Incorruptible Massachusetts

Representative Nika Elugardo: How to enact systemic change

December 03, 2019 Rep Nika Elugardo, Anna Callahan Season 1 Episode 11
Incorruptible Massachusetts
Representative Nika Elugardo: How to enact systemic change
Chapters
Incorruptible Massachusetts
Representative Nika Elugardo: How to enact systemic change
Dec 03, 2019 Season 1 Episode 11
Rep Nika Elugardo, 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 Nika Elugardo.

Nika Elugardo is the state representative for the 15th Suffolk district which covers parts of Brookline and Boston including neighborhoods in Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and Roslindale. Rep Elugardo was the founding director of MassSaves, an economic justice collaborative, and she founded the research and consulting departments at the Emmanuel Gospel Center.  As a state rep, Nika has championed bills in housing, education, and environment. 

Rep Elugardo is clearly a systems thinker, something we need more of in the state house.  In this interview, she talks about how we need to have states that are willing to lead on justice issues — environmental, economic, racial, lgbtq, that all justice issues are under attack and we need to have our state legislators become the leaders on a vision of justice and opportunity for all.  This voice is sorely needed in Massachusetts, where we have one person, the speaker of the house, who dictates what can and can’t pass, and who is beholden to corporate and billionaire donors.   

She also talks about how there are more people in office now and running for office who aren’t there just for a career in politics, who are there to fight for the rights of people.  In state house culture, where there is intense pressure to conform and do what the speaker says, it’s imperative that we elect people who don’t need to have the approval of their peers — or perhaps who see their constituents as their peers, not other politicians. 

Without further ado, here is my interview with Nike Elugardo. 

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 Nika Elugardo.

Nika Elugardo is the state representative for the 15th Suffolk district which covers parts of Brookline and Boston including neighborhoods in Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, and Roslindale. Rep Elugardo was the founding director of MassSaves, an economic justice collaborative, and she founded the research and consulting departments at the Emmanuel Gospel Center.  As a state rep, Nika has championed bills in housing, education, and environment. 

Rep Elugardo is clearly a systems thinker, something we need more of in the state house.  In this interview, she talks about how we need to have states that are willing to lead on justice issues — environmental, economic, racial, lgbtq, that all justice issues are under attack and we need to have our state legislators become the leaders on a vision of justice and opportunity for all.  This voice is sorely needed in Massachusetts, where we have one person, the speaker of the house, who dictates what can and can’t pass, and who is beholden to corporate and billionaire donors.   

She also talks about how there are more people in office now and running for office who aren’t there just for a career in politics, who are there to fight for the rights of people.  In state house culture, where there is intense pressure to conform and do what the speaker says, it’s imperative that we elect people who don’t need to have the approval of their peers — or perhaps who see their constituents as their peers, not other politicians. 

Without further ado, here is my interview with Nike Elugardo. 

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

Speaker 1:

Hi, this is Anna Callahan and you are 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 Nika, Ella Gardot. Nika Gardot is a state representative for the 15th Suffolk district, which covers parts of Brooklyn and Boston, including neighborhoods in Jamaica plain, mission Hill and Roslindale rep. Ella Gardot was the founding director of mass saves and economic justice collaborative and she founded the research and consulting departments at the Emmanuel gospel center as a state rep, Nica has championed bills in housing, education and environment. Rebelo Gardot is clearly a systems thinker. You can tell that just from the way she talks about everything and that's something that we need more of in the state house. In this interview, she talks about how we need to have States that are willing to lead on justice issues, environmental, economic, racial, LGBTQ, all that.

Speaker 1:

All justice issues are under attack and we need to have our state legislators become the leaders on a vision of justice and opportunity for all. This voice is sorely needed in Massachusetts where we have one person, the speaker of the house who dictates what can and can't pass and who's beholden to corporate and billionaire donors. She also talks about how there are more people in office now and running for office who are just there for a career in politics, who are there to fight for the rights of people and state house culture where there's an intense pressure to conform and to do what the speaker says. It's imperative that we elect people who don't need to have approval of their peers or perhaps who see their constituents as their peers and not other politicians. And without further ado, here is my interview with Nika Ella. Gardot hi there.

Speaker 1:

I am here with representative Nika lagarto. Thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me on. It's great. And, and whoever, I am wonderful. We were just chit chatting and um, I was like, Oh, press record because you were starting to talk about state politics and why state politics is so meaningful compared to, um, local and national politics. So I need to do the thing I always do and give sort of my take on that for what it's worth. Um, so vocal politics is so great for addressing right now, problems that you're having literally on your streets, uh, in the school where your kid attends, et cetera. And national problems must be solvable on some level, but it's been so long since I've seen that happen that I'm not sure what national level politics is good. And I'm really proud of the people that go down there and take it on. Um, but I said to Congresswoman Diana Presley, when she won, it's a good thing. Your head is harder than a brick wall minus not.

