James immigrated to the United States from Haiti almost 35 years ago. He attended Salem State University to study Political Science & Foreign Languages before receiving his MBA/MA in Management/International Policy from Middlebury College. He worked in public relations and policy analytics for the City of Boston Mayor’s office for 8 years before briefly moving to Orlando, Florida to work in the city’s department of communications and community relations. He returned to Boston as Mayor Walsh’s Liaison to the City Council in 2010, and held this position until 2014, when he became the International Partnership’s Manager for City of Boston’s Global Affairs office. Outside of James’ work for the city, he is the President of Global Villages, a consulting firm that provides marketing and brand development for new businesses.
Boston Candidate Science Survey Response
Below are the survey responses from the candidate. To ensure the candidate’s voice comes through to the voters, the content of the answers are unedited.
Technology + Society
As the City uses more advanced technology to monitor city services and communicate with residents, how will you ensure citizens’ privacy rights as increasing numbers of monitoring devices are installed around the city? What will you do to make sure that the data collected will be used for the benefit of all Bostonians?
First this network of monitoring devices must be secure from malicious and criminal agents. At the same time, the data cannot be used to monitor the normal activities of the citizens of Boston.
What are your policy priorities to address the ongoing climate crisis? How will you ensure climate resiliency projects are distributed equitably among communities, especially in low-income neighborhoods? What are your policy priorities to protect areas of the city that are vulnerable to sea level rise (i.e. South Boston, Back Bay, Downtown, East Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Seaport)?
Climate change is here! Boston must be fully prepared for climate emergencies such as flooding and extreme heat. Boston’s city government has an operating and capital budget in the billions and, as overseer of parks, streets, and hundreds of city and school buildings, is well positioned to invest in energy efficiency, fossil fuel reduction, green new jobs, and green educational awareness; I will work to build a greener, walkable, bikeable Boston. Our more vulnerable citizens need a climate-safe city, and our youngest citizens need to be able to look forward to a bright future!
We will no doubt face climate emergencies that we must prepare the city’s capacity to be resilient.
What are your policy priorities to protect areas that are vulnerable to increased temperatures during the summer months due to the urban heat island effect? Given that trees and an urban canopy have been shown to mitigate excess heat, how would you support the implementation of the Urban Forest Plan for Boston?
I support the initiative started by Mayor Walsh. The strategy and plan is due to be completed by Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Kentucky’s nonprofit forestry consultants Urban Canopy Works next year. The most important action I can take is to ensure it is equitable to all neighborhoods, and engage with commercial enterprises and the large local institutions to contribute their share on the properties they own.
What should the role of science and scientists be in government, policy, and decision-making? How does science fit into your agenda for Boston?
The city of Boston for almost quarter of a century has received a quarter of the NIH grants. Within a stone’s throw of City Hall, we have many accomplished scientists in every field. I would look to augment the City’s capability in areas such as public health with the advice and council of some the best scientists in the world.
In the case of the pandemic, misinformation has made it difficult to reach every person in every neighborhood with the vaccine. Experts could give the facts which we could take to each community through local city employees, and independent neighborhood health organizations, adapted for these communities.
Misinformation has been cited as one of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy against the COVID-19 virus. How do you propose the City improve messaging in order to promote science-based actions and combat misinformation, not just for COVID-19, but also broadly?
I knew that there would be a hesitancy in the poorer neighborhoods against the vaccine. We should be more proactive in taking the vaccine to them locally, for instance at churches, farmer’s markets and barbershops. Meet them where they are. Offer the vaccine at different times and days and different locations. Offer it in their language.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in healthcare access for different neighborhoods in Boston. As of June 29, 2021, we know that only 38% of residents in Mattapan were fully vaccinated compared to over 70% of South End residents. How can ideas about distributing vaccines, challenging misinformation related to healthcare, and tackling language barriers be applied more broadly to form a more equitable healthcare system? What policy changes should be made to both prevent and respond to future pandemics or health crises in a more effective way?
This is a difficult question because we have both history such the Tuskegee Experiment that naturally makes some people suspicious of the government’s intentions, and we have unprecedented amounts of disinformation and misinformation.
We knew when the Covid 19 pandemic was coming back in March of 2020 that the solutions to counter the pandemic, would be inequitable. We should have distributed more information, knowledge, PPE, and vaccines to these communities. Multilingual ads and PSAs with well known figures should have been broadcast, and distributed in the media that these neighborhoods rely on. Print, radio, TV, and social media campaigns that match the language and consumption of the neighborhoods.
We should have been more proactive in establishing trust within the neighborhoods through people who they trust, such as politicians who came from these neighborhoods, clergy, barbershops, and people who act in a variety of community outreach and liaison programs.
What did we learn from the pandemic?We learned that trust cannot be established overnight when you need it. On pandemic and health related issues, we need ongoing outreach campaigns led by every health and wellness related city organization,and community healthcare networks that ensure that we have all the resources in place to tackle this pandemic and the next.
How, if at all, has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your positions on education policies? What should the City’s role be in ensuring public schools are equitably funded and serve the needs of our children?
As a parent of children going to public schools in Boston, equity in education is a cornerstone in my plan for the city schools. While campaigning I met many parents that told me that technology was an issue. Some parents could not help their children with online education, especially immigrant parents because they did not understand the technology.
The city schools can partner with organizations such as Tech Goes Home to ensure that parents have the basic technology knowledge to support their children.
The Senate Infrastructure bill earmarks $100 Million to improve broadband access in Massachusetts. Some of that money should go to the neighborhood schools to improve on-line education and to families who cannot afford broadband access.
Boston’s technology, innovation, and scientific research ecosystem has long made it a hub that attracts a diverse group of people and talent from around the world. How can the city maintain and foster its international status as a technological hub and attract immigrant scientists to strengthen the diversity, culture, and economic activity of Boston?
More collaboration and and encouragement with the universities to create programs that bring this talent to the Boston area, as lecturers, research scientist, and graduate assistants with assistance to qualify for H1B and other visas that will permit to work in non-academic roles.
What is your plan to strengthen the Boston scientific research and technology enterprise to benefit our economy? How can you ensure that the economic benefits of investing in science and technology reach all Bostonians?
Education is at the core of equity. Internship and vocational programs need to become an avenue that channels students into scientific and technology careers. Most of the large scientific and technology companies acknowledge improving diversity must reach into grade, middle and high schools to produce the skills that they need. If our neighborhood schools are funded and encouraged to produce students that can fill internship programs, the benefits will become more equitable.
A good place to start would be to re-energize vocation training programs at Madison Park Vocational High School. Preparation + Opportunities = Success.
Food + Agriculture
What policies do you propose for the City to maximize land use in the city for green spaces and community access to gardens or farms? How can your administration bring more transparency to this process and connect community groups to the resources they need to support sustainable urban farming?
Giving the people the opportunity to grow their own culturally appropriate food, enriches their lives improving interest in nutrition and strengthens their bond with nature, and the environment.