I am running for a seat on the Boston City Council because I truly believe in the power of government and public policy not just to sustain people, but to uplift them.
Newcomer David Halbert of Mattapan hasn’t run for office before, but he’s no stranger to politics, having worked for two Boston city councilors and former governor Deval Patrick. He’s staked out perhaps the most nuanced and thoughtful platform of any of the first-time candidates. He wants to establish a co-op program for high school students to develop job skills at city agencies, and to reconstitute the council’s post audit and oversight committee to step up scrutiny of city services.
Like many council candidates this year, Halbert says housing affordability is the city’s biggest challenge, and that he supports denser development. He also says that asking Boston to solve the housing crisis on its own is unfair, and that he wants to be part of the regional conversation to break down barriers to housing throughout Greater Boston.
I have spent a lifetime putting my values into action serving others, working to improve my community, and heeding the call of civic duty. I have consistently sought out opportunities to help others, whether successfully changing state policy to increase student representation on the Board of Higher Education as a college student; serving constituents as a staff member for elected officials like Boston City Councilors John Tobin, Sam Yoon, and Governor Deval Patrick; or working to help community organizations like East Boston Main Streets and the Young Professionals Network of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts meet and exceed their goals.
Now, I’m hoping to put my experiences, education, and work ethic to use in service of my fellow Bostonians as an at-large member of the Boston City Council.
I am running for a seat on the Boston City Council because I truly believe in the power of government and public policy not just to sustain people, but to uplift them. I believe this because I have lived this story. As the son of a newly single mother with three kids and questions about how she would make ends meet I remember how support from government programs helped keep food on the table and gave our family the breathing room we needed to find our way.
Government provided a new career for my mom, one that brought us to Massachusetts. It gave my sisters and I educational opportunities from elementary school through college; and provided 2 of the 3 of us with careers in public service - just like our parents. It was a government program that provided a pathway to home ownership for my wife and me - a home that became the key asset allowing us to grow as a family and find a way to stay in Boston.
At point after point my life has been shaped by government. But I know that government does not happen in a vacuum; it is the manifestation of the intention of those crafting it. If it wasn’t for someone taking the time to work with our family when I was a child, there was no food assistance for us. If it wasn’t for the intention and effort of people managing programs as we were growing up there would not have been good schools and safe streets in our neighborhood. If not for people long ago believing that government had a role in providing higher education opportunities for everyday people, I would not have a college degree and a fulfilling career in public service.
I have a lifetime of experiences impacted by government, by those in government service whom I will never know but whose work has had a deep and profound impact on my life. Whether working to support our schools so that they can be and do their best; focusing on ways to ensure that all streets are safe, regardless of neighborhood; creating pathways to economic prosperity for all Bostonians; or breaking down barriers to bring government closer to citizens; I will work everyday as a member of the Boston City Council to show my gratitude through service defined by character, creativity, and courage. At every point in my adult life I have chosen Boston. Now, with your help, I ask Boston to choose me.
October 31, 2019
One of the biggest surprises of the campaign came early on for me. I knew the late Bruce Bolling was the last Black man to serve as an At-large City Councilor, in 1993; but I did not know that he assumed the seat after the passing of another Councilor. The real shock was discovering that Councilor Bolling was also the last Black man directly elected as an At-large City Councilor – in 1981.
In the 38 years since, nearly the entirety of my life, the Boston City Council has grown and changed. I can definitively say that today’s Council is a more impactful & dynamic body than it was when I was a Council staff member just over a decade ago. A large part of this is because the Council is more diverse than it has ever been, particularly in terms of gender representation. Yet, there are still glaring absences. Because, while overall diversity has increased, there are NO men of color on the Council.
This speaks to a lack of representation, and representation matters. When I say representation I mean something specific. When people are placed into positions simply to "check a box," that is not representation, it is tokenism. Representation begins by asking, “do you have the skills, training, and experience to do this job well?” then, “can you provide a voice and perspective for a group that is absent or under-represented?” As a Black man in Boston and a successful career public servant I can categorically say yes to both.
This is important is because when we have more representation it reduces the blind spots that naturally exist when creating policies and making decisions. The diversity of our backgrounds and experiences provides greater context and nuance to the choices we make. This allows government to serve citizens in a more equitable way, which should always be a priority. But there is another reason this matters.
When an At-large Councilor shows up in any corner of Boston they arrive as one of the direct voices of that community, regardless of where they live, where they are from, or what they look like. In a city that is still largely segregated, and bears the scars and stigma of its racial history, it is critically important that At-large Councilors use their position to build bridges between neighborhoods by being honest about their differences but speaking to their shared struggles and strength as parts of Boston.
Whether creating approaches to public safety, tackling the housing crisis, better educating our children, or making a host of other critical decisions, the City Council does its best work when everyone is included. For those in our most vulnerable communities, whose daily struggles are so immediate and real, having a voice that understands that the challenges some face are not faced by all is crucial to ensuring that government uses its immense power, but limited capacity, as effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using “@VoteHalbert” and at firstname.lastname@example.org.