Speaker 1:

So anyway, you need people to go down there and bust up whatever that is that's happening for the last, uh, couple of decades. Uh, but at the state level you can work on systems change because we have state constitutions and we have a law that protects people from overreaching government and that that protects our inviolable rights. And some of the enforcement of that happens in the state legislature part and then also in the office of the governor. And so at that level there's this opportunity to create, um, a high functioning democracy at the state level, just that's sort of almost completely enclosed and protected by the laws that we have in our state. And so that's been really exciting for me. And especially after coming in and realizing that's even more true than I realized because there are just thousands of possibilities. You can write any law really.

Speaker 1:

And then like how can you organize over the years to get it passed? And so that's an exciting prospect to me. I think we can do it here if we get live in just a handful of more visionary type of people because it's not just about do you have the values? My election was a great case study in that because everybody that runs in my district and has any chance at all of winning, including the incumbent I ran against this can have progressive values. And the question is, what's your approach to getting the progressive values, um, to materialize them into reality? And, and who do you engage in that and, and how, and where do you see power coming from? And how do you shift power? How do you shift culture? And do you have a vision for that? And so having more visionaries in here that understand systems and strategy or even like wanna learn it, uh, and particularly if themselves or with the help of others can connect that to policy, you can start to see, uh, incremental changes that end up being, uh, levers for great big change, 10, 15, 20 years down the road and education and immigration and healthcare, um, and a whole host of issues, even tiny things that we don't think about that much in the realm of, you know, infrastructure or transportation, although those are big on our minds.

Speaker 1:

So a couple of things where you're, you're already talking about so many things that I'm talking about of weeklies on this pockets and I want to catch two of those. So the first one I want to talk about is, um, uh, what is your, it sounds like you think being a visionary in terms of the way that change happens is something that you think is really gonna make a difference in the state house. And tell me what, what is your vision of how change really happens? Well, just so as a point of clarity on the beginning of that, I'll say, uh, you can't have our, there's, you won't ever get anything done, but if you have no visionaries, then you're actually going backwards because all of this sort of devolve from whatever point it's at best case scenario. And then you might have negative visionaries like a Donald Trump that are just like taking us in some oft direction towards destruction.

Speaker 1:

Um, and so you need visionaries, you need people to develop the vision. You need people to sort of manage things and keep them going. And you need people that are just like, doers, give me the task and then the best kinds of teams, those people work together well and recognize the season that you're in and, and which one of those types of leadership should come to the forefront. And that's going to be a dynamic reality right now in our country. We need States that will step up and lead particularly on issues of equitable justice, whether that's economic, environmental, racial, LGBTQ, like all the justice issues are under attack and we were already at best remedial as a nation and all of them. But we have this amazing, um, uh, framework that you might say by accident, you might say divine intervention, the framework is so much better than anybody who's touched it or made it or anything like that.

Speaker 1:

I was in the, um, yesterday was nine 11, and I was in the house chambers, um, uh, as, as part of a, um, a commemorative events that we have there every year where we give an award based on the bravery of, on the Sweeney who was one of the people who acted very bravely and died bravely in nine 11. And, uh, so we gave the award, not we, I mean, I just get to say when you, cause I had nothing to do with that. I was sitting in the back, but, uh, we gave an award to a young man who was driving home from his late shift and saw a car burst into flames and pulled four people out. Wow. Getting himself and injured. Uh, but just didn't hesitate. Just went and did it and they couldn't get out for whatever reason. They were banging, they couldn't get out and he pulled off for them out and save their lives.

Speaker 1:

Um, so you're worried, rewarding that kind of bravery and it, it brings up all these emotions, but then you're looking around, even in the room, I feeling like I wish all kinds of people were here to celebrate this together, but realizing a lot of people who are all different kinds of marginalized at types of people, whether they're black and Brown like me or LGBTQ or disabled or whatever it is, I aren't even feeling welcome in that space. And then you look at the, um, this painting's across the top of the dome, which are gorgeous, but are paintings of white men do Excel. Yeah, because they're historical paintings of our government. And one of them, there was this page, uh, or this, this, uh, this a frame that has John Adams and some other men working on the state constitution for Massachusetts, which became the framework for the constitution for the United States and was the first constitution to guarantee, for example, education rights.

Speaker 1:

So we were the first state to do that. So this is powerful thing. And those men weren't thinking me probably, um, when they wrote that education piece or even like necessarily poor kids for my kids, definitely not women, like definitely not women, which is me too. So there's like a lot of ways. Um, but I was looking at that and being a devout person, I had an interesting vision experience in that moment unexpectedly and I just saw like the Holy spirit in that painting winking at me like, uh, as if to say, it looks like you're not included here, but you are, I made sure and uh, and, and, and that is the amazing opportunity that we have at the state level that we can exercise that leadership for the United States as we did from that very first day, even with flop people doing the work.

