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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston Student Looks to Shake Up Local Politics

Matt Geary, 22, UMB history major, is running for Councilor-at-Large in Boston’s upcoming local elections. The Mass Media recently spoke with Geary about his campaign, and the challenges he faces as the youngest candidate in the race.

Why are you running for Boston City Council?

I am running for Boston City Council to be an independent voice for Boston workers and Boston youth. Unfortunately, politicians of both major parties are corrupt, and bought off by corporations. We’re using this campaign as a way of arguing for the need for independent political action for working people, for young people, to organize in their own interests – outside of the usual channels

What are your chances of winning?

I think my campaign is up against a lot of difficulties. I am running an independent campaign – we’re not accepting any donations from corporations of corporate backers. We don’t have the resources available to most politicians, but despite those difficulties, being out in the street, people are ready for change, they want to see some new faces in office and this campaign is a step in the right direction.

How have you been getting the word out about your campaign?

The group backing this campaign has been hitting the streets on a daily basis. We go on street corners, hand out leaflets, talk to people, knock on doors, talk to people on their doorsteps. We stand on the side of subway stations, and try to engage people in political conversation. We also try to be active in the unions we are in. We stand outside union halls, and try to engage union activists in the campaign.

Can you speak about your youth and inexperience, relative to the other candidates?

I’m twenty-two years old, by the far the youngest person running in this race. Actually, I was a little self-conscious getting into this, because I thought my age [would put me at] a disadvantage. However, my experience has been that it is a unique advantage. People are very excited to see a young person so passionate and so active in politics. Unfortunately, local elections get the smallest voter turnout of any elections, and young people vote in even smaller numbers for local elections. Hopefully, my age will engage young people, and bring more young people into politics…People are very demoralized by the choices they are given, so they just don’t vote. Being the unique candidate that I am, hopefully I will inspire more people to go the polls than normally do so.

How will Boston benefit from electing MG city councilor?

Besides my age, the thing that distinguishes me most from the other candidates is my salary. Boston City Councilors make almost $90,000 a year. I would, right off the bat, give away more than half my salary. I would only take $35,000 a year – the average salary of a worker in Boston, based on the principle that all elected officials should have to survive on what their constituents do. If [officials] had to live on what their constituents do, then they would be much more likely to look out for their interests. Over $50,000 that I refuse to accept, I will donate back to the labor movement, back to the social justice causes, back to the anti-war movement. These are shining examples of institutions that can actually cause great change in society – much more than individual politicians. I believe that collective action – when people get organized – that’s what causes real change – not individual politicians.

What is wrong, if anything, with city politics in Boston?

People in Boston lack real, direct representation. The Boston City Council has no power over how the [city] budget is written. The mayor’s office writes the budget, then sends it to the city council, [who] only have the option of voting up or down. The Boston school committee is an unelected body, so we have bureaucrats and politicians running the school system, instead of parents, students and educators. The Boston Redevelopment Authority, which handles economic development, and construction projects in Boston, is an unelected body and hands out tax breaks and loopholes for corps to come build in Boston in order to line their own coffers. I would use my seat as a BCC as a platform to try to engage people in the communities to get organized so we can see a change on how Boston politics is run, so that we can have real, direct representation in Boston.

Do you think that running with a socialist platform, that the odds are stacked against you?

I think that the ideas of socialism are greatly misunderstood in our society. I do not believe in socialism, as it was called, in the Soviet Union. I don’t believe in socialism, as it’s called in China. What I call for is democratic socialism – to bring democracy into the economy. We have corporations that control most of the resources in society that are run by unelected CEOs and unelected board of directors. I want to see that the people who are actually in these workplaces every day have a say in how the economy is run.

When you are speaking about these issues, why not just represent yourself as a non-partisan or independent. Why do you feel that it is necessary to mention socialism?

All our problems are related to capitalism. You can’t just change problems, here or there. We need a dramatic transformation of society – a revolutionary transformation of society.

If you are elected to Boston City Council, what will you do to help UMass Boston?

I’ve been a tireless activist in my three years at UMB. I have been involved in campaign against budget cuts for higher education. I’ve been involved in campaign against T fare increases in 2006, which affects thousands of commuters who have to depend on public transportation. I’ve been an activist for working people and young people during my entire time at UMass Boston. It’s not something I’ve ever been paid for. It’s something I dedicate all my free time to. As a city councilor, I will be a tireless campaigner, a tireless fighter for the issues that affect the students at UMass Boston, and for Boston as whole.

More information about Matt Geary’s campaign can be found at www.votegeary.org