Candidate Chat: Brian Gannon
David S. Bernstein: Why are you running for City Council in the First District?
Brian Gannon: First of all, since I’ve moved to my neighborhood I feel like I’m constantly having to be vigilant about what’s going on in the neighborhood—it’s almost my part-time job, being an activist in the community, making sure that we can maintain this amazing community we have. I live in East Boston, and as you know, they’re trying to put a casino in our neighborhood. All the elected officials who represent our area are for it. There’s nobody there advocating for the community, saying “let’s make sure this is good development for our community.” So, I’m co-chair of No Eastie Casino. I spend half my time doing this work anyway. And I love my community, it’s a great place, I hope to raise a family there. I just feel that somebody needs to step in and have a voice other than what the mayor wants.
I think you were about to go on to other reasons you’re running, but let me cut you off first ask you about the casino. To you, is it a matter of having it done right if it’s going to happen, or that if it happens it will unavoidably change the community for the worse?
It’s a short-sighted vision. A casino is a real desperate move for communities maybe like Flint, Michigan, or a place that doesn’t have opportunities, and this city is the exact opposite of that. We’re thriving. There’s buildings going up all over the place, there’s headquarters of major corporations moving into the city. There are so many opportunities, and it just seems short-sighted to jump into something like this that’s being sold as a fix for economic woes.
You feel that your perspective on the casino is not being represented at all, and I’m not disagreeing with that. But does that necessarily mean that office-holders are not representing the views of the people of the district, or that they are not looking out for the best interests of the district?
Going forward, I look at my neighborhood in East Boston. There’s a ton of undeveloped space. There’s a lot of opportunity for development in our community, and on the other side of the harbor. There need to be people who are looking at it with a critical eye toward what is best for the community. I don’t feel like that’s being done in this case, so why would I expect it to be done in any future development that would occur? It just seems that nobody is really thinking about the long-term consequences. And that has happened in our city in the past, from the elevated highway, to Government Center, there’s always been these projects that come up, and you need people in there who are looking with a long-term vision
You started saying, before I cut you off, that this was one issue that got you involved in politics here.
It’s one of the issues. Just one. There are all these things in the community you have to be vigilant about, and I didn’t experience that in other places that I’ve lived. And my wife is very involved in activism, so it brought me in. And I love the place. It’s a great city, I want to continue living here, I want to raise a family here. The fact that we have five of our city councilors running for mayor, and we’re getting a new mayor, it’s an opportunity to really change city politics, and change it for the better. I think we’re different than we’ve been in the past. We have a younger city, we have people raising families in the city, we need to pay attention to schools, development. For instance, in Charlestown, the North End, and East Boston, there are communities and people that have lived there for a long time, and now the property values are rising. We need a way to figure out, how is this neighborhood going to work going forward while maintaining its character? I hope to be part of that new city politics and the new vision of how the future is going to pan out.
You say you haven’t found the same need for vigilance elsewhere; I believe you’ve lived in East Boston for about three years. Where else have you lived?
I’ve lived in Cambridge, Somerville, Arizona, Mexico City. I traveled in Central America for a long time. That’s another thing I love about my community—I love the diversity. My great-grandfather emigrated from Ireland to East Boston back at the turn of the century, and my grandfather grew up there. They were able to get their foothold here, and move on to bigger and better things. East Boston has always been that launching pad, for generations of people. Italian immigrants, Jewish immigrants, now the Latinos are coming through. When I go to stores or restaurants in the city, I see that my neighborhood is the engine; we are driving the ship that is Boston. I’d hate to see anything disrupt the way our community works. That’s true for any community. The older Italian community in the North End is getting priced out. How do we do this? How do we balance it all?
I’m sure I’m not the first to ask: why should you be the guy to represent and look out for the interests of the neighborhood, when you haven’t lived here all that long?
I think the experience of seeing how other communities are able to develop and are able to be sustainable, I think that’s a huge asset. I lived in Union Square, Somerville, before it became the Union Square it is today. I lived in Central Square when people said “oh, why would you live over there?” I’ve seen these communities and these neighborhoods change, and progress, and I’ve seen great things happen. To know how other communities develop, and take the good and leave the bad and try to see it through in your own neighborhood I think is something that I can bring to the table.
People in other parts of the city tend to have certain stereotypes about the neighborhoods in your district—what the North End is, what East Boston is, what Charlestown is. What is one misconception you think people have, or what would they be surprised about?
I lived in Somerville for about 10 years, and sometimes I didn’t know my next-door neighbor, or the person across the street. But since I’ve moved to East Boston, I know just about everybody in my neighborhood. It’s hard to walk down the street without bumping into a few people that I know—and if I don’t know them, we’ll end up introducing ourselves and talking to each other. That’s a part of the neighborhood that I didn’t know when I moved in there and bought a house there. It’s amazing.
You’re running against an incumbent, Sal LaMattina. Any thoughts or comments about him?
No, I get along with Sal. I think he’s a good guy. I just think it’s time for the neighborhood to have something new, something different—somebody who doesn’t want to see a casino coming into our neighborhood.
Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.