Candidates attend interfaith forum
BPS plan would shutter city’s middle schools
Interfaith organizations and community groups hosted Massachusetts’ attorney general, gubernatorial and district attorney candidates and City Councilor Kim Janey in a forum on immigration, healthcare and affordable housing Oct. 22.
More than 1,300 members of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) gathered at 7 p.m. Monday at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center to hear Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democratic candidate for governor, Jay Gonzalez, and the two remaining Suffolk County district attorney candidates, Democrat Rachael Rollins and independent Mike Maloney, explain their proposed policies and reiterate campaign promises.
Following opening prayers, Healey took to the podium to address immigration concerns and the protection of families forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“My message for everyone tonight, for everyone who is afraid, for everyone that is angry is this: We are still here for you and we are not going anywhere,” said Healey, whom GBIO President Rev. Burns Stanfield called “the peoples’ lawyer.”
The Democratic attorney general is seeking a second term in the Nov. 6 elections and is running against Republican nominee Jay McMahon, who declined GBIO’s request to attend the forum.
Healey highlighted her office’s attempts to block President Trump’s travel ban, defend immigrant communities’ temporary protected status, challenge the proposed citizenship census question and fight against family separation at the border. She confirmed her commitment to continue supporting these causes.
“I stand with you, Massachusetts stands with you and together we will stand up to anyone who threatens or endangers our immigrant communities and new Americans,” said Healey, “even if they call themselves the president of the United States.”
On healthcare, she was equally emphatic about ensuring affordable provision for all.
GBIO representatives expressed particular concern about the impending merger of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health, filed with the state’s Health Policy Commission this summer. They said the move, which will impact about 13 hospitals, some of which are considered to be the most affordable in the city, threatens to raise the cost of treatment.
Bonny Gilbert from Temple Sinai said they are looking for a candidate who will either stop the merger or make sure punitive measures are put in place to penalize medical institutions that overcharge patients.
Healey said she was that candidate. She said her office has been in conversation with the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission for more than a year and they will work to ensure the right agreement for all is reached in merger negotiations.
Next, district attorney candidates Maloney and Rollins addressed the crowd to reaffirm their campaign promises to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses, increase the use of diversionary or rehabilitative programs, and to implement bail reforms.
Defense attorney and independent candidate Michael Maloney said he would eliminate cash bail for crimes where jail time is not being sought. He also said he would raise the age limit for juvenile diversionary programs from 18 to 25.
“I have been a strong proponent of second chances in my professional life, in my private life, and will continue to do so as your district attorney,” said Maloney.
Prosecutor Rachael Rollins, who won the Sept. 4 primary with 40 percent of the vote and has more than 20 years’ experience, said she will end the prosecution of what she called “crimes of poverty,” which include non-violent, low-level offenses born out of desperate circumstances, mental illness and addiction.
Gubernatorial candidate Gonzalez was the last politician seeking office next month to take to the stage. He reaffirmed his commitment to increasing funding for home ownership by at least $10 million per year, and to oppose any hospital merger if the Health Policy Commission finds it places too great a financial burden on patients.
“I’m a former health insurance CEO who thinks we should get rid of health insurance companies,” said Gonzalez, who hopes to establish a single payer healthcare system if elected.
Gov. Charlie Baker declined GBIO’s request to attend and was not present at the forum, news that was greeted by the audience with audible hissing.
The evening closed with a presentation from Firdosa Hassan, one of 60 Somali mothers fighting for repairs to and a redesign of Jeep Jones Park, across the street from the Islamic Center in Roxbury. She was joined by Steven Mitchell, a teacher at the James P. Timilty Middle School, whose students also use the park for recess, in urging city councilors to help them secure public funding to improve what they described as a vital community resource. Councilor Janey was present to announce her support and commitment to their cause.