District 1 Candidates Face Off in East Boston Forum

Published in the Bay State Banner, September 7, 2017

Photo by Karen Morales

Candidates for the District 1 Boston City Council seat participated in a public forum in East Boston last week to answer constituents’ questions about where they stand on local issues. Currently running for the seat are Margaret Farmer, Lydia Edwards and Stephen Passacantilli.

The candidates discussed a wide range of topics, including climate change preparation, police body cameras, bicycling, affordable housing, gang violence and public education. The event was moderated by Marcela Garcia of the Boston Globe.

Cimate preparedness

In light of Hurricane Harvey and the extreme flooding that occurred in Texas, local residents asked each candidate how they would protect East Boston, a neighborhood abutting the Boston Harbor, from experiencing the same fate. All three candidates agreed that climate change could increase dangerous weather situations in East Boston. Passacantilli said that the city is already moving in the right direction with its current Climate Action Plan.

Read the rest here.

Mayor leads city forum on racism

Published in the Bay State Banner, November 22, 2016

Photo provided by Mayor’s Office

The Cutler Majestic Theatre was at full capacity on Saturday morning with students, educators, elected officials, community organizers and other Boston residents who were ready to have a difficult but necessary talk.

Mayor Martin Walsh, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Emerson College, hosted a public discussion on the state of racism in Boston and the steps the city can take to become more “socially cohesive and resilient.”

“This is the right conversation in the right time to have it, in the right city,” said the mayor, who described seeing sadness and frustration among the people of Boston the day after the presidential election results.

The event’s keynote speakers included James Rooney, president of the Boston Chamber of Commerce; Otis Rolley, 100 Resilient Cities regional director for Africa and North America; Debby Irving, author of “Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race”; Ceasar McDowell, MIT professor of community development; and two teen empowerment organizers, Kendra Gerald and Dante Omorogbe.

Before an audience of 600 people, each speaker spoke to what had been for many years in Boston the elephant in the room.

“As a city, we’re hanging on to a whole lot of messed up crap,” said Rooney, referring to Boston’s history of redlining, segregation, hostility and school desegregation. He announced that the Chamber of Commerce will be engaged in action-oriented reflection over the next year, in partnership with the mayor’s office, on issues of small business, diversity, workforce development and economic mobility.

“Racism may seem to some an issue that exists in relative isolation from the rest of the city’s problems,” said Rolley. “It does not.”

Irving, who spent years working on racial equity work, shared her own previous misconceptions, which undermined her best intentions. As a white woman, “I had a limited understanding of racism,” she said. “I thought it was just about people not liking each other and I was so wrong.” She spoke to the audience about the importance of acknowledging the normalization of whiteness, the whitewashing of history and the myth of meritocracy.

Read the rest here.

Elizabeth Warren Rallies with Thousands of Union Workers

Published in the Bay State Banner, September 15, 2016

Photo by Karen Morales (at-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley pictured)

“As I look out to all of you, I am reminded of what my parents fought for. They fought for dignity and family,” said Roxana Rivera, vice president of SEIU 32BJ, last Saturday to a crowd of 2,000 service workers and their supporters. Rain poured down on the scene but the music and chanting continued on.

The janitors and security officers of the 32BJ chapter of the Service Employees International Union had gathered around the Boston Common Parkman Bandstand to support a new contract proposal that would expand opportunities for full-time employment and ensure raises that keep up with cost of living in Boston.

The contract in question covers 13,000 workers who clean, maintain and protect over 2,000 buildings in the city, including the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential Tower. The current contract expires on September 30.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and city councilors Ayanna Pressley and Tito Jackson joined the rally to show their solidarity.

Members of SEIU 32BJ from all over New England also came out to support the cause.

“This sticking together thing is important to make sure that we have a country we can thrive in and raise families with dignity and respect,” said SEIU Executive Vice President Valarie Long.

Long observed that the movement was for more than just a contract. “It’s about immigrant rights, it’s about racial justice, it’s about environmental justice, it’s about economic justice,” she said. “Those things together — that’s what we’re fighting for.”

As the rain gave way to sunshine, an array of speakers, from union members to politicians, addressed the crowd.

“This city needs you,” said Senator Warren. “These gleaming towers around us — they wouldn’t be so gleaming if it weren’t for the people who work hard, who vacuumed, who emptied the trash, who kept it all going for the rest of us.”

Senator Warren said that her father was a janitor and she witnessed firsthand the backbreaking work of a service worker. “In this fight for fair wages, I’m with you,” she said.

“This is not a fight for charity,” said Pressley. “It’s about what you and your families have earned.”

The union’s proposals also include expanding employer-paid health care to family members of full-time workers. Janitors and security officers have experienced employers who deliberately limit workers to part-time shifts, so as to shirk responsibility for providing healthcare to employees.

SEIU 32BJ also emphasized the post-recession era and Boston’s strong commercial real estate industry, with its low vacancy rents and high rents.

“The promise of America is for everyone, including the thousands of men and women who clean and maintain office buildings and college campuses in Massachusetts,” said Rivera.

After the remarks, thousands of SEIU 32BJ members and supporters proceeded from Boston Common down Newbury Street to Copley Square.

32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country, with 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington D.C.

Early Voting Sites Open in Boston This Week

Published in the Bay State Banner, October 26, 2016

Photo by Karen Morales

On Boston’s first day of early voting ever, 4,289 ballots were cast across four different voting locations in the city, according to numbers released by the Boston Elections Department.

Massachusetts passed a 2014 law that requires cities and towns to hold an early voting every two years before the November general election. Thirty other states have also passed laws allowing residents to vote before Election Day.

From October 24 to November 4, voters can cast their ballots at locations across the city with the option to send their ballot through the mail. Twenty-eight locations will be used throughout the voting period with various hours of operation.

“We just want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote, there’s no excuse you can’t vote,” said Mayor Marty Walsh at a press conference held on Monday at City Hall. The municipal building kicked off early voting at 9 a.m., and after 1 p.m., more than 700 ballots had been cast, including the Mayor’s.

“I think folks are very interested in particular in this election,” said Dion Irish, Commissioner of the Boston Elections Department. “Having more options for people to cast their vote to be counted on November 8th is better for democracy.”

After the last ballots had been cast on Monday at 8 p.m., 1,818 votes were counted at City Hall, including 16 provisional ballots. At Orient Heights Yacht Club, The Metropolitan condominiums in Chinatown, and the Harriet Tubman House in the South End where polls opened at 2 p.m., a total of 417, 729, and 1,325 votes were cast, respectively. The Metropolitan’s vote tally included 18 provisional votes while Harriet Tubman House had 16 provisional votes in their totals. Provisional ballots are those in which voters’ registrations have yet to be verified.

On Saturday October 29, residents will have the opportunity to vote at 9 different polling locations, one in each city council district, from noon to 6 p.m.

According to Irish, every early voting site is accessible for persons with disabilities.

“They are all equipped with AutoMark machines to assist voters, and chairs are available to assist folks who can’t wait in line longer than expected,” he said. Automark machines assist voters with sensory and physical limitations in marking their ballots, as well as provides language translation.

“I happened to be out today, and though I might as well come down here and vote,” said Herb Webb, a resident of Back Bay. “I’m excited to be here for early voting, this is a brand new.”

According to Mayor Walsh, $670,000 for early voting was allocated in last year’s city budget.

City Hall will remain open for voting Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. through 8 p.m. until November 4.