $8 to $16 an hour, which is still not enough to raise a family in Boston.
Question for arroyo – biz closes, empty business, permit process
is daunting, as mayor what can you do to speed up process?
When Arroyo was asked about how he'd help small businesses, he spoke of touring Boston Main Street districts, and he learned that improving the permitting process and access to credit lines, were the two most pressing needs for businesses.
Candidates were asked about supporting and creating senior centers in Boston.
Consalvo said he'd support longterm planning to help seniors make sure they get the resources they need, "If we want senior centers in the city and want it to be a priority - it needs to be in the budget, get funding through the capitol budget, which allows us to build senior projects in the city." Consalvo said building senior centers in every neighborhood may not be feasible, but partnering with organizations to provide services to senior is also part of a long term plan.
Candidates were asked about how to keep essential services such as police, fire and education in tact, or growing, during down economic times.
"What I see with my eyes in the housing development I live in, is a lot of people, a lot of young men are unemployued and that’s not a good thing for the city," said David James Wyatt. "In the last 10 years the country has borrowed a lot of money, and we haven’t used inflation to grow out of the debt and it has to be paid off eventually. What it means is that residents and businesses will have to pay more taxes..."
When asked about how to prevent scams preying on seniors, Arroyo said it starts with educating resident about scams, possibly using voice-recorded phone messages.