Lorraine Payne Wheeler

Lorraine Payne Wheeler - Boston, Massachusetts, United States |  Professional Profile | LinkedIn

Lorraine received her M.U.A from Boston University in Public Policy and Planning before receiving her J.D. from Suffolk University Law School. She helped found the Roxbury Path Forward Neighborhood Association.


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?


Boston was one of the first cities to use smart initiatives involving advanced technology for civic engagement to improve the lives and comfort of citizens. For example, the award winning 311 app allows residents to easily report issues in their neighborhoods to several city agencies. There are also smart sensors across the city that allow the timing of a network of traffic lights that ease delays by responding to traffic flow. Addressing challenges to privacy rights is a major issue. In July, a project to connect a vast surveillance network was cancelled in Boston because it was not in the public interest and threatened personal privacy. The system would have allowed cameras to be linked in a wireless network that would be capable of sharing video in Boston, and in surrounding communities. The Boston City Council voted unanimously to ban facial recognition. I will support placing similar limits to ensure that data collected have specific uses for agencies and undergo annual reporting and review of their use. If the technology is not used in ways that bring public benefit, it will create mistrust.

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)?


The Climate Ready Boston Initiative is not enough. Even if fully implemented, it would not improve the environment for decades. I will improve development planning in Boston and devote more city funding to street trees and parks. There are buildings in East Boston and the Seaport where the ground floor was built below the flood level. In some cases, these issues were pointed out by residents but the buildings were approved anyway. In District 7, I joined the Friends of Melnea Cass Blvd. in fighting the construction plan to remove mature trees along the corridor. After the plan was stopped, residents advocated for the city to fund a formal Greenway along Melnea Cass Boulevard.


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?


Plan for monitoring and maintenance of forest areas. Fund the maintenance of these areas. Include review of impact from removal of trees in development review.

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?


There is an important role for science in government decision making. I support creating partnerships between researchers, public health groups, citizens and the government to inform policy.


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?


The City can monitor on-line health information and quickly go on-line to negate its impact. Provide more information at trusted community health organizations.

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?


The Black Boston Covid19 Coalition has done a great job of distributing vaccines in areas where there was distrust or other challenges concerning the vaccine. Funding should be made available to the coalition to continue to do the work of increasing participation. It took too long for groups rooted in the community to obtain funding to come out into these neighborhoods and speak to residents about misinformation. In the future, there has to be a quicker, community based, public health centered approach to the inequities that we know exist in health care in Boston.

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?


The City should use some of the 400 million that the City received in federal relief for technology and curriculum development addressing equitable learning. If anything, the pandemic has illustrated the digital divide and how it impacts education. During the pandemic, teaching was undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. There was a real commitment to ensure that every BPS student could participate remotely. Chromebook laptops were delivered to students so they could be connected to learning on-line. In addition to having the technology available, we learned to consider whether students had low quality connection to the internet.

In addition to differences in access to technology; cleaning, disinfection and ventilation of schools became important factors. A new school building like the Dearborn Stem Academy has better building ventilation, which reduces the spread of disease and lowers the risk of exposure. Some older buildings may have windows that do not open or ventilation systems that need improvement.

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?


Boston city leaders in partnership with the industry can create a marketing campaign that shows the welcoming atmosphere of Boston to international scientists and IT professionals. Expected federal changes to work visa programs should also be monitored so that no new barriers to obtaining a visa are created.

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?


In Boston and generally in the industry , Black and Hispanic workers continue to be underrepresented in the STEM workforce. This field offers significant upward mobility so its vitally important to address the factors that exclude Black and brown workers from entry. I will look for ways to engage the community and industry in utilization of existing models like industry upskilling workers who are in lower paid positions and other types of work based training, creation of workforce on-ramps at community colleges, and include Stem education at every level from K-12. Examples of successful programs include Year Up, boot camps, and coding programs like Black Girls Code. For young adults, there are programs like G Code House.

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?


For communities that are considered to be food deserts, there is a lot to be gained from farmer’s markets. There is also a network of community gardens . During the pandemic, there were many people who wanted to gain access to a garden plot to grow food either because they had more time at home or because they became better acquainted with the importance of locally sourced food. There are not enough community gardening plots to go around. Many gardens have waiting lists. I would support and increase funding for the program that makes city owned vacant lots available for community gardening.

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