Keller @ Large: Mayoral Candidate John Barros On The Importance Of 'Amenities' To Boston's Economy

WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller talks to Boston mayoral candidate John Barros.

Video Transcript

JON KELLER: Good morning, everyone. We are keeping a close eye, as you know, on the crucial Boston mayoral race, and we continue to do that this morning with our series of introductory interviews with major candidates. Our guests this morning, John Barros, former member of the Boston School Committee, former executive director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. He served as chief of economic development under former Mayor Walsh, and he also owns and operates restaurant, Cesaria, on Bowdoin Street in Boston. Mr. Barros, welcome.

JOHN BARROS: Thank you Jon. It's good to be here.

JON KELLER: So let's start right there with the plight of small business, in a city, where even before the pandemic, we were perceived as a difficult place to do business, difficult permitting requirements, high costs, et cetera. If you're elected mayor, what's the first thing you do to make life easier for small business?

JOHN BARROS: Jon, thanks for the question. As you know, businesses have suffered greatly, particularly, our smaller businesses in the city, particularly, businesses in the food and accommodation industry, businesses in the hospitality industry. As a restaurant owner, I felt that firsthand. We had to make tough decisions to make sure that our families, the folks who work for us at the restaurant can still keep their jobs.

The city stepped in and helped. I personally managed six different funds of $26 million total to different businesses in the city to keep them alive. We need to do more direct financial assistance. We need to do more technical assistance for small businesses to make sure that they can access the federal grants and the federal supports that are coming through. Small business survival is critical for Boston's economy.

JON KELLER: Well, prioritize for me, what's the first move out of the box for a Barros administration?

JOHN BARROS: The first move out of the box for a Barros administration is going big on what we call our amenities, the things that bring people together in our city. We need to bring people back into the urban core, and so we need to make sure that when people come back to the office towers, they don't just go home. People want to come back to the city because they have a place to have a drink with a business colleague, because they're able to have a dinner. They're able to catch a show or a concert. These are the things that make us a city that is special.

Miami Beach has beaches. Boston has culture. We have history. We have important places for people to gather. It's critical that the next mayor invest in that immediately.

JON KELLER: So obviously, you worked for the Walsh administration. You resigned in order to make this run. Do you see yourself as the obvious choice of voters who liked the Walsh era? Is that a branding you embrace?

JOHN BARROS: You know, I'm proud of the work that we did in the Walsh administration. I'm really honored to have served as chief of economic development for seven and plus years. As mayor, I would make sure that we continue important work that we did in the administration and then go further. It's important that we continue to manage the people's money, taxpayer money. For seven years, we were able to have the Boston's bond rating be triple-A credit.

We will continue that in the Barros administration. We will continue to make sure our economy grows, and then we will make sure that we go further in making equity an aggressive priority. We have to make bold decisions today, creative solutions to make sure that more people can join our economic growth as a city. We have to provide more resources and capital to women-owned businesses, to people-of-color owned businesses, and then provide the opportunity for them to do more and grow in our economy.

JON KELLER: Would you say-- we have to take our break, but would you say that you have more of the Walsh people behind you than the other candidates?

JOHN BARROS: It's hard to say. I'm proud of the support that I'm getting from the Walsh team and all the people that have come around to support me. We have some really high-profile people from the Walsh team, but I'm also proud to have people that are not part of the Walsh team, people that have been part of other camps historically. It's actually nice to see some of the supporters of some of the candidates that ran against me in 2013 now come and endorse my candidacy and be part of my campaign.