Speaker 1:

Uh, and you don't need a whole legislature full of well intentioned people were, uh, active people or, or, or visionary people. You definitely don't, you actually don't even want visionary people. And in this and our legislature, that's like kind of lots of well intention people, myself included. That's not what makes the change. It's when we work together well, the lead and you need all those different pieces. And so we're, we're, we're getting more people coming in who, um, aren't necessarily here, uh, for the other really valid reason. This is like an amazing career. So people come in because this is an amazing career in a way to do good work. A lot of those people have manager, uh, tendencies or do or tendencies and we need tons of those in the legislature or you get nothing done. But right now the nation needs to stay to stand up and say, here's the vision of justice for all, here's the vision of opportunity for all.

Speaker 1:

And it has to be a shared vision. So I'll answer the question of like, what am I bringing into that? And I've tried to bring a lot of voices in, but like all strong visions, it is dynamic and responsive to what I learned here, what I learned from my colleagues here, what I continue to learn from their constituents and mine and others around the world. Um, which is how I approach kind of my business whenever my business has been. Like it's constant learning. But the vision I'm putting forward is we need to ensure that the pillars of justice are in place equally for everyone and right now as a placeholder until people educate me on other ways to think of it. I think those pillars are education, healthcare and housing. And I think that because they bring together the world of economics and the social and cultural growth and those are the types of justice where there's a lot of inequity, like places where essentially other pursuit of happiness that our declaration of independence also penned.

Speaker 1:

Um, for all of us though, the people holding the pens weren't thinking of us. All the words captured us all somehow. And that pursuit of happiness is only possible if you can be healthy and strong and dream. And so education, health care and housing are important for that. But then also, um, there are places where the basic needs in those areas are so integral that people are willing to pay whatever they can afford to get the best of that thing. And what that means in an echo and economics terms is that there's this inelastic to me and if there's inelastic demand, so people are like, the price is going to go up as high as people can afford. Yeah. Well what that means is the people that have a lot are going to keep driving the price really, really high, of course. Which of course means that price, that price going high goes high for everyone, not just for the people that can afford it.

Speaker 1:

And it's not just so, you know, when we're talking about healthcare where obviously if you're, if you need something and your life depends on it, then you're right. There is an area is no price that's dry. It's also education. Like when, when I was growing up and my parents split up and we moved and my mom and I, my sister were living below the poverty line and we moved into the best school district. Um, my mom spent 70% of her income on rent so that you could have that as well so that we could have it because education was, was really, really important to her. Right. And so like I think what you're talking about, maybe a lot of people you know, listen to this podcast may not realize how much even something like education, um, the same expenses and housing. This was a combination of education and housing, right? [inaudible]

Speaker 1:

we had to pay for the housing. Healthcare is interrelated. If you don't have good housing, your health goes down and you'd get most people whose housing goes out the door, their education follows. And then that's obviously connected to jobs and climate and all these other things, which are also emergencies. But I call these things the core cause you think of them like pillars. If you imagine a world where everybody has solid quality and affordable housing, healthcare and education, all those other things can be built on that foundation. If one of those pillars is missing, people are going to keep falling through that hole that's left. And if only some people are falling through, then you get these inequities. And we don't want either of those things. And so the, the end of that economics piece of that story about an elastic demand and all that is that private markets can't control things that have haven't elastic demand unless you want to guarantee an unjust result.

Speaker 1:

And I don't mind that if we're talking about toothpaste or lecturing vehicles, um, let people figure out how they're gonna get that. But when we're talking about basic life necessities that connect not only to what I would think of, just need to, we think of us as, as, as who I am as certain matters of justice, but also matters of sort of merit and, and access to our constitutional guarantees and silica constitutional right only counts if you can access it. And we don't, you know, we don't allow the market to control the price of water, for example. Right. Because if it did, then some percentage of people would die of thirst. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And we would just accept that as a norm, right? Because we've normalized the, the, the commodification of water. We know for housing, right? We accept, we have, and again, for housing, I'm okay with that.

Speaker 1:

If we're just talking about the realm of housing that is above and beyond what people need to survive. Yeah. But certainly when we're talking about public lands of which we have across the country, billions of dollars, we need to have, um, a model of ownership that reflects the values embodied in our constitution state here and nationally. Um, which is actually an amazing document. It's still got flaws and disagreements, but, but the core pieces of it protect all the right things and it's why we've been able to grow with essentially only ever having ragtag people running this country. You know, Donald Trump in that regard is not new. Like he's going sort of back to our ragtag roots, not in terms of the wealth and everything, but just like their way of thinking and being out of the box. And I don't like the direction his box moved in, but I like that he's opened the door for people to not be typical because the typical thing has been driving us down.

