Prince: Please introduce yourself and tell us why you’re running for City Council At-Large?
GS: My name is Gareth Saunders [my wife and I live in Dorchester, MA] and the reason why I’m running is quite simple: I want to make Boston a more live-able city. What does that mean? That means using my life experiences: I know what it’s like to work two jobs to pay your mortgage; I know what it is like to really budget your finances to pay for your bills, charities, your kids etc. So I know what it’s like. I know what the struggles that many of the people in Boston are facing today. So I want to use my experiences as a former city councilor, three times elected to the District 7 council [which is the Roxbury district] and my experience as a normal citizen [a normal working-class person] in Boston to help steer our local city government in a way that is more helpful to the residents of Boston—along with my educational background.
Prince: What are your issues that you are advocating for as a Boston City Council At-Large candidate?
GS: There are many issues, but I will narrow it down to three:
Number one is Education–Improving the current Boston Public School system. We need to elect a mayor that is going to be proactive and put the well-being of our school children first—I believe that is paramount.
We also have to hire a new school superintendent. I believe that it is essential that the new mayor makes sure that there is a legitimate city wide community participation in the process of selecting that superintendent. We need to have a superintendent that understands the importance of diversity; closing the achievement gap; and is sensitive to the needs of the parents and local residents of different communities. And lastly, with the school department, we need to have a new assignment plan [Home base assignment plan] that will give parents a greater choice to pick schools that are closer to their homes and not punish parents who live in neighborhoods that have more under-performing schools. We can remedy this by improving under-performing schools throughout the neighborhoods in Boston.
The second issue is Public Safety. Let’s make sure that we improve the police community and its relations with the Boston Community. The Boston community and the police community need to have a mutual respect for one another. Furthermore, the new mayor and the police commissioner need to make sure that all people are treated with dignity and respect. Also, we need to make sure that the police have all the resources [technological resources] they need to fight crime. I want to make sure that they receive fair compensation, and I want to thank the police officers. I want to thank them because they put their lives on the line to protect our lives and our property each and every day.
And the third issue is economic development—we have to look at ways to stimulate the local economy. I understand that major role is played in the private sector but what government can do is help stimulate the local economy. One of the ideas that I have is implementing a similar policy to our Boston Job Resident policy; but by “contracting” services. Let us make sure that the contracts in each department of municipal service have a focus on local contractors that live in the city of Boston or in a 5 to 10 mile radius outside of Boston. So that is one way the government can stimulate the local economy.
Prince: What makes you qualified to be City Councilor At-Large?
GS: Number one, I have held the job before as a City Councilor [a district city councilor]. In 1993, I beat a sitting incumbent [which is not an easy thing to do] and I was elected two other times; so altogether I was elected three times. I have worked hard and I fought the good fight; I fought to improve the schools. I remember that there was a time when our local schools didn’t have books. And so, I worked with the superintendent at the time to resolve it by implementing a five year plan to purchase those books.
I am a hands-on type of councilor; I am beyond the curve on constituent services; I really examine the budget [to make sure that we are spending and are fiscally prudent with taxpayers dollars and city spending]; and I love the job. I worked hard at it; I was good at it; and I really cared about every citizen throughout the city of Boston. It is because of these accomplishments that I feel I am qualified to be your next At Large City Councilor here in Boston.
Prince: Tell me a personal story that has inspired you to run for office.
GS: I have one personal story that I like to tell, and it goes back to my early childhood.
When I was about eight years old, my mother took me to a city hospital in New York [at the time I was born and raised in Bronx, New York, and I moved to Boston after I successfully completed a tour in the United States Air Force]. If you have ever been to a city hospital, you would know that you have to wait for hours to see someone. So while we were waiting in the emergency room, the hospital was dingy and dirty—I saw gum stuck on the walls. However, what really struck was when I saw an attendant rolling a gentleman on a cot, to the Emergency Room. This gentleman was clearly in pain [he was moaning loud], but the attendant, who rolled him in, left him in the hallway while he was moaning. When I saw that as a young child, I was clearly appalled—no man should live like this.
So at that early point in my life, it motivated me to make sure that no man or woman should suffer or live like that man in the hospital. I want to do something that helps people; and that experience was a determining factor in my life—one of public service and human service. So that is the story that I like to tell of my early development in public service.
Prince: What promises do you hope to keep as a Boston City Council At-Large candidate?
GS: To be open and transparent; and, to be truthful. I am a realist, so I am not going to promise the people of Boston the world and deliver nothing. Some people on the campaign trail say, “Vote for me! And I will set you free! I will change the world!”—that is not being realistic. The Boston City Council is a legislative body of 13 people; and in a legislative body “majority” rules. In conclusion, you have to get a majority of support in order to move something. Then afterwards you have a sitting mayor who must sign your legislation, but only if it is good.
One person can lead as far as policy and making changes, but in a legislative body it is different. So what I can promise is to have open access to people; to listen to them; and invite them to any hearings or decisions that affect them—to have their input which is very important for me. I will be a hands-on councilor that will listen, but know that I do not have all the answers—collectively we the people have the answers. I will work hard every day for the people of Boston.
Prince: As City Councilor At Large what would you do to attract people from all over the world to come to Boston and invest in their American dream?
GS: So what I will do is make Boston a more welcoming city. I will make sure that Boston is clean; that it is safe [for all of our visitors from abroad]; and make our lines of communications “more friendly,” such as having multilingual signs. I want to make sure that we have all the things that a city needs to welcome visitors. Whether they are from afar, abroad, or near, I want to have a friendly atmosphere—and a spirited atmosphere in our city.
Prince: Please tell me an embarrassing story that you have done–on or off the campaign–that has reminded you that you are still human.
GS: One embarrassing story, that I do remember, was when a Senior citizen [an elderly lady] lashed out on me—she was lashing out on me because I somehow did not provide the service that she wanted. And so, while this was happening, I recalled the words of a very wise man who told me this: “Gareth, never argue with a senior! Never! [And always support anything that deals with feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless].” So I caught myself because she was really giving me a tongue lashing for something I didn’t do. However, I remembered what this gentleman had told me, and I smiled—I took it and completely complied with her. So that was pretty embarrassing: having a senior citizen pointing her finger at you and yelling at you. But I think I handled it well.
Prince: Lastly in your own words, what makes Gareth Saunders so interesting?
GS: Who said I was interesting? (Laughing) I think I am a type of person who is sincere, and has genuine care and love for people–I will go out of my way to help someone. If you speak to anyone of my constituents that I served, for those three terms they would say, “If Gareth can help me, he will help me.” I believe that is one of the distinguishing factors or characteristics about myself: I was bred and born to help or make other people’s lives better, including my own family. I believe that every person is significant and every life is worthwhile and important, which should be celebrated. We should honor and respect life and we should respect each other’s opinions and views. We should agree to disagree in cases when we have to, and try to find a common ground or common factors where we can work together and accomplish something very positively for our city of Boston.
To follow Gareth and his platforms go to www.garethforboston.com