Boston is wonderful city with so much to offer: close-knit neighborhoods, top hospitals and schools, a vibrant arts community, and the roots of America’s democracy. But we also have serious and daunting challenges.
Housing prices are growing but availability is shrinking. Young couples can’t afford to start their families here and middle class families can’t afford to stay. Our real estate taxes have skyrocketed, too. They covered 51% of the city’s budget in 2001, but will pay for 70% by 2017.
Street violence, which is largely confined to lower income neighborhoods, hurts us all. Each shooting is heartbreaking, not just for the victims and their families and communities, but for all of us. And would-be smaller crimes like breaking and entering or mugging tear at the peace of life we all desire. That’s why we must act to rein in the twin scourges of poverty and addition, not with prisons, but with programs to help the afflicted rebuild their lives and return to being part of our communities.
Boston has many fine schools and many of our students thrive in them. But when a school system adds to the stress of a new school year with confusing letters about school assignment or a two-hour wait to locate a child on a school bus, we must make real improvements to the system.
For decades our children have spent as many as 10 precious hours each week on a school bus and taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a failed transportation system. This has gone on for decades and now is the time to tackle the issue for the sake of our children and their future.
Finally, Boston has attained the dubious distinction of going from fourth to third in the country in inequality. We now have the third highest rate of income inequality in the United States’ 50 largest cities.
I believe that the City Council members can lead in facilitating incremental and major changes that will make Boston a safer, healthier and more vibrant city for everyone. Here is a sample of issues I commit to work on as your city councilor. I welcome your input on these and other issues.
Annissa has taught in a Boston Public School teacher for the past 13 years and has four children in the Boston Public Schools. While teaching at East Boston High School, she has seen first hand how lack of access to quality resources hurts kids now and can be crippling to their ability to achieve educationally and professionally in the future.
She will bring unique insights into what’s happening now in BPS, as well as ideas for improving educational, extracurricular and professional development opportunities.
As a City Councilor Annissa will work to:
- Boston spends $125 Million on school transportation. We can increase the efficiency of half-full school buses, which currently do multiple round-trip routes twice each day for early- mid- and late-school starts. Students in different schools can use the same bus at the same time. We’ll use some the money we save to staff buses with monitors to ensure children get off at the correct schools and enhance their safety while they’re on the bus. And, we can help some children get more sleep, which is critical to healthy development and learning.
- Boston Public Schools spend between $4-5 million transporting homeless children to schools in Boston. With that money we can create micro-transitional housing, saving the children time and stress so they can concentrate on schooling and building a future. And their parents will be more able to participate in work-related training and find jobs that may enable them to transition out of homelessness.
- Many families that no longer live in here also send their children to popular Boston schools, such as exam schools, costing the system hundreds of thousands of dollars and taking places from children who do live in Boston. Annissa will propose a residency audit to ensure that BPS resources stay in Boston. Our METCO program is also being used by families that no longer live here and this program too should be audited and corrected so that Boston families benefit from it.
- Because Annissa has intimate knowledge of BPS she knows where to wring efficiencies from the system. She will increase support to all Boston Public Schools to improve academics, fund more social services, and provide high quality resources for students, families, and teachers. Examples include:
- Use school buildings for adult education classes in the evening. This will leverage our investment in buildings and help create community and connection to our schools. Educating kids in the day and adults in the evening will also create a more educated, employable workforce. This can be done in partnership with our many colleges and hospitals.
- Too many of our college bound kids either never make it to higher education or don’t make it through the first years. We can create a program in which each college bound HS graduate is connected with school personnel who will stay in touch for 12 months after graduation. It can be anything from a word of encouragement on email or a sounding board to overcome a challenge.
- Financial literacy education for all high school students, many of whom are already getting credit card offers in the mail. We can begin to create a city in which all residents can protect themselves from fraud and make good appropriate investments.
- CPR certification as a requirement for high school graduation. This skill will become a transformational asset to families and communities.
- Swimming lessons for all BPS students. No students should ever die because they don’t know how to swim and all kids should know the joy of swimming.
- Create mentoring and tutoring, and workforce development opportunities for our students by establishing robust, long-term partnerships that connect each high school with unions, local businesses, and local universities and colleges.
- Work with businesses and large non-profits for funding to ensure that each child in our schools have gym 2-3 times a week. Physical education is critical for all school-age children and enhances their ability to learn in other classes.
- Increase opportunities for extracurricular activities, including improving the quality of athletics at schools. While coaching the girls’ softball team at East Boston High Annissa ran into the problem of not enough uniforms for all the girls who wanted to be on the teams. We should not be limiting our children’s’ opportunities because of funding but rather finding the means to do all we can to help them become rounded, healthy young adults.
As someone who has had her home broken into multiple times, Annissa knows the importance of keeping repeat offenders off the streets of Boston, as well as how even non-violent crimes impact our quality of life. Annissa is committed to doing all she can to keep the people of Boston informed about critical safety issues and keeping all parts of the City safe for our children, schools, and businesses. When safety is a priority we have a more livable community.
As a City Councilor Annissa will work to:
- Work with the Boston Police Department to provide active support on the most critical issues: gun violence, domestic assault, and substance abuse.
- Create a database for tracking and recovering stolen personal property.
- Work with community organizations to support their efforts in reducing crime and drug abuse. More specifically she will work to protect those at most risk of assault and abuse.
- Sadly, all schools should all have active shooter plans and practice their plan twice a year. All classrooms must have lock inside their doors. Classrooms that now have locks on the outside of the classroom door must be retrofitted with inside locking doors.