Speaker 1:

Donald Trump has pressed on the accelerator, but we can't imagine that he caused all of that. This has been over 200 years, at least in the, in the making. And so certainly the last few decades have been terrible for, for inequality, for equality. You pointed a decade that hasn't been terrible for inequality in our country and I will learn, I will learn something that I didn't know yet, you know. Uh, but the thing that is more, more encouraging than that is that in every decade there have been people fighting to fix that. I went to the African American museum really briefly, uh, because I was playing hooky from a conference. I'm supposed to be out with a few of my legislator girlfriends here that are also new. And we were like, Hey, let's go do something very interesting instead of this for a little bit. And so we only had like a couple of hours cause we wanted to get back for some special presentation and it was my first time.

Speaker 1:

And it's not the kind of place where you can really see it in two hours even. It's like a, um, a somber amusement park. Like you need all day to take it in. And I had two hours. So to protect myself emotionally, I just determined I'm going to go to the places that aren't going to like destroy me emotionally. Um, and the places that are like really disturbing, I'm going to briefly look at them but I'm not going to stay there and take them in. I was glad I made that choice cause I saw people not making that choice intentionally and they were really like I'm dying, which is a good thing. But I couldn't deal with that right then. But the, the upside of that is that I noticed, cause it goes decade by decade from the 617 hundreds, um, it starts with bigger time periods, but you ended up going into the 20th century, you're into the 20s, thirties, forties, something like that.

Speaker 1:

And you see decade by decade these horrendous things happening. And then these heroes emerging and these heroes look like all different kinds of people. You know, in terms of background, ethnicity, culture, skin color, gender, age, gender identity. They're just like, it's all kinds of people, rich people, poor people every single decade who are rising up. Sometimes they find each other and then they're even more effective. Sometimes they don't. They generally get killed, you know, but somebody heard that story and carried it into the next generation and you realize like, this is us now and there are a lot of us, we aren't like the odd person out, right? There are a lot of people and it may in fact be a large proportion of the generation that's coming up now. But things like that, like we have to right. The ship of justice. And I think that back to your original question, uh, both about vision and why state level, um, the United States has the opportunity that I think is the first time in the world that we've seen this opportunity, which is to have a truly high functioning democracy, uh, and a ha in a heterogeneous, um, setting where the top levels of leadership include people from all over the world, uh, with backgrounds and demographics from across all the different spectra that we experience.

Speaker 1:

Like, we can have that in the United States because if people are here and our, and our institutional frameworks call for it, don't just allow for it, but call for it. Uh, the actual institutions that were built by human hands don't reflect that right? Fully or in some cases at all, some cases somewhat like education system. Okay. It's a right. So we declared that a right in Massachusetts with declared healthcare, right. We need to do the same thing for housing. And so there are different levels that we've gone. The education, we've declared it a right, but it's still essentially separate but equal. Right? But our, our courts, so that's not okay. Great. And so we have this framework, this institutional framework that is ahead of our institutions. Uh, but now we have this energy that needs to be led, not by individuals, but like together we need to lead it as sort of teams across the country.

Speaker 1:

In the organizing models that I'm imagining that you were learning, you were telling me about some organizing models I hadn't heard, um, just based on where it led you to, uh, you know, with the DSA and things like that, which has strong connections to labor organizing, which I understand somewhat. Um, you know, these are the models where if you combine them with what I'm talking about, it moves from the esoteric theoretical into the practical of getting it done. And not only our elections across the country, mine a practical manifestation of that and a demonstration of that, but so are some of the policies that we're seeing and, and, and we gotta look at the change in policy in light of the fact that there's momentum against us, right? So if we were an, an even playing field where any policy had an equal chance of passing, then we would measure success differently than if we're going uphill with rushing water coming at us and avalanche avalanches coming every once in awhile.

Speaker 1:

So if you're watching a movie and somebody is like running on flat ground, you're not gonna cheer for them the same way as somebody who's like dodging boulders coming down an icy Hill. Um, and they're carrying like several things and people you know, up when there's a team of them and they're trying to stick together, you know? And then also there are people like trying to turn them against each other to get them to join different, like they have all these obstacles. Plus sometimes they have to suddenly start swimming, you know, like make the gun, we should make a series about heroes. And so, so if you see somebody move from like point a to point a plus 10 and the goal is a thousand, that 10 is really special under those circumstances, particularly if there are people out there waiting to take the Baton. Right.

