Incorruptible Massachusetts

Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, co-founder of Medicare for All caucus

October 01, 2019 Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, 1st Hampshire; Anna Callahan Season 1 Episode 3
Incorruptible Massachusetts
Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, co-founder of Medicare for All caucus
Chapters
Incorruptible Massachusetts
Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, co-founder of Medicare for All caucus
Oct 01, 2019 Season 1 Episode 3
Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, 1st Hampshire; Anna Callahan

Hi, this is Anna Callahan and you’re listening to Incorruptible Massachusetts.  Our goal is to help people understand state politics: we’re investigating why it’s so broken, imagining what we could have here in MA if we fixed it, and reporting on how you can get involved.  

Today I’m interviewing Representative Lindsay Sabadosa.   

Lindsay Sabadosa is the State Representative from the 1st Hampshire district (Northampton, Southampton, Westhampton, Hatfield, and Montgomery). She was elected for the first time in 2018 and is the first woman to ever hold her seat. She is most active in health care policy and is the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All legislation in the MA House. She is passionate about equity, government transparency, health care as a right, affordable housing, reproductive justice, criminal justice reform, and truly addressing the climate emergency. She is proud to have co-founded the very first Medicare for All caucus in the MA State House. 

My talk with Lindsay was one of the last interviews I did, but I decided to rearrange the interviews because as I spoke to more people, each interview became more focused on the structural issues facing the State House.  By the time I interviewed Rep Sabadosa, I was better able to hone in on those systemic issues facing the house.  It was definitely not because behind the scenes, one of the people I talked to said that Lindsay was perhaps the most bad-ass of them all. 

Rep Sabadosa also brings up a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, and that I’ve developed entire candidate training programs around: that is the idea that every politician should spend time and energy reaching out to those people that might never come to a town hall, to people who don’t vote, to listen to them, to educate them, and to mobilize them.  I was thrilled to talk to a sitting state rep who embraces this practice. 

Rep Sabadosa says we need numbers — by that she means more progressives winning seats in the state house. I hope you’ll find this convincing enough that you will consider challenging the incumbent in your district. 

Without further delay, here is our interview. 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/incorruptible_massachusetts)

Show Notes Transcript

Hi, this is Anna Callahan and you’re listening to Incorruptible Massachusetts.  Our goal is to help people understand state politics: we’re investigating why it’s so broken, imagining what we could have here in MA if we fixed it, and reporting on how you can get involved.  

Today I’m interviewing Representative Lindsay Sabadosa.   

Lindsay Sabadosa is the State Representative from the 1st Hampshire district (Northampton, Southampton, Westhampton, Hatfield, and Montgomery). She was elected for the first time in 2018 and is the first woman to ever hold her seat. She is most active in health care policy and is the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All legislation in the MA House. She is passionate about equity, government transparency, health care as a right, affordable housing, reproductive justice, criminal justice reform, and truly addressing the climate emergency. She is proud to have co-founded the very first Medicare for All caucus in the MA State House. 

My talk with Lindsay was one of the last interviews I did, but I decided to rearrange the interviews because as I spoke to more people, each interview became more focused on the structural issues facing the State House.  By the time I interviewed Rep Sabadosa, I was better able to hone in on those systemic issues facing the house.  It was definitely not because behind the scenes, one of the people I talked to said that Lindsay was perhaps the most bad-ass of them all. 

Rep Sabadosa also brings up a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, and that I’ve developed entire candidate training programs around: that is the idea that every politician should spend time and energy reaching out to those people that might never come to a town hall, to people who don’t vote, to listen to them, to educate them, and to mobilize them.  I was thrilled to talk to a sitting state rep who embraces this practice. 

Rep Sabadosa says we need numbers — by that she means more progressives winning seats in the state house. I hope you’ll find this convincing enough that you will consider challenging the incumbent in your district. 

Without further delay, here is our interview. 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/incorruptible_massachusetts)

Anna Callahan:

Hi, this is Anna Callahan and you're listening to Incorruptible Massachusetts . Our goal is to help people understand state politics. We're investigating why it's so broken, imagining what we could have here in Massachusetts if we fixed it and reporting on how you can get involved.

