City Council Candidate Chat: Andrew Cousino

This is the 35th in a series of conversations with candidates for Boston City Council. This time, with special officer Andrew Cousino, 5th District candidate.

David S. Bernstein: Why are you running for the 5th District seat being vacated by Rob Consalvo?

Andrew Cousino: I’ve wanted to do this for a while, but I really felt that I wouldn’t have too much of a chance with Mr. Consalvo in the seat. It’s just a way that I’m looking forward to serving the community in a different way than I do now.

What do you mean by serving the community differently?

Right now I’m a Boston special officer. I’m not seeing the better side of things. I want to see if the things I’m seeing on this side, can we work to change them. Can we improve the schools at all, can we improve the parental education, things to that extent.

Tell me about the work you do as a special officer—what does that entail, and what types of things do you see?

It’s very similar to housing police. But I’m in the vehicle, and I have a Boston police scanner so I hear calls pretty wide, not just the calls I’m being dispatched to at my site, which is in Hyde Park. There’s a lot more stuff that you don’t hear on the news than you would think. A lot of violent crimes, a lot of property crimes. I’d really like to find a way to put more officers on the beat to hopefully counteract that.

What do you think is the problemis there a lack of resources being spent? Are resources being spent in the wrong places? What do we need to do to prevent that?

That is something that I do want to look into in more depth. I do have one thing that is one of my key points, which is that the citywide elections cost over $500,000 to conduct. Every two years we have a city election, and it appears that most of the time the incumbent does win that race. There’s not a big voter turnout. I want to see if the people would be interested in extending that to a four-year term—not for my term, if I get in, but down the road—to see if we can allocate that money to schools, or substance-abuse programs, or handicap accessibility, or things that need it.

You mention education and improving the schools. Is that a top issue for you, and what do you think needs to be done?

Schools are very important to me. I went to the Boston public schools myself. I know it’s tough; there’s a lot of single parents out there right now, trying to do the job of two parents and trying to be home and doing the homework with the kids and things like that. What I’d like to see more of is some parental type of education—how can these parents help their kids. I’m also very much for the trade schools. The only school we have that is a trade school per se is I believe Madison Park. I know a lot of the kids I went to school with are very hands-on learners; they would get bored just being in a classroom, if it wasn’t keeping them occupied. And we’re always going to need tradespeople.

You said you’ve thought about running before; have you gotten to know any councilors in the past, or dealt much with the body?

What I understand is it’s the first level of politics. It’s the level where you can be the closest to the people and serve the community, doing your job right there. I haven’t really met many of the people in the city council race, both in my district or city-wide, until I really announced my candidacy, and that’s when I started getting out meeting people. I’ve never worked for the city, I’ve never worked for the state. I’m trying to bring some fresh blood in.

As you are out there campaigning, talking to people, are you learning anything interesting about what concerns they have?

There are a few things that I have learned. One of the things that somebody pointed out to me—and I don’t really know how I stand on it, but I want to look a little more into—is that Boston is now requiring home owners who are renting apartments, to have those apartments inspected, I believe once a year. A few people that own homes that apartments have mentioned that to me. Another issue that a lot of people have, it’s not in my district, but the Forest Hills bridge, the overpass. A lot of people have passionate feelings about keeping it up, and a lot of people have passionate feelings about pulling it down. Personally, I want to keep it up; I think if they don’t keep it up, the traffic will be a nightmare—moreso than it already is.

You live in Roslindale; the district includes a large Hyde Park voter base, as well as some of Mattapan. Are you finding that different parts of the district have different issues or concerns than your neighbors there in Roslindale?

There are some similarities and some differences. One of the things I’ve heard is there’s an old building on Cummings Highway, that used to be a Ford dealership or something like that, and I heard it may be becoming a T station. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but that’s something a couple of people in that neck of the woods are concerned about. That building has been there as long as I can remember. Issues like that. Obviously crime is a big issue, and schools are a big issue. A lot of what I hear from people is cars speeding up and down their street, to be honest.

It’s interesting, a district councilor often hears from people about hyper-local issues if you will—if their street lights are out, that sort of thing. Do you think you’d be good at helping people with those kinds of problems?

I do feel I would be. If it’s something that bothers one or two people in a neighborhood, that’s an important issue to me. Any street light being out, that’s more than a nuisance, that’s a safety hazard. Speeding cars are safety hazards. I want everybody to feel safe in the community we live in.

You are 28 years old; there are quite a few people in their late 20s to early 30s running for City Council this year. Do you feel like there’s a need for a younger perspective? Would it benefit the city to have several people your age elected to the council?

It would be nice to have a few people my age. I think that younger blood will bring new ideas. They might be great ideas, they might not be great ideas. But you can have two generations, even three generations, putting their thoughts together and trying to collaborate.

I understand that you spent some time managing a band. What kind of band was it, and do you have this whole underside of the rock scene you would bring into the City Council?

They were a metal band. Friends of mine; I knew one of the kids from high school. Very talented, but very unorganized. It was something to keep me occupied. I started doing it when I was out of work; I started doing volunteer work with ETHOS, and it was easy for me to make these band practices during the week, and make the shows on the weekends. I feel like I was able to help them achieve things they wouldn’t have been able to do, and they helped me achieve things I wouldn’t have been able to do. I’ve been up to Syracuse, New York with these guys, to New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont.

I like the juxtaposition of you volunteering with ETHOS, which does elder services, while managing a metal band.

It brought me out of my shell a little bit.


Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.