City Council Candidate Chat: Frank Addivinola
David S. Bernstein: Why are you in this race for City Council at-large?
Frank Addivinola: I care deeply about Boston and about the families that live here. Boston is a great place to live; it’s a great place to get an education, build a career, and to raise a family. I want to bring my experience to city government, and I want to accomplish things that make Boston even a better place to live. It’s a world-class city. It has many opportunities. It needs growing businesses, and a stable environment for people and for families.
What does the city need to do to improve faster for businesses and families than it currently is?
I wouldn’t say the city is not improving quickly. It certainly is. My campaign platform’s top issues are: education, specifically public schools; affordability for housing, for working-class families and those in need of assistance; and quality of life, including things like arts, and recreational facilities. Public safety of course is a big concern. We also need economic development. Not having enough public schools in the neighborhoods; I hear that from many voters, that they’re concerned about public schools locally for their children to attend, as well as the quality of that education. A lot of problems start when children don’t have those experiences of productive activities in their younger years. There has to be a focus on after-school programs, so children can have a place to go where they’re safe and can engage their creative activities. As far as public safety, Boston is a relatively safe place, compared to large US cities, but there are some problem areas, and we must continually work to make progress, in areas like substance abuse, poverty, and violence. We should be working with these issues not only at the law enforcement level, but we should look at prevention in the local community, neighborhood, and family level. As city councilor I will always work for solutions to make families strong and stable.
Some of what you’re talking about in education and public safety—more neighborhood schools, improved quality, after-school programs, substance abuse treatment, prevention programs—costs money. You consider yourself a fiscal conservative, so is there a way to do those things without straining the city’s budget?
I believe there is. All services cost money. Citizens have a right to services. The question becomes: where do we intervene? Do we intervene after the problem has festered, and become a societal issue, or do we work with people at an earlier stage, where they can develop a productive path to move along? We talk about violence, we talk about drug abuse, we talk about destructive behavior from children that have misguided their energies—that in fact becomes more expensive than if we were to provide a productive and constructive outlet for children to engage themselves.
Is there anything that you feel is standing in the way of faster business development? Anything the City Council in particular can help with?
Boston has many new developments, so I’m encouraged by that development that we’ve seen in the city. This is what makes Boston competitive in the global marketplace. New businesses bring jobs and economic opportunities to people, and we should invite businesses and stimulate growth. That then draws a stable employment base—but we have to do this in a responsible way. We must be able to keep up with that growth in terms of infrastructure, technology, and human capital. We need to balance out the commercial and residential development, so they’re in sync. We need more moderately priced housing, and I’d like to see more transparency and equity on matters concerning development opportunities.
A lot of that transparency is up to the mayor’s administration. Do you feel that the City Council needs to play a watchdog role on that?
I certainly believe that the City Council should play a watchdog role, and that’s why you need people that are non-partisan, and independent, that can bring a new voice to the table. It’s unfortunate if we were to have people elected to City Council that just become a rubber stamp, or in fact work with the mayor’s office without challenging those decisions, to make sure that the decisions are in the best interest of the citizens of the city.
This is a non-partisan race, but you have run as a Republican in other races; as you talk to people around the city is that a barrier in this race, or perhaps a benefit for that reason of independence?
Many people are concerned that elected officials become obligated to those special interest groups that have helped propel their careers. Many people that I speak to in the community are interested in having an independent voice that’s not obligated to special interests. A candidate that’s not going to pander to get support, or run on narrow platform issues.
You said at the beginning that you wanted to bring your experience to the council. You have business experience, and I believe teach at some local colleges—tell me about the experience you would draw on.
I have a diverse and extensive education. I’m trained in science, business and biotechnology. I also trained as an attorney, and am working on my doctorate in law and public policy. I think it’s important to get a person working in city government that has broad knowledge, and understands different issues. I have a diverse professional experience. I’ve worked in science; ran multiple businesses, so I can feel the concerns of people that are working to make sure that their business will grow, and provide a payroll. I do work as an attorney, and have taken on several pro bono cases, to try to give back to the community. I went to a public urban school, and I know the challenges that students face. I want to to encourage students to apply themselves and get an education that will propel them to good places and successful, meaningful lives. When I was younger, I was required to bring my mother to the local high school, because I had the crazy idea of applying to college. My guidance counselor thought that was a bad decision. Fortunately I was able to go on to Williams College. I’ve completed seven university degrees.
You grew up in Malden, right? So that high school experience was in Malden?
Actually I went to trade school for 9th and 10th—I went to vocational school to become a plumber. It was shortly before my 11th grade that I enrolled at the local high school. So the vocational school was very upset with me, because I was missing out on a great opportunity to get a career. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a plumber; it’s an important skill and an important trade. I had other interests. So I went on, and through the advice of my mother, I like to teach. I like to be an influence on young people.
To my knowledge, the first time you ran for office was for state senate, when you challenged Anthony Petruccelli. That was in 2010, when we had a lot of first-time candidates, inspired by the Tea Party movement, or by Barack Obama, or by Scott Brown’s victory. What brought you into wanting to run for office?
I have followed politics for many years, and later in life I graduated from Suffolk Law School at the recommendation of my father. He suggested that legal training would be an important skill to have, to bring to public office. When I graduated from Suffolk in 2009, that’s when I decided to enter politics. I think that it’s important to have a person that understands the legislative process, that has the ability to read the bills, and understand what they’re voting on.
You are running for the second time for the congressional seat, this time a special election to replace Ed Markey, so I’m sure you get questions about whether you are fully invested in this race here in Boston. How do you respond to that?
I had run, as you said, for state senate in 2010, so I’ve done a lot of campaigning in the city, including East Boston, Beacon Hill, West End, North End. It is a bit unusual, running in two races. But as you know, the ballot signatures for the municipal elections were due before the US Senate election took place. So it wasn’t definite at that time whether there would be an opening for the congressional seat. If I win the City Council seat, I would be in the same position as the current congressional candidates on the Democratic side, who are holding legislative offices while campaigning for Congress.
Read more Boston City Council Candidate Chats. This interview has been edited for length.