Thursday, July 19, 2007

Interview with Council Candidate Mark Ciommo

As part of the series of short interviews with candidates for the open Allston-Brighton District seat on the City Council, I recently caught up with Mark Ciommo, director of the Veronica Smith Senior Center in Brighton Center.

Ciommo notes long-standing ties to the neighborhood, with four generations of his family having lived in Allston-Brighton. Among his reasons for wanting to be a City Councilor is his interest in setting a good example for his sons by supporting a neighborhood where "they will choose to stay and raise their families."

He cites some long-standing neighborhood institutions as strong influences on him personally. At the YMCA, he "met male role models to help him [have] a good childhood despite not having a dad." He is a product of the Boston Public Schools K-12, followed by Suffolk University, yet met his wife Laura while living in California. Her family is from rural California, but there was "no way the City boy was going to live in the San Joaqin Valley." He wanted to raise his family back in the A-B, the neighborhood of his childhood.

Some of his experiences that he highlights to support his candidacy are his involvement with the Hobart Park Neighborhood Association, Gardner School's Site Council, and a community policing task force. He also notes that, in his work with the elderly, "they know that they will get their concerns taken care of" by him, since his "door is [always] open to them."

In his previous run in 2002 for the same District City Council seat, Ciommo made the run-off but then lost to Jerry McDermott by 424 votes. From that campaign, he got the "opportunity to meet so many people throughout the neighborhood," as well as "hear the wide range of issues and concerns. [It] gave me a deeper appreciation of the Allston-Brighton community."

The most important issue facing Allston-Brighton is "absolutely the Harvard and Boston College expansions coming at us at the same time. It has the most impact over the future of Allston-Brighton." He reiterated his position, given earlier, that he opposes BC's proposal to build undergraduate dormitories in the former Seminary land. "If you say yes to one, you are only opening the door to more."

Institutional expansion is not the only issue he cites, though: basic City services are important, such as "safe streets, good schools, [and] property tax relief."

He hopes the future of A-B will be "as a place that attracts families more than it seems to now," as well as being a good place to retire in. "I work with the elderly, and I know that the people who remain in the neighborhood like to stay [because their] churches, family, salons, etc., are all here."

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