Speaker 1:

I wanna I wanna to take this back to the second point that you made earlier that I wanted to get to, which is you talked about certain policies being levers by which you could pass more policies. I'd love to hear more about that. Yeah. So I'm learning what that looks like in here. I've worked on that concept with many people in many mentors, um, for my whole career cause I've worked in systems for my whole career in community economic development through, uh, a community based systems lens. So that's where I get that thinking from about levers. Um, but what I mean is like a, you got to find not the sexy, attractive thing, but the thing that is actually blocking change. And so I used to do systems mapping and just to give a practical example before I dive into a political one, I'll use housing just to keep people listening.

Speaker 1:

There's going to be a house, in example, Korea. Um, uh, but most people can relate to sort of philanthropy with children, right? And so one of my favorite systems map is really old and outdated. And it was looking at what they used to call orphanages in Africa. And this is before even the AIDS epidemic. So, um, but people were, uh, investing in orphanages and they, and Africa and Africans were a little bit, but it was a lot of external, especially, uh, U S and Western European investment. And in their mind, they were like helping children to grow. But what the indigenous leadership there was finding was that these institutions, um, would graduate people from these very fancy orphanage high schools. They couldn't function the society that they were in, cause it's not like they were going to get a free ticket to the U S or wherever that money came from to continue that lifestyle.

Speaker 1:

Um, and so they ended up homeless or on the streets or uh, maybe in jobs but isolated because they don't have any community and places where community is your richest resource. And so they did out a systems map. And what they discovered is people think that the lever is money, right? And so they put more money hoping that that will create more programming to fix the problem of these kids getting lost and the, and the system or lack of systems and, and the problems would accelerate. So it was like a reverse LeBron. It accelerated the, the negative unintended consequences. But when you mapped it out, what you realized was the real leverage point was those indigenous leaders and those indigenous leaders look sometimes just like the local grandmother who was kind of aware of who had lost their parents. Yeah. Because that's just how she lives her life.

Speaker 1:

Um, or the local, a guy mechanic who is kind of aware of, you know, who needs jobs, you know, like locally jobs that will only sustain you in the little local community life that they have, but will sustain you in that life. Yeah. And if you invest in those people in their training, they will take care of the people who are losing their parents from birth all the way through and they want to, they're invested in that. That's their community. And it's actually a lot less expensive than building an orphanage or the fancy high school and, uh, importing like nuns or whatever you're importing to run it. Right. Um, and so, um, there've been much fancier systems maps than that one and in much more updated ones. But I love that one because it's so basic. Everybody can relate to that because every piece of that relates to something and everybody's life universally, you know, it's not this big mechanical thing you got to figure out.

Speaker 1:

And when you look at a housing policy for example, and this is true, I think there will be parallels in every kind of policy I picked housing cause we're, I think the furthest behind on those three pillars. Um, what jumps out at you when, like when people talk about progressive housing policy, what would it look? What jumps out at you? Uh, so it depends on which circles, right? So affordable housing is for a lot of people talk about, I think social housing is what, you know, some of the DSA folks have started talking to them. But when you think of like legislation in this building that people are fighting for right now. Oh sure. Like what kinds of stuff? Because it's going to be Ted protections. It's going to be, I mean, maybe rent control, right? Right. Afford more, afford more money for affordable housing, right?

Speaker 1:

Like cash, cash, tenant protections, uh, elder of low income elder homeowner protections. I actually have bills for all of that that I've it sponsoring, co-sponsored. Um, none of that is a lever. None of it is even a solution. All of it is addressing a problem that shouldn't be happening in the first place. Now the first things you said, uh, when you were talking about, um, I, what cooperative housing or shared, I forget which model you said, but, um, social housing, social services. So, so those are sort of models, right? That are getting at kind of what I'm talking about. But even before that, cause that's the result you want, right? Like how do you, how do you change the infrastructure so that that result is not only possible, but like a natural conclusion of your infrastructure. And, uh, and it doesn't come out as an easy answer, but here's how I hired, how I approached it.

Speaker 1:

I looked at other legislation that was there, uh, in housing and I asked myself the question, does any of this create pathways to affordable housing? And the only bill that even came close with the governor's bill. Um, and that was just because he started to address supply. But the way that he addressed supply was an equitable, it wasn't that it was inherently inequitable as much as that it was just based on the way things always are and the way things always are. It's inherently inequitable. So if you just make the current system, um, more friendly towards development, the people that are already able to develop, um, are going to be able to do that more readily. And the people who aren't able to just cause it's going to increase the gap. Just like when I talk about inelastic demand, um, the people with the most resources will pick up on the benefits and the people with the least resources will find them even more out of touch.

