DAVID HALBERT
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Issues and Priorities

Hybrid School Committee of elected and appointed members that better serves teachers, parents and our children.  

Bringing Government to the People by hosting city council meetings in times and places that are convenient for you, instead of City Hall on weekday afternoons.

Innovative PILOT Benefits that provide more resources for neighborhoods, and encourage institutions to support small, minority, and women-owned Boston businesses.

Civilian Review Board that provides increased accountability and fosters an open connection between all public safety agencies and city residents.

Pathways to success: Partnering city agencies with BPS high schools to create career opportunities for our students, and a more diverse municipal workforce for Boston.

Bold Ideas for Boston

October 31, 2019

Dear Friend,

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 info@davidhalbert.com.

Many Thanks, 

David


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October 11,  2019

Dear Friend,  

A few months ago while knocking on doors in Fields Corner I had a conversation with a long time resident who lamented that, as she put it, “young people from our communities [people of color] can’t get jobs with the city.” Her complaint echoed a sentiment that I have heard for years, that city jobs – particularly in certain agencies – do not reflect the diversity of Boston. This is why I am proposing a municipal workforce co-op training program for Boston’s high schools. Boston’s municipal workforce does its best work when it is as reflective of our city’s population as possible.

I believe that Boston should institute a new program modeled on Northeastern University’s and scaled for high school students. This program would partner city departments directly with high schools and allow students to gain a skills development based understanding of these departments, their work, and what they would need to do in order to be successful as potential future employees. This would be an opt-in program for students and would operate parallel to their traditional academic coursework. 

The ultimate goal of this program would be to generate a robust, diverse, and direct pipeline of talent that is ready to begin work on day one. In addition to creating the next generation of early career municipal workers, this proposal plants the seeds for more diversity in department management and leadership – which is critical to sustaining the institutional change and gains achieved by this plan. The skills developed through this program will also allow students to be competitive applicants for similar positions with government agencies outside of Boston, further expanding their options for career making jobs.

Once this program is successfully implemented it can be further adapted to incorporate private sector and non-profit employers. This will provide multiple pathways for students to develop as professionals, and increase the impact and value of their high school experience – improving Boston’s future by investing in Boston’s youth. 

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using “@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com.

Many Thanks,

David

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October 7, 2019

Dear Friend, 

During this campaign a particular area of focus has been around what needs to be done to improve the educational environment and outcomes at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, which many feel is not currently reaching its full potential in serving students and the city. This is why we should reorient Madison Park and make it a national leader in environmentally-focused vocational education. 

As the only vocational school in Boston Public Schools Madison Park is unique. It provides students with practical, real-world training and skills, in addition to traditional academics, which helps lower their barriers to entry into the workforce. Yet, many feel that Madison Park is not doing enough to prepare students and that the school is somehow “lesser than.” Instead we should be celebrating the windows of opportunity that vocational education has the ability to provide, particularly since we know that college may not be the right career development pathway for every student – and that it should not need to be in order to build a successful life in today’s Boston. We need to value vocational education as the practical tool for meeting Boston’s challenges that it is. 

As a city that will be significantly impacted by the effects of climate change we must ensure that our new buildings are constructed in the most climate-resilient, carbon neutral ways possible. We will need skilled tradespeople who can repair and retrofit our existing building stock with an eye towards future needs as the climate continues to change. For non-building trades vocational students we must incorporate environmentalism and environmentally conscious skills and techniques into how they are being taught. This training must be supplemented outside of the shops by an academic curriculum that actively speaks to the importance of responsible environmental stewardship – and the critical role that skilled tradespeople must play in making it a reality. As the next generation of cosmetologists, auto technicians, chefs and more, developing and implementing climate responsible professional training is sound educational, economic, and social policy. 

We have the talent, capability, and opportunity to once again be a “shining city on a hill” and lead the way in this space – if we are willing to rethink and implement a new model of vocational education. Boston’s combination of a strong labor sector and advanced research & educational institutions make us the perfect community to take this bold step. If so, we can make sure that our graduates have 21st century skills to meet 21st century challenges, and take part in a 21st century economy.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using “@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com
Many Thanks,
David

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August 1, 2019 

Dear Friend,  

As I speak to voters across Boston the response I get the most about the campaign we have built is excitement about the quantity & quality of the ideas being promoted. This is exciting for me because I know that I will have partners throughout the city to help take these ambitious goals from proposals to plans to policies that make Boston better. 

Starting today we will be sending out weekly messages to dig a little deeper. I hope you will find these useful and informative as you talk with your friends and neighbors about why you have joined #TeamHalbert.  

