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Allen Lays Out Gubernatorial Platform In Meeting With Berkshire Democrats

A Black woman with greying black hair smiles into a camera in a Zoom meeting.
Josh Landes
Danielle Allen.

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Danielle Allen spoke with members of the Berkshire Democratic Brigades Wednesday night.

Allen, a professor at Harvard University, laid out her campaign platform and took questions during the virtual meeting.

“We have watched the impact of our split screen economy build up over time," said the candidate. "We've got so much growth piling upon growth inside Route 128 and Eastern Mass, and then big parts of our commonwealth that have really experienced decline and erosion. We have people who are living in the woods, as you know, in Western Massachusetts and on Martha's Vineyard. We have the asthma capital of the world in Springfield. We have 20% of folks in Lawrence and Lowell living below the poverty line. 25% of people in Amherst living below the poverty line. An opioid epidemic that has not gotten any better in the whole of the Baker-Polito administration, still five people dying every day in our Commonwealth.”

Her criticism of two-term Republican Governor Charlie Baker – who has not made his intentions for the 2022 election clear – didn’t stop there.

“We have the capacity to lead, but lately, we've just been settling for drifting along, incrementalism while crises have been building: housing crisis, transportation and traffic crisis," said Allen. "The failure with schools in response to COVID. A vaccine crisis that turns out had to be tables turned by local organizations coming together and solving the problem. When our state's rollout was failing was the Berkshire County COVID Collaborative, the Black Boston COVID Coalition, the Barnstable County Health Commission that turned the tide and delivered vaccines through local clinics, accessible clinics, ‘get out the vote’ techniques to get vaccines in people's arms. So we the people can get done the work to bring our communities what they need. But it is time for us to say we need not just a manager in the corner office, we need a leader and a manager.”

Allen described Baker as a market libertarian.

“That is why we have, for example, a transportation crisis, because he thinks that we ought to be able to solve the issues of transportation based purely on market mechanisms," she said. "I think that's wrong. Transportation is a public good, you have to invest in it as a public good.”

Allen was asked to articulate her stance on the state’s healthcare system.

“At this point, we know that issues of housing, proximity to a job through transportation that's effective, transportation that's not ruining our air and causing problematic pollution and the like, all of those things really transform life outcomes and life expectancy," she answered. "So our health agenda is starting from an emphasis on the social determinants of health and the question of how our healthcare system itself can work more effectively with them.”

The candidate is not advocating for a single-payer system.

“I think at the moment, that wouldn't actually get us the greatest increase in value for delivering health to our communities," said Allen. "We do also have health deserts in rural Massachusetts, both in Western Massachusetts and on the Cape. So another piece of our agenda is to really push investments in public health infrastructure and in community health centers. So I see our public health infrastructure strengthening of that and our community health centers as the infrastructure and architecture of a fully public system. So it is in effect a single-payer system but being built through those pieces rather than through the usual ways people think about converting to a single-payer system.”

Allen was asked to explain her approach to the state’s housing crisis – a pressing concern in Berkshire County.

“There’s a lot of work we're advocating for in the housing space," she said. "So, starting with tenants’ rights, right to counsel in eviction cases, which is a real reducer of eviction. That's usually important. Eviction record sealing, yes, also stabilizing the rental arrearage program. So we do have very significant federal resources that are not being effectively distributed. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of our current governor, a real inability to coordinate effectively across the commonwealth. And that, for me is one of the real things to change.”

She supports extending the state’s eviction moratorium.

“Because at this point, the pain is really for tenants and the pain is also for landlords. And so it's really falling on the government, state government- A failure to deliver that relief to people under the impact of this pandemic.”

Allen was asked if her campaign is screening its donors.

“Any fossil fuel companies or anybody involved with the fossil fuel industry, we're not accepting donations from,” she answered.

Allen faces Berkshire native and former state senator Ben Downing, State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz and duct cleaning company owner Orlando Silva in the Democratic field.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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