:

Today I'm interviewing representative Lindsey , Sabadosa. Lindsay Sabadosa is a state representative from the first Hampshire district -- that includes Northampton, Southampton, Westhampton Hatfield and Montgomery. She was elected for the first time in 2018 and is the first woman to ever hold her seat. She is most active in health care policy and is the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All legislation in the Massachusetts house. She's passionate about equity, government transparency, healthcare as a right , affordable housing, reproductive justice, criminal justice reform, and truly addressing the climate emergency. She's proud to have cofounded the very first Medicare for All caucus in the Massachusetts State House.

Anna Callahan:

My talk with Lindsay, was one of the last interviews I did, but I decided to rearrange the interviews because as I spoke to more people, each interview became more focused on the structural issues facing the state house. By the time I interviewed Rep Sabadosa, I was better able to hone in on those systematic issues. It was definitely not because behind the scenes, one of the people I talked to said that Lindsay was perhaps the most b adass of all of them.

:

Representative Sabadosa also brings up a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. It's one that I've actually spent a couple of years developing entire candidate training programs around, and that's the idea that every politician should spend time and energy reaching out to those people that don't vote. Those people that might never come to a town hall. You have to listen to them to educate them and to mobilize them.

Anna Callahan:

So I was thrilled to talk to a sitting state rep who embraces this practice. Rep Sabadosa says that we need numbers. And by that she means more progressives winning seats in the state house. I hope you'll find this convincing enough that you will consider challenging the incumbent in your district. And without further delay, here's our interview.

:

Hello again. I am here with representative Lindsay Sabadosa. Hi. How are you today?

Rep Sabadosa:

Great. So happy to be here talking to you.

Anna Callahan:

So let's just dive in and talk about state politics. Like What do you find, why are you in state politics instead of doing something more on the national level or the local level?

Rep Sabadosa:

Well, I felt like state politics, were the arena where I could have the greatest impact. I think that there is a lot to be said for local politics , um, that you really do get to effect change. But the change that I really wanted to see was, was across the Commonwealth. And it feels like we're at a moment in history where on the federal level we're not going to be able to advance progressive legislation as we might really w ant, as many of us would really like to see. And so the place where we can a ffect that i s on the state level. And I do really believe in this idea that the state is, is the, the lab, the laboratory almost for policy. So we do it here and then we bring it out to the federal level. And the state's job is really to show the federal government what is possible and to prove that we can do it. And I think we, we've seen that happen in a variety of issues. We've seen it happen with immigration. We've seen t hat h appened with climate change and we've certainly seen t hat happen with h ealthcare. But we can do a whole lot better than what we've actually done, particularly in Massachusetts where we, you know, we, a lot of times we sit on our laurels and we say, Oh, w e're such a progressive blue state. L ook, we vote democratic every time. I mean, I grew up in the 80s, so that bumper sticker, like t he, don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts. T hat's sort of what I grew up with. The, Oh, we do things right here. We are very, very progressive and we really care about our fellow residents of the Commonwealth. And the reality is that we talk a lot and we act very little. And so when it came to running for office, a nd I certainly thought about what it might be like to run for city council, I do have friends who do that. They have nothing but respect for me for that. But I really want to see sweeping statewide changes. And one of the biggest issues that I ran on was Medicare for all. And you can't affect that on a municipal level. You can certainly get your city to back it. My city has done that. You can do, you know , lots of things to organize on the ground, which I truly believe in, but that needs to be a statewide policy. And so it felt important to run for statewide office.

Anna Callahan:

Well the Medicare for all things super exciting. There's obviously a lot of energy. I mean just in the last few years it has gone from literally a taboo talking -- you couldn't, they would laugh at you for talking about it, to being --

Rep Sabadosa:

Imagine laughing at the fact that people could have the healthcare .

Anna Callahan:

Yes, yes. But it's now sort of, this is the thing that every presidential candidate has to defend is their policy on how they will provide healthcare for every American. And so I'm so excited to hear that you're working on that at the state level. Can you talk to us about that?

