Ruthzee Louijeune

headshot of Ruthzee Louijeun, Boston City Councilor At-Large candidate

Q. Boston’s beaches, harbors, rivers, and islands provide tremendous public resources to residents and visitors alike, but too often, many of these spaces remain inaccessible and exclusive. How would you expand access to the recreation, economic, and wellness opportunities provided by the city’s waterfronts and ensure all communities feel welcome?

A. The success of Boston’s waterfront is not limited to the physical space but also encompasses creating a holistic ecosystem that includes job opportunities, housing, and accessible transportation. The first step would be actively promoting the inclusion of publicly developed spaces in projects carried out by developers and landholders along the waterfront, which includes partnering with government agencies like MassPort. I would also prioritize ensuring that residents residing in close proximity to these areas, such as East Boston, have strong representation in discussions, guaranteeing that their needs and preferences are taken into account. Expanding access to the waterfront also includes ensuring that low-income and BIPOC communities can fully participate in and benefit from the promising future of Boston's waterfront.I am committed to ensuring that our BIPOC communities across the city have fair and just opportunities to benefit from the valuable resources provided by Boston's waterfront, from opportunities. This includes a strong focus on job opportunities and workforce development, ensuring that these communities have access to employment opportunities created by waterfront development projects. It's vital that we emphasize workforce training programs and job creation to empower local residents. Affordable housing options near the waterfront should be a priority, allowing low-income residents to live in proximity to these valuable resources. Efficient and accessible transportation solutions should also be in place to ensure that all residents, regardless of their economic status, can easily reach and enjoy the waterfront.

Q. How would you work with local and state agencies as well as residents to implement coastal resilience projects that can reduce risks to neighborhoods and communities from the threats of climate change including sea level rise?

A. I believe that environmental justice means having a focus on how environmental impacts disproportionately affect low-income and BIPOC residents. Climate justice can be a pathway to create stable union jobs that pay living wages for Black and Latinx communities. Climate justice is racial justice. While keeping environmental justice at the forefront, our top priority needs to be committing to 100% renewables: divesting from fossil fuels, converting our electricity to renewables, converting government transportation to electric, requiring new developments to meet net-zero emissions standards, and converting all existing buildings and transportation to renewables. At the city level, we need to double down on our environmental justice investments by looking at what the city has control over: public transportation, urban spaces, disposable good regulations, and building energy requirements. First, transportation equity and reducing car use is crucial. A free MBTA will go a long way in changing behavior and reducing fossil-fuel pollution from cars. Second, we need to grow the tree canopy in urban spaces and continue making Boston Harbor more resilient by ensuring flood protection-- particularly in neighborhoods that have been under-invested in. Thirdly, we need to educate the public about our recycling crisis particularly when it comes to plastic. There is not enough demand for recycled goods, and a very small percentage of plastics are ever recycled. We can implement regulations requiring businesses to use renewable and biodegradable materials like paper mache and glass. Finally, we need to improve current energy requirements by requiring all new buildings to meet a net-zero emissions standard. We need to convert our existing public buildings to 100% renewable energy, and we need to implement a regulatory timeline that requires all existing buildings to convert to renewables. These are just the first few steps that need to be implemented in Boston. All of these initiatives and others should have a central focus of job creation and equitable investment, targeting the areas of the city hardest hit by climate change.

Q. Investments in transportation infrastructure and services are needed to connect more residents to the waterfront — from parks and beaches to jobs and opportunities. This includes, but is not limited to, public transit, pedestrian access, bike routes, and ferry services. How would you work to improve affordable access to the waterfront around Boston and beyond?

A. I would focus on public and low-cost methods to improve affordable access including public transit and pedestrian access.

Q. Massachusetts working ports and maritime industries have a rich history and have served as a critical economic driver for Boston since its founding. How would you balance and support the existing needs of the City’s working ports with the evolving needs of waterfront communities, climate resilience planning, and the importance of expanding public access to the waterfront?

A. I would work to ensure that the needs of residents are represented in all development conversations that occur with the owners of those waterfront properties. There is an important economic role that the ports play that do need to be sustained while also opening them up to use and access by residents. Perhaps negotiating times of usage or designating certain areas strictly for commercial activity and certain areas strictly for resident and visitor access is a path forward.