This is a series asking the six state representative candidates, running for the 10th Suffolk District seat, about issues like education, helping seniors citizens and how to help local businesses. The primary election is on Sept. 14. There are no other candidates besides the six in the Democratic primary.
Question: A look around West Roxbury has shown some new businesses popping up, but also a handful of empty storefronts in the downtown area. If elected State Representative, what are a couple of steps you would take to help ensure that local residents patronize the businesses within their communities?
Pamela Julian: There are a number of key differences that separate West Roxbury's downtown area from a more thriving commercial area, from insufficient parking to storefront rentals that are simply unaffordable. As a former retail business owner, these are all problems that I am very familiar with. My proposed 10th Suffolk District Board would work to implement solutions in all of these areas, reaching out to developers and green industry to consider long and short-term solutions to improving infrastructure. Businesses don't last because expensive leases make it impossible to make a profit. The Board would work with landlords and business owners to negotiate solutions that will work for everyone. Additionally, we need to make Centre Street safer for pedestrians, and increase access to public parking. Foot traffic drives local business, and any option that improves pedestrian safety and accessibility will help to revitalize the area.
Finally, a little creativity goes a long way. When I worked in advertising, one of the successful programs that I worked on was the "Concord Rules" program, which helped revitalize that downtown area, and I would work closely with the 10th Suffolk District Board to develop creative programming for West Roxbury. From art walks to having one night a week when businesses stay open late and restaurants offer family discounts. It is also important to survey residents and find out what they would like to see in downtown West Roxbury.
Ed Coppinger: As a lifelong resident of West Roxbury and a board member of West Roxbury Main Streets, I want to see our downtown community bustling with activity. Our local businesses need our support more than ever during these tough financial times. While the opening of new businesses is encouraging, we - as a community - need to take proactive measures to ensure that these businesses thrive and remain long-term members of our neighborhood.
As a cofounder of ParkwayBoston.com, I have helped connect residents to their local businesses by creating a website that serves as a clearinghouse of information for all things West Roxbury. Through this site, residents learn about the opening of new businesses, special events in the community and local restaurant options. We even partnered with a local food critic and post her reviews on the site. At ParkwayBoston.com, we post press releases from local businesses that are hosting events as a way to give them free advertising and market their businesses to residents. Residents and businesses both appreciate the effectiveness and reach of the website and as State Representative, I will continue to facilitate this type of promotional activity. At the same time, I think that we should explore the feasibility of holding open markets on Centre Street during the warmer months and consider a street stroll during the winter holiday season. As State Representative, I will advocate for and help our business community navigate any processes required to bring these ideas into fruition.
Kelly Tynan: As a community, we must continue to support West Roxbury Main Streets' revitalization efforts. I have been a strong advocate of this program since its inception, as a volunteer and as the executive director. I have pledged to hold bi-monthly roundtables with business owners so that we can work together to promote the revitalization of all our business districts, including Centre and Spring Street, Washington and Grove Street and the VFW Parkway. I will also work as their advocate on business issues on Beacon Hill.
In addition to shopping locally, the greatest way we can help promote our business districts is to refer our family and friends to our local merchants whether by word of mouth or social media. We have many gems in our community, and I am so proud to have helped bring so many great restaurants and retailers to the community. I will continue working with business owners, residents and property owners to ensure we have a great mix of businesses in the community.
Bob Joyce: Residents want a strong business presence in West Roxbury. Just as many Americans are willingly paying somewhat higher prices to purchase "green" products, many residents would be willing to pay a reasonably higher price to support a local store. Not everyone would buy at Walmart just because the price is a little lower.
With residents so economically stressed, however, it is more difficult for them to pay even a reasonably higher price to a local merchant. The remedy to this situation is twofold. First, we must help residents to earn more – and to keep more of what they earn. Second, we must help a community consensus to dominate.
I am the only candidate calling for specific changes to stimulate job growth – lowering taxes, reigning in our out-of-control spending, and stopping our spiraling debt. Unlike any other candidate, I am calling for protection of taxpayer resources by rolling back the recent sales tax and alcohol tax increases. That will leave funds in residents' pockets – where it belongs. Certainly some of these funds can and will be spent in local shops.
Commitment, sacrifice and concession are required for any community to prosper. Our residents have the commitment and are willing to make reasonable sacrifices to support local businesses. Now is the time for Beacon Hill to make concessions and allow us to keep more of our hard-earned dollars.
Matt Benedetti: As the economy has changed more businesses have been started in people's homes or online. They don't always need a storefront, going forward we need to adapt to the changing landscape. But for small businesses in West Roxbury - it's so expensive to start a business.
A central piece of the Governor's proposal is a tax credit for small businesses that will help create thousands of new jobs this year. Small businesses that create and retain new full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs this year will be awarded a $2,500 tax credit for each net new job they create.
The credit, capped at $50 million, will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to small businesses defined as those with 50 or fewer employees. To qualify, companies must create a new FTE position and retain that position for at least one year.
Paul Sullivan: To start with small businesses, look at where Blockbuster used to be, it is still looking for tenants. We need to promote small businesses in our community. I am for giving tax incentives to small businesses starting off and proving that they are bringing in jobs every year, a certain amount of jobs you get a tax incentive. As far as people going from our district to stores within our district, I think it's a great idea to have things like West Roxbury Main Streets have coupon books and things of that nature. Everyone is tightening their belts these days. Different restaurants could have discounted nights or those sorts of things.