Rep Sabadosa:

So yes, all the presidential candidates are talking about Medicare for all, but it kind of goes back to this idea of the States needing to be the laboratory. Because right now we're hearing conversations about Medicare for all on the federal level. And I don't know if you've noticed, but there are several candidates who really don't have any clue what Medicare for all is, let alone how you would implement it. And that can be really dangerous because Medicare for all is going to be a fight that we need to win on the ground level. We need to really get out and speak to all the residents of the Commonwealth and talk to them about their healthcare situation. That's something that I did in my campaign. The very first thing on my palm card said I support Medicare for all. And so when I knocked on people's doors, they would read that and they would say, well, what is that? Or they would know what it is, but they didn't understand how it would work and they wanted to tell me their healthcare situation, how their insurance works, what's covered, what's not, and they wanted to have really detailed conversations. And even people who were more conservative leaning, because Medicare for all is definitely this progressive buzzword , but it's also an idea that really should be embraced by conservatives because we're talking about cost containment, we're talking about health care savings and we have been able to prove time and time again that this just saves a ton of money for cities and towns. It saves a ton of money out of education because healthcare costs are the rising cost for education. I have one town in my district where the teachers are paying 50% of their health insurance premiums. 50% means that they are almost working solely to pay for healthcare for their families. So this is not a left, right Democrat, Republican concept.

Anna Callahan:

And even businesses, right? Businesses are going to save an incredible amount of money.

Rep Sabadosa:

Exactly. When you start to look at the cost there , you know everybody saves money on this, but when you have presidential candidates getting up on stage and saying things like, Oh, they're going to take your health care from you, that's really alarming because, I'm sorry, when did an insurance company become synonymous with healthcare ? That's not what's happening. No one is trying to take your provider from you. As a matter of fact, what we're trying to do is get rid of this whole concept of provider pools. So you go to the provider that you actually want to and you don't have an ACO or an HMO or an SEO or whatever organization, whatever sort of organization has organized your health care for you. We don't, they're not no longer limiting that. So it's great that it's become so popular, but at the same time, I almost wish we could pull back and do that organizing that we need to do. And in my district we do, I think we're doing a good job of that. We have the Western mass Medicare for all hub. So it's a hub and spoke model where you have a general assembly where the leaders of all the different hubs come together and then there's a hub in each community and they're doing that work, running ballot initiatives, which means that we're seeing people are in support of this legislation. In fact, I think of the ballot initiatives we ran in 2018 , it won in every single community and it won with over 50% of the vote in every community, but in some communities as high as 85%.

Anna Callahan:

That's enormous support. And that's not support because someone heard a buzzword that support because someone stood in front of a grocery store and talked to people about what the concept meant. And that organizing is so much more important than anything a presidential candidate could say. And so if we could get back to that and replicate that model across the state of Massachusetts, that's how we win this fight. And we need to be, really judicious. We need to bring all of the right people to the tables. We need to sit down with the small business owners and with the unions. And with people who work in the health insurance industry right now. And we need to figure out how we transition, how we do this thoughtfully, preserving jobs, making sure that people remain employed and remain covered. That's the work of a state representative as far as I'm concerned. But it's very much an inside, outside game. So you've already mentioned a number of things that it sounds like people in your district are doing. Are there things that you recommend, do you recommend the same kinds of activities if people who don't live in your district?

Rep Sabadosa:

Absolutely. This is something that we have really hoped to replicate across the state. So if we could create that hub model across the state, that would be fabulous. We're working on doing that in Boston. Mass care is the primary organization in Massachusetts that sort of focuses only on, on Medicare for All. So they're helping us to coordinate that. Any group that we can kind of pull together and get into the healthcare fight, we want to make sure that we know about them, that they're tapped into the Medicare for all caucus. We have started a Medicare for all caucus in the state house. It's the very first time it's ever happened here. U m, I believe it's the first in state legislatures across the country and it's an inside, outside caucus. You do not have to be a legislator t o attend. Everyone is welcome. So we have a social media page and we announced the meeting dates and people can come in and their feedback is really important. One of the problems in this building is that it's, it's very old, which makes it lovely in a lot of ways, but it also doesn't make it conducive to some of the conversational styles that we've found to be more beneficial. So for example, you will see very few circular tables. The Senate did reorganize themselves into a circle, which is lovely, but the meeting rooms are not, the conference rooms are not. It's very much someone seated up front and everybody else in the audience. That's not the way you get the public to engage. It's intimidating. It makes people nervous. They don't really, they're worried about following procedure. And what if I address the chair in the wrong way. That's not, that's not a way to get people involved. And so we're trying to figure out ways that we can make the caucus even more welcoming to people within, you know , sort of working within the confines of a fairly restrictive system. Restrictive building rather.

