Tito Jackson Hopes to Become Boston’s 1st Black Mayor Today

City Councilor Tito Jackson participates in a mayoral debate at the WGBH Studios in Boston on Oct. 24, 2017. (Meredith Nierman/WGBH News via AP, Pool)
City Councilor Tito Jackson participates in a mayoral debate at the WGBH Studios in Boston on Oct. 24, 2017. (Meredith Nierman/WGBH News via AP, Pool)

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson knows polling data isn’t in his favor and that he’s running against a well-established incumbent mayor in Marty Walsh. But Jackson is confident that the pulse on the streets is giving him a more accurate feel of Tuesday’s outcome: That he will be elected Boston’s first black mayor.


“The local press as well as the polling data are saying one thing. What we’re hearing and seeing on the ground is something very different,” Jackson told me during a recent phone call. “The pollsters and the pundits and others won’t be able to call this race. I’m an atypical candidate in this city, and what we are hearing and feeling on the ground is a great deal of momentum.”

Walsh has a sizable 58 to 23 percent lead over Jackson, with 17 percent undecided in the survey, according to a Suffolk University-Boston Globe poll released late last month. Sixty-nine percent of voters added that they held a favorable view of the mayor and were satisfied with his job performance.

The flaw in that data is that not everyone feels part of Boston’s progress, including the city’s black population, Jackson told me. One of his priorities is to help minorities in the city achieve income equity with their white fellow residents. Citing a 2016 Brookings study that found Boston top in income inequality in the nation, Jackson says that homeownership is particularly elusive for the city’s black population. Moreover, he said that some 15,000 housing units in Boston will lose their affordability in something called expiring use, referring to privately owned but publicly subsidized housing.

“You can’t move forward if you don’t keep what you have,” Jackson said of people who risk losing their homes. “It will be critical for us to look at very creative ways to continue the affordability of the current place-based affordable housing that we have. We have several, as I noted, tens of thousands of units who are in match-space [in Boston], which is an issue.”


Another way he plans to take on income inequality is by implementing what he calls his “one-third, one-third, one-third” requirement for public land: One-third low income, one-third middle income and one-third market rate.

“it is my thought that public land should be used for public good,” Jackson added.


One area on which Jackson has hit the mayor hard is transparency. During the city’s 2024 Olympic bid, Jackson alleges, Walsh reached out to the richest, most connected people in the city for bids, leaving out the voice of the people, transparency and accountability.

Walsh has denied this and said during a recent debate that Jackson is focusing way too much on the bids. “There’s a lot of good things in the city of Boston, and when you want to continue to harp on the Olympics and IndyCar, it doesn’t work,” Walsh said.


Gabrielle Farrell, Walsh’s campaign communications director, told The Root that she could not provide an official response in time for publication, but did refer us to links disputing Jackson’s claims. For example, in an editorial endorsing Walsh, the Boston Herald noted that the mayor has rebounded admirably from the Olympic bids. And the Herald also gave Walsh props for not forgetting the city’s most vulnerable residents:

When Walsh got the bad news that the bridge to the Long Island shelter posed a danger and had to be demolished and the shelter and recovery beds would be inaccessible, he moved as quickly as humanly possible to do just that as winter approached. His administration has also done an admirable job—with federal help—to find permanent housing for homeless vets.


To deal with the issue of police brutality, Jackson said that he would create a civilian review board that has subpoena power and would review all cases of impropriety with the city’s Police Department. Another flaw of Walsh’s handling of police abuse, Jackson charges, is that Walsh isn’t tough enough on bad cops. He pointed to a police officer who made a racist videotape who ended up serving a six-month suspension. “That police officer, in my administration, would be fired immediately,” Jackson said.

For his part, Walsh acknowledged Boston’s racial issues during his first debate with Jackson, pointing to how racism is a national issue, propelled by the NFL protests.


“What we have to do is look at the issue of why they’re taking a knee, because of police-involved shooting and police brutality around the country,” Walsh said during the Oct. 11 debate. “And when you think about race and racism in the city of Boston, it does exist. It exists all over America.”

There are several reasons that Jackson feels Tuesday is his day and Boston is primed to make history. Born and raised in the Roxbury neighborhood he currently represents on Boston’s City Council, Jackson, 42, was born as a result of a rape.


“Two months into my life, an amazing Boston thing happened for me,” Jackson said. “My parents adopted me when I was 2 months old out of Boston City Hospital. I was the first to be adopted, and after that, they went back three more times and they adopted four of us. This is a family who already had four kids biologically. I was shown an amazing level of grace, and in no way [am I] exceptional. I just had exceptional opportunities.” (He is currently looking for his birth mother.)

That is the spirit that drives Jackson (who is an honoree of The Root 100 this year), and reflects what he wants for everyone in Boston: exceptional opportunities.


When asked what he’ll do if he loses Tuesday, Jackson told me that he’ll always be working to help his hometown be a great place for everyone. Before he entered politics, he worked in the pharmaceutical and technology industries. Some of his stints included Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly.

After that, he worked for a startup and then Gov. Deval Patrick. Jackson says that he recruited Google and Microsoft to add business units to the state of Massachusetts, creating more than 2,500 jobs. Jackson says that he will continue doing this whether or not he becomes mayor. Though he is squarely focused on becoming the 55th mayor of the city of Boston. The Jackson 55, as it were.


“I will always be active because this is my passion,” Jackson said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.



Just got back from voting for him. I know he doesn’t have a chance to win, but to keep power in check, don’t make it so easy for them. And he’s generally a good guy with some good ideas and the willingness to take the focus away from all the “world class city” talk to the people around who really matter. I give him big props for not being afraid to take on the “machine.”