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Friday, July 30, 2021
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Riders Advocate for an Environmental Justice Community Seat on the New MBTA Board
Nearly 30 statewide organizations urge Governor Baker to appoint Rafael Mares or Khalida Smalls to the proposed rider seat on the MBTA board
Massachusetts — In a letter to Governor Baker, nearly 30 labor and community organizations representing tens of thousands of residents and workers throughout Massachusetts nominated two candidates to fill the rider seat on the new MBTA board created in the supplemental budget the governor signed on Thursday.
The legislation establishes a new, seven-member board to replace the Fiscal Management and Control Board, which expired at the end of June. Members include a rider from an environmental justice community, but the legislation does not specify a nomination process. Letter signatories say that the Governor should appoint a rider representative with the backing of community groups representing riders in environmental justice (EJ) communities, home to low-income people and communities of color who depend most heavily on transit, lack equitable access, and experience high levels of air pollution.
“Appointing a rider from an EJ community will strengthen the voice of everyday riders and workers, and help the MBTA center racial justice, economic justice, and equity in all their decisions,” said Jim Evers, President, Boston Carmen’s Union, Local 589.
“Our environmental justice communities heavily rely on the state’s public transit systems. We are confident that our nominees will not only represent riders from EJ communities, but bring their expertise and experience on transit policy to serve the interests of riders across the state,” said Olivia Nichols, Transit Justice Organizer, GreenRoots.
In addition to asking the Governor to appoint one of their nominees to fill the EJ rider seat on the MBTA Board, the letter signatories also expressed support for the nominations for a labor representative from the Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
Advocates proposed Rafael Mares or Khalida Smalls to be appointed to the rider seat. Massachusetts elected officials have also shown their support by sending their own letters to the Governor.
Rafael Mares is executive director of The Neighborhood Developers, a housing nonprofit that works in Chelsea, Revere, and Everett to promote economic diversity, opportunity, and quality of life in these communities. For more than a decade, he has played a major role in successful advocacy to preserve MBTA service and affordability, especially for environmental justice communities. He has served as Vice President and Program Director Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and as a member of the MBTA Rider Oversight Committee (2009-2010) and the Executive Committee of Transportation for Massachusetts (2012-2018). Rafael lives in Revere, on the 119 bus route and Blue line, and the T is the primary way he and his family of five travel throughout the Boston area.
“Working families and communities of color rely on the T to get to work, to school — everywhere. Now, for the first time, the board that oversees the MBTA will have a member to truly represent those riders. I am honored to be nominated for this position by the Public Transit Public Good Coalition, and if I am appointed I am committed to work hard for a better, more equitable, and affordable MBTA.” said Mares.
Khalida Smalls is a lifelong Boston resident and MBTA rider. She has decades of experience working to improve the lives of working families and environmental justice communities. Khalida has served in multiple leadership roles at Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), including leading the T Riders Union, which brings together transit riders to fight for equitable public transportation in lower-income communities and communities of color. Since 2019, Khalida has served as director of organizing with the Boston Teachers Union (BTU). Before joining BTU, she was the Green Justice Coalition Coordinator and Organizing Director at Community Labor United (CLU). A queer, Black woman of African and Caribbean descent, Khalida has received multiple awards for her commitment to transit and environmental justice. She lives in Dorchester.
“Our communities deserve a voice in the decision-making process, and this rider seat will ensure that our voices are included,” said Smalls. “If appointed to this role, I will make sure that the priorities of our community members — those who rely heavily on the MBTA to get to their jobs, to run errands, and to access public services — are addressed by this new board.”
Organizations advocating for these candidates also sent a letter to the Massachusetts legislature urging their support for these two transit riders and experts to be appointed to the new MBTA board.
About Public Transit Public Good Coalition:
Public Transit Public Good is a partnership of transit workers and riders throughout Massachusetts fighting for the future of public transit. Community Labor United convenes PTPG. Visit publictransitpublicgood.org to learn more.