At-Large Chelsea City Councilor Damali Vidot has spent the last week engaging in the City of Chelsea’s budget process, which involves providing final approval over the Chelsea Public Schools (CPS) budget. Over the past two weeks there have been 3 budget hearings with one additional hearing scheduled for Thursday, June 24.
“Budgets are moral documents that reflect what we value for our city and our society,” said Vidot. “It would be nice to foster an environment where the people are more involved in this process. What is most important to us?” As the conversation across the United States has shifted to evaluating the budgets of law enforcement departments, Councilor Vidot believes we need to better understand the needs of our community members to prioritize the services that would best serve those needs. “We need to reimagine what public safety looks like. What would it look like if we offered more mental health supports for people in need? What if licensed social workers could be part of our first response team, especially for nonviolent situations? They could help manage the urgent situation the person is facing, and then connect them to the resources that will help them get back on track.”
Councilor Vidot’s leadership has always been centered on standing up for what is right and building the coalitions within and beyond her community that are required to affect change. “We must build our collective power based on shared values. As an advocate for affordable housing, I worked with councilors in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, and other cities. The issues that face Charlestown and Chelsea don’t end at our cities’ borders, so there are always opportunities to work across communities to solve our interconnected problems.”
As part of this community work, on Tuesday Councilor Vidot joined over 120 elected officials, superintendents, educator union presidents, and other advocates in asking the Legislature to fully fund state aid to school districts across Massachusetts. The signatories largely represent the cities that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, whose schools have also been severely underfunded for years. “Public schools in Boston and Chelsea have been struggling for years due to deep underfunding. When we don’t fully fund our schools, students can’t grow into the leaders we know they can be.” The letter goes on to propose how the state could raise revenues to fund our schools even during this pandemic. “Multi-millionaires and corporations should pay their fair share so that every student in Boston and Chelsea can have an enriching education. We should use our “rainy day fund” to invest in our students.”
“It’s time for us to reimagine what our future will look like. We have to invest in our schools because our kids are the future of our cities. Our city budgets allow us to make sure that we prioritize the resources that will help our constituents most. Residents want and deserve affordable housing, reliable transportation, and a healthy environment. Those should be our priorities.”