Candidate Chat: Patrice Gattozzi
David S. Bernstein: Why are you running for council in District 5?
Patrice Gattozzi: I really do want to serve people in this area. I’ve been working as the executive director for Hyde Park Main Streets for five years, and I really understand a lot of the needs in the community. I also believe that we need more women on the council. I was very discouraged that last session there was only one woman. That’s been on my mind for quite a while.
You’re one of four women on the ballot in your race. Is that encouraging to you, or are you worried that they will split the vote and make it difficult for any one of you to win that seat?
I’m encouraged actually. It may split the vote, but that’s OK.
You mentioned your work at Hyde Park Main Streets. Could you explain, for folks who don’t know how the Main Streets program works?
It’s a program that works in the business districts in the neighborhoods. Mayor [Tom] Menino started this over 20 years ago, in Roslindale, and took it citywide. Now there are 20 Main Streets. Mattapan just got on board as the 20th Main Street this year, just a few months ago. We’re contracted with the city to be a go-between for all the businesses with the city, helping them get permitting, and administering programs from the Office of Business Development—as well as, we are a non-profit, and we work with the community and the businesses to get people into the district to shop, to promote the district. And we work with property owners to find new businesses that would fit.
Some people feel that parts of Mattapan, and perhaps other parts of your district, have been left behind a little when it comes to city development. Do you have ideas for developing those parts of the district?
One thing that was a real motivating factor, for me, to participate in politics and run for city council is the Fairmount-Indigo line. We’re going to be able to develop businesses along those lines. The largest population of the city lives along the Indigo Line. And with the Fairmount Line, you can get into town in 10 minutes. But the whole idea is to create jobs along that line. We have a lot of vacant parcels, and it’s time to start developing that. There will be a new train station in Mattapan. I really want to see Readville develop as a job center, just like Newmarket. There are vacant warehouses just starting to be filled with light industrial—we have Dancing Deer, Boston Baking, Boston Cupcakes. Once we get those industries going, it will filter down to the Main Streets. That’s exactly how Hyde Park thrived years ago, the factories were very vibrant, and it trickled down into the square. Same with Mattapan; if you have a commuter rail with stops in Readville, Mattapan, and Roslindale, it will make a huge difference. I think this is a very exciting time, and I really want to be a part of that.
That district has had very solid representation in City Hall in recent years, with Rob Consalvo a political veteran, Dan Conley now the District Attorney, and of course the previous district councilor has been mayor for 20 years. Do you think that with Menino leaving office, perhaps a new mayor from another part of the city, will there be added pressure on a freshman councilor representing the district’s interests?
Everyone’s going to be standing back and looking at things with new eyes. There can be pressure just because there will be a whole new City Council, basically. But this neighborhood is very solid. It’s a strong voting bloc, and I think they’ll be very supportive of the next person. And I hope it’s me. [Laughs] Those councilors have all done a super, super job. Everyone says “you have big shoes to fill,” and I say “OK, I think we’re going to change them to a size six-and-a-half high heel.”
Your district is considered perhaps the most diverse district of the nine. What do you make of that, and are there parts of that constituency or of the district that you are learning more about as a candidate?
It is a great, diverse area. Hyde Park radically shifted demographics in 10 years—even in the last five years. That’s a lot to adjust to right away. But no one’s saying they don’t want to be here; it’s “how do I get to know my neighbors?” For Main Streets we look at the farmers market as a place to bring together different kinds of music, and food, and people. We don’t have it this year, it’s on a hiatus for various reasons, but it’s just a lovely place to meet people. I see the same thing happening in Roslindale. I know Vivien [Morris], who runs the market over in Mattapan; I think that’s a little bit more homogeneous. But I think it’s a good thing. People aren’t saying they want to move out. They don’t. People are moving in.
You mentioned some things people might call small-scale: farmers markets and getting to know neighbors. And in the speech you posted on your website, in addition to big things like the Fairmount-Indigo Line, you talk about things like litter, trees in the district, and making things stroller-friendly. Do you think those little things add up to real change in a neighborhood?
Absolutely. We’re so lucky to have so much downtown; you can go get all the cultural things you need. But you also want to be able to walk in your neighborhood, say hello and not feel that people are strangers. Small things do make a difference. People will shop more if things feel like they’re clean. They’ll feel more respected if everything is clean. A lot of people don’t have the money to travel all over the place, so you want to enjoy what you have—events like Traffic Jam. It’s a small little event that’s locally grown here in Hyde Park. Local musicians are playing on the corner square on Friday nights in the summer. That was just grown out of an idea: hey we’ve got a lot of musicians here, where can they play? That makes community.
I have one more, delicate question for you. Whoever becomes the new councilor for District 5 is going to have a particular newly-retired constituent…
… named Tom Menino. I can picture the former mayor being a very demanding constituent. How do you think you’ll be able to handle him?
I will be listening to him. If I win, I will listen and get advice from him. I’ve asked to meet with him to get advice already, but he’s been very busy. He knows so much, and I would listen to him. I think he just wants the best for everybody and he would help in every way. I think he would be a great constituent.
Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.