Q&A: Bedell Wants To Be New Progressive Leader if Elected State Rep

Stephen Bedell is a non-affiliated party candidate running to be the state representative for the 11th Suffolk District. He answered several questions about his candidacy and why he feels he should be elected.

Stephen Bedell, who is running for state representative, with his son.

Stephen Bedell, who is running to be state representative for the 11th Suffolk District, with his son.

Editor’s note: The following questions were emailed to Bedell and he replied via email.
Q: If elected, what do you want to accomplish in your first term?

A: I’m running for state rep because we need new progressive leadership in the State House. We can’t keep re-electing the same establishment status quo and expecting the progressive advocacy so many of us want.  In my first term, I will lead the charge to replace Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo with a real progressive house speaker who will side with people over big corporate interest and wants to move the commonwealth in an equality and social justice-motivated direction.

Unfortunately, State Rep. Liz Malia voted to end term limits for House Speaker Bob “No New Revenue” DeLeo, making it very difficult to remove him and his pro-corporate agenda. If you’re a progressive/liberal/social justice voter in the 11th Suffolk, Rep. Malia’s vote to make DeLeo the House Speaker until he quits or gets indicted should be a deal-breaker and reason enough to support my new progressive leadership campaign for state rep. In fact, voting for me will be a huge wake-up call to the Massachusetts Democratic establishment that you want a progressive direction for the commonwealth.

In my first term, I will also fight to: End 40 years of failed neo-liberal pro-corporatism that has led to the decline of the middle class and rise in income/wealth/opportunity inequality; Transition to a single-payer healthcare that guarantees everyone quality healthcare; Radically overhaul our current, broken racist public education funding system to end district disparity and give every child an equally excellent education, while destroying the demand for private and charter schools; Raise wages and the guarantees of time off for paid family leave and paid vacation time; Increase affordable housing legislation to keep families in their homes, moratorium on market value and luxury development; Progressive tax reform across the board and raise revenue, demanding more from the wealthiest individuals and institutions (currently subject to taxation or otherwise) to benefit those in the middle and bottom who create wealth and deserve equal opportunity and equal rights; Put cameras on every cop with independent review of police misconduct complaints; Focus resources on a bicycle/pedestrian/MBTA-centric transportation policy; Meaningful U.N.-style truth-telling and dialogue on wealth and white privilege in the commonwealth with the goal of dismantling it; Climate change initiatives like complete divestment from fossil fuels and 100 percent transition to renewables, now, and 100 percent publicly-funded local elections.

Q:  Affordable housing is one of the biggest topics in Jamaica Plain and across Boston. As a legislator what would you do to help provide affordable housing in the city? 

A: I think ending rent control back in the 90s was a big mistake and I disagree with how it was done. We can’t go back, but we have to do everything we can to address the current housing crisis we face. I don’t make a lot of money and I rent a two-bedroom in JP with my son and the rent only goes up, so I have skin in this game. Boston needs a partner in the State House to give cities every tool necessary to keep people and families in their homes.

The current Democratic establishment is failing Bostonians who want to stay in Boston, despite rising costs.  The reality is, our incumbent political class is owned by big money developers who pump millions into reelection campaigns to maintain their affordable housing-killing control. This pro-corporate, pro-luxury/market value development agenda is so powerful they’re even undermining BPS [Boston Public Schools] to get their greedy hands on more public property. These developers are shameless and only answer to profit. It’s another reason we need new progressive leadership from outside this bought establishment.

If affordable housing is important to you and you think reelecting this same incumbent establishment selling off the city will improve the situation, you’re mistaken. We can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results. I’ve called for a moratorium on all market-value development in Boston to address the affordable housing crisis. I say not one more single nail of luxury, until we get affordable housing and renters relief.

It’s all over the news, Boston is becoming a city of rich and poor, with the middle pushed out into the suburbs. It’s not right and it’s no accident, this is exactly what the current regime is designed to do. The good news is we can reverse this trend by tying rent increases to CPI [Consumer Price Index] inflation rates, empowering cities to buy more properties for the good of the public and progressively taxing property and rent income that will remove the incentive to gouge renters. I am also open to other ideas and suggestions that address this urgent need.

Q: What do you think are the biggest issues in Jamaica Plain? And how would you address them?

A: I love JP, my son loves JP, we’ve been here since 2012 and we want to stay here forever. The biggest issue facing JP is uncertainty. How do we maintain the things we love about JP, the people, the environment and the community while remaining open to improvements that benefit us all and share the special sense of community we have? It’s a really big, tough question you could probably write a dissertation on.

My answer is a new progressive direction for the commonwealth that prioritizes people, equality, opportunity and justice over luxury and profits for the few. So, I’m interested in the things that will improve life in JP for everyone: more affordable housing, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and reinvigorated public transportation, ending public school district disparity to make every BPS school better than its private counterpart, increased police accountability, getting people more employment rights to time off and better pay.

Q: You are a part of the New Progressive Leadership party. More and more people are choosing to be independent from any party or not being part of the two majority parties (Democrat and Republican). What attracted you to the party? What are the main tenets of the New Progressive Leadership party?

