Safe Medford Candidate Questionnaire 2019 (City Council)
Note: This content has been provided by Safe Medford in September 2019. Only candidates for city council were approached. For the same answers, organized by candidate, check out their website.
Medford’s Unity Resolution (medfordma.org/unity-resolution/) states that we are an inclusive community, in support of all of our diverse population groups, including immigrants and newcomers.
1a. What can Medford do to help immigrants living in Medford to feel safe?
Zac Bears: First and foremost, I think making more public statements and providing more public information on the Unity Resolution and on the Medford Police policy of non-cooperation with ICE is essential. Immigrants in Medford, whether documented or undocumented, need to feel safe speaking to city officials, whether that is just getting their sidewalk fixed or reporting a crime as a witness or a victim. More communication is essential because many residents move in and out of the city every year, and new residents may not be aware of Medford’s policies and vision of inclusion.
Steve Collicelli: There’s a number of steps we all can take as residents of an inclusive city such as Medford to ensure that all of us, especially our immigrant communities, feel safe. First, folks like me who do not belong to a recent immigrant population should hone our allyship skills. It is not enough to be neutral or indifferent when confronted by hate and discrimination. A positive ally speaks out against discriminatory, belittling, and hurtful behavior. Allies speak up for–but never over–others. An ally celebrates the achievements and ensures proper credit is given to both individuals and groups who have helped build Medford and who continue to shape the City’s vibrant future. An ally invites members of underrepresented groups into important conversations. An ally listens first and speaks last. An ally makes a conscious commitment to try to understand and empathize with Medford’s immigrant and other underrepresented communities. An ally remembers that not everyone comes from the same financial, educational, or cultural background, but that these differences add depth and nuance to our community.
John Falco: I believe we all have a responsibility to help immigrants feel welcome, included and safe which is why I fully support Medford’s Unity Resolution. One of my main initiatives since being elected to the Medford City Council was to bring the monthly Medford Police Department’s Community Service meetings directly to our neighborhoods. These new neighborhood meetings, which were previously held at police headquarters, cultivate engagement between residents and the Medford Police Department by providing multiple opportunities for residents to meet the men and women who patrol their neighborhoods. These meetings are open to everyone and have proven to be very productive. This type of community engagement promotes collaboration which is a key component for strong and vibrant neighborhoods and our community as a whole. As residents, we celebrate our diversity to promote inclusion and, ultimately, to help immigrants feel welcome. Students from over 68 countries attend Medford Public Schools and I applaud the work that teachers and administrators do to make these children feel that school is another home for them. At Medford High School, for example, students participate in Culture Clubs to learn and celebrate the Asian, Arabic, and Indian cultures. The Gay-Straight Alliance club promotes unity, tolerance, and respect for LGBTQ students. Community organizations in Medford continue to work together to celebrate diversity, promote inclusivity, and create a community of acceptance. Examples include the West Medford Black History Celebration, Medford Gives Thanks Interfaith Service, and the various program options at the Medford Family Network including ESL Classes.
Nicole Morell: I support the local law enforcement policy adopted last year that works to protect immigrants and make them feel safe by removing fear of detainment or deportation for reporting a crime committed against them or others. The social and emotional safety of our immigrant population is directly related to inclusion. To make the city more inclusive, we need to expand translation services to make city government more accessible, support a more representative city government by charter review/ward representation, and potentially create an immigrant affairs office or committee that can coordinate services that support immigrant integration.
Curtis Tuden: As a City the best way Medford can help immigrants feel safe is by investing in our public schools. My career in the schools has shown me how children of families new to our country need increased support. Current staff do a wonderful job but the resources are spread thin. The more immigrant parents feel safe about sending their children to school, the more their quality of life improves. From there, additional systemic changes/improvements can help both immigrant and non-immigrant residents life safely in a shared community.
1b: What will you personally do in your elected role to make Medford and its government more responsive to the needs of all residents, regardless of immigration status?
