BOSTON (AP) — Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and his challenger, City Councilor Tito Jackson, sparred on everything from housing to public safety to transportation in a televised debate two weeks before Election Day.
Jackson faulted Walsh for not doing enough to keep housing costs under control as rents soar. He said he’d support a change that would require developers to include even more affordable housing units in their projects.
“The city of Boston is building way more luxury housing than affordable housing under the Walsh administration,” Jackson said during the Tuesday night debate sponsored by WGBH News that brought the top two Democratic candidates together.
Walsh, who is seeking his second four-year term, pushed back, saying he’s helped to increase the affordable housing stock in Boston during the past three years.
“We don’t build luxury housing, private developers do,” Walsh said, adding that the city has also seen a bit of stabilization in housing costs in the past year or two, but he said more needs to be done.
The two candidates also went head to head on public safety and the role of the Boston Police Department.
Jackson said Walsh hasn’t done enough to ensure that the department reflects the city’s racial makeup. Jackson said the city needs to get more minority police officers on the force.
Walsh said the department has its most diverse command staff ever.
Fueling a good portion of the debate was the ongoing challenges posed by the city’s success in bringing in new companies like General Electric and the pressure that the growth has put on housing as well as transportation and infrastructure.
Walsh said it’s good that more people are being drawn to Boston. He said lots of cities in a similar position have grappled with the demands that such growth brings.
He urged the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — which runs the public transportation system in the metropolitan Boston area — to reinstitute late-night service. He called bicycles a transportation mode of the future and said the city is continuing to invest to make bicycles easier and safer to use in the city.
Walsh also said the city is also looking at the opportunities offered by self-driving cars.
Jackson said he, too, supports the expansion of bicycling in the city, but said that the city hasn’t done enough to ensure access to public transportation equally in all neighborhoods.
The two also had different takes on the city’s bid to lure Amazon to Boston.
Walsh said Boston didn’t include any financial incentives in its initial bid, but didn’t rule out adding economic sweeteners if the city makes the first cut.
Jackson said he’d oppose tax incentives to lure tech giant Amazon, which is seeking a location for a second headquarters.
He said Walsh has spent too much time trying to lure big companies and events — including the aborted attempts to bring the Summer Olympics and IndyCar racing to the city — when he should be focused on improving the city schools.
Walsh is seeking his second four-year term. Recent polls show him with a solid lead. Jackson has represented Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood since 2011.
Voters head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7.