Montez Haywood, a longtime assistant district attorney at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, as well as a West End resident, has joined the race to fill the District 8 City Council seat recently vacated by Kenzie Bok.
Haywood, age 43, was born in Flint, Mich., and raised in Antioch, Tenn. He relocated to Massachusetts in 2001 to attend Southern New England School of Law (now University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth). Upon earning his law degree in 2004, Haywood worked as an attorney with the Law Office of Deborah G. Kohn, a small civil firm in Fall River.
In 2006, Haywood joined the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office as an assistant district attorney prosecuting domestic violence cases. He was promoted to his current role with the office as chief of asset forfeiture/parole and commutation in May of last year.
Haywood was a faculty member at Harvard Law School, leading a trial advocacy workshop, from September of 2016 until the pandemic struck in March of 2020.
He also served as president of the West End Civic Association in 2020-2021 before rotating off the board. Today, he serves on the board of directors of the Esplanade Association.
In the fall of 2019, Haywood made his initial bid for District 8 City Councilor, but the seat ultimately went to Bok, who stepped down at the end of April to serve as administrator of the Boston Housing Authority.
“I’m back again because I feel the neighborhood is facing some of the same issues as before, like substance abuse and homelessness,” said Haywood of his latest election bid.
Over the past six months, Haywood said he has observed firsthand a “drastic uptick of unhoused people being forced to sleep in the street” in his West End neighborhood.
When we spoke on Monday, May 8, Haywood noted that morning, he had come across four people sleeping in the tunnel between North Station and the Avalon, the building where he lives.
Haywood describes the homeless individuals he has encountered in the area lately as a mix of people with substance abuse and/or mental health issues, along with others who are “just down on their luck.”
As he said before in 2019, Haywood believes reopening the Long Island Bridge could go a long way to helping to address the substance abuse and mental health issues that often underly homelessness in the city.
Since he realizes that securing the necessary permits to rebuild the Long Island Bridge will inevitably be an arduous and long process, Haywood proposes building parking lots at the landing point in Quincy and providing ferry service from there to the island.
“If memory serves, that facility holds about 800 beds, and we could take 800 people in need of immediate service and give them the help they need,” said Haywood. “For individuals that need long-term housing and don’t have mental health or substance abuse issues, we should immediately be able to move them into housing, inside or outside the city, in a Housing First model that combats homelessness through various programs.”
Using the Housing First model would help “filter out” individuals with substance abuse and mental health issues and get them the help they need, said Haywood.
“We don’t know what to do with people, which is the situation we have right now at Mass. and Cass. and also around North Station,” he said.
On the topic of proposed bike lanes on Charles Street, Haywood said he has “fervent objection” to the plan, which he believes doesn’t take into account businesses on the street, or the people living there.
“To add another bike lane, it should be a contiguous path that helps people come in and out of the city. A bike lane on Charles Street doesn’t solve any of that,” said Haywood.
“The thought process of what’s proposed bothers me,” added Haywood. “How in the world would the city expect firetrucks to get down the road safely on an already congested street?”
Haywood said: “I worry about the loss of street parking for every business owner on the street. I worry about restaurants, and frankly, about the residents who are just trying to live their daily lives.”
Haywood urges the city to find another location for the bike lanes besides Charles Street, such as Cambridge Street in the area of Charles Circle, or on Mugar Way.
“You could easily take Mugar Way or Cambridge Street and revamp the whole process and do a redesign that encompasses walkers, bicyclists, and drivers in a holistic way that’s safe for all parties,” he said.
If elected, Haywood said he would focus on achieving “small things,” like maintaining the grass in city parks, filling in potholes, and ensuring that “safe and sustainable” street parking can be found throughout the Back Bay.
“We also need to be getting to work to make sure that all the small things get done,” he said.
Haywood, a Democrat, joins Sharon Durkan, chair of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee and a Beacon Hill resident, as another confirmed candidate in the race to fill the District 8 City Council seat.
To learn more about Haywood and his campaign, visit montezhaywood.com in the coming days.