Richard Fierro, a three-year resident of Jamaica Plain, is a candidate to be the next representative for the 15th Suffolk County District. He answered questions from Jamaica Plain News about why he decided to run, how he can help the 15th Suffolk District, and the issues that are most important to him.
Q: Why did you decide to run for the 15th Suffolk District state representative seat?
Fierro: Several major crises affect the entire country, and we have not been spared here in our community and across the Commonwealth. These crises include climate change, housing shortages, the opioid epidemic, student loan and consumer debt, economic decline, and financial hardships. All these issues, to me, are man-made creations that have crept in and spiraled out of control. I believe that we can prevent these crises from escalating further, and we can take action to rectify them.
These issues have been growing, and they compound together to create disharmony and suffering in the Commonwealth. For too long, I felt as if someone would come in to save the day and make the positive changes we need, but it never happened. I felt a fire inside, and I am energized to help put forward real policy-oriented solutions to address the problems we face in our district and the Commonwealth.
States throughout the country look toward Massachusetts for solutions because we have been pioneers in healthcare and education. But now, the Commonwealth must serve as an example and carve a way forward on policy fronts for green energy, climate resilience, addiction and recovery services, and housing stability. I want to provide a voice for the next generation in our state legislature, with a vision to secure a strong future for all people in Massachusetts.
Q: What's your experience with the State House and legislation?
Fierro: I have worked with the Governor’s Operations Office as an administrative specialist. In this role, I gained exposure to what I like to call the business of government. I handled many business affairs tasks and worked alongside staff giving me exposure to Governor’s Council hearings and the governor’s video meetings. This experience allowed me to interact with different executive offices, and to learn first-hand the machinations of how our state government operates. I saw how the executive and legislative branches work together to create policies and initiatives which will ultimately make their way into the state’s budget plan.
Q: What do you think of the redistricted 15th Suffolk District? How is it different from before?
Fierro: On a technical level, the district has been shifted to the east to include the eastern and southern neighborhoods of JP. The state has the authority in making changes to existing districts to correspond with population changes reflected in the federal decennial census. The State’s Joint Committee on Redistricting did a good job in creating new districts that provide equal representation to the people. The redistricting will increase the degree of representativeness for the district in the candidates it will produce.
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue Jamaica Plain residents face today, and how would you improve that situation?
Fierro: Affordable housing. We need to increase the supply of housing units with the construction of multi-story high density apartment buildings. These new buildings should serve working-class residents and families. I am against the construction of luxury apartments for transient populations; we must provide affordable housing that serves the longtime residents and families established in JP. Many residents rely on public transit and do not need a car for their daily commute; therefore, we should also reduce parking space requirements for constructing new buildings. Increasing the housing supply and increasing the number of units available to people, will alleviate pressure in the housing market and bring down prices. In addition, we must eliminate tenant responsibility for real estate broker’s fees on rental units to ease the burden of upfront rental costs in the district.
Q: How would you like to use American Rescue Plan funds?
Fierro: I would use American Rescue Plan funds for:
- Stimulus for low-income residents, single mothers, households with children, public safety workers, frontline workers, nurses, and emergency workers;
- Grants for safer infrastructure in public schools, for providing mental health professionals in public schools, for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, for low-income rental assistance;
- Funds for the unemployment insurance trust fund, for technical and opportunity grants to entrepreneurs, for new affordable housing developments, and to fund green energy and electrical grid efficiency projects.
Q: How would your experience as a Constituent Advocate for the Mayor's 311 Office help you be a state representative?
Fierro: While working at the 311 Office, I gained insight into the importance of listening to the concerns of the people and the issues that impact them directly. I know the importance of effective and proactive constituent service. The constituents of the district are real people with names, faces, and families. Their problems are my problems, and it is up to all of us to solve them. As your state representative, I will listen to the issues that constituents bring to my attention, hold all problems big and small with the utmost sincerity, and actively incorporate constituent concerns into my action and legislative goals. I promise to act as a true public servant, to listen to the needs of the people and turn them into action.
Q: On your website, you say that you'd like to support efforts to switch to 100% green energy with an emphasis on wind, solar, and nuclear power generation, as well as divest state funds from fossil fuel production and infrastructure. Specifically, how would you accomplish these goals? If it's legislation, please provide the legislative bill.
Fierro: Currently, the state generates upwards of 66% of our electrical energy from imported natural gas sources. Virtually the rest of our electrical energy comes from renewable and green sources, especially solar, biomass, and hydroelectric power generation. To reach our climate goals, and to get to 100% green energy, we must invest heavily into renewable technologies and act to ween off those natural gas imports. To this end, I want to work with renewable energy producers to develop new wind and solar projects for the state, which I would help to secure funding for in the capital budget plan. I support the new offshore wind farm projects off the Cape, secured by An Act to Advance Clean Energy, and The Act to Promote Energy Diversity. I would like to create similar plans for individual solar power generation and large PV solar parks.
In addition to maximizing our capabilities in wind and solar energy, I believe that a key component of reaching our climate goals is to reinvest in a nuclear power plant. Massachusetts made a mistake when it let the Pilgrim Power Plant close. I want to explore the potential to either recommission and modernize the Pilgrim Power Plant or to develop and create an entirely new nuclear power plant site in partnership with neighboring states. Nuclear energy production in the state would add more in-state produced electricity to the grid, reducing our heavy reliance on natural gas imports, and promoting energy security for the Commonwealth.
The divestiture from fossil fuels will be best achieved with a legislative piece to direct the state pension fund managers to undergo a total divestment from fossil fuel corporations and auxiliary industry, and to pressure all companies in the portfolio to reduce carbon emissions to reach climate goals. The purpose of this is for the state to take a firm stance on climate change, and to broadcast to the people and corporations in the state that the government is serious about pursuing its climate goals.
Q: What would be the first legislative bill that you put forth as a lead sponsor?
Fierro: The first bill that I would put forth as a lead sponsor is An Act to Eliminate the practice of tenant-paid Broker’s fees for Rental Housing. The purpose of the bill is to make the practice of charging prospective tenants a broker’s fee illegal in the Commonwealth, and by extension, Boston. Real estate broker’s fees are an extreme burden in terms of the upfront rental cost for tenants and are often equal to one month’s worth of rent. With median housing prices continuing to rise, eliminating broker’s fees is a crucial first step in helping the people afford housing. The issue of affordable housing is a deeply concerning issue, and I would do as much as I can to address and solve the issue. Eliminating broker’s fees is the first step, and I would seek to include more tenant protections and housing stability measures into the same bill, and or, subsequent bills.
Q: What else would you like people to know about you and your candidacy?
Fierro: The core of my campaign is about including and encompassing all voices in the district. I want to provide a voting option to people who feel they have no voice in our current system. I do not favor one group over another, with the aim to provide real policy solutions that will ultimately benefit everybody, regardless of political identity. I plan to be a true representative, beholden to the will and command of all people in the district.