As you know, I believe the more we can do to connect City Hall directly to Bostonians, empowering them with information and understanding, the better the quality of government they will receive. This is why one of my first policy proposals was around bringing the weekly City Council meetings out of City Hall and into neighborhoods. 

As a former City Council staffer I remember sitting in a nearly empty Council Chamber during meetings week after week. Starting by bringing Council meetings to each of the 9 districts, and ultimately expanding to a meeting in each of the city’s 22 wards, we can increase the public’s interest and engagement with the work of the Council – work that serves them. 

Holding meetings on Wednesday afternoons at City Hall creates a real structural barrier to participation and engagement. It is good that the Council broadcasts meetings on local access and online but, as anyone in as sports-obsessed a city as ours can tell you, it’s always better to see things live and in-person. 

The Council can do this, in fact it already does on limited occasions with certain committee hearings, so the infrastructure is there. Bringing Council meetings to neighborhoods, in the evening, when more people can see what is going on in real-time, adds a valuable degree of access and depth to what can often feel like obscure proceedings.
 
Some have pushed back on this by saying the value is limited because Council meetings lack a public comment period. My answer to that is that the Council decides how its meetings will be conducted and could create an opportunity for public feedback if it so chooses.  

But, even if things stay the same, the ability to speak with a Councilor immediately after a meeting and ask, face-to-face, why they supported a measure, spoke on an issue, or stayed quiet on another, rather than having those questions filtered through staff or communications channels after the fact, has value. This kind of direct engagement works to combat apathy and cynicism, 2 of the most powerful forces undermining civic engagement and feelings of agency. 

If you have thoughts about this idea, questions about it, or perhaps want to make a suggestion to improve it, reach out to us at info@davidhalbert.com. I look forward to hearing from you. If you like it, make sure to share it on social media and tag the campaign account “@VoteHalbert” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. See you next week! 

- David 

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August 16, 2019

Dear Friend,  
I have spoken with people across every neighborhood in Boston over the last 10 months. No matter where I am in the city one issue inevitably comes up – the pressures people are facing relative to housing. This may be the most commonly felt public policy and quality of life issue of the moment. 

As the real estate market in the city continues to push average Bostonians to the breaking point we must take a wide ranging view of policies and actions, and leave nothing off the table for consideration. This must be balanced with an understanding that some solutions may be viewed in different corners as too radical – or in fact counter to the goals of creating greater housing access and affordability. Therefore all stakeholders, like Right to the City as well as realtors & developers, must be at the table. 

Since the beginning of this campaign I have said housing, like certain other issues, requires simultaneous conversations at multiple levels. At the municipal level this means working on items that can be more effectively directed from City Hall.

These include:  
·        Raising Boston’s Inclusionary Development Policy rate, which dictates what percentage of units in larger housing projects must be dedicated as affordable, from 13% to 20%, inline with most major cities;
·        Making changes to the zoning and variance process in order to make it more efficient to create housing that is denser and provides more options and vacancies;
·        Working with the Boston Planning and Development Agency to provide more comprehensive information to residents about both the direct impact of projects in their neighborhood, and also what the cumulative effect on quality of life issues is when these projects are connected to others in the immediate past. 

These ideas and policies must be linked to robust regional conversation around the housing crisis. There is no municipality, Boston included, that can build, zone, or otherwise find a sustainable solution to the housing crisis on its own. It is only by working with other cities & towns in the area that we can begin to develop real strategies to solve this. I support work currently being done by leaders like the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, but we can do more. Boston should be leading this regional discussion as the community which bears the most burden in terms of housing demand. 

As one example it was a statewide initiative that rolled back rent control as a viable policy tool. Boston should lead the charge via our State House delegation, in partnership with the Mayor and City Council, to create consensus among cities and towns, rescind this law, and give communities the ability to consider it as one component of a larger strategy to fight housing affordability & displacement issues. Work to pass the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act at the State House would provide yet another such tool. 

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using “@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com.  Thank you. 

- David

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August 22, 2019  

Dear Friend,  
Traffic and transportation have always been a part of Boston’s civic conversation. Whether wondering why the MBTA hasn’t shown up yet; waiting each fall for the first “Storrowing” of the new school year; or letting someone know you probably can’t get there from here . . . at least not quickly. How we move – or don’t – is how we live.  

Recently the Vision Zero Coalition asked candidates for their views on transportation issues in the city. You can read my responses to their questions here.  

