Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
In one of the first major appearances of the mayoral race, Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson vowed to “uplift” city residents who have been plagued by economic inequality and, he said, left behind by Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s administration.
Jackson, in an hour-long interview broadcast live on WBUR radio, described two disparate Bostons, where the life span of residents within his council district can vary by 30 years, half of residents make less than $35,000 a year, and spending on schools is cut — all while big businesses get multimillion-dollar tax breaks.
“It’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do,” Jackson said. “And Mayor Walsh has not helped the people who I serve and has not advanced the city of Boston in the right way. As mayor of the city of Boston, I will uplift all people in the city of Boston, regardless of how many commas you have in your bank account.”
Jackson participated in the first of two conversations with the city’s leading mayoral candidates before an audience at the University of Massachusetts Boston that was sponsored by the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, WBUR, The Boston Globe, NBC Boston, and Telemundo.
Walsh is slated to participate Thursday at 3 p.m. In addition to the WBUR live broadcast, the conversation will be live-streamed at BostonGlobe.com.
Jackson’s participation comes as he seeks momentum in a race that has so far been dominated by the incumbent.
A recent Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll showed Walsh leading Jackson by 31 percentage points, and the mayor has collected more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions since the beginning of the year. Walsh’s total war chest is almost $4.5 million, while Jackson has raised about $125,000 this year, with about $90,000 on hand as of July 15.
In his Wednesday interview, co-hosted by WBUR’s Meghna Chakrabarti and the Globe’s Meghan E. Irons, Jackson argued that the same persistence from grass-roots groups that helped topple the Boston 2024 Olympics bid will also help him overcome Walsh’s head start.
When asked about his specific accomplishments in office, Jackson said he was the only councilor to subpoena documents related to the Olympics bid, learning that the costs could rise to $12 billion — or $3 billion more than initially projected.
“I helped save the financial future of the city of Boston,” he said.
He said he also fought a November ballot question that would have raised the cap on charter schools that Jackson argued would have come at a great cost to the city’s public schools.
“We have $7 billion of development going on in our city, and we are not funding Madison Park,” he said, referring to the city’s only vocational high school.
When pressed by moderators, Jackson said he would invest more in schools, including more guidance counselors and computer science classes.
Jackson said he would tap into the city’s Parking Meter Fund for education. While those funds are restricted to transportation programs, Jackson said there are alternative funding mechanisms to divert some of the money to city schools.
Jackson said he would unveil a “Jackson Budget” by September that would show how he would spend funds, “to make sure we are doing the right thing by the city.”
He focused on what he called inequality in the city, taking issue with the state and city’s deal to give General Electric $151 million in tax breaks at the expense of small businesses and low-income neighborhoods.
Jackson said he would commission a disparity study and create an Office of Equity and Opportunity to ensure that businesses hire more minorities, women, and city residents. When it was noted that Walsh had already hired a chief resilience officer, Jackson said her work is not funded.
He also said the city needs to do more to address its outside image — such as what led “Saturday Night Live” star Michael Che to call Boston “the most racist city I’ve ever been to.”
“We need to acknowledge that racism does exist in the city of Boston, and that we have to hit it head-on,” Jackson said.
He added, to loud applause, “I want to make sure a life lost on Blue Hill Avenue is the same as a life lost on Commonwealth Ave in the city of Boston, and I don’t necessarily believe that is the case in the city of Boston right now.”
Jackson also argued that Boston is becoming gentrified. Chakrabarti, of WBUR, pointed out that Walsh has created an Office of Housing Stability, and a recent report showed that of 13,500 housing units built in the last quarter, 40 percent were designated for low- and middle-income families, and 40 percent of the permitted units soon to be available were classified as affordable.
Jackson said, however, that the definition of affordable is “critical.” He said anyone who makes $70,000 qualifies for an “affordable” unit, while people in Roxbury make less than $50,000 annually on average.
“That affordable unit might as well be $1 million for that unit,” he said.
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