Letters to the Editor 10-23-2020

We need legislative action

To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to “Hybrid in-person learning plan put on hold at BPS.” This article quotes Mayor Martin Walsh as stating that increases in positive test rates are “coming mostly from those under 29 attending parties and large gatherings.”

Walsh’s attribution of rising infection rates to young people’s irresponsible behavior is completely wrong. If it were true, we would see higher rates in student-rich neighborhoods like Allston. In reality, the highest transmission rates continue to be in majority Black and immigrant communities like Dorchester, Mattapan and East Boston. These are the same communities in which evictions already were concentrated before the pandemic, as a joint research project between MIT and City Life highlighted in June of this year. They are the neighborhoods where skyrocketing rents and lagging wages have caused the most crowding. They are the neighborhoods of frontline workers who are most exposed to unsafe work environments, given Gov. Baker’s refusal to endorse mandatory workplace safety standards.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MASSCOSH) documented the deadly impact of our governor’s failure to protect frontline workers in their September 10 report, “Dying for Work: Documenting the Pandemic’s Deadly Toll on Massachusetts Workers.” If you are grappling with why our state is still the third worst in the country for COVID deaths, look no further. Combine the inability of frontline workers, many of whom are undocumented, to protect themselves from infection at work, with their crowding at home in order to try to make rent, and the stark COVID rates in Black and immigrant communities come into focus.

Our legislature’s failure, to date, to pass the Housing Stability Act (H. 5018) as the governor’s extension of their foreclosure and eviction moratorium is expiring in the midst of an accelerating pandemic, is like standing by and watching a jet fuel depot combust. The consequent catastrophe of homelessness and exploding viral transmission will impact all of us, whether or not we have homes in which we can safely shelter.

The work of young people like Shane Fowler in the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, author of the recent op-ed “Something needs to be done about evictions,” to give legal support to the low-income families now targeted for eviction, is heroic. But, as he points out, they have the capacity for 60 cases concomitantly, while housing court estimates are 20,000 – 200,000 eviction cases, now. We need legislative action.

City Life/Vida Urbana says, we are in a situation now where Eviction=Death. As an Infectious Disease specialist, I agree. Our JP Rep. Elugardo supports H. 5018, the Housing Stability Act. I call on our Rep. Liz Malia to use her position as House Ways and Means Vice Chair to prioritize bill H. 5018 for passage – now.

Julia Koehler, MD

A fair and open election

To the Editor:

I am writing today about the importance of fair and open elections, and an easy way to improve the process here in Massachusetts. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and other election problems have received a lot of attention, and rightly so. However, another big issue, our pluralist voting system, isn’t discussed very much. This issue is very important because it waters down the opinions of average voters like me, and allows a minority of voters to elect our leaders.  

In primary elections, or general elections with third party candidates, we often have to worry about “splitting the vote” among similar candidates, or we are forced to pick between extremes. If you vote third party, your vote is considered wasted, at best. Worse, the additional candidate is considered a “spoiler.” This is a big issue for both potential candidates and voters who do not align with either party. It does not have to be that way. 

Massachusetts Question 2, Ranked Choice Voting, is on the ballot this election. If voters say YES and implement ranked choice in this state, it will allow voters to rank political candidates in order of preference, rather than just picking your one favorite candidate. If a candidate gets a majority (more than 50%) of the vote, they win, and the election is over. But if no candidate gets a majority, the candidate with the least votes is dropped and their votes are assigned to the voters’ second choice. It repeats until someone wins a majority. 

The results are impressive. Votes are never wasted, elections are always decided by a majority, voter power is increased, voter apathy could be reduced to increase turnout, and we are an important step closer to making our democracy more inclusive and more fair. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have endorsed ranked choice voting, including both our senators and most of our representatives. Please join me in voting YES on Question 2 by November 3rd. 

Sky Bauer-Rowe

Your vote is important 

To the Editor:

JP residents your vote this year is extremely important! Unfortunately not because of any of the offices on our ballot — from President to Register of Probate not one of them is competitive. But because of the opportunity to dramatically improve state and federal elections through the use of ranked choice voting (RCN). 

RCV will make elections fairer and less rancorous, since candidates compete for the second and third choices of their opponents’ fans. Under RCV, you can sincerely pick your first choice without worrying that by doing so you will help to elect your last choice. 

Just last month the winner of the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary received only 22% of the vote. With RCV we would not declare a winner without checking the backup choices of the 78% who picked someone else. Typically the winner of an “open seat” primary for Congress or the state legislature is easily elected in the general election, and may never face serious competition for a decade or two. That’s not the way to run a democracy.

RCV is supported by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, Attorney General Maura Healy, and Secretary of State Bill Galvin, among many others. See the full list of supporters, and sign up to help out, on www.YESon2RCV.com.

Many people will vote no because they haven’t taken the time to understand RCV. Or because they think it’s complicated–it’s not, just rank your choices, 1, 2, 3, etc. Or because they think you will be voting twice–not so: if your vote would be wasted on a candidate that no one else wants, it goes instead to your next choice where it can be used to pick the winner.

Voters in Australia have successfully used the system for 100 years. Maine voters have used it since 2018.  Surely voters in our state are as skillful.

We can make our elections better, but only if we turn out in large numbers to overcome the bias against change. Please tell everyone you know to vote YES on Question 2! 

Paul Schimek

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