Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George Tuesday said that she does not favor a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at this time.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey previously said she is "leaning towards" a mandate for city workers but has not yet done so. Michelle Wu has called for a citywide vaccine mandate, and Andrea Campbell recently announced a vaccine mandate for her campaign staff. Essaibi George told Boston Public Radio Tuesday she'd like to "avoid a mandate as much as possible."
"I'm certainly willing to explore it," Essaibi Geroge said, but noted she would like to avoid it ultimately.
Speaking specifically about requiring vaccine mandates for Boston Public School teachers, Essaibi George said teachers "know how important it is to be vaccinated."
"I worry about how we are going to enforce that, how far are we going to go?" she said.
More broadly, Essaibi George cited concerns about placing further burdens on small businesses with additional requirements.
Essaibi George, who owns a knitting shop in Dorchester called the Stitch House, said she does have a mask requirement for customers, and provides masks for customers who may not have one.
Rebutting Allegations Of Impropiety
A recent investigation by the Boston Globe detailed how Essaibi George's office got involved as city councilor to attempt to derail a building project that would have blocked the view of a luxury condominium building owned by her husband, in a move that the Globe said appeared to violate the state's conflict of interest law.
Essaibi George pushed back against the Globe's reporting, noting that her husband's name never came up in the municipal hearings, and she only became aware of his involvement after being approached by reporters. She said once she became aware, her staff followed protocol to avoid any conflict.
"I immediately consulted with counsel and began to take those necessary steps with the ethics commission," she said.
Essaibi George said her position as a city councilor opposed to the building project had nothing to do with her husband. It reflected, she said, prevailing community opinion and was in line with constituents and "the relevant parties at play, all of whom were opposed to this particular project."
She said that if she becomes mayor, her husband "will not do business before our city."
Hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan pressed Essaibi George about her knowledge of her husband's alleged infractions as a developer. The Globe reported that on four occaisions Boston housing inspectors filed complaints with housing court; none of these, however, were deemed criminal.
In response, Essaibi George said she felt like this issue was being pushed as a means to disqualify her from running for office, a theme, she said, she's not unfamiliar with.
She recalled her father telling her as a teenager that an Arab girl with an Arab name will never win an elected seat in the city, and again in her early twenties, when a consultant told her she would never make it to the City Council.
"Now here I'm in this different position, where I've built a record of accomplishments as an at-large city councilor," she said. "I'm proud of my years of service to this city, I'm excited to lead on the issues that are important to Bostonians, around education, around public safety, around quality of life and filling potholes and building playgrounds, and making sure this is a city that families can continue to call home."
On Patrick Rose
Essaibi George said she would release more information about Patrick Rose, a retired Boston Police officer and former head of the patrolman's union who was credibly accused of sexually assaulting a minor but allowed to remain on the force for years.
"Yes, that's an absolute pledge I can make," she said. "I will lean hard on that accountability piece, when we think about the trust and bonds between community and police, and to fulfill that promise of community policing that Boston leads on, we need to make sure those bonds of trust are as strong as ever."
But, she also appeared sympathetic with Acting Mayor Kim Janey, who recently released a review of the Rose investigation. The review offered little new information about who knew about the allegations, and Janey has said she could not release more documents directly from Rose's file, citing the protection of abuse victims' identities.
"In this particular case, and in cases involving abuse, especially of children, and abuse involving domestic violence, you have to be very careful about protecting the identities of any victims," she said. "So for sure, I appreciate the desire to tread carefully and to protect the innocent."