Zac Bears: Personally, I have committed to hold regular, publicly posted office hours around Medford if I am elected as a city councilor. I have also committed to hosting events where I can review the agenda items for upcoming City Council meetings with residents in advance. We also need to do a better job of incorporating public participation and engagement into public meetings. This could start simply by printing enough agendas for the audience, but clearer rules and guidance about times for public comment, as well as an intentional effort by councilors to invite public comment (instead of speaking themselves, when possible) would be a great way to engage more people in city government. I will discuss it more later as well, but translation plays a huge role here. Whether immigrants or not, many residents don’t speak English as a first language. We need to have the resources in our city departments to serve these residents. Ensuring more diversity in city hiring practices (discussed below) could also help serve residents who speak another language.
Steve Collicelli: If elected to Medford’s City Council, I would work to ensure that all of Medford’s residents have access to all that the city has to offer. This means making a better effort to include all residents in the civic life of our city. Having Google Translate embedded on our City and School webpages is a powerful and meaningful tool for better inclusion. However, we should go a step further and make sure that public hearing notices and other important city news are physically posted in languages commonly spoken by various immigrant communities calling Medford home, including: Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian-Creole. Medford Community Media serves as an essential communications platform by and for City residents. I would support MCM’s continued efforts, as well as further exploring ways to utilize internet and social media tools that would allow us to gather input from folks who are either uncomfortable or unable (due to schedule, family issues, language, cultural norms) to attend public meetings.
John Falco: As a member of the City Council, I will continue to work with the Medford Police Department in bringing the monthly Medford Police Department’s Community Service meetings into the neighborhoods. These meetings are a productive way to build bridges between the Medford Police Department and the residents that live in our neighborhoods. When I was a Chairperson of the Medford Family Network Parent Advisory Board, I met a family new to Medford who learned about the Network’s offerings through a flier that was in their language. Through this communication, the parents were able to enroll in an ESL class while their child received free babysitting. I have always advocated, volunteered and fundraised for programs that support all families from every culture and as a council member, I will continue to do so.
Nicole Morell: I think it’s important to meet people where they are. As an elected official, it would be a goal of mine to have more community meetings and office hours to meet with and hear from our immigrant populations in spaces they feel safe, whether that’s a community center, place of worship, or their homes. City Hall and council meetings can be an intimidating and at times confusing even without a language or cultural barrier. It’s important to me that elected officials actively work to meet people who do not feel comfortable speaking out in traditional meeting settings.
Curtis Tuden: The most important way to serve members of the community, immigrant or not, is by involving them in decision making processes. I promise to meet in person with immigrant members of the community to make sure their voices are heard and represented in local government. This has been a feature of my campaign that will continue if elected.
Due to changes in federal policy, ICE has detained and deported people from our neighborhoods, breaking up families in the process, even though those being removed pose no threat. The Safe Communities Act is a proposed Massachusetts law that will help protect immigrant communities by prohibiting ICE from deputizing local police officers to enforce civil immigration violations. This act would ensure that police resources are used to fight crime and ensure public safety rather than to assist ICE. Would you support a City Council resolution in favor of this bill?
Zac Bears: Support
Steve Collicelli: Support
John Falco: Support
Nicole Morell: Support
Curtis Tuden: Yes – I support this and would introduce such a resolution myself.
Medford has an identity as a white, Catholic, blue-collar city. Yet 27% of the population, and 40% of the students in Medford’s schools, are not white, and 29% of the City’s residents speak a language other than English as their first language. The racial and religious makeup of the City are similarly diverse, but this diversity is not reflected in the City’s leadership or workforce, including the public schools and police.
3a. Do you agree that the city’s leadership and employees should reflect the City’s diversity?
Zac Bears: Yes
Steve Collicelli: Yes
John Falco: Yes
Nicole Morell: Yes
Curtis Tuden: Yes – As a Councilor I will be committed to breaking down the systemic barriers that have created our unfortunate situation.
3b. If (re)elected, what would you do to help accomplish this?