We know that changes must occur in our transportation modes and priorities in order for us to remain a fully functional city. This makes it even more important to elevate public transportation and alternative means of commuting, such as cycling, as viable, fully resourced options for residents. As part of these conversations we must ensure that equity and access for all communities, especially historically underserved ones, are guiding principles in these efforts.  

At the same time we must collaborate on a regional level as well to develop comprehensive, sustainable transportation solutions. Therefore it is critical that we work with neighboring cities & towns, and through Boston’s State House delegation, to find regional transit solutions. Boston must lead these discussions and efforts as the hub of both the MBTA and private transportation throughout New England.  

The best transportation option is making travel by vehicle unnecessary whenever we can. By creating more compact, walkable neighborhood centers we can reduce the overall pressure on transportation infrastructure. Roslindale Village is a good example of this, with vibrant and diverse commercial, social, and civic amenities easily accessible for many without a car. Every neighborhood should have access to this same variety and concentration of services, reflective of the culture, character, and needs of residents.  

The gains achieved by doing this are not limited to transit. These spaces help increase the viability of small business success by aggregating a larger customer base; they are safer due to the amount of foot traffic and smaller overall footprint; and, most importantly, they help foster closer connections and interactions between members of the community. When working to address transportation issues it can be just as important to think about bringing goods and services to residents as it is moving residents to where those things are.  

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using “@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com.   Thank you.  

- David

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August 29, 2019

Dear Friend,
There is no greater duty for anyone elected to represent and serve the public than to ensure that our communities are safe. While we tend to think almost exclusively about the Boston Police Department (BPD) when considering public safety, the truth is this responsibility is shared professionally by others – specifically the Boston Fire Department (BFD) and Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Because we give these groups literal power over life and death the only way they can carry out their duties effectively is if the public has trust and confidence in them. Therefore oversight of our public safety agencies is critical. 

Currently the city operates the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel (CO-OP), tasked with reviewing select appeals for BPD internal investigations cases. The current state of the CO-OP, which has two active members of a possible five, is simply inadequate to fully meet its oversight mandate. The CO-OP said as much in making recommendations to the Mayor in 2015. Because of this many residents, especially those in black and brown communities that have had historically strained relationships with public safety agencies, lack confidence in the process and its transparency. As residents of Boston this is unacceptable.

I believe that most of these recommendations, particularly those around providing staff and increased operational funding for the CO-OP, should be implemented. I disagree with the recommendations around investigations and think that a more empowered CO-OP should have fully independent investigative powers – not just in select cases.I would also expand the mandate of the CO-OP to include BFD and EMS as well,and add members with understanding of those fields. In this way Boston can demonstrate a true commitment to greater transparency and confidence in all public safety interactions.  

These recommendations are not meant as an attack on Boston’s public safety personnel, who take on dangerous duties every day to protect our city and those in it. Instead, they are meant to provide another tool to create a stronger connection between these departments and all of our communities. In doing so we commit to increasing the most important component of public safety – trust – which is critical to making sure that everyone is as safe as possible, whether they wear a badge or not. I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using “@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com.  Thank you. - David

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August 22, 2019  

Dear Friend,
Earlier this week I was able to connect with Bostonians across the city during National Night Out. These were wonderful celebrations of community, police, and city government working together to uplift our neighborhoods. Yet, I heard similar concerns everywhere while talking with residents. Questions about safety in our neighborhoods. Worries that, once the festivities concluded all they would be left with were nice memories and streets that have seen a shocking uptick in violence this summer. No one should live with that concern.

This is not an academic exercise for me. So far this year there have been multiple shootings, including a murder, blocks from the end of my street in either direction. Sadly the intersection of Senator Bolling Circle and Harvard Street is not unique in this distinction; a distinction in Boston that is too often more applicable to black and brown communities than anywhere else.

Throughout this campaign I have heard two main narratives around violence prevention from residents who experience the impact of violence and trauma, especially related to guns, on a regular basis in their neighborhoods.The first is that they know there are good programs that are showing results, but not receiving the support they need to operate, scale up, and maximize their efforts and impacts to keep our communities safe. The second is that they want to see innovation in addressing these issues because many of the old approaches have not worked.

Some would say these perspectives are mutually exclusive; I disagree. I believe that these positions are in fact complementary to one another. People want solutions AND support. I hear and respect this. I also know that no single individual or organization has “the” answer to the problem of community violence.

Communities are understandably skeptical of those who claim they do, and are tired of constantly being overpromised and underdelivered. My commitment as your next City Councilor At-large is to be an active, engaged, & humble partner for those addressing issues of violence in our city; led and informed in that work by the experiences & voices of those most impacted to ensure that we develop and support strategies that work both in theory and in practice. My drive to create safer streets must be balanced with the recognition that I have ideas, but not all of the answers.

