By Taylor Coester, Haley Paraday and Annie Mayne
BOSTON –Boston’s mayoral candidates had one of their final chances to distinguish their platforms Oct. 29, where they discussed everything from gentrification and affordable housing to Boston public schools and how the city should spend federal aid money.
Boston University Student Government and Boston Intercollegiate Government hosted a Mayoral Forum for local college students with the two Boston mayoral candidates, Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu. The candidates fielded pre-submitted questions regarding small businesses, climate change, Boston’s Waterfront resilience, health welfare, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, and the American Rescue Plan providing COVID-19 relief funds.
Essaibi George commented on her “community based” conservation approach, while Wu talked about her proposal for free public transit. Each candidate was also asked about her motivations for running for office.
Wu said her motivation stemmed from her previous frustrations with city government as a small business owner.
“What got me into government to begin with was really a feeling of frustration that, when I saw the need that my family had, and how the places that were designed and supposed to help actually have so many barriers stacked up right in those moments of need,” Wu said. “It just seemed so counterintuitive. Why would we do it this way?”
She said she believes that the city government level is where she can make change.
“I really believe that city government is where you can have the greatest impact, even though people talk about it as kind of the starter level or the small things. But when you get the small things right, that’s how you earn people’s trust to do the big things together,” she said.
She also mentioned her children as motivation to push for climate policy, and campaigned on a Green New Deal for Boston, a shorthand for aggressive action to combat the effects of climate change that takes its name from a similar plan put forward by U.S. Representative Alexandria, D-NY Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Senator Ed. Markey, D-MA.
Essaibi George said she knew she wanted to run for mayor ever since she attended a student rally about budgets as a teenager with the mayor at the time.
“I came home and said to my father, ‘someday I’m going to run for mayor,’ and he said ‘an Arab girl with an Arab name with nothing in this city,’” Essaibi George said. “That was his immigrant experience. It was his very real experience immigrating to this country and to this city, and I think about my 15-year-old self wanting to prove my dad wrong every single day.”
Unlike Essaibi George, Wu never thought she’d be in this field and is still nervous over some parts, such as public speaking. But she said she’s ready to overcome her nerves to implement progressive change in Boston.
“I’m running for mayor to take on the big challenges that our cities face, the generational challenges that really are on the shoulders of our generation and the generations to come afterwards,” she told WTBU News. “Because this is a moment for all of us to step up and we need to follow the lead of young people and to ensure students are helping drive that conversation.”
Wu took the race with about 20% of the vote over Essaibi George. She takes office on Nov. 16.