Anna Callahan:

Yeah. So I love that you mentioned an inside-outside way of moving forward. What do you see as the way that we can get big policies passed?

Rep Sabadosa:

I don't think we do anything in this state without massive resident input and support. You know, this building is a place where people say we need consensus, we need broad consensus to pass anything. Unfortunately a lot of times that means broad consensus among the key stake holders that were pre-selected as the people who are experts.

Anna Callahan:

And who do those people end up being?

Rep Sabadosa:

Well, you know, it depends on the issue. I'm noticing with healthcare that the insurance companies are always at the table. Which makes me wonder if you're always putting the insurance companies at the table, then whose interests are they looking out for? They are trying to be profitable. They are not trying to , you know, they, they have goals that they need to meet and they are not looking to shrink their business by any stretch. So it does become , a little bit of a point of contention because if you're putting an insurer at the table but you're not putting a patient at the table, then what does that mean for policy? And when we're talking about other issues, I mean, climate I think is really one where we see the utility companies at the table. We see developers at the table, we see some environmental groups at the table, but we don't see that broad coalition that we should really be seeing. And then can we talk a lot about communities that are most impacted, the environmental justice communities? Where are they at the table? So unless you're really getting all of those voices in, it's very hard.

Anna Callahan:

How, how do we do that? How do we get those voices to be meeting with the people inside this building? Even if they don't come to the building, how do we make that happen?

Rep Sabadosa:

Well, I think that there needs to be pressure from the outside, first of all. And, and I do, I really do recognize that not everybody can come into the building, right? People have jobs and they have lives . And we know that Massachusetts has some of the worst income inequality in the entire country. And s o t here a re a lot of people who are honest to God and not getting up in the morning and thinking, how do I pass Medicare for All, they're thinking, How do I feed my kids? And t hat's really just...

Anna Callahan:

Or how do I pay my medical bill?

Rep Sabadosa:

Well, how do I pay my medical bill, But, yes, I mean when we talked to some of the organizers who've gotten deeply involved in the movement, it is because they have made the choice between basic life necessity and a medical bill. So, you know, we do see that, but I recognize that it's just very hard for most people to feel like they want to engage politically. And I think that, you know, as representatives, we need to be out in our community as much as humanly possible and we need to be reaching out to people who are not normally engaged in the political process.

Anna Callahan:

I will tell you, this is very near and dear to my heart.

Rep Sabadosa:

So one of the things I noticed during my campaign in particular is that there is, and they may be very progressive and they hate being called the establishment, but there is like the establishment, every city in town in the Commonwealth, right? The people who hold all the power, who make all the decisions and they may have great policy ideas and that's fine, and they can be good allies, but if you as a representative are only reaching out to that key group of people, as far as I'm concerned, you are not doing your job. You need to reach out to the people who probably don't vote. You need to reach out to the people who are actually impacted by all of the policies that you make. And you know, we try, it's a constant like hit or miss battle because you can't just hold a forum in your community -- nobody's going to show up. Or, or the establishment, those, those key people, they'll show up, but nobody else will. And, and so we've been trying to play with ideas. One of the things I'm doing is office hours on the bus. So I'm getting on the bus in the city and I'm going to be there and I'll ride the bus and I'll talk to people who are on the bus. So I'm going to where they are. They don't have to come to me. But then they know who I am. So if they do, at some point, need to pick up the phone and ask for help because DTA has cut off benefits or because they're trying to negotiate something with mass health , they know that my office can do that and help them through it. We're trying to get into the housing authorities as much as possible. I'm trying to organize community meetings and make sure the tenants know what their rights are and that they advocate for themselves. Tenant organizing has really taken a downturn in Massachusetts. And I think that that's an area we need to focus a little bit more attention on, because these issues are all super interrelated. I say I really care about Medicare for all, but you know, that means that I also really care about food insecurity and transportation and climate because they don't move without moving together. Right? You can't have bold change without pushing the needle on everything in a way. So I , I kind of see Medicare for all a s that first step because it really addresses some of the income inequality issues. H ealthcare is not determined based on your wealth. So really like for me hits home on structural inequalities, but, you know, reaching out to people a nd creating solidarity around issues is very important. We're really working to do that with the unions. You know, people are really worried about wage theft. I feel like wage theft is almost this thing where it's such a buzzword at this point that we don't really understand how it happens. And yet I had a man in my office the other day who said just casually, he didn't even come in to talk about it, but he said, Oh yeah, my former employer still owes me $2,500 and I'm still waiting for those checks. And that's what wage theft is. But he wasn't filing a complaint. He was , he wasn't even complaining. We were there talking about something totally different. And people are experiencing that. So we need to build solidarity with those issues as well in order to really bring people in to a broader structural movement for change. And again, my, my focus there is healthcare .

