U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley and City Councilors Kenzie Bok and Julia Mejia were all on hand Tuesday, June 16, for a virtual meeting of the Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee.
Rep. Pressley, who now holds the seat that John F. Kennedy once occupied, detailed her accomplishments to date, including introducing more bills than any other member of Congress. This legislation included a Workers’ Rights Bill, which she rolled out within her first 14 days in office.
Rep. Pressley’s other accomplishments to date include convening the first Congressional meeting on childhood trauma last July and helping create the Future of Transportation Caucus.
“I believe inequities and disparities exist because of transportation injustice,” she said.
Rather than focusing on maintenance of roadways, Rep. Pressley said the Transportation Caucus would instead works towards “expansion of roadways” and “multi-modal infrastructure.”
She added, “It’s very timely as there is an infrastructure bill pending.”
Rep. Pressley is also committed to ending qualified immunity – a doctrine the U.S. Supreme Court introduced in 1967 that protects members of law enforcement from being held legally accountable when they are performing their jobs, and which has come under intense scrutiny following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police.
“There never can truly be justice for the people of Boston who have been robbed of their children at hands of police, but [police] must have accountability,” she said. “Qualified immunity has protected officers and stood in the way of equality.”
Rep. Pressley said Massachusetts’ 7th District, which she represents and includes parts of Boston, Cambridge and Milton, as well as all of Chelsea, Everett, Randolph and Somerville, has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 because of “structural racism, asthma and diabetes,” among other factors. Essential workers on the frontlines, who are often people of color unequipped with Personal Protection Equipment, in particular have been disproportionately affected, she said.
“I’m very proud that Massachusetts has collected and reported racial data and contact tracing,’ she said. “We can collect data not just for data’s sake, but to safe lives.”
Councilor Bok, chair of the city’s Ways and Means Committee, said when she first received the city’s proposed budget for fiscal ’21 in April, she “knew it was a work in progress.”
And after receiving the revised budget submitted by Mayor Martin Walsh on Monday, she said she is concerned that the state might make budget cuts that will affect the city later in the summer.
But Councilor Bok said this budget cycle is also an opportunity for change.
“Everyone is asking themselves, “what does it looks like in this moment?’ and ‘how do we use this moment?,’” she said. “We cant have this just be a flash in the pan, but we won’t get everything we need in reform of society in next week.”
Councilor Bok said the conversation would also continue on collective bargaining with the police, which is set to expire this year.
“For me, the budget has been all-consuming over the last few months, but I hope to turn back to the housing policy over the summer,” she said.
Just before the pandemic struck, Councilor Bok had called for a hearing on cooperative housing in the city.
“I hope to circle back to the coop order after the summer because of the consolidation of ownership and the moratorium on evictions,” she said. “This is a moment of rest, but not forgiveness.”
And with the city’s high bond rating, she said now would be an opportune time for the city to consider buying apartment buildings that be converted into coop housing.
Also, Councilor Bok said her office has been working to address food insecurity in her district, which has reached “unprecedented levels” during the current public health crisis.
Councilor Mejia, who was sworn into office Jan. 6, said she barely had time to get acclimated in her new role before the pandemic struck and she was forced to go “remote.”
“I never thought in my life as a first-term city councilor, I’d be learning how to do the job during [this period of] social unrest and the pandemic,” she said. “I’m here to speak the truth, to hold myself accountable, to hold the mayor accountable, and to hold the city accountable.”
Since taking office, Councilor Mejia delivered her maiden speech on creating sanctuary spaces throughout the city and has led four resolutions and cosponsored 10 more.
Councilor Mejia has also filed nine hearing orders, including one on food insecurity that has resulted because of the pandemic.