Brandy Brooks is an adjunct professor at Bunker Hill Community College. She has a B.S. in Development Sociology and Masters degrees in Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy as well as in Law and Policy. In addition to her professorship, she is also a contract manager for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Sucidde Prevention Program and is a doctoral candidate in the Leadership in Schooling program at UMass Lowell.
Boston Candidate Science Survey Response
Below are the survey responses from the candidate. To ensure the candidate’s voice comes through to the voters, the content of the answers are unedited.
Technology + Society
As the City uses more advanced technology to monitor city services and communicate with residents, how will you ensure citizens’ privacy rights as increasing numbers of monitoring devices are installed around the city? What will you do to make sure that the data collected will be used for the benefit of all Bostonians?
We have to start with the fact that the technologies, (in particular facial recognition) in their current iterations, are less than accurate, and subject to hard-wired biases in their code. In addition the interface of both public and private surveillance creates issues of privacy.
There needs to be an informed discussion among tech-literate academia, privacy activists, and the general public in order to honestly discuss the trade-offs involver; and whenever possible err on the side of privacy.
What are your policy priorities to address the ongoing climate crisis? How will you ensure climate resiliency projects are distributed equitably among communities, especially in low-income neighborhoods? What are your policy priorities to protect areas of the city that are vulnerable to sea level rise (i.e. South Boston, Back Bay, Downtown, East Boston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Seaport)?
What are your policy priorities to protect areas that are vulnerable to increased temperatures during the summer months due to the urban heat island effect? Given that trees and an urban canopy have been shown to mitigate excess heat, how would you support the implementation of the Urban Forest Plan for Boston?
In the inevitable case of sea level rise, and its affects on the communities cited above, it will require massive engineering projects to protect these neighborhoods; which in turn, will require federal funding.
In the case of urban heat islands, there needs to be a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach to reestablishing tree coverage within the City. It should be noted the communities within District 7 are disproportionately heat islands, and that some of the most galvanizing issues within these communities involve Boston government attempts to remove trees. Thus I will support a systematic approach involving increasing tree plantings, while protecting existing tree cover.
What should the role of science and scientists be in government, policy, and decision-making? How does science fit into your agenda for Boston?
Misinformation has been cited as one of the reasons for vaccine hesitancy against the COVID-19 virus. How do you propose the City improve messaging in order to promote science-based actions and combat misinformation, not just for COVID-19, but also broadly?
All public policy should be informed by empirical data from qualified sources. Access to such data informs my decisions, and should inform policy as a whole.
The issue of combating misinformation results from the fact that, as a practical matter, the messenger is more important than the message. In such an environment, the only way to get public buy-in to empirically-based policies is to identify credible residents, who then inform their neighbors and friends.
As an example, the Boston Black COVID Coalition was able to confront virus denial only because the organization was physically embedded in Boston’s Black community; and the mechanism it used to disseminate its message was primarily word-of-mouth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted disparities in healthcare access for different neighborhoods in Boston. As of June 29, 2021, we know that only 38% of residents in Mattapan were fully vaccinated compared to over 70% of South End residents. How can ideas about distributing vaccines, challenging misinformation related to healthcare, and tackling language barriers be applied more broadly to form a more equitable healthcare system? What policy changes should be made to both prevent and respond to future pandemics or health crises in a more effective way?
As in the case cited above, these issues can not succeed without public input and public buy-in. Credible messengers (most of whom will not be public health professionals) will have to be enlisted in order to effectively deliver public health information.
How, if at all, has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your positions on education policies? What should the City’s role be in ensuring public schools are equitably funded and serve the needs of our children?
The issues of substandard education (the exam schools excepted) have not changed in decades. The pandemic merely disrupted a dysfunctional system and exacerbated preexisting conditions within the system.
As a precondition there has to be a thorough audit of the system; by school, by program. Furthermore, I support a return to an elected school committee. The stakeholders in the system do not at present include parents, nor students. Students and parents have to be empowered, and School Department policies must be made transparent, beginning with public access to the line items of its budget.
Boston’s technology, innovation, and scientific research ecosystem has long made it a hub that attracts a diverse group of people and talent from around the world. How can the city maintain and foster its international status as a technological hub and attract immigrant scientists to strengthen the diversity, culture, and economic activity of Boston?
The issue is not limited to immigrant scientists. I am equally concerned about immigrant youth who wish to become scientists. The private and educational sectors are quite capable of providing for the currently credentialed. The need is to create a pipeline to STEM and STEM-related fields for all Boston residents, regardless of immigration status.
What is your plan to strengthen the Boston scientific research and technology enterprise to benefit our economy? How can you ensure that the economic benefits of investing in science and technology reach all Bostonians?
Again, the issues in Boston involve access to fields in science, technology and healthcare. Traditionally, Boston imports its tech-educated students: with little concern for K-12 education for non-exam school students, or those schools with non-upper middle class parents.
The existing structure is supportive for those who obtained their credentials in Boston, but there are sufficient structures to create a pipeline to those credentials for K-12 Boston public school students.
Food + Agriculture
What policies do you propose for the City to maximize land use in the city for green spaces and community access to gardens or farms? How can your administration bring more transparency to this process and connect community groups to the resources they need to support sustainable urban farming?
There has to be an open and honest discussion between the organized urban gardening and community garden communities to resolve outstanding issues between them. Furthermore, there has to be local input from residents in terms of, for example, land uses in city-owned vacant lots.
All phases of City policy, including those related to urban farming must be accessible to the public, via public meetings and access to actions by City agencies throughout the process.