The two candidates vying for the District 1 City Council seat stopped by the Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) community meeting in the district Monday night to introduce themselves to voters.
First up was candidate Tania Del Rio who recently served as the city’s director of the Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement.
“My name is Tania Del Rio, I’m a BPS mom, I’m Latina immigrant originally from Mexico City, and I’m a leader with proven results in this community and in city government,” said Del Rio. “I’m running for city council, because I want to be our district’s strong voice for keeping this community together by fighting for attainable and affordable housing. I also want to be fighting for quality schools and environmental justice. We, as you all know, are dealing with an urgent crisis with many of our neighbors facing displacement and our neighbors are being pushed out as our workforce housing keeps turning into luxury condos.”
Del Rio said another major issue is that families are also leaving the neighborhood and city because they feel BPS is not delivering for their children.
“All of us have to find a way to stop all of this,” she said.
Del Rio said she grew up in Mexico City and spent her childhood traveling between Mexico and different US cities as her father’s job took the family to different cities. After attending school in New York Del Rio eventually came from Massachusetts for graduate school.
“My husband and I chose Boston, specifically East Boston, as our home in 2016,” she said. “We were facing this really uncertain future. I had actually just resigned from the job at the Consulate of Mexico here in Boston, due to a new rule that was requiring me to exchange my green card for a temporary visa. At the time my husband couldn’t work as he was in the middle of a three year wait for his immigration paperwork, and was a student at Quincy College. So we were raising a one year old and we needed support and I’m very lucky to say that Boston provided that for us. We found a really supportive group of neighbors that helped both my husband and I find work”.
Del Rio said the city government always had her back and she thinks it’s time that it has everyone’s back in the same way.
“We’re in a historic moment in our city where voters have been choosing change in recent years because I think we recognize the challenges that are in front of us require that we come together in a new way,” said Del Rio. “I think that if we come together we can face these challenges head on. If I’m elected as your city councilor, I’m going to push the city to invest in housing and homeownership programs like the one that helped me. I want to see a housing information station and every high eviction area that provides people information about the right in their language. I also want us to fight for quality schools in each part of the district. I want to fight for universal Pre-K and push for increased investment in our school facilities. Lastly, I will push for an overhaul of our development process. I think the way we handle it is not transparent. It’s forcing us to have a disjointed parcel by parcel one off conversations and it’s disconnected from the people. So I want to advocate for a development process that’s transparent and that brings neighbors in from the beginning and actually takes our voices into account”
Del Rio said she would also be a fighter on environmental justice issues in the District.
Gabriela Coletta, who was Senator and District 1 Councilor Lydia Edwards Chief of Staff before leaving for a job with the New England Aquarium, was next up and outlined her reasons for running for the seat.
“I decided to run for this seat because I know our best days are ahead of us and I want to protect, maintain and promote the vibrancy of these communities,” said Coletta. “This district does face unique challenges and we need somebody who’s going to be ready on day one andI believe I am that person. I think that’s the defining difference in this race. Right now we’re dealing with a compounding displacement crisis, both due to gentrification and development. We are also looking at, in the very near future, flooding that is going to impact over 11,000 people. It’s going to be a priority of mine that the city is armed with millions of dollars of federal government resources for coastline infrastructure to fortify our coastline to meet the sea and become resilient to protect our communities.”
Coletta, who worked to increase affordable housing in the district while working for Edwards said Boston is dealing with the housing affordability crisis.
“I think that we can unlock every tool in our toolbox with zoning and various policies the way that we haven’t tried with a former administration who was not friendly to us. We now have a mayor who sees the vision and wants planning to dictate development. We have so many opportunities to retry a lot of the things that we had started including this homeroom petition that I helped craft for the Zoning Board of Appeals. This petition helpinged to reform the Zoning Board of Appeals to be more responsive to residents and ensure that development isn’t happening on a parcel by parcel basis,”
Coletta said if elected she would be an “extremely responsive and accessible city councilor”. “It’s really important that the next city councilor is also focused on the smaller nuts and bolts issues like trash, sidewalks and streets because auloit of life issues do add up and make a big impact on the lives of residents. I’m announcing here today that we’re launching our “Walk and Roll” neighborhood sidewalk and street tour in Harbor View. It’s taking place on Sunday, February 20 at 10am. This is just an opportunity to review our streets, our sidewalks, trash, streetlights, and development projects to assess what’s going on in our neighborhood. This is just an example of my commitment to constantly be present in this neighborhood and provide these opportunities for feedback and ideas from residents. So it would be an honor to represent you in the Boston City Council.”