At Campaign Kickoff, Tito Jackson Hammers Walsh on 2024, GE Deal

The city councillor focused on education and inequality, two familiar themes, in his opening salvo in Roxbury.

Photo by Kyle Clauss

Jackson and his mother, Rosa. Photo by Kyle Clauss

If there’s enough daylight between Tito Jackson and Marty Walsh, the Roxbury councillor is betting everything it lay to the left.

Jackson formally announced his mayoral bid Thursday afternoon outside the Haley House Cafe and Bakery in Dudley Square. Without ever mentioning his name, Jackson painted Walsh as a disappointment more concerned with big business than the grinding income inequality boring a hole where the city’s middle class ought to be.

“It is time that we have a mayor who spends as much time in uptown as he does in downtown, who spends more time thinking about and investing in neighborhoods and communities than focusing on City Hall Plaza,” Jackson said. “It is time that we have a mayor who has a backbone to stand up to business proposals that would ruin our strong financial position, such as Boston 2024 or Indycar.”

Jackson, introduced by his mother Rosa, touched on all the progressive causes that have colored his five years on the City Council. He lavished praise on the students who protested budget cuts during last year’s Boston Public Schools walkouts. He derided the tax incentives that brought General Electric to Boston, the crowning achievement of Walsh’s first term.

“If folks want a helipad, they can build it on their own,” he said.

It’s no secret Jackson faces an uphill battle. Considering the high ground afforded him under the city charter, the historical near-invincibility of our incumbents, and a campaign war chest that runneth over, it isn’t unreasonable to say the race is Walsh’s to lose. If Thursday’s remarks offer any indication of what’s to come, Jackson will use as a cudgel the same development boom that Walsh will likely hold up as a sign of prosperity under his fledgling reign.

“Across the city, gentrification has become a neighborhood norm,” Jackson said. “We seem to be judging our success by the number of million-dollar condos, skyscrapers, and publicly funded helipads that are being built rather than the mobility of our families, and the percentage of them who are managing to escape poverty.”

Walsh happened to be in the neighborhood around the time Jackson took the stage, visiting the Boston Police Department’s Roxbury headquarters to announce a new mentoring program. As the mayor prepares for his fourth State of the City next week, the full Shakespearean drama of 2017 becomes apparent once one considers last year’s address at Symphony Hall, attended by GE execs and protested by frostbitten BPS teachers.

In his speech, Walsh announced a new special planning area, granting the Boston Planning and Development Agency (née BRA) dominion over Dudley Square in the heart of Jackson’s district. This move, taken as a slight by an incensed Jackson, could very well have sealed the 41-year-old’s candidacy.