The Codcast: The life (and death) stories that drive Andrea Campbell

Andrea Campbell’s twin brother Andre died seven years ago while awaiting trial in the custody of the state Department of Correction, and she says that has everything to do with how she wound up on the Boston City Council.

The 36-year-old Mattapan resident says government needs to share more stories. By that she means we can often gain greater clarity about how to approach public policy issues through stories that put a human face on the often dry matters of city and state. Campbell, who is starting her second year as City Council president, leads by example and unspools some of her own life story on this week’s Codcast.

It is, by turns, both heart-wrenching and inspiring, and when you hear it it’s easy to see how she connects her life experience with the issues that drive her work as a Boston city councilor. Campbell has been a relentless advocate for public schools – and for ensuring all students get the sort of education she received at Boston Latin School. She’s been outspoken on criminal justice reform issues and, most recently, on the need for greater diversity in the city’s police and fire departments.

Campbell’s life growing up in Roxbury and the South End was one of almost constant upheaval and trauma. But if there’s one moment in all of it that drove her to run for office and remains her North Star now that she’s there, it’s the death of her twin brother.

While Andre and an older brother both cycled in and out of the criminal justice system, as their father had before them, Campbell’s life trajectory could not be more different. After graduating from Boston Latin, she went on to Princeton for undergraduate studies, and got a law degree from UCLA.

The hurdles she and her brothers faced came early. When she and Andre were eight months old, their mother was killed in an auto accident on her way to visit their father in prison. He wound up serving eight years behind bars, so Campbell’s first years were spent bouncing between relatives and foster homes, without a mother she never really knew and with a father behind bars.

While she found refuge and lots of mentoring and support through the Boston Public Schools she attended, Andre had a very different experience before his life came to a tragically early end in state custody at age 29.

“So the question that fuels my work every day is, how do two twins in this city have such different life outcomes?” Campbell asks during our conversation.

She hasn’t figured out all the answers, but Campbell says she’s piecing together the story.

“Growing up, I would just often look at my brothers and say, get it together and go to school,” she says. “I almost felt as if I was a mother figure. Do your work. It was more complex than that, and you don’t see that until you gain some level of maturity.”

With that maturity she says, “I no longer blame individual people. I look at systems as a whole” and “how they don’t show up for the most vulnerable, and the inequities in those systems. And I try to peel that apart a little bit, using not just my story but the stories of many others in the communities I serve.”

In the case of Andre and her older brother, Campbell says she saw how their experience as black boys growing up in Boston differed from hers. “I wasn’t stopped by the police on the way home from school. I remember that happening to my brothers even though they were not involved in anything,” she says.

Having a gun pulled on him on the streets, getting stopped by the police, the anger he felt from their father – it all added up to a level of trauma for Andre that Campbell says the system never adequately helped her brother deal with.

“I use my stories and others to highlight those inequities and then push the system to show up differently with respect not just to those families that feel left out, but all of us. Because if the system is failing some of us, it’s failing all of us, and we should all either be ashamed or grapple with that,” she says.

Campbell has quickly impressed political watchers, starting with her defeat of 32-year incumbent Charles Yancey in 2015 to win the District 4 seat representing Mattapan and parts of Dorchester. As for the coming chapters of her story, Campbell’s name pops up in any discussion of potential mayoral aspirants, something she bats away – but doesn’t write off.

“I see a lot of work right here that I need to focus on,” Campbell says, pointing out she’s up for reelection this fall along with all of the council. “If there’s something else down the line, I’m not closed to it. I’m just not setting my intention there just yet.”

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker thought Imam Shaykh Yassir Fahmy gave a powerful speech at a recent vigil, and on Friday Baker went to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center to hear him again. According to officials there, it was the first time a sitting Republican Massachusetts governor visited a local mosque. (WGBH News)

William Smith of the Pioneer Institute calls Baker’s drug pricing proposal “Orwellian.” (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Gateway Cities have seen a big rise in housing prices, which is both good and bad for their revival, says MassINC research director Ben Forman. (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial slams Boston city councilors Michael Flaherty and Ed Flynn for NIMBY-fueled hypocrisy in opposing a proposal to build 1,300 units of housing at the site a former Boston Edison plant in South Boston while also joining the citywide chorus saying we need more housing.

