Current 15th Suffolk State Rep. Nika Elugardo is vying with fellow candidates Dianne Wilkerson, Liz Miranda, and Miniard Culpepper for the 2nd Suffolk senate seat, currently held by Sonia Chang-Diaz. Elugardo was elected for the state rep. seat in 2018, and re-elected in 2020.
“When the senate seat opened up,” Elugardo said, “I was excited about the prospect.”
She said that her work in housing, particularly with the Boston Housing Authority, and main streets businesses, would be “amplified further across the city” should she win this seat.
Because of redistricting, the 2nd Suffolk District will continue to include Mission Hill and Hyde Square, but has lost the Pondside and Moss Hill sections of Jamaica Plain. The new boundary lines go into effect with this upcoming election. The primary election is on Sept. 6.
Elugardo said her top three priorities include “ecological and housing justice for all, entrepreneurial jobs and opportunity for all, and equitable education for all,” as listed on the policy section of her website.
She said that affordable housing and climate justice must be intertwined. “You can’t have housing justice without climate justice,’ she said. Green space is necessary for overall health, she said.
For entrepreneurial opportunities, Elugardo said that “making sure we have more Black and Brown developers” is high on her list, to develop buildings both for housing and for commercial use.
Elugardo added that “a lot of the time, we don’t see arts as increasing value,” but she believes support for the arts is an “important element of economic opportunities.”
When it comes to education,”public means public,” Elugardo said. “K-12 shouldn’t be the only place where you can get free education.” She talked about her “cradle to coffin” education platform.
She said that for kids ages 0 to three, “a handful of things must be in order to maximize the chances of a child finishing a four-year college or another professional program.”
The “coffin part,” she said, “requires learning how to do something else” later on in life, whether it be certain trades or advancement in technology. She said that “…we need to make sure the trade, life sciences, and tech sciences are in all of our schools and all of our places of higher education as well for free.”
She mentioned several institutions of higher learning that serve the 2nd Suffolk District, including Madison Park, Dearborn Academy, and the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology.
Elugardo said that during her two terms as a state rep., she’s “learned a lot of lessons.”
She continued, “we need a senator who’s not as concerned about my own image or my own rap sheet as I am about the communities,” not only in her priority areas, “but in the things that intersect with those,” including transit equity and public space.
“We have the resources in our communities and in the state house…and in the Massachusetts general law to reframe what our communities are capable of producing for our residents who are investing in them,” she said. “We have a lot more to do and it’s an exciting time to do it.”
She said that in speaking with residents, “people in JP are really interested in criminal justice reform and in housing cost,” and in “other parts of the district, Mass/Cass comes up much more frequently.”
She added, “we need to understand how we’re going to fix affordable housing in practice and how that’s going to increase building generational wealth.”
She said it’s important to make it easier for municipalities to develop affordable housing, because right now it is more expensive to do so “because of the legal red tape you have to go through,” and it’s “really difficult to get funding from the bank.” She added that “Boston doesn’t have to rely only on state land.”
In Mission Hill, about 35 residents who formerly lived in the Mass/Cass area are being housed at the EnVision hotel. Elugardo praised Mayor Michelle Wu’s program to house folks who were living in the area and provide them with needed resources, calling it a “really great success.”
She said that there should be a “housing first, treatment when people are ready” model, and it should be ensured that residents are treated with dignity and like the adults that they are.
“In the beginning, when people first moved in, some of the residents would throw needles out the window,” Elugardo said, because they were afraid of getting in trouble.
“When they realized no one’s going to kick you out for having needles, they stopped doing that,” she said. When people are provided with a clean space to live, they are better able to “make different decisions about their readiness for treatment,” she added.
Elugardo said that by having medical services near this type of supportive housing, “that makes it a strong model too,” and that infrastructure needs to be built out in all different areas.
Aside from public housing legislation, Elugardo said that other legislation she hopes to continue working on if elected to the senate relates to the public bank bill and public financing, as well as work on criminal justice and housing, and equitable transit.
With the Orange Line shut down for a month, public transit is on the minds of many across the district.
“You can’t build a strong transit plan without extensive and continuous community engagement,” Elugardo said. “That has to be how we are constantly collecting data.”
She said that “funding is not usually the primary problem,” and she advocated for “innovation” alongside “proper maintenance.” She said more buses and trains are needed to “reach every community” so more people have access to transit opportunities.
She said that she’s “proud” that the House of Representatives “put meaningful language this time around diversity, equity, and inclusion” and electric vehicles and bike transit.
“When you make buses free, people will use them,” she said. “You get your money back.”
Elugardo emphasized early voting, which begins on August 27 in Boston at various locations. “Because of the transit backups,” Elugardo said, residents should “really be thinking of that.”
More information about Elugardo, her campaign, and policies can be found at electnika.com.