- Create a partnership between BPD and BPS to establish a program of self-defense education in schools so our children and teens are more able to keep themselves safe, even as they enter work and college.
- Build raised crosswalks at busy intersections near schools, playground and senior centers to ensure crossing safety where crossing guards are unavailable.
- Each district should have monthly neighborhoods meetings with community police to discuss safety issues and create working relationships.
- Each BPD Division should circulate neighborhood crime reports so that neighbors have a better sense about keeping themselves and their households safe.
As a small business owner, Annissa knows first hand that quality of life, job opportunity, and local economic development increase when small and large companies are strengthened and supported, and employees earn a living wage.
- Strengthen Boston Main Streets and boost the potential of small businesses with a program in which small businesses that invest in Main Streets get priority access to prime commercial locations.
- Ask large-scale developers in Seaport and other districts to offer a limited amount of affordable small-business commercial units.
- Encourage zoning that allows commercial space on first floor of appropriate residential buildings to encourage small business development.
- Ask large non-profits to pay a fair share into the city’s budget. Our educational, cultural and healthcare institutions enrich Boston in many ways. But since FY’12, large non-profits, including colleges and universities, hospitals and arts institutions, have given the city some $30 Million less than it has asked for in Payments-in-Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) even as their assets and endowments have grown. Real estate tax paying residents and businesses have shouldered more and more of the city’s budget. This is an unsustainable trend and it is incumbent on city councilors to protect taxpayers by urging institutions to carry a fair share of financial responsibility for the city.
- As a City Councilor, I will propose a moratorium on taking taxable properties off our tax rolls until a fair system can be worked out and agreed to. And I will propose a moratorium on corporate tax breaks pending a full report of the real benefit to the city of this break.
- Driving and parking have become so difficult that more and more people are going to other cities and towns for evenings out. I will request and accounting of how many cars are registered in Boston, how resident stickers each household has and how many parking spaces exist. Parking is a rare commodity in many parts of the city and we must approach it with the information to make it work fairly for residents and businesses and as an economic asset for the city.
- Boston residents pay excise tax on their cars and trucks, yet many hospitals and colleges have fleets of buses and other vehicles on our roads, which adds to road upkeep costs. The city needs to know how many vehicles of each type so we can factor those costs in to PILOT requests.
Annissa will work to strengthen public policies that improve the health of Boston residents, focusing on housing, improving community outreach and health education.
- We must do more to tackle opioid addiction and the downfall it brings to individuals, families and communities. Our methadone clinics too often become part of the supply chain for others to buy drugs right on the street as people leave the clinics. Instead, doctors could give prescriptions for people to fill in neighborhood pharmacies, especially people who don’t live in Boston. This would stop the clinic streets from being a center for drug economy. Annissa would tap into the expertise of others to design solutions for this issue.
- We must break the cycle of imprisonment that is so intricately woven with addiction by opting for treatment instead of prison in nonviolent crimes. This will mean increasing the amount of treatment beds available and possibly mean moving money from elsewhere in the budget. This is a morale and economic imperative that will benefit Boston as a whole as well as individuals.
- Boston’s many fine hospitals have too many doctors prescribing opioid drugs inappropriately, which can lead to addiction. Again, experts can design systems to detect doctors who prescribe for teenagers or in great quantities. We must keep our young people and communities safe while ensuring that people who need pain medication can get them without undue stress.
- Too many college students are forced to live in unsafe apartments, sometimes ending in tragedy. We must enforce not only the four-adult rule in apartments but keep to a regular schedule of inspection funded by colleges who have students in our apartments as part of their four-year program.
Boston is in the midst of a housing crisis. As a City Councilor At-Large, Annissa will work to stem the tide of luxury apartments and condominiums and work to encourage developers to do more than set-aside a small percent of condos for low-income residents. She will also work to get colleges and universities to house their students on their own campuses, which would free up thousands of units. She would create a program to build micro-units as transitional housing for families with children in the Boston Public Schools. The city spends $5M just to transport homeless students and this money could be seed funding for that housing.
Arts and Culture
As owner of Stitch House Dorchester, Annissa appreciates the value of creative expression as a vital part of Boston’s economy. She will work to increase the availability arts programming and the creative economy for youth and adults across Boston.
- Strengthen arts requirements in BPS so that all graduates have access to a great art education.
- Establish meaningful partnerships with colleges and universities to share and teach a variety of arts in schools.
- Too often Boston residents who support our fine arts and cultural institutions with tax dollars can’t afford to actually go to concerts or plays. Institutions should offer performances for school children and make free tickets available to encourage broad participation in this rewarding resource.
- Establish low-cost housing programs for artists in residence who in return will be involved in bringing their arts to the schools so our children can be exposed to a braid variety of visual and performance arts.
- Make venues available for arts performance including city -owned properties.
Experience and Affiliations
- Owner, Stitch House Dorchester
- Teacher, East Boston High School, Boston Public Schools
- Director, Governing Board, Dorchester House Multi-Service Center
- Chair, Little Miss & Young Miss Dorchester Contests
- Member, Dorchester Day Parade Committee
- Member: Dorchester Board of Trade
- Task Force Member, Columbia Point Master Plan
- Executive Director, Fields Corner Main Street, Boston Main Streets Program
- Career Specialist, Boston Private Industry Council, East Boston High School
- Custom Product Manager, Laura Ashley, Boston Corporate Office
- Board Member, McCormack Civic Association
- President, Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association
- President, Friends of Ryan Playground