MAPC took the next step to promoting a more equitable region last Wednesday with the release of a draft of our 2018 State of Equity in Metro Boston Policy Agenda. We hope that the plan serves as a tool to advance policy change in the Boston region and that it serves as a roadmap not only for MAPC, but for our coalition partners, legislators, state and municipal officials, policy experts, and anyone looking to reduce and eliminate inequities our region.
As an organization, MAPC has specifically tracked equity indicators since 2011, when we released the first State of Equity for Metro Boston Indicators report. The indicators report tracked inequalities across sectors including housing, transportation, public health, and contaminated environments. We updated that report last year in the State of Equity 2017 Update, which delved into the data to show where the Metro Boston region had improved in five years – and where work was still needed.
In 2014, MAPC released the first equity policy agenda, identifying policy steps recommended to reduce disparities. On Wednesday, Feb. 7, we released a draft of an update to that report to a standing-room-only crowd at the Massachusetts State House. At the release event, MAPC Executive Marc Draisen and report authors Lizzi Weyant and Barry Keppard, MAPC’s manager of government affairs and director of public health, presented on the structure and content of the new plan before three local advocates spoke about advancing equity in their sectors of expertise.
MAPC staff showed off the website that our digital team built for the report. It includes the draft Policy Agenda, interactive maps using MAPC’s equity data to show disparities in the region, and information on each of MAPC’s overarching policy goals.
Those six policy goals are:
- We have inclusive, diverse communities where everyone can afford to live and thrive
- We have convenient and affordable options to access good jobs, schools and recreation
- We have good jobs and pathways to prosperity
- Solidify our foundation in education by offering affordable and quality education, from preschool through college
- We eliminate conditions and harmful environments that leave people sick or injured
- We have a public safety and justice system that protects residents of all background
For each of MAPC’s six goals, the policy agenda includes strategies that will help MAPC, state and municipal government, and other local organizers achieve them and specific policy actions that all levels of government should consider to make the region more equitable.
At the release, Barry Keppard explained the six principles used to create these policy goals: leading with a racial equity frame, embracing interdisciplinary approaches, working both inside and outside existing system boundaries, scaling responses to challenges, moving from trying to treat symptoms to fixing root causes, and always supporting policies to mitigate and prevent harm from the start.
“Issues of equity, particularly racial equity, but not exclusively, are issues with a deep history and represent an enormous ongoing challenge in the city, region, and Commonwealth,” Executive Director Marc Draisen said in his opening remarks, explaining that the agenda employs a multidisciplinary approach and addresses fields that MAPC doesn’t have as much expertise in. MAPC hopes, he said, that the policies and best practices outlined can be used by a variety of organizations in partnership.
After MAPC staff outlined the basics of the report, three speakers spoke of the need to include equity goals in their areas of expertise.
Celina Barrios-Millner of the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement talked about specific policies that her office is looking into to advance the rights and powers of immigrants, including allowing election day voter registration and supporting the Safe Communities Act, which would limit state and local agencies’ involvement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ensure basic due process rights for immigrants detained in state and local facilities, among other measures.
Lisa Melara, a parent and member of Stand for Children Massachusetts, spoke about the impact that a lack of transportation options affected her sons’ ability to excel in school. Melara, who has a 5th-grader and 2nd-grader, said they must take two trains and a bus to get to school – a two-hour commute. She advocated for more equitable school transportation options to help children and their parents reach their full potential.
Finally, Lisa Wong – the former mayor of Fitchburg, deputy director of the Asian American Civic Association, and board member of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance – spoke about how anyone interested in advancing equity needs to advocate for transportation, placemaking, zoning, and housing policies to help prevent displacement.
“Without good smart growth, without good zoning, we cannot control what’s happening in our communities,” she said. “We cannot control displacement.”
MAPC invites anyone with an interest to read the draft of the report on equityagenda.mapc.org and submit their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be taking comments, criticisms, and suggestions until early March.
See the PowerPoint from the release event here.