A: New progressive leadership is not a political party — yet. That’s not a bad idea, though. I was a lifelong Democrat until recently, when I woke to the reality that the moderates within the Democratic party wield the power and consistently choose Wall Street and corporate interests and war over equality, peace, justice and progressive reform.

But when you run for state rep as an “undeclared” or “independent” they let you choose a three-word designation to go after your name. So I chose “New Progressive Leadership” because it sums up my grassroots campaign for state rep.

“New” because I am jumping into this fray from outside the political establishment to offer 11th Suffolk District voters an alternative to the same state rep since Bill Clinton was president. I am answering U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for political revolution because we need new voices, new ideas, new energy to steer the commonwealth on a progressive path.

It’s “Progressive” because I want a people-centric equality and social justice-based direction for the commonwealth to replace our current corporate-centric, neoliberal status quo agenda that’s failing to provide basic rights and needs to the people.

It’s “Leadership” because I’ll answer to the people of the 11th Suffolk District, not a political party and its backroom, favor-based loyalty system or its powerful lobbyists. I  want to rep for those who are too often squeezed out of the political process, taken for granted or otherwise bullied by this unsustainable, profit-driven, pro-corporate status quo.

The tenets I’m running on are equality, social justice, peace, shared prosperity and truth.

Q: On your website you write that you would “address the growing disparity we see between the Common…and the Wealth” — how would you accomplish that as a legislator?

A: I love the idea of a commonwealth. It’s a beautiful word. All of us, working together for the good of all of us. I know that’s not the proper spelling, but I like to write it that way to emphasize the meaning. Right now we don’t have a commonwealth. We don’t have a system of shared prosperity and shared sacrifice where everyone gets a shot at success regardless of their race, economic status or where they started out in life. I believe in a commonwealth where everyone is guaranteed equal access to healthcare and an excellent education, a good paying job and time off when you need it, a safe home you won’t lose because of something outside your control in a safe neighborhood where the police who protect and serve you also live.

What we have right now is a “corporate-wealth” and what’s left over after they get what they want, is scraped into the common’s bowl. They get record profits, luxury, impunity and we get crumbling schools, busted MBTA, austerity budgets that cut services and jobs, a pipeline to prison or debt and then we’re told, that’s the best we can every get. It’s unfair and unsustainable. Massachusetts is awash with money, Boston is the fifth richest city in the US according to Forbes. Austerity is a lie and all these cuts are unnecessary — we just need new progressive leadership to more equitably distribute our vast resources.

For example, think about the recent GE deal. We just gave GE $150,000,000 to move to Boston, plus other perks. So, their track record is pretty clear. They destroyed the Housatonic River, stall on the cleanup, profit off war and when they don’t get everything they want from the local politicians — pull up and move. So we roll out the red carpet for them while necessary programs for people in need are cut. Right? No money for adequate public transportation or quality education for 87 percent non-white BPS, but GE gets what they want. If you think GE is coming to Boston to pay their fair share in taxes and not buy politicians I’ve got some Boston 2024 Olympic tickets to sell you!

All joking aside, it’s just an example of everything that’s wrong with the current status quo establishment political paradigm. And people are waking up to the lie that is austerity and the pro-corporate neoliberal agenda.

You can find more details on my website and social media, but, generally, I would accomplish my plan for a commonwealth more worthy of that name via: Single-payer healthcare that guarantees everyone quality healthcare; Radically overhauling our current, broken racist public education funding system to end district disparity and give every child an equally excellent education, while destroying the demand for private and charter schools; Raising wages and the guarantees of time off for paid family leave and paid vacation time; Affordable housing legislation to keep families in their homes, moratorium on market value and luxury development; Progressive tax reform across the board, demanding more from the wealthiest individuals and institutions (currently subject to taxation or otherwise) to benefit those in the middle and bottom who create wealth and deserve equal opportunity and equal rights; Meaningful U.N.-style truth-telling and dialogue on wealth and white privilege in the commonwealth with the goal of dismantling it; Climate change initiatives like complete divestment from fossil fuels and 100% transition to renewables, now, and 100 percent publicly funded local elections.

Q: Where do you do for work now?

A: Currently, I manage a brewpub in Cambridge four days a week, which leaves me plenty of time to parent and run a grassroots campaign for state rep. I have previously worked as a brewer for Harpoon Brewery and an attorney.

Q: How long have you lived in Jamaica Plain? What do you like best about Jamaica Plain? What would you like to see improved in Jamaica Plain?

A: Since February 2012. I love JP, my son loves JP, we feel so fortunate to live here and want to stay here forever. What I like best about JP is tough — it’s a tie between the people and the environment. We ride our bicycle all over JP and commune with our neighbors at the parks, ponds, on the street and in the stores. We do so many fun free things the area provides. There’s a real sense of community here you don’t find most places. I think that’s something missing at the State House, too. There’s a disconnect between the way we live our lives in our community and the way our political leaders govern.