Speaker 1:

And then ultimately you're actually gonna have more poor people in less, um, percentage of them in affordable housing than you have now. And people can't see that. Right? Because in the short term you would get more affordable housing. Right. Uh, and so I see that as a systems problem. And I also know it's not like I can make people see that or they might not even agree. And I did talk to one economist who is, who can see it. So I'm like, okay, it's not just me like making up crap out the back of my head. There's economics argument there. Um, and he's, uh, he's a fairly well known economist, very Bluestone locally. And um, so then I said, well, what are the assets available to us to increase the affordable housing that are available to everyone? What are the public assets? Uh, because I have a different understanding of ownership than like you're not money on something and it's yours.

Speaker 1:

People forget, like that's just a model of ownership and it's fine. Like private ownership and marketplace driven ownership is, is a fine model, again, for toothpastes and luxury housing. But what does the model look like and what has looked like for thousands of years of ownership for basic needs? Well, for thousands of years here and around the world, if you are investing in land, it's yours, right? Like, if you're the person who you and your mom and your granddad and all these generations before have been telling the land, making it good, bringing culture to it, bringing economic development to it, uh, then it's yours or at least partly yours. And if anybody wants to take any part of it, they need to check in with you. Uh, and so we've kind of lost that. And I want to recapture that for publicly. And you know, to say like, if we are this part of the public comments, it belongs to everyone.

Speaker 1:

And so it should only be used in furtherance of the, of the public good. And the people that are investing in that public good, the land belongs to them first. Like they get a special interest in the land. So if you've been living in public housing for four generations, uh, you should have a special interest in that land. Whether it looks like a lower rent or guaranteed a right of first refusal or, you know, yeah. When things get sold or, or, or, or a tiny interest in a much bigger development projects if something gets, if a transaction happens. And that land goes away to someone else that probably that still belongs to you to offset the cost of your new housing. However, people figure it out with a cohousing shared housing, community, housing, social housing, whatever it looks like. Um, the, the, the determination is based on, uh, what is best as a matter of public policy for affordable housing and who was making those types of investments and how are they working together and cash can be a part of that.

Speaker 1:

So as I looked at those assets, um, what I realized, because I'm on a podcast and I'm not going to, I'm just going to explain what I would do if we were on television, which is, which is a television, that's what people say or whatever we would be watching. Um, I would walk over to that part of my office and grab this binder that's about, what's that like three and a half inches thick, full of pages and pages of surplus land owned by the state. And some of that land is good for affordable housing. We've actually worked, we're working with, um, a course at Boston university, a master's course to help us cost out these different categories. Some of that land could be used to generate income for affordable housing, like to generate capital. And some of that land could be used to a smaller piece of that land, uh, in partnership with, with large nonprofits like universities and hospitals to generate sellable tax credits.

Speaker 1:

And some of that land could not be touched for any of these purposes, but those first three categories can all be used to further the development of affordable housing. And you can give access to those lands, to anyone who's going to do that. And what that does is assess the tenant groups. It says to a small community based developers that might be not for profit developers, so private, but their mission is to work with the community and be led by the community, which often includes tenant advocacy, um, or, and leadership and tended to homeowner leadership and, and all different varieties of homeownership, cooperative and individual, uh, and also big private developers who are gonna play into that game because it benefits them. Um, in ways that the community school with right when the, when the community is an equal player, they can make a negotiation with a big private developer cause a big private developer is at all times gonna adhere to their fiduciary duty to maximize their profits.

Speaker 1:

And so there's nothing wrong with that legally speaking. So the community has to decide where is that inappropriate incentive for us. But the community has to be in charge of that versus the big private developer driving or the market quote unquote, um, driving, uh, the value that we say that they're bringing to the situation. The community has to determine like this is a value and this is the cap on that value. So, so it sounds like this, um, I have a bill for that. Yeah. Yeah. So this idea, I think, um, if I can rephrase it, tell me if I'm right or wrong, please rephrase it. Cause you know, I'm always meeting like there's how you say that in two sentence, um, that, um, that by essentially creating the vision in a small place, creating this vision of the way of a new sort of ownership, um, model, by creating something, using our public lands, um, that embodies that vision of like a more, a long distant future of how we would do that.

Speaker 1:

That you, that that can become an example for how we can move towards that in other places in the state. So you've captured sort of like the five or six year vision of it, um, and a 10 year vision. Right. And what I mean by that is there's three components to what I just described. I just to the bell and for listeners who are into this kind of thing, it's age three, five, six, two. Great. Um, one component is the vision of housing for all, which has this redefined ownership. I didn't write that into the book. Like it is written into the bill. Like at the top it says housing is a right. That could be stricken. Everything still goes forward. It probably will be stricken. Uh, cause pooper of like, we, you need a lot more agreement on that then I currently have, I'm aware of, but I'm just gonna put that at the top of at least one bill every year until we get it.

