Story by Diti Kohli
John Matheson, four-term city councillor for Ward 3, said he will decide whether to launch an official bid for mayor before May.
In a phone interview, the prospective candidate stressed his self-identification as a “populist and idealist” and said his potential platform would include policies that would expand commercial development. The councillor also plans to focus on increased ticketing, worsening street and traffic patterns, city beautification, and environmental issues, like challenging the contentious mandatory use of blue trash bags and eliminating lead pipes in homes.
Matheson announced the formation of his exploratory committee to the public on March 16 via Facebook.
“Residents have said the administration has ignored their issues,” said Matheson. “And the government we have now is not a government that’s for the people.”
Matheson is no stranger to local politics; in addition to his four terms on the city council, he ran an unsuccessful race for state representative in 2014.
If he officially posits himself as a candidate this month, Matheson will be the first to challenge the current mayor, Gary Christenson, since his election to the office in 2011.
Matheson, a local attorney at his own firm, has served on the city council for the last eight years. He acts as the chair of the subcommittee that oversees traffic mitigation and another that spearheads the development of the abandoned Malden Hospital. In the past, he held positions as Malden city council president, city councilor-at-large, and president of the Bread of Life Board of Directors.
A Malden native, Matheson said he feels rooted to the town and its improvement.
“I love my hometown,” said Matheson. “I want to apply my skills with this bid to make it better and serve its unanswered needs.”
Matheson said he examined ballot question results, survey evaluations, and forum discussions conducted by the city for the past several weeks to ascertain interest in certain issues and his potential mayoral bid. He is particularly interested in results from the 2017 moratorium study and the city’s Visioning Project which conducted forums in Malden in 2008.
Matheson contends that Mayor Christenson disregards the needs of the city’s low-income residents. Malden residents have an average income more than $12,000 below the state average, as reported by The Boston Globe.
Matheson also denounced the current mayor for “not delivering on campaign promises” and cited Christenson’s campaign pledge to reduce the usage of hazardous blue trash bags, which have not been disbanded or replaced.
The councillor said that low-income citizens are additionally subjected to an increase in city per capita income from the apartment developments. The developments also brought an influx of students into the school system and no expansion in affordable housing.
With the focus on apartment growth during Christenson’s stint in office, Matheson said the city has remained stagnant in terms of commercial development like franchises and shopping centers, like the recently finished Assembly Row just outside of Malden.
When approached by a reporter, the office of Mayor Gary Christenson declined to comment on Matheson’s critiques or on his prospective bid for mayor.