My son will be six on October 26th but he still rides on the bicycle co-pilot behind me, I’ve tried to get him into his own bike, but he loves to ride and I love riding with him. He’s in the autism strand through BPS and attends the Kilmer in West Roxbury. He started in BPS when he was three at the MLK and he’s made tremendous progress. He’s my love and my joy and a big part of why I’m running for state rep. I want to stand up for him and his classmates and be able to tell them I was one of the ones who fought for what was right — when the waters were rising, the divisions widening, I stood up and fought with the hope of leaving him a better world than we inherited. Right now there’s no one fighting for BPS special education in the State House. I want to change that.

Anyway, we are creatures of habit so we usually cruise around to all the parks like Green Street park, the tube park between Forest Hills and Green Street MBTA stations, what we call the “chocolate park” between Green Street and Stony Brook because the slides are brown, we like to run around the brewery complex where Ula Cafe is and maybe get a snack, then hit the Arnold Arboretum and Jamaica Pond. We eat at Same Old Place probably twice a week and JP Licks for dessert. Every once in a while I can get him into something new, but we’re really routine-based and he loves the places we go. We also have a zoo membership, so we’re up there maybe once a week, there’s so many great things to teach him about there. We’re just really lucky to live in such a great area with so much to do.

Q: Please feel free to say anything else you would like the community to know.

A: This is important — I am the only 11th Suffolk state rep candidate for No on 2 and Yes on 4.

I am a former occupy activist, even traveled to Zuccotti Park in October 2011 for a demonstration with my (at the time) 11-month-old son and was interviewed on local NY news. I also volunteered for Al Gore in 2000, John Kerry in 2004 and Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

I documented my occupy activism and other progressive activism including 2012 for Elizabeth Warren advocacy via The Progressive Family on Facebook. So voters can check out The Progressive Family on Facebook if they want to see what I was up to, politically, from 2010 on.

I honestly believe the way forward for the progressive movement is to abandon the Democratic Party and form new political parties and groups. The Democratic Party is more of an obstacle to progress than a vehicle because they are owned by big corporate special interest.

Ballot questions

Q: How will you be voting on Question 1 and why?

A: No. Gambling is the wrong direction for the CommonWealth. Gambling — even state lotteries — is a tax on poor and working class people for the benefit of the wealthy. We need less of that in the commonwealth.

Q: How will you be voting on Question 2 and why?

A: No. Unequivocally, no on 2! I am a public school educated son of public school educated parents with a child in Boston Public Schools. This charter movement is a privatization scam designed to destroy public education and commodify our children and their education for the benefit of the wealthy. Your child will not get a better education at a charter and you will be diverting funding away from public schools.

For anyone who is on the fence, please check out Quest on Facebook: Quality Education for Every Student or read a couple of great blogs called publicschoolmama.com or Kristin Johnson’s blog: bostonpoliticaleducation.blogspot.com.

Q: How will you be voting on Question 3 and why?

A: Yes. It’s an animal rights issue, farmers can pass the cost on to consumers.

Q: How will you be voting on Question 4 and why?

A: Yes! This is important. I am the only 11th Suffolk District state rep candidate for yes on 4. There are so many reasons. First, we have to end the racist, classist failed drug war that has destroyed so many lives. Poor people and people of color are disproportionately punished for drug crimes. We have to end mass incarceration of our youth, institute restorative justice and take weed off the table as a pretext for police to stop and hassle people. Secondly, weed is less harmful than alcohol and not a gateway drug. Also, the revenue it will create can be put to good use. And legalization will help alleviate the horrible opioid epidemic we currently face because of Big Pharma’s greed. Also important to note that Big Pharma is against legalization because in states that have legalized marijuana doctors prescribe fewer opioids. It’s a fact.

Q: How will you be voting on Question 5 and why?
A: Yes. It’s progressive and it will help create affordable housing, new parks, protect water sources.
  • JP in PJs

    eat at same old place twice a week – lost my vote

  • back – back to the 60’s
  • Scott

    Only property owners have skin in the game.

  • Monster

    I agree with a fair number of this guy’s policy opinions, but his Trump-via-Oberlin, finger-pointing, “throw out the bums” style isn’t the kind of mature, thoughtful adult leadership we need in the statehouse.

  • Eric Herot

    So your solution to the problem of excessively high rents is price controls? For a quick lesson on why that will definitely be a disaster and not accomplish your goals, I suggest Googling it.

  • Marty

    Mr. Bedell has some good ideas which I agree with but I’m sorry, living in JP for the past 4 years does not qualify him to represent us. He doesn’t mention where he lived before, but I have a feeling it hasn’t been in Boston or even Massachusetts. If he manages to win, which I think it’s unlikely, he won’t be able to do much because he will be opposed at every turn. What we need is a seasoned, reasonable, legislator with a cool head.

    • Monster

      I love this archetype: The 25-year-old who moves to a trendy urban locale, lives here for two years, then starts railing against gentrification and rising rents, seemingly oblivious to their own role in the phenomenon.

  • Money is Power

    We need new blood in local legislation. Let’s go Stephen!

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