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City council race: Angelina “Angie” Camacho running for District 7 via The Scope

Angelina “Angie” Camacho, public health leader and community activist, is running to represent District 7 in the City Council.

Camacho is running against Tania Fernandes Anderson, Santiago “Leon” Rivera, Brandy Brooks, Marisa Luse, Lorraine Payne Wheeler and Joao DePina. The incumbent Councilor Kim Janey, who was also council president, is running for mayor of Boston while currently serving as the Acting Mayor after former Mayor Marty Walsh was selected to be a part of President Biden’s cabinet as the Labor secretary earlier this year.

As the daughter of a Honduran immigrant, the single mother has spent over 20 years activating initiatives within District 7 and Boston.

She has supported the youth through educational programs, such as Youth Builders, and aided senior residents to build a more equitable and sustainable environment for the community.

Camacho’s formative years were spent mainly in Roxbury while living in Mattapan for a few years during her youth before returning to Roxbury. She attended Boston Latin School.

She is currently on a semester break from working toward a degree in public administration to run on the campaign trail while organizing in the community.

The Scope spoke with Camacho about the top issues identified by her campaign team and her plans to address them if elected as a City Councilor. Parts of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.

Can you let our readers know a bit about your background and why you decided to run for City Council? Photo: Courtesy of the Angie Camacho campaign.

Thank you for doing this. When people ask me to give the 30-second version [about myself], I talk about the Afro-Latina, being a single parent, being a public servant by day [and] a community change agent by night and 24/7 being a person of faith; of more than a mustard seed, that change begins with us. Right. Yet there’s so much in that being in Roxbury, being born in this area… I’m just too familiar with the gaps in academics, opportunities, wealth, health, etc., that many face, not only throughout District 7, including Roxbury, Fenway, South End, Dorchester, but also across Boston well. And many cities like Boston throughout the nation.

I am inspired to run because we need to change the narrative of the District. There’s so much wealth in this District that isn’t equally distributed when it comes to opportunities to build and touch it. One of the challenges that I talk about quite frequently is that I don’t want to talk about the Federal Reserve numbers anymore. We’ve talked about that too long. What we do need to look at, however, is where people are at.

One of the things that I talk about is that the haves are not giving their fair share; the have nots are just frustrated that they can’t tap into opportunity, and those in the middle are left scratching their heads. That’s very much real in a District where in every single zip code, except for one, we have a concentration of poverty—where our families are reaching their highest income attainment at lower rates and later ages. And so, what does that mean? It means that our families are not able to invest in retirement for as long as our counterparts. It means that it takes them longer to buy homes and buy homes equitably, by the way; buy homes in a city where only 23% of our residents can afford the housing stock in Boston and all of those families are over six figures in income. And then it leaves our elders, trying to age in places [that cost] $16,000 a year.

I am inspired run because not only do we have to change the narrative, you need the experience to do that; you need the relationships to do that—not only among community leaders, but among other legislative stakeholders across a number of different roles, and even other cities and states that would be encouraged to share the best practice models with us, simply because we have that relationship.

You have to think about things like that. When you decide to run… what makes you uniquely qualified to be the strongest candidate and the best representative for what’s needed? I have the relationships, experience, and track record of following up and following through on important things to our residents.

What would you say are the most important policy issues on your platform?

On my platform, the most important policy issues are around financial empowerment [and] workforce development. We have to use advanced pay parity, increased living wage, increased minimum wage, financial stability, small business stability…other areas of advancement. We need to look at leveraging Community Reinvestment Act dollars or any type of compliance funding…like our PILOT [program]. I know everyone talks about that, but it’s needed, and you need to know how CRA works. You need to know the issues around PILOT. You need to know the issues around promoting the earned income tax credit.

For someone who’s been dedicated to the financial and health empowerment of our residents for about 20 years, that’s important. I start with building people financially first because no matter how affordable, quote-unquote, you make a home, it’s not affordable to people who can’t pay for it.

So, my next issue is around affordable housing and homeownership. I’m a cooperative homeowner myself. I believe in developing innovative strategies. I have over 20 years of experience where I worked on the Demonstration Disposition Program, helping families who will be negatively impacted by HUDs disposition of multifamily housing off their portfolio. I work to strengthen families to be able to set up collective entities like Washington Heights Tenants Association—right in our District—to create resident boards who could then take ownership of the property and protect all the families that now have a place to call home.

Within that, I built the Youth Builders program, which actually [still] exists today, many years later. It was the only youth program written into that funding, not because HUD pays for youth programs…they don’t, but because we wrote it into the Security and Family Self-Sufficiency Program. [This created an] opportunity for kids to be cared for so that the parents can go to work and pay for the affordable housing.

