Many of the young, bright, talented workers whom Boston hopes to attract — and keep — make their homes in City Council District Eight, which includes parts of the West End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Kenmore, and Mission Hill. The two strong candidates who are running for the seat, previously held by Mike Ross, in some ways embody the district. Corporate attorney Josh Zakim, 29, and Michael J. Nichols, 30, a lawyer and research director for the current City Council, both boast impressive resumes. And both offer voters a youthful energy, forward-thinking agendas, and fresh approaches to city concerns.
The candidates share similar positions on many major issues. Five of the district neighborhoods don’t have their own elementary schools, and both Nichols and Zakim vow to bring more K-8 options. On development, both would seek reforms to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, especially around long-term planning and affordable housing. They also favor the kinds of changes that would open up the city’s cultural and business environment: increased late-night transit, expanded liquor licenses, and streamlined permitting in the city.
Nichols, a Connecticut native who now lives in the Fenway, has the backing of more than 50 civic groups and is an appointed member of Mayor Menino’s youth advisory council. Voters could count on Nichols to be analytical and diligent on policy questions. He’d also be a voice for important, but often overlooked, reforms, such as to the city’s taxi industry.
What gives Zakim the edge, however, is his deep knowledge of municipal finance, such as how much a development project might boost tax revenues, or how extra spending on city workers might effect Boston’s bond rating. Zakim speaks fluidly about using performance metrics to gauge the delivery of services, and how best to fulfill pension obligations. As the son of the late civil rights activist Leonard P. Zakim, he enjoys support from unions, developers, and prominent city politicians. But Zakim, who worked briefly at Greater Boston Legal Services before becoming an associate at the law firm of Mintz Levin, also vows to concentrate on underserved Bostonians.