On Friday, Oct. 29, from 7 to 8 p.m., Boston mayoral candidates Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu graced the Boston Student Mayoral Forum at the Howard Thurman Centre for Common Ground.
The event was hosted by the Boston University Student Government in partnership with the Boston Intercollegiate Government, which comprises fifteen colleges from the greater Boston area and represents more than 130,000 students.
The event was organized with an agenda to inspire youth to lead, engage in politics and community services and encourage them to vote. The Forum was moderated by Hessann Farooqi, Executive Vice President of Boston University Student Government, and Gabriela Ramirez, Deputy Director of City Affairs.
This event revolved around the questions posed by the college students that pertained to topics like climate change, affordable housing, rebuilding small-scale businesses, improving the quality of public high schools, gentrification and more. Each question was acknowledged and answered by both the candidates, who were geared towards addressing these issues.
Both George and Wu, who were actively campaigning on similar agendas like increasing funding for affordable housing, proposed different strategic plans to achieve them.
Upon being asked, Wu stated that she would be utilizing $200 million in federal funds to provide affordable housing and work towards stabilizing the market, both at the owners’ and renters’ end. Meanwhile, George plans to support families to buy their first home by creating an affordable rental market. Like Wu, she promised to allocate $200 million for this agenda.
Cognizant of the fact that the pandemic has been quite an upheaval to Boston’s economy, both the candidates were prepared to rebuild it. George aims at investing in the small entrepreneurs and dedicating $100 million in funds for the Black community to reconstruct and develop their small-scale businesses. Wu advocates for transforming private entities like the Boston Planning and Development Agency which has been instrumental in making rent stabilization harder.
Drawing on the instances from her personal life of struggling with a small-scale tea shop, Wu pushed hard to support those small businesses facing financial adversities. In addition to dispersing funds to this agenda, Wu emphasized making people aware of the resources available and providing them with enough knowledge to use them.
On the other hand, George’s strategy involves partnering with organizations to help people get access to facilities and support. Furthermore, she seeks to respond to the prevailing Mass and Cass situation, where not only does she plan to mitigate homelessness, but also to provide coordinated services to help people recover.
“I’ve brought to the council the work of ending family homelessness. In the Boston Public Schools today, we have just less than 50,000 students and we have about 5,000 students, which is 10 percent of the student population, experiencing homelessness,” said Essaibi George while answering a question on gentrification.
She also urged young, registered voters to come out and vote, and asked the college students to reach out to her to tell her she can do better as a mayor by engaging with the college community. “Your voices, your experiences are really important,” added George.
When asked to give a final piece of advice to college students, Wu said, “Don’t lead when you’re ready or when someone thinks you are. Lead now.”
Students who showed up to the Forum on Hallo-Weekend speak a lot about the success of the event.
Intercollegiate affairs staffer in the department of City Affairs, Alex Theon, played a key role in pulling off the event.
“I think that these types of events are extremely important in engaging youth, because it allows students who may not be politically active to hear about what candidates have to say on issues that matter to them in a concise and accessible manner,” said Alex.
After months of campaigning and canvassing, Michelle Wu has won the historic Boston Mayor’s race. As an Asian-American female, Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected mayor. Wu won in a landslide with 64 percent of the vote over her opponent Annissa Essaibi George. Boston residents are anticipating some progressive change in the political landscape of the city under the leadership of Michelle Wu.