Tied into workforce development is education. I’m really concerned about everyone, from our elders to our early learners. Education is a key foundational block of any city because, for our young people, they are the new workforce. We have to be focused on a zero to college or trade trajectory. We have to make sure that we do what we can as City Councilors to promote universal pre-K, to help whoever the mayor is going to be to actually make that a thing; to make sure that this race to third grade isn’t something that creates a make it or break it opportunity. They take what the current standard, the Terra Nova, would determine whether or not they would qualify for advanced work. We need to make sure that all of our schools have the opportunity to have a universal focus on AWC if they want. And then, we need to diversify what quality looks like in our high schools.

There’s a huge focus on the exam schools, but we are not taking advantage of the other schools like the Snowden, like the Quincy. They offer international baccalaureate programs that are closer in line with developing worldly competitive students. We’re not looking at those IB schools and what they have to offer as much as we’re looking at these three exam schools. That’s unfortunate because this focus on our exam schools absolutely should be an area of accountability. Still, it should not be the only option for continuity for our kids, and then, of course, not taking away from our trades. We have a workforce opportunity explicitly built for creative people who would like to help build a better Boston, verbatim. No pun intended. They have the know-how, the skills and, most importantly, the critical thinking to develop the buildings that we want to work in on our 9 to 5.

Then, even for our adults, this COVID recovery process has created even more so [the] revisioning of what training looks like. I’ve been very involved in pre-workforce development. So, I would like to do what I can as a City Councilor to make sure that everyone from our early learners to our current workforce has the opportunity to learn and develop the skills that will get them into good-paying jobs.

Any candidate who’s not talking about COVID-19 recovery isn’t ready to run, respectfully. As a public servant who has a deep history in public health, I’ve been on the frontlines. During this process, I have volunteered at the vaccination sites. A lot of the things that we’re talking about for recovery weren’t just because I’m talking to the thought leaders. I actually volunteer at the vaccination sites. I actually volunteered to support our elders. I actually volunteered to support our families.

I have been on the frontlines and understand, intimately, what recovery could look like… especially as a member of the immigrant community [that was the] most impacted in certain areas of Boston and Greater Boston because of the marginalization that has been happening. Even before this, but [it] has been exposed even more by this pandemic.

Those are mainly the issues that I would be focusing on developing policy for. However, I think it’s also important to know… and this is one thing that I have clarified with a number of media outlets, but no one seems to pick up…that as a candidate, we just have ideas. My ideas are steeped in data, experiential knowledge and constant communication with the people.

However, as a politician—and not a career politician—my job is to listen to the voice of the people. These areas are where I will start. What we bring forward in City Hall, through resolutions and ordinances, and push through the state will be based on what the people are telling us are the priorities.

That kind of goes into the next question that I was going to ask you. If you were elected to City Council, how would you go about implementing these policies?

Honestly, I am a firm believer in bringing back the civic action, advocacy and organizing that really did push a lot of civil rights issues forward. Unfortunately, a lot of our residents have lost faith in understanding that local government does have power.

For instance, I partnered with the leaders of the Medicare for All March. Just this weekend, and not even being a part of City Council yet, just as a candidate…I was part of the different revisions of the Chapter 58 Legislation of 2006. I created the nearly universal health care effort, which basically is one stop short of this whole Medicare for All effort. Just during our little bitty part, a small march from Nubian Square to Downtown Boston and bringing together people from across Boston, we just had another legislator sign on to the bills. So, it’s really about organizing the voices, getting them to mobilize to effectively vote and be vocal about what they want; and then for me to produce as the next City Councilor with the support of our community, God-willing action that lets them know they are heard. Action that lets them know that the government is listening, and more importantly government is acting.

Quite a few candidates are running for District 7. What would you say makes your campaign different from the others?

I’m uniquely positioned to use the Office of City Council as an expansion effort of what I’ve already done to break barriers, address gaps and create opportunities for the future. There are things that our residents can look to and say, ‘Yes, Team Angie actually did that.’

We’re not coming in as a candidate with ideas who’s listening to local leaders to kind of get some sound bites. You actually have programs that you can sink your teeth into that are actually helping families right now. You can see my work and the Two Nice, Think Twice campaign under the Mayor Menino administration. I was one of the speakers during that cycle to help guard against senior scams.

You can see our work through ABCD when I lead half of the city’s free tax program sites. We were the only ones to do advanced tax cases and senior taxes recorded by the Department of Revenue. [We] broke open the major tax scheme, where seniors are being taken advantage of, over the senior circuit breaker tax credit.

We were visited by former Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew. When he looked across the nation, ABCD, under the privilege of management that I had at the time, garnered the support of the secretary of the treasury of the entire nation because of the innovative work we were doing.