Anna Callahan:

So I have to just repeat back a couple of things that you said because they were so just so great. O ne i s, sounds like you think that we are not g oing t o get bold change unless we're pushing o n a whole host of i ssues.

Rep Sabadosa:

Yeah, yeah. We need to push on everything. I mean, if I think that that's one of the biggest lessons in Massachusetts politics, right? Unless you ask for everything , you're only ever going to get a small amount of what you asked for. Why ask for something little? If you know you're going to get a third, you shouldn't ask for a third, that's basic negotiation. So, I'm not quite sure why we don't really try to push the envelope and we're not being, you know, we're not being greedy or selfish by doing that. We're actually asking for a fair share.

Anna Callahan:

That's right. And the other thing is this idea that it isn't enough to say I'm going to have a town hall and then the people who come are the people who come because guess what? It's going to be the same people who feel entitled to talk to a state Senator or a state representative, that those are the people that are gonna show up. That you have to make an effort to go where the people are and talk to those people who are not likely to vote. Fantastic. I just love hearing that. I love hearing that. So I want to talk about the, as I've been doing these interviews I hear more and more that the house in particular, the state house is pretty broken.

Rep Sabadosa:

Yes.

Anna Callahan:

And I I'd love to hear your thoughts on like what is broken about it and how we could fix that.

Rep Sabadosa:

I think the brokenness really stems probably almost from something that you just said where there are people who feel entitled to talk to a state representative and those are the people who are also able to access information about what goes on in this building. And, and that's all done through relationships. People will tell you that this building is all about relationships that's well and good except that that means that those people who do not have those relationships or 99% of the people who live in the state do not have that same access. And when you make it really difficult for people to understand how things are done, why things are done and how they can advocate, people become disengaged. And the disengagement of voters is, it's so dangerous. I mean we see it happen all over. And when you, when you get , people who are apathetic to voting, I don't, I don't even know how to explain the , the dangers that can, that can occur. You get people who are entrenched, who become a little despotic in their , in their government who, you know, don't really care about voter input and are not looking out for the concerns of the voters. That's frankly, only 4% of them are even voting. And the 4% are the ones who probably already have those relationships to begin with and who are already involved in the system. So with the state house there , just some simple things we could do. I mean there , there are definitely big structural things, but I think we've gone after just some basic transparency. I gave my inaugural speech right during the r ules debate, talking about making our committee votes public. So I come from a district where there are a lot of activists and advocates a nd it's a very loud district. I'm very proud of it, but people are consistently frustrated because there's all of this buildup around legislation. So, for example, last session it was the safe communities act.

Anna Callahan:

Now how long has the safe communities act, been...?

Rep Sabadosa:

It was filed , it was filed last session. So this is the second, second session it's been filed. So tons of buzz around the safe communities act. We worked to get people to cosponsor. We did lobby days, we did phone banks, we created a Western mass safe communities act coalition. There were groups that belonged to it. Everybody was working really, really hard. And then you know, it got sent to study and we didn't, we don't know why. You know, because it looks, it looks as if the committee is supportive of it. All those people have co-sponsored it. So how is it possible that with all of these co-sponsors a bill gets on to study?

Anna Callahan:

Now let, let's understand a little bit. What does it mean when it's "sent to study"?

Rep Sabadosa:

So sent study is , is effectively bill death. It means there's no, there's no study.

Anna Callahan:

'Cause it sounds so nice.

Rep Sabadosa:

Lovely, right? It's like I know we're here in this library today. It feels like someone's, there's going to be people downstairs studying the legislation to try to improve it. But no, that's not what happens. So the bill is basically killed. And it can be refiled the next session, but it just, it means we're not voting on it this session. So perhaps the legislator who filed it can continue to study the issue, but but I don't believe the committee will.

