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October 16, 2019

Bay State Banner: Pressley holds town hall in Randolph

The constituents who came to Stetson Hall in Randolph brought questions about immigration, impeachment, women’s rights and growing inequality to 7th District U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s town hall meeting Saturday.

In her speech and her responses to audience members’ questions, Pressley brought a message of hope.

“I didn’t come here to talk to you about how sobering the landscape is, because at this moment, all that I feel is hope,” she said at the beginning of her address. “There are some who thought that our election in 2018 was a referendum against hate. I’ve always maintained that it was a mandate toward hope. And I intend to keep it.”

Pressley noted that increased pessimism about government can drive voters away from the political process, but said she is trying to build community through her political platform.

Pressley took office earlier this year after beating 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano in a Democratic primary race that many saw as a referendum for change in Washington, D.C. The 7th Congressional District includes 70 percent of Boston, parts of Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, Milton and all of Randolph. The district includes 53 percent people of color and a population that is 40 percent foreign-born.

Pressley’s freshman cohort is the most diverse and one of the largest-ever to enter congress. The majority of the House members are now pro-choice.

Shortly after taking office during a federal shutdown in which many federal workers were furloughed and contract workers missed multiple pay periods, Pressley filed legislation that would guarantee that federal contract workers would receive back pay for the weeks they missed during the furlough, and won support from House members and senators of both parties.

Pressley noted that a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s cancellation of the “medical deferred action” program that enabled immigrants’ children receiving medical care for debilitating illnesses and rare diseases to remain in the United States.

“Working with Senator Warren and Senator Markey and two other of my House Colleagues, we were able to shine a light on this injustice. There was public outcry, and that policy has been reinstated,” she said. “We leveraged the power of collaboration and we harnessed the public outcry and outrage about this cruelty.”

The defeat of the program underscored the power the American public has to derail the Trump administration’s policies, Pressley told the audience.

“When we engage, and when we organize, and when we are sustained in the organizing, we can win,” she said.


Questions and answers

Eighteen-year-old Alexia Sutherland opened up the question-and-answer portion of the meeting by asking Pressley her thoughts on equalizing funding in the state’s school districts.

Pressley told Sutherland that for federal education funding to flow into Massachusetts districts, an accurate count in the 2020 U.S. Census will be critical.

“In the eyes of the federal government, if you are not counted, you do not exist,” she said, adding that the census count also dictate’s the state’s share of Community Development Block Grant funding, Medicare and Social Security funding and other critical funding areas.

At the state level, Pressley said, the Massachusetts Legislature has made progress on the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, which proposes a $1.5 billion increase in state education funding with a new formula that prioritizes low-income school districts.

“Education is the great equalizer,” she told Sutherland. “But in order to have equitable outcomes, we have to make equitable investments.”

Another Randolph resident asked Pressley about how Massachusetts can increase its funding for substance abuse recovery programs, sharing that she benefitted from recovery programs in battling her own addiction.

Pressley noted that she grew up in Chicago with a father who struggled with childhood traumas and battled heroin addiction.

“My father should not have been incarcerated in order to get well,” she said.

Pressley highlighted the Care Act, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings, which would channel $100 million in community-based programs in Massachusetts over the next 10 years.

Asked about her support for impeachment, she said House members are looking into Trump’s loans from Deutsche Bank, which the bank made despite Trump’s string of bad business deals and bankruptcies.

“Does anyone remember Trump University?” she said.

She said Democrats have been met by constant obstruction and stonewalling from Trump.

“We have to make the most effective case for impeachment so that the Senate does not dismiss it,” she said. “Right now we are continuing to do our investigative work.”

Pressley also said Democratic activists should be working to score wins in both the Senate and presidential races in 2020.

“We need to impeach him, and we need to evict him at the ballot box,” she said.

Other questions covered areas of transportation and immigration. Pressley answered questions for a half-hour before the program concluded.

Throughout her responses, she continued to sound an upbeat tone, reassuring the audience that Democrats in Congress will not be so bogged down in impeachment proceeding that they can’t continue to fight at the legislative level.

“We can walk and chew gum,” she said. “We’re going to continue to legislate. We’re going to continue to hold this administration accountable. We’re going to continue to do the investigative work on the articles of impeachment. We’re going to organize and to take back the Senate and to take back the White House from the occupant of the White House.”