Zac Bears: We need to implement a charter review process that moves us to ward-based representation on the City Council and School Committee. This will provide more opportunities for immigrants and residents of color to win election to city offices. All “at-large” systems are widely held to be racially discriminatory. Some new plans, like in Lowell, incorporate a number of “majority-minority” districts, which Medford should explore as well. City officials must work with Medford Public Schools and our new superintendent to develop a detailed plan regarding the hiring and retention of teachers of color. Students of color deserve to see themselves represented by their educators. Finally, similar plans must be developed for the Medford Police, Medford Fire, and other city departments to ensure that city workers reflect the city’s diversity.
Steve Collicelli: Medford is a richly diverse city. I work for a minority-owned company, The Chicken & Rice Guys, with over 100 employees. At just our Medford Square location, we have staff from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. CNR-Medford’s General Manager is from El Salvador. She is also the Committee to Elect Steve’s treasurer and my first official supporter. City leadership should absolutely represent this diversity of people and cultures working all around us. In order to get to this goal, I would draw inspiration from Greater Boston’s flourishing startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem and establish a local mentorship program that pairs individuals with talent and ambition from our immigrant and other underrepresented populations with senior public officials. One-on-one mentorship has proven to be an incredibly effective way to shatter glass ceilings and open doors for mentees. At the same time, our volunteer mentors, folks already in powerful positions in our community, will gain invaluable perspective from working with underrepresented communities. Research shows that representation is incredibly important for members of underrepresented groups– but, if representation doesn’t currently exist in our city’s leadership, we can still support those individuals through these types of direct interactions and encouragement.
John Falco: I continue to support the work that is done by the City of Medford’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Recently the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted a Medford Police Application Information Session. Officers who spoke other languages were present to encourage and support all applicants to enrich diversity among our police department. I would advocate for more outreach like this to increase diversity among the workforce in all sectors of our city government and school department.
Nicole Morell: I am in favor of charter review and ward representation for city council and school committee. The current system makes it very challenging to bring new voices into the city government and I believe that ward representation will pave the way for our elected bodies to reflect the diversity of our city.
Curtis Tuden: To address the lack of political representation we need democratic reforms. These include but are not limited to automatic voter registration, publicly funded elections, and ward-based voting. All this would be possible with a Charter Review, which is part of my campaign platform. As for the workforce disparity, my impression as a 10 year City employee is that overall Medford doesn’t offer salaries that are competitive with other municipalities. It is not easy to live in Medford on a public salary unless there are additional funding sources, and the levels of inequity across demographics means local jobs are not appealing. As a candidate, I would help change this.
3c. What can Medford do to change the misconceptions about the demographics of our City so that we all understand who actually lives and works here in 2019?
Zac Bears: I think Medford should publicly declare itself an “immigrant city,” and put more focus into highlighting the historical and, more importantly, the ongoing impact that immigrants and communities of color make in the city every day. This could extend from simply intentional outreach to minority-owned businesses to get more involved in city and school events all the way to a week/month of programming that centers the voices and experiences of Medford’s current immigrant communities and/or communities of color, either in one time period or multiple time periods over the course of the year.
Steve Collicelli: Medford is a vibrant, diverse community. And, if demographic trends hold, it will grow even more diverse, more multicultural, and more polyglot with each passing year. Medford has a reputation as a predominantly white, Italian community but we need to highlight and celebrate the cultural rainbow that actually makes up our city. This Spring, I participated in Medford’s 2nd Annual Diversity Day. Organized largely by hardworking Medford High students, this new festival could and should grow with increased support from not only our schools and local government, but also from local businesses. Diversity Day has the potential to be an incubator, spinning off other multicultural and ethnic celebrations that can be successful in their own right (think the Medford Kiwanis’ “Taste of Italy and the World” or the Jamaica Plain’s Puerto Rican Day Parade). These celebrations could not only call attention to the various underrepresented communities that make up Medford, but also show off these communities with authentic food, dance, and other cultural demonstrations. What’s more, well-organized and supported celebrations such as these would provide an economic stimulus to the City while providing enriching experiences for all residents.