Anna Callahan:

And, and how many co-sponsors did that bill have ?

Rep Sabadosa:

Oh my goodness. Was it over? I think it was over a hundred. So if you think about there are 160 representatives. Yeah . So it had, you know, it definitely, it definitely had over 80, but it just had an enormous amount of co-sponsors. And so you wonder why was this bill sent to study? And so that goes back to my inaugural speech where I said we need to make our committee votes public because who on that committee that claimed that they were a big supporter of this legislation then sent the bill to study? Because we deserve to know that because we've spent months and months and months advocating for this bill and now we're told, Oh, the committee decided we're not going to vote on it. So it just helps shed a little bit of daylight into that process. Right. I's not a super big ask. In fact, the Senate publishes their committee votes online. So we're really kind of just asking the house to do the same as the Senate.

Anna Callahan:

And my understanding is also that most States that, they have votes and they have to publish those votes.

Rep Sabadosa:

Yes. Right. And those votes should be published and we shouldn't be voting in darkness. California, if you've looked at their website, does this amazing thing where they show you how a bill is edited as it moves forward. So you have the draft that was submitted, how it's changed in committee, it's all marked up in different colors. So you can really, I don't know that most people want to do that, but you know, if there's like a key advocate in a community who wants to track that and then pass that information back, I think that that's really important. And in any case, I mean that particular change would really benefit the advocates and the activists of the world. But for regular citizens, even though they may not be tracking that or even care about that, it still opens up the process and we forget that sometimes, sometimes the gesture is important even if it's not immediately embraced by the recipient. It's like if you were, you know , used to go to hold the door for someone, but then they tell you they're not coming through, you've still extended that kindness, you've still made that, that , um, you've still made that gesture to them to saying, you actually are welcome to be involved in this. And so when we shut down as we did because they voted down my , my amendment for transparency, they voted down all the amendments not just mine, but not just the one I spoke on, rather. I have to give full credit to representative Hecht who filed all the amendments. But the one I spoke on was voted down, as were all of them, that message is: we don't actually want you to engage. We think we're doing what we do well and we don't care that people are saying it's hard.

Anna Callahan:

And we, we don't want you to know how we're voting, specifically.

Rep Sabadosa:

And specifically in this case, we don't want you to know how we're voting.

Anna Callahan:

That's terrible.

Rep Sabadosa:

You know, the argument was, well, you know, sometimes we have to take the temperature and legislators don't really want to go on record. That's not what we were elected to do. We were elected to make hard decisions. We have to make hard decisions. There's a certain pot of money in the state. We have to decide how to divide that amongst lots of really, really, really worthy organizations. There's nothing easy about that. Even how we divide our time during the day is, is persistently difficult because, you know, today I'm here in Boston, but I could be in a full day of constituent meetings in my district. I mean I, if we scheduled out everybody who asked to meet, it would be from probably nine to midnight. Um, so those, you know, they're just, this job is full of difficult decisions and we all need to acknowledge that and, and feel comfortable making them worry less about reelections. And I think that it does come down to that. We worry a lot about reelections.

Anna Callahan:

Which is funny because as I've been doing these interviews, I've learned that we have the lowest rate of challenging incumbents of any state. So is it really that people are worried about their reelection? Or are they worried more about their relationship with the speaker? Or, what is going on?

Rep Sabadosa:

I think it's, I think it's definitely a combination of both. I think people worry very much about their , I think people do truly worry about the reelection. I think they worry about their position within the building as well. So, you know, people immediately start jockeying for vice chairmanships or chairmanships and how can I move up? Can I get the best committees? If I anger someone, will my legislation not move? What can I get from my district in the budget? And if I anger someone, will I get less? Will I get more? Um, they're just, they're just ways to keep the process closed. So legislators do have to decide, why are you here? Because if you are here solely to get crumbs for your district, then the current system will work for you because you will be very happy with the $20,000 you get thrown in the budget for a new roof. But sometimes if you're here because you understand that people deserve to be here too , then you know, you have to accept that challenge. You have to come make a little bit of waves.

