Courting 36 Court: Justice & Some Common Cents on Davila’s Mind…
Courting 36 Court Street is a series of quick interviews with Springfield’s at-large candidates. **All interviews are edited and condensed for length.**
Victor Davila is no stranger to Springfield politics. He majored in political science and economics in college. Now the operator of a small transportation business, he has run for city office before. He remains active with the C3 policing program and worked on campaigns like that of Senator Eric Lesser. He hopes an open at-large seat will give a window to bring both an activist’s heart and a businessman’s outlook to City Hall.
WMassP&I: You were born in Puerto Rico. How did you end up in Springfield as opposed to somewhere else?
Victor Davila: Family. At the time, we had a cousin that lived here. She went to Puerto Rico to visit us. Of course, I was a kid back then. And she started telling my father about Springfield. We settled here. That was what 34 years ago.
WMPI: What made you want to get more involved in the civic life of the city?
VD: It always bothers me when I see injustice. I do have a strong calling for civic duty. I don’t believe, actually I know I can serve on the city council. I’m just trying to make it a lot better than I found. I think that in Springfield we have a lot of people who we’re not paying attention to. We are the verge of having more poor people in the city. Even though there is progress in the city, the question is who is that progress helping.
WMPI: What do you think you have learned from [running a business] that could applicable and helpful to being a city councilor?
VD: That you have to plan carefully. You have to have expectation and a very clear understanding of what the need is, what your resources are, and how to carefully plan out your cashflow. Because as the end of the day you have to pay bills.
WMPI: How has trying to branch out to run a citywide campaign [been]?
VD: I’ve found it very rewarding. People are very open. They’re excited when you come to door. Which by the way one of the thing I foreseeing doing as a city councilor is government on wheels. Instead of holding office hours, I’ll just go door knock and go to the houses. See what your concerns are. There have been challenges of course. There reception has overwhelmingly positive. Most people see you who for you are. We did have a very small percentage who…they need prayers.
WMPI: If you were elected, if you can imagine yourself filing something in the first six months, what would that be.
VD: Vacant registration ordinance. I went doorknocking in the neighborhood and I saw five vacant houses within a very short distance of each other. That’s no good. I do fully intend to file legislation for a vacant registration ordinance. That means if a house is vacant, the owner have to register the house as vacant and plan to upkeep the house.
WMPI: Do you find that Springfield is sympathetic to newcomers (immigrants) generally or is there an attitude that needs to change?
VD: I think we’re closing our eyes and pretending the city is not changing. For example, Puerto Ricans [who have citizenship] are the dominant Latinos in this area, however we have a lot of Guatemalans, we have a lot of Ecuadoran, Columbians, so it is changed (Davila’s wife is Ecuadoran). I think city government, is kind of closing the eye on what’s there. I am very concerned with the recent wording and the recent attitudes in city hall. We need to support our brothers and sisters because they come to work. I can completely relate to the experience. I am a citizen by birth, but I went through the same psychological experience.
WMPI: Have you had a chance to think where we could have some of those efficiencies that as businessman you have to be mindful of?
VD: With the vacant registration ordinance that I mentioned, there is also a proposal to, if the city does the upkeep on the house themselves, to charge 100% of upkeep. A lot of police lawsuits are valid, but we do have a few that are frivolous. We need to vigorously defend them in court. That will stop others from filing false lawsuits and that’s costing us millions of dollars. We have of boards and commissions are not full. I think a lot of these boards and commissions need to keep a better eye as to what is going on. That falls to the mayor. The mayor needs to fill the commissions.
WMPI: Do you think that there needs to be a more aggressive attempt to actually force mayor to appoint some of these people?
VD: Yes, absolutely. The biggest asset a city councilor has is the bully pulpit. We have an obligation to speak up. The mayor is not my boss. The people are my boss. That‘s not to say I wouldn’t work with the mayor on issues that I agree on. The biggest power that we the city council has is the purse. I’m fully prepared to say to the mayor, “you will not have a budget unless you address this.”
WMPI: Overall is [councilors’ bully pulpit] being used enough?
VD: I think they can improve. They have to use the media wisely and also to put external pressure onto Springfield. We live in a state, not just the city of Springfield. We need to figure out wisely how we can use state resources to pressure change in Springfield.
WMPI: What are something that people who are just meeting you or just learning about you might find interesting
VD: That I’m a paramedic.
WMPI: How long have you been doing that
VD: Almost 20 years. I think that a lot of people don’t expect that. I think that’s one of my fortes too. Besides having strong convictions, I understand public safety. I did have a conversation with [Police] Commissioner [John Barbieri]. In order to change the police department, a lot of education has to start as a cadet. A lot of culture and diversity training, sensitivity training and de-escalation training need to happen at the police department. I do believe they are going to be doing de-escalation in the police academy.
WMPI: What are some of the local places you like to spend time in the city?
VD: I like coming here [Cafe Christo]. I like going to Bamboo Garden. I started going to Montezuma. Occasionally, I’ll go to Friendly’s for a burger.
WMPI: Anything else you wanted to add?
VD: I really love Springfield. I have the education and most importantly the life experience in order to serve. So I ask the voters to please give me your vote on September 19.
Interview conducted at Cafe Christo on 8/5/17*