I have wanted to interview City Councilor Mike Ross ever since I spoke with his father, Steve Ross, about a decade ago. With Mike running for mayor of Boston, now seemed like the perfect time. We spoke about what can make a city “smarter,” the “tech tax” and the influence his father has had on him. The municipal preliminary election is Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Your slogan is “Smarter Boston.” What’s one thing we should be doing smarter in the city?
We can’t be afraid to look outside City Hall for the best ideas. My favorite question when presented with a problem is to say, “Who’s doing this better than us, and what can we learn from them?” That’s what I’ve done my entire career. I led a delegation to New York to learn about how they turned around some of their public parks, as well as a delegation to Los Angeles to find out what not to do in permitting food trucks. Each time I was able to come back with new ideas that we then implemented here in Boston. The most powerful thing you can have in politics is a new idea and the will to implement it. That’s why I’m running for mayor, so I can use new ideas to create jobs, improve our schools and modernize government. You can read more about some of my ideas at BostonSmarter.com.
You’re opposed to the “tech tax” the legislature passed to help fund transportation. If the legislature ends up repealing it, how are we going to replace the money? Don’t tech companies need to get to work too?
While funding public transportation is critical, this tax has the potential to harm our growing technology industry and chase business away from our region. At a time when our economic region is establishing itself as a global hub in the innovation economy, we now have the highest tax on computer and software services in the country. The law as it is currently written is not clear on what services exactly are taxable; it did not benefit from robust input from the technology community and should be repealed.
I supported the governor’s initial proposal, which relied on a more equitable adjustment to the income tax. I also think the revenue shortfall could be made up by a slight increase to the gas tax. Either of these would be better options.
I actually interviewed your father, a Holocaust survivor, many years ago for The Jewish Advocate. I have always been amazed by the children of survivors. Do you feel your own urge to succeed was in any way driven by wanting to make up for those who were lost?
My father survived 10 concentration camps during the Holocaust and was rescued by American soldiers at Dachau. After moving to America, he dedicated his life to breaking the cycles of poverty and connecting people to jobs. He also helped found The New England Holocaust Memorial in 1995.
He taught me that I have a special duty to ensure the world we live in is more just—and equal—for all of us and those who follow. As someone who suffered so much, he taught me that there’s no value in holding onto hate or bitterness. And through his eyes, I saw the immigrant story and the value of the American dream—he was the proudest American I have ever known. That’s what I grew up with, and that’s what I believe. And that’s why it’s so important to me that everyone has opportunity, that everyone has access to the American dream. When I think about helping people, I think about the lessons I learned from my father.
Your TV ad has you running through the streets of Boston. That must have been much more complicated to film than your standard political ad. Any funny outtake stories to share?
Shooting that ad was a great opportunity to highlight some of my favorite places in Boston, from Fenway Park to my home neighborhood of Mission Hill. The camera was mounted on a special golf cart, which broke down at one point. We did several takes with me running behind a cart as several people pushed it, but thankfully we were able to repair the cart in time to finish the shoot!
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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