^ newly elected 7th Suffolk State Representative Chynah Tyler hosted a town hall last night at the Dudley Branch Library in Roxbury
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Last night, on the day that City Councillor Tito Jackson announced that he will challenge Mayor Marty Walsh, the 7th Suffolk District’s newly elected State Representative, Chynah Tyler, hosted her first Town hall meeting at the Dudley Branch Library. About 75 people showed up; many questions were asked of her, the majority of them real estate related.
The issues voiced — the ubiquity of real estate development, the lack of affordable housing — are not new to Roxbury. No part of the City — except maybe the Seaport District, which didn’t exist until a few years back — has seen a fiercer rise, these past few years, in house prices and rents; and only South Boston can match what has taken place in the neighborhoods that Tyler’s attendees live in.
Tyler had no good answers to the questions posed. How could she ? The bull market gripping Roxbury cannot be turned back, and why should it be ? Long-time homeowners in the region, who’ve never had much (thanks in part to persistent racism), have every right to cash out, if they choose to, the lottery ticket prices they find themselves now holding. That this situation pits homeowners against younger residents who would like to become owners doesn’t make Tyler’s conversation any simpler. I think, however, that she won a thank you from her questioners simply for daring to confront the real estate issue.
People complained, as they have all along, that development takes place without “the community” knowing about it. This isn’t actually true; all development projects must, in order to secure BPDA approval, go through the agony of a “community public comment hearing,’ at which opponents always show up; but it’s fair to say that many residents don’t know when said hearings occur and feel helpless as project after project gets built all around them. Many people voiced that complaint to Tyler at the Town Hall.
Other issues were raised. One woman pleaded that there would be “more funding” for schools. Tyler made it clear that the State’s budget is in deficit already, thus “more funding” isn’t likely. Tyler alluded, also, to the process by which the legislature of which she is a freshman member arrives at budgets — without saying that by “the process” is meant “the Speaker decides.” There isn’t much that Tyler could have said that her listeners would have accepted.
One got the impression that the people at her Town hall feel that their destiny — and Tyler’s — is entirely in other people’s hands. Where real estate matters are involved, the impression is correct.
Tito Jackson, in his announcement, made it clear that he would be the voice of those “being left behind,” in other words, those whose destiny lies entirely in other people’s hands. What he can do about it, he didn’t really say. In the past he has been willing to kill development — and the jobs and spending that they bring to his neighborhood — rather than see people “being left behind.’ But all that his willingness has accomplished is to assure that everyone in the area gets left behind, not only some of the people.
What I did not hear at Tyler’s Town hall, nor from Jackson’s candidacy announcement, was any hint that Roxbury’s real estate boom represents a tremendous opportunity, a boom for locals to take advantage of. There are many routes to advantage the real estate boom : new businesses to serve wealthy new residents; new service industries, including electricians, plumbers, landscapers and architects; new technology start-ups, restaurants, boutiques to offer the newcomers must-have stuff. Some neighborhoods of Roxbury now enjoy million-dollar house prices and up; how can the buyers thereof not be a huge bonus for locals to exploit with entrepreneurship ?
Such questions were not asked at Tyler’s Town ha;ll, nor were they addressed by Tito Jackson. This to me is a general failure of imagination, confidence, and ambition, in a city whose Mayor is doing everything he can to encourage every resident to pursue and embrace all three attributes.
—- Mike Freedberg / Roxbury Here