Jamaica Plain resident Celia Segel is one of three candidates vying for the 10th Suffolk County District representative seat being vacated. Segel spoke with Jamaica Plain News about affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and reproductive rights.
All three candidates are Democrats, and would face off in a May 2 Democratic primary. The winner will advance to a May 30 special election, to face any other party's nominee or independent candidates, of which there are none so far. Read a Q&A with candidate Rob Orthman here.
Q: What neighborhood do you live in?
Segel: Jamaica Hills (Jamaica Plain)
Q: What is your profession?
Segel: Assoc. Dir. Pharmaceutical Pricing and Policy, Health Policy Commission
Q: Why are you running for the 10th Suffolk District state rep seat?
Segel: I live with my wife and three kids in Jamaica Hills. For us, this has been the perfect place to raise our family, but for far too many, settling down in our neighborhoods is not an option. So many of our neighbors wrestle with deeply personal decisions about if they can afford to have another child and stay in our communities, and how they can support their parents and grandparents who need someone nearby as they age. As a representative, I will fight for policies that create more certainty for our neighbors so that an unexpected diagnosis or lack of affordable housing and childcare does not force people to move out of our neighborhoods.
I've spent my whole career fighting to pass policies to improve access to affordable health care and reproductive rights. At Health Care For All and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, I built broad coalitions to pass laws at the State House to increase funding for public health and improve reproductive health access to benefit people across Massachusetts. As Director of Policy at the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, I worked to drive consensus between divergent viewpoints on the fair price of prescription drugs. At the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, I implement a statewide policy to increase oversight of drug prices at Medicaid.
As a representative, I will advocate for residents of this district and act as a liaison between the city and the legislature, to ensure our communities remain affordable, accessible, and inclusive.
Q: The 10th Suffolk District became part of Jamaica Plain due to redistricting. Jamaica Plain's socioeconomics vary neighborhood to neighborhood. How would you describe the part of Jamaica Plain that is in the 10th Suffolk District?
Segel: The Jamaica Plain neighborhoods in the 10th Suffolk District include Jamaica Hills and Moss Hill, and specific neighborhoods in between the Arborway and Centre St, such as the neighborhoods near Perkins St and the Curley School, and the neighborhoods around Burroughs, Eliot, and Dunster off the Arborway. While Jamaica Hills and Moss Hill include many single family homes, the neighborhoods off of the Arborway have many more multi-family homes that are home to young people renting, young professionals, families, multi-generational households, and long time residents. It's a diverse group of people, and many are very active and involved in our schools and neighborhood associations.
Q: What are the three biggest issues that face the 10th Suffolk District? Please provide specific ways you will work to solve them.
Segel: Many of the issues that impact our neighbors in the 10th Suffolk District impact lots of people around the state. We have a very high cost of living. Both young and old neighbors alike are deciding if they can afford to stay in the city because of housing, childcare, and health care costs.
Massachusetts needs to invest in a sufficient supply of housing for people across different incomes and household makeups, including single adults, growing families that need more space, older adults that are downsizing, and seniors who wish to age in place. There's also a racial gap in home ownership with nearly 70% of white households owning their homes versus only 35% in households of color. I will advocate to sustain and grow funding in the budget to build more affordable housing and for programming that provides down payment and mortgage support for first time low and moderate-income homebuyers.
Second, Massachusetts spends over 30% of the state budget on health care, and insurance premiums just grew another 6.6% this past year. And yet, still in Massachusetts, patients struggle to schedule a doctor’s appointments and pay their out-of-pocket costs accessing prescription drugs. I will advocate for policies that strengthen the division of insurance rate review process to include more affordability standards for families and businesses, enable Massachusetts to have more direct authority over health care spending, and strengthen laws so that people can access their prescriptions.
Finally, last year I had three kids in preschool at the same time. I know exactly how much it costs, and how much relief we felt as a family when our older son started in public pre-K in Boston Public Schools. For many families, it simply does not make sense for one parent to work because childcare costs zeroes out their income -- and frequently, the childrearing lands on women who then miss ascendent years in their careers, driving a gender-based wage gap. Furthermore, children who do not have access to early childhood education arrive at kindergarten at a different baseline than those children who did access early childhood education. Early childhood education, including universal pre-K, is an equity issue and a gender issue, and it's important we address it now.
Q: What legislation would you propose in your first 100 days in office?
Segel: Late spring and summer is budget season, so I will advocate for funding in our budget for important programs that build affordable housing and provide homebuyer assistance to first time low and moderate income homebuyers. Second, I will sponsor legislation that controls the rate of growth of health care and prescription drugs. Finally, I will be a champion for legislation that creates universal pre-K and subsidized preschool for all children, because we know how important it is to invest in early childhood education so that students don't arrive in Kindergarten at different starting places.
Q: What prior experiences, work, and/or volunteering will help you represent the 10th Suffolk District well?
Segel: I was an organizer for ten years, working within communities to understand their pain points, and translate them into collective policy action. I built coalitions in Boston with victims of domestic violence and rape survivors to advocate to the city to support funding critical programs for women and girls. I built statewide campaigns to support pregnant women in prison to ensure they had access to reproductive health care and were treated with dignity during childbirth and postpartum. Afterwards, I ran public and transparent processes to assess the fair prices of prescription drugs and now provide independent oversight to drug prices at Medicaid. As a community member, I was involved in JP Progressives, and am active in my kids' school and pre-school. I ran teacher appreciation week to support our pre-school teachers, and have been actively involved in local Jewish organizations.