The developers of Dot Block in Dorchester change their plan to expand the amount of green and open space. (Dorchester Reporter)

The town of Braintree is appealing a decision by state environmental officials to grant an air-quality permit for a proposed natural gas compressor station in Weymouth. A pipeline which would connect the proposed compressor station would pass through Braintree. (Patriot Ledger)

Bourne town leaders want to increase the local hotel and motel room occupancy tax from four to six percent in an effort to boost tourism. Similar efforts have passed in Wareham and Provincetown. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

George Soros pens a Globe op-ed describing the grave threat to free societies he sees in China’s use of artificial intelligence and data gathering.

Billionaire Tom Steyer’s impeachment crusade is landing in Massachusetts with television ads set to begin airing today that urge viewers to contact Rep. Richard Neal to push him to obtain President Trump’s tax returns in his powerful new position as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and begin impeachment proceedings. (Boston Globe)

US Rep. Jim McGovern says his campaign committee will no longer accept donations from corporate political action committees. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Lots of members of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation say Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, should resign. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

Three Boston political hands are the ones behind the “Draft Beto” movement that’s trying to get defeated Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke to jump into the 2020 Democratic race for president. (Boston Globe)

Sen. Barry Finegold topped the list of campaign spenders for House and Senate seats last year, shelling out $357,469 on his successful bid for a return to the state Senate. (Lowell Sun)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The $10 million effort to build a manufacturing space, warehouse, taproom, and beer garden for Great Marsh Brewing Company in Essex received a $5 million tax-exempt bond from MassDevelopment. (Gloucester Daily Times)

With the labor market stretched thin, Richard Kazis says Massachusetts needs to get workforce development right. (CommonWealth)

EDUCATION

Former Chelsea history teacher Frank DeVito withdrew his application to create the Equity Lab Charter School in Lawrence after accusations that he faked letters of support, which DeVito denies. (Eagle-Tribune)

New state and federal background checks for child care workers have leaders in the field worried that thousands of people with minor legal scrapes years ago could be banned from working in a field that already struggles with high turnover. (Boston Globe)

A few Massachusetts schools announced a delayed start for classes today because of last night’s Super Bowl, and a couple of schools will be closed all day. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Despite technological advances that help the visually impaired, Greg Donnelly of the Carroll Center for the Blind says continued investment in braille is necessary. (CommonWealth)

ARTS/CULTURE

A Berkshire Eagle editorial praises North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard’s call for reviving the historic Mohawk Theater downtown.

TRANSPORTATION

Matt Cole, the president of Cubic Corporation, the firm building a new fare system for the MBTA, says his goal is to integrate all types of transportation systems on one fare card. (CommonWealth)

Early read on Tuesday traffic: Unseasonably warm weather on tap with a very high chance of confetti and blocked roadways through the Back Bay and downtown Boston. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Quincy is considering creating a new Department of Natural Resources. The new department would reorganize the city’s parks, forestry, recreation, conservation, and cemetery divisions under one umbrella. (Patriot Ledger)

In February 2016 Columbia Gas’s pipes in Taunton spiked dangerously high. More than two years later, after the company’s over-pressurized pipe network in the Merrimack Valley led to fires and explosions, the Department of Public Utilities levied a $75,000 fine for the incident in Taunton. (WBUR News)

The last Andover business forced to close because of the September 13 Columbia Gas fires, Yella Grille, recently reopened. (Eagle-Tribune)

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology predict that global warming will change the color of the sea, with some parts becoming greener and others becoming bluer. (WBUR News)

The 35-day federal government shutdown led the New England Fishery Management Council to keep in place some 2018 rules for recreational fishing. That means Gulf of Maine cod is still off-limits for recreational anglers. (Gloucester Daily Times)

CASINOS

Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox is telling investors all is on track for the company’s planned June 23 casino opening in Everett — even though a state investigation of the firm’s suitability to hold the license has not been completed. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Berkshire Eagle special report examines how having just one prison for women in western Massachusetts contributes to an unfair and unequal criminal justice system.

Baker administration officials have reversed course and told local police chiefs they won’t challenge court orders to reinstate gun licenses for some individuals whose permits had been revoked. (Boston Globe)

A commission formed to devise strategies to increase diversity in the State Police ranks is facing criticism for not going far enough in its recommendations. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

The Washington Post took out a super costly TV ad during the Super Bowl to promote the crucial role a free press plays in a vibrant democracy. The ad could have cost as much as $10 million, sparking backlash from the co-chair of a union representing Post workers, who decried the spending amidst the paper’s cutback of health insurance and pension benefits. (USA Today)

Spotify is in talks to acquire Gimlet, a podcast company, for a reported $230 million. (Nieman Journalism Lab)