Western Mass Showing Up for Racial Justice

Racial justice at large

1. How do you believe positive social change happens in communities? What does it mean to move racial justice/equity beyond words and into action?

Answer: Audio and transcript

Change happens when we trust each other enough to collaborate on solutions to difficult problems. And the first step in that is helping people to see difficult problems that aren't a part of their daily life, because if you don't get to that point there's always going to be a chunk of the population that's resisting any discussion about solutions, right, because you haven't met that initial threshold, which is to prove that there's a need for the solution.

So a city councilor can help with that by doing constituent-outreach work on both sides -- so, finding constituents who are most impacted by a problem and making sure that they're at the table, that they're able to participate from the floor, that they're on committees and so on; and also by gathering up information, public records requests, and making sure that she's helping her fellow councilors really look at the scope and breadth and specifics of a problem, not just an imaginary, hypothetical problem, not just an isolated incident here or there, but really looking at this systemic issue.

And then that councilor also needs to be talking to those who haven't yet grasped or understood that this problem exists. That includes residents, right -- that's not just city councilors -- because we want to move forward together as a society. And when we have those conversations from a place of trust and from a place of kindness and it's really irrefutable that we've got problems we've got to address, then I think we can really turn our words into action, not just policy but also true cultural change and progress.

Division of Community Care

2. What is your relationship with (or understanding of) the Division of Community Care? What do you think the relationship should be between the DCC and NPD (please include specific examples)? How will you support the work of community care over the next two years?

Answer: Audio and transcript

The DCC is off to an excellent start. Now, of course, it's a brand-new department, so we're still figuring out what it is that we can do to make it better. And we also still need to fight for the funding and make sure it's always fully funded. But it's an extraordinary accomplishment, to have a department like this in our city. I have dropped people off there; I have gotten my flu shot there; I've sat and had a cup of coffee -- highly recommend anyone to drop in at One Roundhouse Plaza.

And the responders are telling me that they really wish they had housing resources for people. So I'd like to look into that, see if we can find a way to have more housing available and have housing services available so that the DCC can make those referrals that they would really like to be able to make.

I'm also curious to know if we could use our excellent Health Department to help us find grants not just for funding the DCC but also for funding some of our nonprofits in the area that are doing wonderful work around harm reduction, like HRH413 and Wildflowers. I think we could leverage some existing groups rather than trying to build everything into the DCC directly.

Finally, about the relationship between the DCC and the police: I just want to say that these are of course separate entities. It's not a subdivision of the police; it's an alternative to policing. And as such, it offers a promise of reducing the burden on and dependence and reliance on policing. But, you know, remember that they are distinct. And this is what our future looks like. It's a department like this, one at a time. I really, really commend the City for doing this, and I look forward to seeing this department grow and thrive.

Policing in Northampton

3. What is your take on the April 2023 King Street policing incident? What, if anything, do you think should have been handled differently (during and/or after the incident) by the officer, police chief, and/or city leadership?

Answer: Audio and transcript

The Marisol incident was horrible and unnecessary and yet somehow inevitable under our current policies. Clearly, the finding, the official finding, that what the officers did was reasonable, when contrasted with the mayor and chief of police issuing public statements saying that it was inappropriate of them to behave that way, shows us that we have a conflict between our values and our policies. So that needs to be sorted out right away so that when a city employee does something that is outside the bounds of our values, we also have a policy that says, "Yep, a-hundred-percent out of bounds."

Secondly, as a court reporter, I am definitely expecting that there's going to be some kind of a financial repercussion. Either there's going to be a settlement discussion between Marisol and the City or there's going to be a trial where monetary damages are requested by Marisol. And a couple of things can flow from that. If there's a settlement, it could be an indication that the mayor is doing what she can to make Marisol whole, understanding that the policy was imperfect and allowed for this to happen. Or, if it goes to trial and it's super expensive, it can help us as a city to really weigh the financial risk of having these policies that allow for something like this to happen. So, you know, this situation is still evolving, and we'll just have to see what happens.

But in the meantime, I'd really like to see us reducing traffic stops. I don't see a reason for police to be having contact with people who are not committing crimes or violent crimes. If this is just about a headlight and we're so serious about a headlight, then let's make a mobile repair truck that fixes people's headlights, because, you know, this is too much: the price that Marisol paid is too much -- and for what?

Racial justice/equity in Northampton

4. Newcomers: What are 2-3 specific actions you will take as a city councilor to advance racial justice/equity in Northampton?

Answer: Audio and transcript

A couple of changes that I would like to see in Northampton that would advance racial equity revolve around our public housing and our public schools.

Number one, the Bridge Street School is the most diverse school in the city. But its funding compared to the other schools is sort of equal rather than equitable. So I would really like to see an acknowledgment of our different needs and our greater diversity, to say, "We are here to help make this an equitable environment for our kids to learn in. We understand that you're all coming from different backgrounds, different means, and we are here to make sure that Bridge Street School is lifted up."

Number two, public housing: we appoint four of the seven board members of the NHA; and that means that we can really, really have this powerful voice of residents centered if we're really thoughtful about who we appoint to those positions. So I would like to see us do that.

And those are two of the things that I wanted to share with you, but I would really love for everyone to share with me their ideas, because of course this is a systemic issue; this pervades every part of our society; and so -- please, please -- let's keep having this conversation; let's do everything that we can do to see a more just and equitable culture.