Anna Callahan:

Right. This is also really interesting to me. One of the other legislators talked about saying that, you know, part of the, part of the job is constituent services. Part of the job is doing things for your district specifically trying to get earmarks and things. And then part of the job is focusing on what all the residents of Massachusetts need. So what should be statewide policy. And I'd love to hear you talk a little bit about that, about how you see your job or the job of a legislator or, or maybe more is this part of the problem? Is part of the problem in the state legislature that too many legislators are focused just on earmarks for their district? And not enough on....

Rep Sabadosa:

Yeah, it's possible that the earmarks... It's funny though, 'cause you listed those three things and I kind of thought those three are actually all constituent services. So I guess it's sort of how you view them. I suppose if your sole focus is on getting as much money for your district as possible, you will work to fall into line. But I don't know. That's , that's really not what our job is. I mean, we have our constituents in our district, but it is that it is the statewide policy that actually would impact everything , right? Because if we pass good policy, it would change constituent services. One of the main things that I'm seeing in my district, the main requests we get is around housing. And there's not enough of it. There's not enough affordable housing. There aren't enough vouchers. The vouchers aren't worth enough. People can't find houses for , for that particular voucher amount because the market is just insane. And so if we pass good statewide policy that would resolve a whole bunch of those constituent services. If we pass , but statewide policy, we wouldn't have to be jockeying for earmarks. That basically are things that s hould h ave just been funded in the first place. It's this constant idea of not making investments when they need to be made and then , putting bandaids over the problem. Right? So we have, for example, this transportation bond bill that's g onna be coming up. And I've been thinking a lot about are there things I should ask for f or my district. But frankly the things that my district really needs a re some pretty massive investments in infrastructure in the Commonwealth. And that's the part nobody wants to talk about. They want to talk about this bill that truly with a bond bill, then you're lucky if you get the money because it's a promise of money but it's not real money. So yeah, a sk for the bandaids, but let's not talk about the real underlying issues. Which I think is why when you divided the job up into those three segments, I kept going back to, but it is, it's all about the constituents. It's just really all about the people a nd all three of those components need to play together in a policy focused lens for the representative or Senator.

Anna Callahan:

So I want to get back for a minute to something that you said and , and I don't, don't let me put words in your mouth, but it sounded like you were saying that there is sort of the "fall in line" and then there's the "make waves" as two possible ways to, to interact with folks inside the building. And I want to know if the make waves, first of all, if I said that right. And then if the make waves, if you have like a theory of change around what it does to make waves.

Rep Sabadosa:

Right? No, I think that the making waves is, is essential because the falling in line doesn't...I can't point to someone and say, Oh look, that person fell in line and they just fixed climate change in Massachusetts. I mean, can you think of anyone who's done that?

Anna Callahan:

Oh no, definitely not.

Rep Sabadosa:

No, I can't either. Or like that person fell in line and now look, we have East West rail.

Anna Callahan:

If they were falling in line with like a Bernie Sanders speaker, right? That might be different. But that's not what we have.

Rep Sabadosa:

But that's not what we're doing. And so I just, every time I hear like, Oh well I'm, I'm very effective in my district because I, you know, I do things and I get things done. I just keep wondering what, what do you get done? What does that mean, exactly? Because if you were getting things done, and people file brilliant legislation, they filed beautiful bills that don't pass. If those things were getting done, if legislators were falling in line and getting those bills passed that were having real statewide impact, that that would be fabulous. But when you come in and you decide I am here absolutely for the people in my district and by that I mean every single person including like the people who live, you know, in front of the church downtown and are never going to vote and still don't know who I am, even though I like to say hello to them in the morning. If you come in thinking about all those people and you're strategic in your way of making, I mean, there's no, it's not about like, Oh, how can I upset people? It's about, where do I push a little bit because this is a structural change that could help. Then you start to see cracks, little bitsy cracks and, and that's, it's helpful because it encourages, it encourages you to go keep going on in a place that can be very challenging and very oppressive. And it also, or at least it is my great hope that it also beacons for others to join you. Because the numbers, we need numbers. We need numbers of people who are willing to say, actually, I was elected to represent every person in my district, not just a hundred. So we need to make sure that we're electing more people who can come in to join us in this fight for structural change and who really are interested in representing everyone in their district. Because if they're interested in that, they're going to be interested in moving big policy. And while with small numbers right now we are able to make those little cracks, right? We can, we can do little things, we can influence conversations, we can push things in the right direction, but we don't have enough of us to really stand up and make a bill go through really force a change. I mean, we can, we can try, but we won't succeed. And we know that and we know sometimes , there are lots of lessons in the failures, right? We need to accept the failures as learning. But but if we get more people than we can actually start to push that policy and that would be really exciting. But we're going to need people who are really brave because when you walk into this building, there is an attempt to make you conform. And I don't think it serves my district for me to conform. I really don't. I do not think that we're g onna get the things that we need a nd the policy that we need if I do that. I think that me trying to push the conversation to the left, opening it up so that regular people can get i n h ere and understand the process. And also you imagine the people who might run for office if they actually understood what this building l ooks like and how it worked and what we do?

