I ran for office in part to bring to light the hidden disparities facing our community. Our city and state are witnessing abundant development that is launching us into a new, more prosperous age. But we know that a rising tide does not lift all ships evenly.
Within Dorchester and Roxbury alone, my constituents regularly feel the disparities that few others can see. Whether it’s transportation, public safety, education, or housing disparities, we have more work ahead to create the level playing field that is central to a successful American meritocracy.
We live in a transit desert, particularly in the parts of Dorchester and Roxbury I represent. The train is farther from population centers than in other parts of the city, forcing residents to rely on a car or bus for even the simplest trips. Parents should not be late for a teacher conference because the bus was in traffic. And medical appointments should not be two transfers away. And worse, this transit inequity reflects and reproduces the racial and income differences in Boston’s neighborhoods.
Luckily, these same underserved neighborhoods are already host to a train line. With no land-taking, no construction, we can improve transit service and equity in some of the most traffic-dense neighborhoods in Boston.
Imagine if fewer people needed to rely on Dot. Ave and Mass. Ave. to get around. Improving Fairmount/Indigo Line service is one of my top priorities in the next session. The residents of Boston and Mayor Walsh’s administration recognize the transformative nature of this project, as evidenced by its place in the Imagine Boston 2030 priorities.
Our communities also need to look at how we approach the ongoing opioid crisis. We have all witnessed the effects across the entire US. Just venture down to Mass. Ave, and you can see for yourself the disproportionate impact of this crisis on our neighborhood. With clinics and sober homes scattered throughout Dorchester, we need to make sure that this statewide epidemic has state-wide solutions.
The need for change is apparent with many issues, especially so with regard to the current criminal justice system. We have seen the devastating impact of reactionary policies play out across our nation, undermining the ability of the criminal justice system to rehabilitate the people who pass through it.
Before I entered the State House, I saw first-hand the effects of these policies from the inside. As an assistant district attorney, I prosecuted gun crimes in Roxbury and recognized the cycles of poverty and violence that had captured so many of our youth.
Communities of color are disproportionately affected under the current system. In many of Dorchester’s minority communities, 50 percent of households have been affected by incarceration. We need to take a multi-pronged approach toward this issue that considers both victims of crimes and perpetrators. One mistake should not define a person for the remainder of his or her life, and most certainly should not be the end of the road. And people should not be automatically condemned to a particular fate or sentence regardless of the facts.
Over the past few decades, we have witnessed how ineffective mandatory minimums are. Our efforts should focus on effective correctional services that truly reform the perpetrators, and on increasing incentives for inmates to change their ways.
For communities that have been impacted by long-term disparities, the long-term solution is education.
That is why I will continue to advocate for STEM programming at Madison Park. The Greater Boston area is quickly turning into a major tech hub. And as the overall US economy grows increasingly dependent on developing and exporting technology world-wide, our citizens will need opportunities to learn computer science, engineering, and mathematics. Madison Park, our only vocational high school, can and should be a model for collaborations between institutional partners to achieve these education goals.
As it stands now, students in communities of color severely lack the training required to be prepared for the jobs that will serve this new economy. We need to make sure that all Commonwealth residents can capitalize on this tremendous opportunity.
We are a city upon a hill, a beacon for others for how to develop a just and successful society. I intend to do what I can to keep it that way, and help continuously to move our state in the right direction.