A senior-level director in charge of COVID-19 vaccination equity and an allocation of $10 million to community organizations for outreach and engagement in communities of color are part of a list of five demands outlined Wednesday by a new coalition seeking to address what they say are serious racial injustices in the state's vaccine distribution plan.
"At the end of the day, when I zoom out and I look at what this bill accomplishes... there is a ton in this bill that is really going to set a new standard for the national policy landscape on police accountability that could potentially ripple through the other forty-nine states."
Gov. Charlie Baker signed sweeping police reform legislation on Thursday that will create a mandatory certification process for law enforcement and launch the nation’s first civilian-led police oversight board with subpoena power and decertification authority.
Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, lamented that many things “over-policed communities pleaded for” are not in the bill, including binding definitions of use of force. But she said there was much for advocates to celebrate.
State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, who served on the police reform conference committee, and state Representative Russell Holmes, who has long pushed for many of the changes included in the bill, join Jim Braude to discuss the long-awaited police reform bill.
"I'm really satisfied with the total product of this bill," Sen. Chang-Diaz said. "...It is a final package that strikes a lot of wins for accountability, for community voice at the table of power, for changing our vision for what public safety is and means from one of force and punishment to one of de-escalation and helping and prevention."
Data collection and reporting, vaccine distribution and funding for COVID-19 response initiatives are identified as "critical priorities" for the state to pursue, in a preliminary report approved Wednesday by members of a state health equity task force.
Roxbury activists have voiced opposition to the plan from the beginning, citing what they said would be unsafe street crossings and the loss of trees that help mitigate pollution and reduce extreme temperatures.
The Massachusetts Senate plans to vote Thursday on a wide-ranging bill that would create a process for certifying and de-certifying officers and impose new limits on use of force, including a ban on chokeholds and restrictions on the use of tear gas.
Mobilized by the social unrest gripping the country, the state’s top political leaders of color gathered Tuesday to urge action across all levels of government, their words underwritten by a docket of resolutions, policies, and legislation they say are designed to transmute anger into change, increasing police accountability and chipping away at structural racism.
“Ensuring people have safe, reliable housing throughout this crisis is one of the most important things we can do to flatten the curve and save lives right now,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-2nd Suffolk).
“This is both a critical and efficient step in delivering on the requirement that money from marijuana tax revenues be spent on restorative economic development for communities harmed by the War on Drugs,” said state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, the chair of the joint committee.
Massachusetts will invest an additional $1.5 billion in K-12 public education over the next seven years after Gov. Charlie Baker signed a funding reform bill, touted by supporters as a generational change, into law Tuesday.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, a former Education Committee chair and a leader on education funding reform, said, “This bill stands as our commitment that, in Massachusetts, zip code must not be destiny.”
"Our session today continues nearly a half-century of work for educational equity. And this bill would not exist without the generations of Bay Staters who tirelessly and passionately kept the cause alive. Who saw the work ahead and never gave up, even when political insiders believed the issue was dead."
Fulfilling the promise of public education as the great equalizer is our next big goal. Bay Staters believe in it. It’s a goal our constitution anchors us to. Now, that collective effort in advocating, crafting policy, and working together has given us a chance to deliver on it.
Chang-Diaz noted that mass shootings, especially those involving middle-class white children, make headlines. But she asked fellow lawmakers to have that same “sense of horror, unacceptance, urgency when shootings happen in Dorchester or Roxbury or Springfield or Holyoke or other urban communities, when the child’s riddled body is black or brown and their family is low-income, doing their best to make ends meet.”
“There’s no reason it had to be this way, the situation we find ourself in now is due to years of deferred maintenance. Deferring maintenance is a habit that State leaders need to break,” Chang-Diaz said.
“At what point does ‘we’re working on it’ become justice delayed and denied?” Chang-Diaz said the Senate has passed the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission multiple times. “The Legislature has had nearly four years to consider the recommendations — that’s half a kid’s elementary school years,” she said. “There’s no good reason that students will go back to school with no foundation funding plan in place.”
In an extended interview during and after The Horse Race podcast last week, Chang-Díaz told the Reporter that the dramatic funding boost is necessary to fully meet the state’s obligation to provide a quality education to its students while grappling with the greater cost of educating disadvantaged children. It expands on the bipartisan though last-minute efforts of the last cycle.
Chang-Diaz said the difference in funding between the PROMISE Act and Baker’s plan is “stark” and represents the difference between a school district hiring a fraction of a school counselor or starting a quality preschool program.
“Massachusetts still has one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation between rich and poor students,” state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said in her testimony. “Everybody knows that money alone won’t do it, but we also know that you can’t do it without money.”
Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz has announced neighborhood office hours for February 2019. Office Hours, held by Sen. Chang-Díaz and her staff, will take place within each of the neighborhoods of the Second Suffolk District.
JP Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz took the podium at the 49th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in the South Boston Convention Center and used the shining light of Dr. King’s example to call for another local fight for justice – that being the justice of equal education funding.