Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tim Schofield Responds to the Crowdsourced A-B City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Candidate Tim Schofield responds to the crowdsourced questionnaire at the Brighton Centered Blog:
  1. What could the city do about noisy parties, illegal parking (both on front lawns and streets), and tenant occupancy code issues, either by enforcing existing ordinances, increasing or changing penalties, or passing new ones?

    Response: Many of these problems are caused by absentee and speculator landlords who do not live in our community and whose negligence and unlawful conduct is destroying our housing stock and undermining our quality of life and our ability to attract families into our community. We must increase enforcement of existing codes and ordinances and ensure that the fines levied against violators are actually paid (as it stands, the fines are often ignored and unpaid because the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) does not have the resources to take violators to court). I propose that we hire more ISD inspectors; adopt higher and escalating fines for each subsequent offense; and impose all fines as part of quarterly property tax bills. We must make it financially painful for landlords to operate in an unlawful manner. I believe that this will result in greater compliance with the law and will discourage absentee and speculator landlords from purchasing properties in our community.

  2. What will be your first three steps as the new A-B City Councilor to improve the infrastructure of Allston/Brighton?

    Response: As City Councilor, I will maintain open lines of communication with the residents of Allston-Brighton about the specific infrastructure needs in our community. My first step will be to conduct a community-wide survey to determine what infrastructure repairs and improvements (i.e., sidewalks, crosswalks, streets, streetlights) are needed where. The best way to learn about the needs of any given street is to ask the people who live there. The second step that I will take to address our infrastructure needs is to demand that local colleges live up to their commitments to make repairs and improvements to our infrastructure (i.e., Harvard’s promise to make repairs and improvements on North Harvard Street). Finally, I will meet with residents, civic leaders, principals and teachers, local police and fire departments, and others to determine our long-term infrastructure needs and to develop a list of priorities for capital investment. I will then push for these priorities to be included in the City of Boston’s Capital Plan (i.e., the plan for large infrastructure projects).

  3. What are the specific steps you will take in order to implement the needs of the community related to institutional expansion (Harvard, BC)?

    Response: One of my primary responsibilities as City Councilor will be to serve as a proactive facilitator and consensus-builder for our community. With respect to institutional expansion, I will convene a community-wide conference to coordinate a unified response to these developments. I know that the Community Planning Initiative and others have been engaging in such efforts and I appreciate and respect their work, but I believe that it is time for our City Councilor to step up and take a leadership role on this issue. I would also convene a series of meetings with any group who is concerned about specific development issues (i.e., the families on Lane Park who will be most directly affected by BC’s proposed baseball stadium) to ensure that their specific concerns are understood and represented. I am certain that we will be more effective if we work together and if we speak with one voice.

    In addition to taking a leadership role in developing a unified community response, I will hold an immediate meeting with representatives of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Boston College, and Harvard University. I will make it clear to them that I will represent and advocate for the interests of the community at every stage of the process and to demand that they promptly and specifically respond to community questions and concerns prior to filing any further plans.

    Furthermore, I will be a proactive voice and advocate for the community at every stage of the process and I will use the power and influence of my office to ensure that the interests of the community are represented and respected. I will take our concerns directly to the BRA, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and any other agency or department whose actions will have an impact on our community.

  4. Do you support the goal that BC build dormitories for their juniors on the main campus and therefore eliminate undergraduate student rentals on neighborhood streets? If so, what steps would you take to accomplish this?

    Response: I strongly support the creation of more dormitories on the main campus because I believe that it will help us to address several important challenges facing our community including the availability and affordability of housing for families. Under current circumstances, the price of housing is artificially inflated because landlords (frequently absentee or speculator landlords) are able to charge students excessive rents and to cram many students into an apartment. By housing students on campus (where most students would prefer to live), we will make units available and affordable for families. We will also reduce speculation and absentee ownership that is leading to the decline in the condition and usefulness of our housing stock. If we continue to allow every house to be converted into condos or turned into a rooming house, we will not have a sustainable residential community in the future.

    I would work to accomplish this important goal by offering Boston College my strong support and assistance in developing dormitories on its main campus. I will advocate for the necessary approvals with the BRA, the ZBA, and other agencies and departments.

  5. What measures do you propose for improving the appearance of Allston-Brighton, particularly related to trash, street-cleaning, and graffiti?

    Response: Keeping our streets and buildings clean is important to our quality of life. I propose that we institute twice-a-week garbage pick-up in Allston-Brighton, which will help to make our neighborhood cleaner and will help to reduce the rodent problem. I will work closely with Judge Donnelly at the Brighton District Court to ensure that the court-supervised community service program is utilized to help keep our neighborhood clean. I will work to increase the number of streets that receive street sweeping and ensure that we strictly enforce parking bans for street sweeping so that the work can be done properly. I will also work to expand the city’s “Graffiti Busters” program, which cleans graffiti from both public and private buildings. Finally, as described above, I will crackdown on absentee landlords who allow their properties to become blights in our community.

  6. While City Councilor, do you intend to work a second job, run a business, stand for another office, or leave for another job before your term expires?

    Response: I will be a full-time City Councilor. My law firm, which employees four other people (including three from Allston-Brighton) and which frequently provides pro bono legal services to people in our community, will continue to operate under the day-to-day management of my law partners. I am proud of the local business that we have built and I have learned much about the needs of our community by serving our friends and neighbors.

    If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will not leave the position for another job or stand for any other office before my term expires.

  7. What are your plans to improve the Allston-Brighton school system without overhauling the whole Boston school system?

    Response: Allston-Brighton has some excellent public schools (including, but not limited to, the Mary Lyon School, the Winship, and the Gardner), but we must do more to provide our children with the best educational opportunities possible. One way to do that is to develop more quality K-8 schools so that students can learn in a consistent environment from the early stages of childhood to the start of high school. Such schools enable us to consolidate our best practices in one setting and to create a collaborative environment for students, teachers, and administrators. I believe that the development of more K-8 schools in our neighborhood should be one of the community benefits provided by Harvard University as part of its proposed Master Plan. The development of more such schools in our community will encourage families to stay in our neighborhood and will attract new families to Allston-Brighton.

    As the product of public schools, I know how important good schools are to the success of our children and the stability of our community. I am proud to have earned the endorsement of the Boston Teachers Union because they are the ones who are working every day to teach our children and they know that improving our schools is one of my top priorities.

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