Arts and Culture in the 2017 Mayoral Race: Comments from City Councilor Tito Jackson

With more than 40 mayoral and city council races happening across the Commonwealth this November, MASSCreative's Create the Vote 2017 Initiative is working with arts leaders to make sure that candidates and voters are talking about arts, culture and creativity in their local campaigns.

Kate Huffman, a member of MASSCreatives's Leadership Council, attended a forum with Boston Mayoral Candidate Tito Jackson on Tuesday June 19th.  Here is her report on what Jackson said about arts and culture:

City Councilor and Mayoral Candidate Tito Jackson sat down for a community conversation in Jamaica Plain on Tuesday night. The event was hosted by JP Progressives as part of the group’s endorsement process for the 2017 Mayoral race. Mayor Marty Walsh will make a similar appearance at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain at 7:30 pm on Thursday night.

Councilor Jackson spoke with pride about his upbringing in the Boston Public School system and as the son of engaged, activist parents in the Grove Hall neighborhood. He outlined his background and experience in government, including his current role as the District 7 City Councilor, representing all of Roxbury and parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway neighborhoods. Councilor Jackson also serves on numerous committees including as the Chairman of the Boston City Council’s Committee on Education and as Vice Chairman of the Committee on Government Operations.

Councilor Jackson addressed issues of continued inequality in the City of Boston, highlighting the disparities between different neighborhoods and along racial and economic divides. The unsustainability of building high-cost condos rather than affordable homes for families and the lack of available space for low-income individuals led to Councilor Jackson’s first mention of the arts. He addressed the lack of affordable places for artists to live and work and said that this is an issue that must be addressed to make Boston the best place to live for working artists. 

Championing public education has and continues to be an important topic for Councilor Jackson. If elected Mayor, Councilor Jackson said it is a priority of his to fully fund the Boston Public School system. It is vital, Jackson feels, for there to be art and music classes at every public school in the city. As Councilor Jackson said, “a budget is a values statement, what you fund shows what you believe in.” In pledging to fund public education as well as potential solutions to the lack of affordable housing and space for artists, Councilor Jackson hopes to send a message of investment in the futures and wellbeing of the people of Boston, particularly those who are currently underserved or being left behind.

In his closing remarks, Councilor Jackson talked about his desire to bring some fun back into government, including his campaign promise of a block/dance party if elected. Though there was no time for Councilor Jackson to answer an arts advocate’s question about what his cultural plan for Boston might look like if he were elected, his indication that the arts and culture are important and attractive parts of the city suggest they are at least on his radar. The Councilor mentioned needing to involve environmentalists in the planning process of city space and buildings. If he were to take this same approach with the arts in mind, perhaps Jackson’s goal of creating “the best city for working artists” could be achieved.

Artists, musicians, and arts advocates must continue to show up to events where political candidates and politicians are, to ensure their voices are heard and needs are met. The campaign trail is a particularly good place to ask questions and hold candidates accountable -- join JP Progressives for their community conversation with Mayor Walsh on Thursday, July 21st at 7:30 pm at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain for your opportunity to ask the Mayor what he intends to improve upon in his current cultural plan for the city. 

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