This year, there will be a question on the November ballot that would change how the city budget is created. It would allow the city council to change budget items by a majority vote, and create an Office of Participatory Budgeting to allow people to vote on certain budget items. More of us would get a say in how we spend our city’s money. Currently, city councilors can only vote yes or no on the entire budget; they have no power to shift funds within the budget. Also, there is currently no process for voters in Boston to have direct input on the budget through participatory budgeting processes, a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend a portion of a public budget. This project exists in many other major cities like our neighbors next door in Cambridge, as well as New York, Seattle, Oakland, and Chicago.
Last November, voter turnout was the key to turning the corner on the hatred and ineptitude of the former presidential administration. The highest-ever percentage of voters ages 18-29—53%—showed up to cast their ballot for change. Our kids, who were in 5th grade in Boston Public Schools at the time, were super-engaged: watching parts of the debates, discussing the election with their teachers and classmates, and accompanying us to the polls. And during the run-up to this September’s primaries, we had multiple conversations about how exciting it was to have so many women of color on the ballot and what kind of change that could represent for the city.
At home and during their time in BPS, our kids have learned about how long it took women to secure the right to vote, and how hard African-Americans fought for decades to secure equal access to voting rights. And in both spheres, our kids are learning to be critical thinkers—why did it take women and people of color so long to get the vote?—and how to focus on how they might create change.
As middle schoolers now, our kids get it: The ability to vote is the ability to hold elected officials accountable for their actions and their policies.
This Labor Day it is a time to recognize both the contributions of those who currently work and to reflect on the barriers to employment that many face, as well as the importance of proper working conditions, wages, and benefits.
On September 6, Americans will celebrate our annual commemoration of Labor Day with traditional parades and barbecues. Labor Day is a yearly acknowledgement of the American worker which has been observed nationally since 1894. For people with disabilities, the struggle for employment is not new, but it has become more difficult due to the pandemic. In 2020, 17.9% of people with disabilities were employed, which is down from 19.3% in 2019. These figures are much lower than the rate of employment for people without disabilities which was 61.8% in 2020 and 66.3% in 2019.
Voting for the president is often the first thing that comes to mind when most of us think of taking political action. While it’s true that voting for the highest office is important, the changes that most affect our day-to-day lives are happening here in Boston. The primary elections for the Boston City Council and mayor are September 14. Boston City Councilors represent and support us as the connector between the people and city hall for issues and services directly related to Boston. Our local elected officials are the ones who dictate the local laws, policies, and budgets that affect us the most.
Should we punish people for crimes that no longer exist? This question has arisen in states like Massachusetts that have legalized cannabis for medicinal and recreational use. As people across the Commonwealth recover from the pandemic and internalize lessons from movements for racial justice, such as the disproportionate cost of the War on Drugs on communities of color, the answer has become overwhelmingly clear: no. However, despite our progress, Massachusetts is far behind its goals for restorative justice and providing opportunity to those most harmed by ill-conceived and inequitable policies. Although cannabis remains criminalized at the federal level, Massachusetts has been a modern leader in liberalizing laws concerning the substance.