Anna Callahan:

That's why I'm doing this podcast!

Rep Sabadosa:

Basic, basic things that if you understand what the job is , you might think, Hey wait, I can do that.

Anna Callahan:

Great. Well, tell us a little bit more about what it's like to be a state rep and whether you think, you know, that people who aren't lawyers or politicians can do it.

Rep Sabadosa:

Oh, I think that anybody can do it. I think that you need, it definitely requires a lot of stamina. I will say that. Particularly if you come from an area outside of Boston because it is very challenging traveling to cross the state of Massachusetts. And it's, they're really long days. That's, that's the other component of this. But I came from an organizer background and organizers also are notorious for working 14, 15, 16 hour days. So I fit right in. But you know, other than that, I think what I would like to see are intelligent people, thoughtful people, people who are incredibly focused on their constituents and all of their constituents. People who , people who know themselves. And I think that that's really important. I , I've noticed in conversations, in fact, just this weekend, we were at the state convention and we were talking to someone who works as an aid in the building and he said, people don't usually talk to me like you do. And I was like, what do you mean? And he was like, like a human being. People don't usually talk to me like I'm a human being in the building and that's really awful and sad. So if more people could run for office who are interested in human connection and genuine in their actions and authentic with themselves and are not willing to compromise their basic fundamental values for political gain that we might see more change. Wonderful. Let's say somebody wants to run for office. Do you have any advice?

Anna Callahan:

I guess my advice is as a little , a little common, but it's how I started and I didn't think I was going to run for office, but I did start working on campaigns at a really, really young age. And I love campaigns. I love campaigning. I love knocking on doors and talking to people. I think that if you're interested in running for office, the best thing you can do is to volunteer on someone's campaign. And I think I'm noticing this little bit of a trend, although it's starting to break away, that there were a lot of people wanting to work on campaigns and they thought that meant like sitting in an office with a laptop and talking on the phone to people and kind of, I don't know , a West wing-esque kind of atmosphere. Actually working on campaigns is getting lots and lots of blisters and sweating and it's like worrying if someone's dog is going to try and attack you and actually knocking on doors.

Rep Sabadosa:

If you're not doing that part of the campaign, you're actually not going to be ready to run for office because the campaign management part, like the person who is sending people out, that's, that's a good job for someone who's organized. But running for office, you need to know what people care about and if you're not out there knocking on doors and understanding how to have those conversations...And also, and I realize this is so ironic because I've talked this entire podcast , you need to know how to listen and really listen. Someone in my district during the campaign referred to it as radical listening. We actually sit down and shut up and let someone just talk at you and really try to empathize with their situation. That's the best training for this. This job is a little bit like being a rabbi or a minister in some respects because people come to you. And that's been very surprising to me . No one told me that, that people would come and they would sit and they would cry with you. And they would really tell you the troubles that they're going through and, and things that are hard in their lives. And I'm very grateful that they do that because it feels like an enormous privilege to have someone trust you like that. But at the same time, it's certainly not for everybody. And I dunno, I just, I wish that every rep was out in their community doing that because I think every community needs it.

Anna Callahan:

Absolutely. Let me tell you, this has been really inspiring and I've just so enjoyed our conversation.

Rep Sabadosa:

Thank you. Likewise.

Anna Callahan:

Yeah, thanks so much. And , um , yeah, we look forward to hearing more about the great things we're doing at this day .

Rep Sabadosa:

Thank you.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] .