Part of increasing public safety in Boston is addressing the circumstances at work in the lives of people and communities in a holistic way. This means investing in areas such as more robust programming for job creation, small business development, and educational opportunity – policies that I will be elaborating on in the coming weeks – as well as more traditional public safety interventions. Special emphasis must be placed on how this impacts those in the reentry process and our youth, particularly black and brown boys, often the most at-risk in our communities.

It also means having regularly occurring, critical program review for all recipients of public funds targeted to this work. Most importantly, it means making that information as easily understandable and accessible as possible. Transparency, accountability, and direct communication with the public are as critical to violence prevention as any program model or practitioner. I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us at info@davidhalbert.com.

Thank you.

- David

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September 4, 2019

Dear Friend,
As Labor Day fades into memory attention turns to the start of the school year. From our youngest students, those fortunate enough to secure a coveted K0 seat in Boston Public Schools (BPS), to those arriving and returning to our local higher ed institutions, education defines Boston like no other city in America. Yet, we know that many BPS students and families, particularly immigrants and students of color, feel like they are not receiving everything they should from the system. Addressing this begins with BPS leadership. This is why I am calling for a change to a new, hybrid School Committee with both appointed and elected members.

Boston’s school committee is completely appointed by the Mayor, unique in Massachusetts. Further,those appointments come from a list created by yet another committee, where the Mayor has more members than anyone – and the City Council has none.

This structure was created in 1991 to remedy a dysfunctional, fully elected school committee that, in the words of many I have spoken with across the city, “made decisions based on politics & ambition,and not the best interests of students.” While this change addressed the immediate problem facing BPS at the time, now, nearly 30 years later, the direct voices of our neighborhoods and communities in the education of our children are absent.

I believe the way forward is a hybrid model that combines elected & appointed seats. My proposal:
 2 Mayoral appointments (one being the student member, who would remain selected by students)
 2 City Council appointments: 1 by the Council President and the other being the Education Chair(or their designee)
 3 Elected: with new School Committee districts combining City Council districts 1-3, 4-6, & 7-9.

This model preserves accountability for the Mayor, adds accountability for the City Council, and, most importantly, provides Bostonians with a direct voice at the table in decisions about the education of our children. Further, by no group having a majority, it creates an incentive to work together in a mature, responsible way and find common ground. While I propose this idea as a candidate, more importantly I believe in its ability to help our students as a BPS parent myself.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using“@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com.
Thank you.
- David

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September 12, 2019

Dear Friend,
Over the course of this campaign there has been a significant amount of discussion about how to reform the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) process between the city and its major non-profits, with a particular focus on Boston’s colleges and universities. These calls for reform stem from the fact that Bostonians have felt PILOT has not lived up to its promise of creating better, more engaged &responsible civic partners out of these institutions. We can make PILOT work better, but only if we take a new and more creative approach in how we think about and execute it.

At its core PILOT asks for two things. The first is direct cash compensation to the city. This is based on valuations equivalent to about 12.5% of what they would have paid in real estate taxes in fiscal year 2009. This is an area where we consistently see underpayment of the already significantly discounted rate. Everyday taxpayer’s rates are calculated on values today, what we ask of these institutions should be as well. We should be asking for more and receiving it.

The second is “community benefits” that institutions provide. Organizations have been given wide latitude in how to define and value these, with some being of broader utility to the city than others. This is where we have the greatest ability to make change. Which is why I have proposed a plan for targeted local procurement as a new component of the community benefits portion of PILOT.

This proposal provides an incentive to institutions with PILOT agreements to purchase their goods and services directly from small businesses in Boston. Specifically the incentive would credit every dollar spent at a recognized small business, plus an added percentage bonus, towards the requested PILOT community benefits contribution. If these organizations patronize businesses owned and operated by historically under-invested groups (women, people of color, veterans, persons with disabilities, LGBTQIA+, etc.) that percentage would be increased accordingly.

This plan works because it changes the tone of the PILOT conversation from its current orientation, where the city and institutions face off as combatants, to one where they are working together to direct resources into neighborhoods and uplift local small businesses – which are vital for community health and development. It also works because the scale of the needs of these institutions is typically larger than any one small business has capacity for, which helps ensure that more of them have opportunity. This is the kind of approach to creative policy making and collaborative problem solving I want to bring to the City Council.

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this important issue. Reach out to us on social media using“@VoteHalbert” and at info@davidhalbert.com.
Thank you.

- David

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