State Rep. Candidates Discuss City’s Biggest Challenges, Issues

Two Democratic candidates vying for the state representative seat vacated by Marty Walz discussed their views on the city’s biggest challenges and issues when they faced off in a debate at the First Church in Boston last Tuesday.

Josh Dawson, a 30-year-old Back Bay resident who previously served as executive director of State Treasurer Steve Grossman’s campaign committee, is running against Jay Livingstone, a 39-year-old Beacon Hill resident and attorney, in the race for the 8th Suffolk District, which includes parts of the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, West End and Fenway, as well as Cambridgeport and MIT in Cambridge.

Dawson said his top priorities if elected would be updating the MBTA’s aging infrastructure and opening more public schools to serve the city’s downtown neighborhoods.

Besides more public schools for Downtown Boston and improvements to public transportation, Livingstone said if elected, he would give precedence to restoring social-services programs previously offered by the Department of Children and Families.

Both candidates said they would support responsible and appropriate development in the Back Bay and other city neighborhoods, but they diverged when it came to the question of eliminating the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) through legislation.

“The BRA is both the zoning and planning authority for the city, as well as the marketing arm, and that creates conflict,” said Livingstone, who supported dispensing with the city agency.

In contrast, Dawson said he didn’t think it would be a “responsible decision” to dissolve the BRA with a new mayor and administration in office.

As for the fate of a proposed casino in East Boston, both candidates said a citywide referendum should determine the decision.

“A casino would affect all of Boston, and I think everybody should have a say in it,” said Livingstone, who added traffic, neighborhood and long-term impacts needed to be considered.

Dawson also speculated that an East Boston casino could mean lost revenue for Newbury Street’s shops and cafes, with the expectation that tourists would opt for establishments closer to the gaming parlor.

The candidates’ forum was sponsored by the Wards 3 and 5 Democratic Committees and moderated by Karen Cord Taylor, founding publisher of The Beacon Hill Times and Back Bay Sun. It was followed two nights later at another debate in Cambridgeport, which was sponsored by the Ward 5 Democratic Committee.

A primary for the race is scheduled for May 28, and special election for June 25.

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