- September 12, 2021
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SOMERVILLE, MA — Judy Pineda Neufeld is one of four candidates running for Ward 7 city councilor in the Sept. 14 preliminary election, which will whittle down the field of candidates ahead of the municipal election in November. There will also be preliminary elections for mayor and City Council in Ward 5.
Somerville Patch asked candidates to answer questions about their campaigns and will be publishing candidate profiles over the coming weeks.
Neufeld has led the Immigrant Services Unit under Somerville’s emergency pandemic response since 2020. She has been a leadership and strategic planning consultant since 2015 and started her own business, Spark Sisterhood, in 2019.
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Age (as of Election Day)
Somerville City Councilor, Ward 7
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
BA, Tufts University
MBA, Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College
Leadership and Strategic Planning Consultant (since 2015); Small Business Owner of Spark Sisterhood (since 2019); currently serving as the lead for Somerville’s Immigrant Services Unit under the City’s emergency pandemic response (since April 2020)
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
Why are you seeking elective office?
I’m running for City Council in Ward 7 because I care deeply about making our community a better place to live, work, and thrive. This moment demands bold leadership and the neighborhoods of West Somerville deserve a City Councilor with both the lived and professional experience to take bold action on our common challenges from day one. I’m the proud daughter of immigrants, a small business owner, and a public servant to the City of Somerville. In my work as a leadership development consultant, I have brought a wide range of voices to the table for input on the issues that affect them, and I plan to do the same here in Ward 7. As City Councilor, I will fight for an equitable Covid-19 recovery plan, greater access to affordable housing, and to make Somerville a more accessible and livable city.
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
As we face the next wave of this pandemic, I believe it is essential we develop a comprehensive and equitable Covid-19 recovery plan, focusing on those that have been most impacted by this crisis, and dealing with the many existing issues in our City that the pandemic has impacted and exacerbated. Equity and justice are not just boxes to check on my to-do list, they are the lens by which I live and lead, and my top priority will be finding equitable solutions to the overlapping challenges our communities are facing. This includes a vibrant recovery plan for small businesses, deeper investment in mental health services, and accelerating our commitment to safer streets and environmental sustainability. In addition, the supply of affordable housing and housing stability for families remains deeply inadequate. Long term community recovery from this crisis needs to include a housing plan for everyone, and I believe housing stability and keeping folks in their homes must be a part of our strategy.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am the only candidate in the race with the depth of experience to take action on day one as City Councilor. I first moved to Somerville in 2001 to attend Tufts University and after graduating, I have lived in Somerville for 12 of the last 16 years. I know our communities well here in Ward 7 and am proud to be supported by State Representative Christine Barber, Ward 7 School Committee member Carrie Normand, and countless others who trust me to advocate for our community. I have spent a career as a strategic planner, crafting comprehensive plans for City departments, including as the lead for Somerville’s Immigrant Services Unit, and have developed strong relationships with many of our elected officials, municipal employees and community leaders. Every single day for the last 18 months, I have supported many of our families in Somerville through the public health crisis and connected them to critical resources like rental assistance and financial support. I will be a City Councilor who will approach each decision I make through a lens of equity and justice, and will work to represent every voice in Ward 7.
How do you think local officials performed in responding to the coronavirus? What if anything would you have done differently?
Since April 2020, I have been leading the city’s Immigrant Services Unit, which sits under our Covid-19 emergency response. This collaborative unit pulled together staff from the SomerViva Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative within the Somerville Public Schools, and other city and community partners to ensure information, services, and support would be equitably available to our immigrant residents. This has proven to be of additional importance due to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected communities of color, including immigrant communities, and the economic impact has and will continue to be devastating. I am so proud of the work we have done to support thousands of residents through the crisis. I appreciate our local officials’ commitment to supporting the most vulnerable members of our community, and for always following the most up to date public health guidance. And yet, there is still more to be done. Covid-19 testing is harder to access, even with an increase in case numbers due to the Delta variant. Somerville can offer more testing locations, in addition to offering free vaccine clinics. We can and should extend the eviction moratorium to June 2022 so our families who are still struggling to access rental assistance are not kicked out of their homes. Lastly, we should be doing more to vaccinate the groups in our City that have the lowest vaccination rates, including those aged 16-18, and focus on creative outreach methods to protect our youth.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Affordable housing- The supply of affordable housing for our lowest-income families and individuals remains deeply inadequate. Greater density near our new Green Line stations with more inclusionary housing requirements would help increase our supply of affordable units. Additionally, I believe housing stability and keeping folks in their homes needs to be a part of our strategy. I support increasing the capacity of the Office of Housing Stability and its access to flexible rental relief funds so they can meet the urgent needs of our neighbors who are struggling to pay rent as a result of the pandemic. I also support guaranteeing tenants the right purchase, the right to withhold rent if safety requirements or city codes aren’t met, the right to counsel in housing court, and the adoption of just cause eviction standards. I will promote these changes on the City Council and advocate for them to our representatives at the State House. I will also work to support those in Ward 7 who live in public housing, including ensuring the needs of the residents at Clarendon Hill are met while their housing complex is undergoing redevelopment, and I will work to ensure our public housing is always well-maintained.
Increasing access to mental health services- We are facing a mental health crisis that has been made worse by the pandemic. As City Councilor I will increase funding for mental health services, and ensure these programs are available in multiple languages, and conducted with cultural competency for the many different, ethnic, racial, sexual and gender identities we have in our city.
An accessible and livable city- To increase accessibility in Somerville, I will push for programs that incentivize alternatives to car transportation, including the allocation of funds to build protected bike lanes across the city and pilot a fare-free bus program. I will also reduce speed and space for vehicles to prioritize pedestrians, bikers and public transportation. This will increase access to transit for Somerville’s marginalized communities, and help reduce air pollution and the city’s carbon footprint.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
As the head of Somerville’s Immigrant Services Unit under the City’s pandemic response, I have worked closely with city and school staff and partners to develop new ways to bring much needed resources and services to our immigrant families. Over the past year and a half we have worked to reduce many of the language, cultural and technological barriers our immigrant neighbors had to accessing pandemic resources such as rental relief, food pantries, personal protective equipment and more. I also set up a partnership that allowed us to book more than 300 vaccine appointments at the Reggie Lewis Center for Somerville families, and have organized mobile vaccine clinics at locations around the City. My past work has also included developing housing policy. I oversaw the collective impact process on housing stability for the City of Boston’s Department of Health and Human Services, which required bringing together many different stakeholders to find beneficial solutions and make progress for all. These efforts are a continuation of the work I have done throughout my career as a community organizer, a strategic planner and an advocate for progressive policy.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
The best advice I have received is to listen to understand, not react. I was taught that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason, so that we can listen more than we talk. I believe that we all have a basic need to be heard, seen, and understood. The more we can listen to learn, listen to relate, and listen to empathize, the more we can truly understand how to connect with others and overcome our biggest obstacles together.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
If elected, I will ensure that the voices of those impacted by decisions or policy issues have a voice at the table to help drive those decisions. Having grown up in a multi-racial and multicultural household, I bring a keen understanding of cultural competency that helps me value diverse perspectives and find commonalities where others cannot. This means I’ll work to lower barriers to accessing city services for all residents. I will also be a leader that values and leads with transparency, integrity, and accountability. As City Councilor, I will be responsive to the needs of our neighbors and ensure clear and timely communication with all.