John Falco: One of the statements about Medford that I love to hear is how diverse we are. Many times, my children have come home from school excited to share about what they learned from a fellow classmate who was born in another country. The fact that we have students from over 68 countries at Medford Public Schools is proof that we are a diverse community. I think anyone who has a misconception about Medford’s demographics should attend a public school event to see how wonderfully diverse we are!
Nicole Morell: We need to elevate new voices within the community. A city government that reflects the diversity of our community would do this. I will fight to make that possible. Beyond that, I believe Medford’s diversity should be part of the story we share about the city. When I tell people about Medford, I share the number of languages spoken at our schools and you can tell that runs counter to their perceptions of Medford. Within the city, our students have led the way through the Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility (CCSR) with projects like Diversity Day and @humansofMedford, but we can’t rely on our students to do the work for us. As local elected officials, we need to vocally advocate for policies that not only support a diverse community but also demonstrate that we do not accept intolerance in our city.
Curtis Tuden: Education is the key. Medford tries to celebrate its diversity, and does an admirable job, but more can be done. Whether it’s in our public schools or at community events, emphasizing the benefits of diversity should be the highest priority when it comes to building a safer community.
3d. How could Medford’s public spaces, including City Hall, be made to feel more welcoming and inclusive to the entire community?
Zac Bears: Translation. Translation. Translation. Medford needs to do a better job of translating everything into the many languages spoken by Medford residents. This includes banners that have multiple languages on them in addition to basic resources, forms, web pages, etc… I would love to see Medford City Hall hang an “Everyone Is Welcome Here” banner translated into multiple languages on the front of the building. We are an inclusive community, and we should be proud to declare that and make sure our public buildings reflect those values.
Steve Collicelli: Back in 1923, fourteen years before our current City Hall was completed, Medford’s then mayor Richard Coolidge said, “a city hall is more than a building; more than a group of offices. It is the center of the civic life of our community.” All these years later, our civic buildings– City Hall, our Post Office, our schools, and our library– remain testaments to our community spirit laid out in marble, concrete, and brick. And yet, these centers of civic life can be intimidating or even inhospitable to those unpracticed and unfamiliar with the English language. Community bulletins of all shapes and sizes are pinned all over, demonstrating the vibrancy of civic life here. But, they are just more reminders of one’s foreign otherness if the language is incomprehensible. I would insist that we make available accurate translations of all important bulletins and notices. At our Post Office, a mural depicting Medford’s role in Triangular Trade and the system of slave-operated, sugar plantations stares down at some of our newest immigrant neighbors, many of whom come from the same Carribean nations as the unshackled slaves depicted. We should install historic markers to help contextualize and explain the painting in a way that acknowledges Medford’s history without sugar-coating or running away from it. Finally, we should explore establishing an office of immigrant affairs in City Hall similar to our Somerville neighbors. Located within the Office of Human Diversity, such an office can help organize and direct individuals to needed resources as well as provide new residents, unfamiliar with city services, a safe space in which to explore all that Medford has to offer.
John Falco: I believe our neighborhoods, parks, and schools provide safe, welcoming, and inclusive spaces for all of our citizens. From the rainbow crosswalks at Medford High to the murals celebrating diversity at our schools, I am proud of our city!
Nicole Morell: I believe simple changes like having “Welcome” translated into the most common languages spoken in our city at the doors to City Hall would be an albeit small, inexpensive way to recognize the diverse population with our city. Translation services for meeting minutes also would show that the city is committed to engaging our diverse population.
Curtis Tuden: As a white, non-immigrant member of the community I know the importance of involving under represented residents in the decision making process. This is an individual commitment of mine, so if elected, marginalised groups within Medford will know they have a Councilor who is there to listen and advocate. From there we will continue to grow as a City that wants to be welcoming and inclusive to all who call Medford home; past, present, or future.