Even at ABCD, I didn’t just stop with that one program, Youth Builders. I turned around and again Youth Builders, just to clarify, is different than YouthBuild, right. So, I kept going. Youth leadership has been part of my experience. I developed the Youth Engagement Action Program at ABCD that still teaches financial literacy and civics and helps individuals develop a sense of self. Like celebrities build their brand, we teach the young people to build their brand, and they get skills no longer taught in the school system.

Financial literacy is gone from our schools, except those schools supported by Junior Achievement of New England and other groups like that have partnered with me for that project. And, you know, civics really depends on the bandwidth of the instructor to make it come alive in the current curriculum, which is very hard.

Speaking of education, I’m uniquely tapped in deeply into education leadership. I was one of the parents that helped to revive the citywide parent council. I sit on the school committee nominating panel. When people think that the mayor picks a person out of a phonebook, that doesn’t happen. It’s actually a community process that the mayor is restricted to picking through that community process unless we don’t do our job.

These are everyday people applying to be on the school committee, and I am honored to work with a diverse panel of individuals who all deeply care. We’re all accountable to our representative organizations, the city and, more importantly, to our community about who we pick.

I’m actually in leadership on the English Language Learners Task Force. And so, for me, this is about bringing together not only all of my 20 years of experience of doing but also pulling together all the areas of my life so that I can develop a centralized place of power.

What do you like about District 7, and what do you think can be improved?

Oh my gosh, I love the history of District 7. There are so many innovative leaders and historical families. If you look at linkages, the linkages that all these candidates talk about… I think only two of our folks, besides me, can get down and dirty about the families connected to linkages and the actual… and if we, and only one besides me, who can actually get into the different areas and really dig deep. That started with leaders in our District.

District 7 is home to so many initiatives from legacy leaders who care, and yet, what I love about us is that we have been growing culturally to better appreciate the diversity that was here.

For instance, being from the Honduran community…My mom was adopted because her parents died early. When my mother’s godmother moved here from Honduras, they lived right over on Rocklin Street. A lot of Honduran families. They live in this area under the radar…until recently, as we’re starting to progress as Afro Latinos, and not just Black people who speak Spanish. True story, but there was a history in that. One of the things that we could do better [is that] we can continue to acknowledge the legacy residents who have a right to remain and the new Boston that is coming up. Not because we haven’t been here before, but Roxbury should be Roxbury for all residents.

The city of Boston is steeped in Black versus white racism, but there’s actually a spectrum of color that needs equity, and we have the opportunity to seek that. Also, when we’re talking about the Roxbury, Dorchester, South End and Fenway… we have to be very cognizant of the gentrification that’s happening.

District 7 is not, you know, even though I talk about a lot by Roxbury, my history has been steeped very deeply in this area between Roxbury and the South End, mostly. But I’m looking at how we can support a youth center and Grove Hall in Dorchester? How do we make sure that those living in Fenway don’t get unduly punished for the perception of wealth?

As we’re creating opportunity, we can’t marginalize people. We have to think about the win-wins. Where is the nexus of opportunity for our stakeholders and people in need where everyone can benefit? And again, what makes me uniquely qualified is that I actually have developed programs and initiatives that are exemplary of that very issue that we have to face together.

Is there anything you want to let the readers know about that I did not ask you today?

Thank you for that question. I think it’s most important to let any of your readers know that this is a campaign of the people. All of our people. When I talk about being concerned about our elders to our earliest learners, it is not a sound bite for me. It is based on experience and situations where people have seen me on these local streets in these programs, developing and delivering for our neighbors. That’s important to know because experience matters. It matters so much that we had another candidate who actually tried to use my tagline in a recent meeting. It was very complimentary.

Also, we’re not only a campaign for the people, but we are the bridge builders. I had another candidate who kind of took a swipe at me and said, ‘Oh, I really respect what you’re doing, being a middle-aged woman trying to be relevant.’

I’m relevant because I’m real. Every statement lets you know that you’re not ready because the average voting age of our District is in the 60s. And so, I respect our seniors. I respect our elders because they have led the way, and I have worked with them enough to understand our area’s history and institutional knowledge because I am homegrown Roxbury.

Culturally, I may not fit the profile, but I am homegrown Roxbury, from my own parents to right now. I am deeply rooted in all of District 7 due to my engagement for families; for my son…his first story of being raised as a bilingual kid in the South End is not very far from my acculturated experience in the South End. Then, spending a lot of time in Dorchester in service…and who doesn’t love Fenway?

Then I also have experience making sure that the youth have a chance to be the next wave. Everything I have done has always had a youth component, has always brought our youth along and my other hashtag besides #ExperienceMatter is #LetThemLead.

This is a campaign of the people. We are the bridge builders who recognize [and] respect our seniors. [We] also seek to find a way for our young people, and people like me, not middle age, but everywhere in between.

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