The three Democratic candidates for State Representative for the newly formed 11th Suffolk District, representing Chelsea and part of Everett, laid out the cases for their election at a virtual forum hosted by Our Revolution Massachusetts on Tuesday night.
City Councilors Judith Garcia and Leo Robinson and School Committee member Roberto Jimenez Rivera are on the Sept. 6 primary ballot. The winner will face off against another Chelsea City Councilor, Republican Todd Taylor, in the Nov. 8 general election.
“I have dedicated my entire life to service and the community and I believe that this unique opportunity will allow me to give back to the place I love to call home,” said Robinson. “Our next state representative needs to know the unique challenges facing the district and have the experience and relationships necessary to deliver the results we so desperately need.”
Robinson pointed to writing the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance helping create affordable housing in the city and his role in the Central Avenue Project with the Chelsea Housing Authority as some of his biggest recent achievements as a councilor.
“I’m the proud daughter of a single mother, the proud daughter of a first generation immigrant, and the proud daughter of an essential worker, similar to many of the constituents I serve,” said Garcia. “This community gave me a home and gave me a sense of belonging, and in 2015, when I saw that lack of representation in our council of representatives that looked like us and that really understood the needs of the community, I decided to run for office in partnership with this community. We were able to pass progressive legislation, and I am proud of the work I’ve done, from a wage theft ordinance to over $5 million we invested in the downtown to improve our infrastructure.”
Jimenez Rivera works as a union organizer as well as serving on the Chelsea School Committee.
“Above all, I’m the dad of a two-year-old boy who keeps me motivated to build a better future for all of us,” said Jimenez Rivera. “My wife and I chose Chelsea because we wanted a community where our kids could hear Spanish on the streets and live out the values that are important to us. What was ridiculous was that to have that, we would have to give up on having schools with enough resources, green spaces for our baby to run through and clean air to breathe.
“I don’t think anybody should have to make these kinds of sacrifices, and it was that thought that brought me to politics.”
The candidates were asked a number of questions, including their top policy priorities for addressing housing affordability in Chelsea.
“Housing affordability has reached a breaking point for our renters, and it’s no secret that over 70 percent of our community here in Chelsea are renters,” said Garcia. “What I think is a priority as we face this regional and country-wide crisis is we need to focus a lot on rent stabilization as a priority, but also on stronger tenant protections.”
Jimenez Rivera said he sees housing as a two-part problem of supply and price.
“They keep building more buildings, but they tend to be luxury condos that are not actually affordable for people in our community, so we continue to bring more people into our community while having a housing crisis with the people who are here,” he said. “We need to make sure we are building more middle income and working class family housing and also making sure that communities that are not Chelsea are doing their fair share for affordable housing development. Right now, we are doing far more than our fair share as far as affordable housing, and that ends up having a cost, we end up having lower property tax values and that type of thing.”
Robinson said Chelsea needs to be able to advocate at the state level for rental assistance and to help renters move up to become first-time homebuyers.
“I think it is important that we as a community come together and advocate for housing as a priority, not only within Chelsea but in the region as we are over the limit to how much affordable housing we do have in Chelsea compared to the 10 percent in other communities,” said Robinson.