Julia Mejia

https://www.juliaforboston.com/

Julia immigrated to Dorchester from the Dominican Republic when she was a child. She was the first in her family to graduate from college. She has created and led a civic engagement group that focuses on education and expansion of voter registration. She also serves as founder and director of the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network, which is a nonprofit education network. Julia was elected to the City Council in 2019, and is the first Afro-Latina to sit on the Boston City Council. She is the Chair of both the Committee for Civil Rights and Commitee for Small Business and Workforce Development.


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?


An important thing to note with this question is that we are not just fighting for the privacy rights of “citizens.” As someone who grew up with a mother who was undocumented for a period of time, the concern over the right of privacy extends beyond people who can be classified as “citizens.” That is why we fought to eliminate an RFP that would have sought to establish a network between Boston and other towns, sharing security information that would put all of our residents at risk. That is also why we voted down a proposed fund that would have gone towards the BRIC and have expressed our strong support for the facial recognition ban, one of the first in the nation.

Environment

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)?


We have voiced our support for the BERDO 2.0 proposal currently before the City Council. In addition, our office has fought to restore the tree canopy within neighborhoods that are seeing the most acutely adverse effects of climate change, specifically along Melnea Cass Blvd. A great way to address the ongoing climate crisis, particularly as it impacts low-wage workers, is to restore late-night T. Since the T currently shuts down after 12:30, this puts a number of third-shift workers in a car-dependent situation that is damaging to the planet. We have an opportunity to make improvements to our public transportation network that benefit not only our environment, but the status of third-shift workers as well.


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?


We have been an outspoken office when it comes to the urban heat island effect, so much so that we have received ridicule from people who do not take this issue as seriously as we do. In addition to our fight to help expand and protect our tree canopy, we have fought to explore ways to mitigate the effects that black asphalt has in neighborhoods with poor access to green space.

Science

What should the role of science and scientists be in government, policy, and decision-making? How does science fit into your agenda for Boston?


We have always seen the role of our office as convenors. We serve as the microphone to the community and seek to amplify their concerns, their voices, and their ideas. This fundamentally includes the role of science and scientists in our policies and decision-making.


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?


We have to meet people where they are at and be conscious of the way in which the academic community and the government has shown up in our neighborhoods over the past several hundred years. For example, during the early days of the pandemic, the City paid, at great expense, to flyer doors across the city with information about the pandemic. This information was only likely effective for people who were already knowledgeable about the pandemic with the hardest-to-reach communities not understanding what this random flyer from the government was saying. Instead, we as a city should be relying on local community partners to engage with the community in a way that is informative but also respects the interpersonal relationship that the city has with its residents.

Healthcare

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?


Language access has been a major issue for our office. When pandemic relief was first starting to be distributed, the application (which at the time was first-come-first-serve) was released first in English, then in Spanish and other languages much later. We also found ourselves in a position trying to translate complex information into other languages for constituents who called our office confused (phrases like “social distancing” and “flatten the curve” don’t have easy translations). As a result, we filed a language access ordinance, which not only expands the number of languages the city must provide services for, it also states that any information important enough to be released in English must be released at the same time in every other language to the best extent possible.

Education

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?


I think COVID-19 has put into the spotlight the systemic inequities ingrained in Boston’s schools. While I am proud to have supported and testified in favor of the historic reforms to our exam school admission policy (which was a critical step in making those schools more accessible to low income and BIPOC students), there is still so much work to do for all of our schools in Boston. I remain a steadfast supporter of a fully elected school committee that is accountable to Boston’s residents and independent of the mayor. I also support bringing all of our public schools to the standards our students and BPS faculty/staff deserve. We need fully functional facilities for all schools, including modern HVAC systems. We need full time nurses, librarians, and social workers/counselors in every school. We need fully funded arts and music education, fully comprehensive and LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education, as well as promoting culturally competent curriculum that serves our diverse student body (e.g. the BTU’s Ethnic Studies iniative). Overall, I support policy and budgets that care for and uplift all of our students.

Immigration

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?


I’d like to start out by saying that as an immigrant myself I think it’s important we make Boston a city that welcomes all immigrants, not just those with STEM qualifications and other qualities deemed ‘desirable’ by the people in power in our society. Many, myself and my family included, came to this city as working class people, so it is paramount we govern in a manner that makes this city equitably accessible to all. I believe that the solution needed intersects with virtually every other policy discussion in the city. In housing justice we need to make sure we are not pricing out immigrants and other Bostonians for the benefit of the monetary interests of big developers and landlords. I believe it intersects with economic justice and workers’ rights wherein we must not only encourage economic growth and opportunity but also make sure that every Bostonian (immigrant or not) has a safe, dignified job that pays them a livable wage. I believe it intersects with language and civic justice and how we must make sure that we are supporting our immigrant population with linguistically accessible, culturally competent social services so that everyone can engage with our city. This answer could be pages long, but if we are serious about making Boston a welcoming place for all immigrants, we must center our experience and needs in all policy discussions.

Economy

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?


One thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that we need to view internet access not as a luxury but as a utility. Historically, Boston has had a complicated history when it comes to democratising access to necessary public services. For example, many low-income neighborhoods received sewer access decades after the wealthier neighborhoods had private sewers installed. We must learn from our past and be proactive about providing high speed internet access across the city as a utility and not as a luxury. That is why we fought to secure $250,000 for a study to explore how the city can implement municipal broadband. This will be a great opportunity for the city to invest in its communities through the jobs that this new sector will create.

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?


Boston is blessed with a high percentage of its land being dedicated green space, but said space is also distributed and utilized in a highly inequitable manner stemming from the racist and classist systems of oppression ingrained into our city’s fabric. Add in the climate crisis already exacerbating potential harm our residents face along said systems, and it is critical we reform how we use land in this city. When constructing new green spaces, we must be prioritizing communities with inequitable access and thinking about how said spaces can connect our residents and neighborhoods. How can it promote community, public health, arts and culture, etc. I believe the same can be said for community gardens and farms. These can be the cornerstones of a community or neighborhood when adequately supported, and I believe they should be prioritized in Boston. The values of cultural competency and economic justice that led me to pass the Residential Kitchens Ordinance can be applied here as well. When we allow Boston to not just make and sell its own food, but grow and gather it as well we can provide our residents not just with a space to build community but also a space to build critical life skills and contribute to creating real food justice in this city. I hope in our 2nd term our office can build our people’s capacity to create these opportunities for our city.

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