Speaker 1:

And because that's where we're headed. So you have to keep putting that vision out there. Um, a second piece is the recognition that we can't cash our way out of this problem and we can't address the problem by, um, jumping on all the emergencies, only like tenant protection, getting rid of rent regulation, which it really isn't really control. It's just the idea that you can regulate speculative markets, right? Like we do with stocks and like we just got to call it more what it is instead of, sometimes the catchy names actually catch us up because they imply things that aren't really what we're doing. And, uh, you know, that's important, but it, it, it regulates a problem that is actually caused by shortage and not just short of have access to not just shortage of actual buildings, which is what governor breakers pose trying to address, which is fine.

Speaker 1:

You gotta address that. Hey, but, um, shortage of access, uh, and because of barriers to entry into the market by players who would actually create more suitable affordable housing for their communities. Um, and so the bill is addressing that and that's not a vision problem. That's a management problem. That's a developer manager problem. And because I've, I've, because I've worked in organizational development, I'm trying to wear different hats at once or bring people in the Hamlet hat. And then the third level is the Dubar problem, which is that we can't cash our way out, as I said, which means we're going to increase revenues. That's the plan. But there's no amount of cash in a fiscal year budget that's going to be able to sufficiently address education shortfalls, which have been about a billion dollars a year that's going to address trans transportation and transit shortfalls, which the numbers keep going up on how much that has been in the billions in terms of what we would need to have the kind of high class interconnected a statewide system that we need.

Speaker 1:

Uh, that's gonna address healthcare as we shift hopefully to single payer, whether we do or not, the costs are, are high and skyrocketing. And even if we're able to bring that under control, it's still a major shortfall. One in five people can't afford the universal healthcare that we have. Right. And then, and then you're going to add to that housing, you know, like there's not enough income, right? And, and, and taking your cash out of your savings account isn't how people invest exclusively the way you look at all your assets. And so we have these land assets that currently, if you're like really in the know private developer, that's like pretty large. And you know, the governor, you could go into his office and totally legitimately say, I have this valid use, which may or may not be affordable housing for this land. And there's a whole chapter 70 process for the disposition of that land to you or anyone else who goes in a, but it requires like the passage of legislation and um, and a double procurement process.

Speaker 1:

Even if you're a housing authority, you know, and a lot of people just don't get access to that. And even those who do find that onerous and the unions often have like battles. Um, so the legislation tries to address that problem as well. And, and the idea is that I'm not going to the doers, my colleagues who are doers and who are looking at that baseline problem of, um, where do we get the money to do affordable housing? And saying like, Oh, you guys are not worth anything because you don't have vision them saying you guys basically have the idea somebody needs to put out a vision so that this idea gets, but that's the right idea. So, so let's offer something that solves your problem and then to the managers that are looking at the bigger issues of, of sort of, you know, access and leveling the playing field, like housing advocates, housing authorities that want to just get into the game where they want more people to get into the game or to have diversity in that market that makes it adjust to market, not an uncontrolled market.

Speaker 1:

Um, but a helpful public market, uh, you know, we're saying that those people, like, here's something for you. Uh, and then there's the vision. And the reason for doing those three different levels isn't just because that will actually connect the dots to produce affordable housing. I would argue that even more important than that, it connects the dots between the different types of players that are needed to get to the vision. It gives them an opportunity to work together. So if you had come to my hearing on July 30th, which I remember because it was the day before my birthday and the chairman of housing chairman Honan was nice enough to move the date for me so I could have more time to build advocacy because it was originally scheduled for the early spring and his committee moved it because I said, actually, there's a lot of people that want to get in on this bill.

Speaker 1:

So we had housing authorities from across the state. Uh, we had, uh, gateway cities, um, the, uh, Western mass, the chair of the Western mass delegation, uh, here in the state house. Uh, the black and Latino legislative caucus who actually made this bill a priority legislation and housing. Um, and uh, housing advocates like Vito Urbana, uh, groups that even like a big private developer came in and I wasn't expecting cause one of the housing authorities, Boston housing authority called up a private developer. Cause I told them like I hadn't talked to any big private developers now cause I don't know them but I'm also sure, sure not sure what would happen if I did. And so we had that whole range of people testifying for the bill. Amazing. And, and, and what's important about that isn't just that, okay, so maybe we'll get some affordable housing out of it, but people work together and you realize like, see there's like plenty of shared vision here.

Speaker 1:

There's, there's plenty of, um, of space for shared agreement. This is not a war. We have Wars that we're fighting. I mean sort of in the, in the, in the moral metaphorical sense like immigration where there's like something that I think is a wrong misunderstood view. They think my view is wrong or misunderstood. They're not compatible. Right. There are some shared values that we have that we're going to have to move towards to win that war. But this is not a war. Everybody wants affordable housing and everybody wants to profit or benefit from it. And that is good thing. We just need to make sure that those profits are justly and fairly, um, distributed. And so, uh, you know, that mechanistic, uh, organizing piece of it is what has been missing. So I had to go before I was not had to, but before I was even sworn in when I knew I was going to write some kind of bill like this because of what I had learned from talking to my housing authorities, they have Brookline in Boston and my district, uh, I already knew that unions had been dissed by similar initiatives in the past.

