NU professor Oscar Brookins to run for City Council

By Rob Tokanel, News Staff

Northeastern economics professor and long-time Mission Hill resident Oscar Brookins has recently filed to run for City Council in Boston’s eighth district, which includes the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Mission Hill and the Fenway.
Brookins, who will challenge eight-year incumbent and City Council president Mike Ross, cites student interests as his priority in the election and the reason he decided to run.
‘We should treat the students as a resource of value rather than as a nuisance or worse,’ he said. ‘Unfortunately, there seemed to be no one who was going to make a challenge, so I decided that I would.’
Brookins said Ross has afforded Boston students secondary status by sponsoring the ordinance known as ‘No More Than Four’ in 2008, which limits the number of’ full-time undergraduate students who can live together in an apartment to four.
Brookins said growing up as an African-American in segregated Mississippi instilled in him the belief that ‘collective punishment of a group is not a civilized approach,’ and he said he finds it hypocritical to target students in a ‘nation in favor of more education.’
Joe Hanley, campaign chairman for Mike Ross’ reelection, said Ross is ‘definitely pro-students.’ Hanley said Ross views the student housing ordinance as a way to allow students to continue to remain in the city after graduation and ensure they are not mistreated by landlords.
‘[Ross] lives on Mission Hill,’ said Hanley. ‘He’s at the ground level day in and day out, and he hears from a lot of long-time residents that have been priced out of the neighborhood and can’t afford to live there anymore.’
Brookins said owning properties in Mission Hill and having lived there since 1987, working families hardly ever wanted to live in one of his properties. They would remain vacant or occupied by students, he said.
‘ ‘They seem to have forgotten that the college students are overwhelmingly somebody’s working family’s son and daughter,’ he said. ‘They may not live in Boston, but if you are supposedly in favor of supporting working famlilies, then their sons and daughter who have been sent here to be educated deserve support.’
Brookins has been teaching at Northeastern since 1983 and currently teaches classes about economic issues in minority communities and international economics.
Brookins and his wife, Kathryn Brookins, self-publish the Mission Hill News, a newspaper with a circulation of 6,000 in which they provide opinions on community issues and detail real estate transactions in the area.
During his time living on Mission Hill, he has been regularly involved in civic issues and has attended meetings to express concerns for the well being of students.
‘The students have not made anything worse,’ he said. ‘If [Ross] finds that students’ presence has made him nearly unable to continue to live in Mission Hill, it is because he has an enmity towards them.’
Brookins said he also sees the high incumbency rate in Massachusetts as problematic, another reason he decided someone should challenge Ross.
Hanley said Ross ‘takes nothing for granted’ in the election’ and welcomes’ anyone to take part in the democratic process.
‘What [Ross is] going to be talking about is his record of accomplishments over the last eight years, and a lot them focus on how he has served to promote the interests of people in neighborhoods,’ Hanley said.
Hanley said some of those accomplishments include efforts to stem youth violence and to improve Boston Common.
Brookins said if he were to win the election, he is unsure what it would mean for his position at Northeastern, but he may consider a leave of absence.
‘It might come to a point at which the trade-off between the time required to do a good job as an instructor and a good job as a councilor would come into conflict and I would need to make a choice,’ he said.

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