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Walsh, Jackson focus on mobilizing supporters

Issues take a back seat to candidates’ ground game

Yawu Miller | 9/20/2017, 10:28 a.m.
Mayor Martin Walsh and District 7 Tito Jackson face off for the first time next Tuesday during the mayoral preliminary ...
District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson and Mayor Martin Walsh prepare to cut the ribbon on the newly-renovated Freedom Housebuilding in Grove Hall. Behind are state Rep. Chynah Tyler, at-large Councilor Anissa Essaibi George and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. Banner photo

At 11 a.m. last Saturday, Mayor Martin Walsh and District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson crossed paths at the ribbon-cutting for the newly renovated Freedom House.

Walsh thanked Jackson for his advocacy on behalf of the reconstruction of the Grove Hall youth services agency. The two danced along with a New Orleans-style second line band to the front of the building, where the mayor performed the ceremonial cut of the ribbon.

Walsh campaign volunteers Gail Forbes-Harris, Cherose Singleton and Tymecha
Furrow door knock on Circuit Street in Roxbury.

Banner photo

Walsh campaign volunteers Gail Forbes-Harris, Cherose Singleton and Tymecha Furrow door knock on Circuit Street in Roxbury.

The cordial atmosphere at the event belied the fierce election campaigns Jackson and Walsh are both waging. A Walsh campaign full-court press in the heart of Jackson’s city council district underscores what many see as the mayor’s push to beat Jackson on his home turf.

An hour earlier, near the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Warren Street, several dozen volunteers with the Walsh campaign gathered to pick up clipboards. Donning red T-shirts that read “Labor for Marty Walsh,” groups of volunteers fanned out across Roxbury’s Ward 12, knocking on doors to identify supporters the campaign can count on to vote on Sept. 26.

Meanwhile, at Jackson’s Dudley Square headquarters, volunteers streamed in Saturday morning, collecting signs to distribute and clipboards holding the names and addresses of voters before heading out to Brighton, West Roxbury and South Boston as the District 7 city councilor pushes to shore up support citywide in the 10-day stretch leading up to the preliminary election.

The centrality of Boston’s black community in the 2017 mayoral race has been evident from the day nomination papers were available back on May 3. Walsh and Jackson both showed up in Dudley Station, each working to collect signatures at Roxbury’s commercial and transportation hub.

For all the fierce door-to-door campaigning, there has been little in the way of debate on the key issues dividing Walsh and Jackson: housing, education and criminal justice. There have been no debates in the mayoral race to date and the other two candidates in the race, Robert Cappucci and Joseph Wiley, have been largely silent on the issues.

But in recent years, Walsh and Jackson have staked out clear positions.

Housing

In Dudley Square this May, Walsh told the Banner the number one concern he heard from voters was the lack of affordable housing in Boston’s surging real estate market.

The mayor kicked off his first term in office with a plan to add 53,000 units of housing by the year 2030 — the 400th anniversary of the founding of Boston. That effort came as planners projected the city’s population to grow from the current 673,000 to more than 800,000. By August of this year, more than half of the 53,000 units were either permitted for construction, under construction or built. But while 1,740 units of affordable housing have been built or preserved during the more than three years Walsh has been mayor, pressure on middle- and low-income renters remains painfully high, with 21 percent of the city renters spending more than half their income on housing.

Early in his term, Walsh said the production of new units would relieve pressure on the city’s rental market by creating more supply. His administration scored a partial victory on that front, with rents in residential units built before 2010 dropping by 4 percent citywide last year after years of steady increases. The average rent for all apartments in Boston — $2,770, according to the internet-based listing service RENTCafé — has remained largely unchanged .