Speaker 1:

So we had to address that first. Right? I mean, the way it was framed to me is unions aren't for this kind of thing. And I thought, no, they've been test. Let me talk to them and see who broke their trust and what we did to break their trust. And actually I come from tradespeople [inaudible] and we're like basic, like if we're not wanting to get in, it's because you're screwing us. It's not because of the like esoteric difference between this piece of language and that piece of language. And so, um, that turned out I think to be true. And so the unions got on, many of the unions are the ones I talked to that on board with me right away in part because they just knew I'm not going to lie and say screw you without making a big scene. And so, um, and plus I plus I was like, I don't think anybody wants to screw you.

Speaker 1:

I think it was also like a misunderstanding even before, plus there were some projects on the table or a particular project that's no longer there. So you know, that project might've been screwed regardless of intentions and now we don't have to worry about that. So the unions got on board, um, and uh, have been on board and helpful the entire time. And that was just, I think, like an indication to people like, Oh, we can work together. And so then a lot of people came to the table. And so that's the kind of thing like that model can be using it and is being used actually by people who aren't me. I'm like the joiner in education. Yeah. Um, and it can be used in integration. It can be used in health. Okay, great. You know, I could talk to you forever. Um, unfortunately I could probably talk for it just for the, um, but uh, we really only have a minute or two left before you have, you have to go.

Speaker 1:

And, um, what kind of final, is there anything that people can do? Like you have any words for anybody who wants to run for office or for people who want to like, um, be more involved in state politics? Uh, you know, short of running for office. Like what can people to help, right. Well, in speaking, Hey Kristen, let's see, uh, in speaking to people who have not engaged at all, I would say you don't have to find the perfect fit. Try anything that comes to your mind. Talk with the people you care about who know you. And say, this is where I'm going to try, but try anything and learn from that experience what you like about it, what you don't like. Don't let other people tell you what's the most strategic thing to get involved in. Because honestly, if everybody's doing what they're passionate about, especially in the volunteer space, and the strategies will emerge by the resources that come forward.

Speaker 1:

And you are that resource for people that are already involved in various ways, but feel frustrated like you're hitting walls. Um, a lot of times what I found is that means that you're not partnering with people that don't think like you. And, uh, when you can get over that, a lot of times you can have these breakthroughs and sometimes that's like other Progressive's that don't think like you. And sometimes it's like Republicans or conservatives just had a Republican walk into my office who are going to have lunch right now, who was instrumental on my campaign getting off the ground and handed it off to the DSA people who took it to the Southern level. And I was saying that to one of those people, um, and our revolution person who was helping, uh, and high level on my campaign and she said the Kennedy school, and she was talking about how conservatives, they are complaining that they feel like, you know, second class citizens that at the Kennedy school, I like people look down on them because of their views.

Speaker 1:

And I was like, well, you should talk to a Republican about that. Like in a friendly way and not sorta judge that because maybe they are. And uh, and that's what I mean by like, if you're feeling stuck with your group, like they're not getting anything done, it's probably because you're stuck with your group and, and, and what you need to get out of that is people that take nothing like you. Not to say that you're going to do exactly what those people tell you to do. Like they're going to come in and be the new boss. But, um, having that dialogue will make you more effective and smarter and open up avenues to ways of getting things done you didn't have before. It's why I have a couple of bipartisan bills as a first year legislator because I really value the opinions of my Republican colleagues and they know that.

Speaker 1:

And so we respectfully disagree on a number of things, but we have found areas of agreement such as elder housing and I've many issues relating to low income veterans and Puerto Rican veterans for example. And so, um, you know, I would say it's not about like Nick is going to tell you like here's your next step, but make sure your next step looks like that. It looks like not group think it looks like not um, bringing the element of white supremacy that is thinking that your ideas are morally superior to other people's ideas. Uh, that is a form of supremacy, right? And so we have to reject that in ourselves. And I think like when I've done that and when I've seen others do that, it kind of, it breaks down the barriers that loosens the jar, whatever. Like it opens things up and things begin to flow without you feeling like you have to control them. You'll just notice organically. And then people that are like really in it and they're either, yeah, Nika, we know we've been doing all this stuff. He said, I would just say, hold on, because more people have to me.

Speaker 1:

Wow. That is, that is the best advice I think I've heard. Well, weird to hear coming from stuff that came out of my mouth.

Speaker 2:

Great. Thank you so much. This has been just a joy to talk to you about this and my pleasure. [inaudible].