State Rep. Nika Elugardo was a guest speaker at the February meetings of the Jamaica Pond Association and the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, where she gave a legislative update and answered questions from constituents. Elugardo talked about bills she’s filed this past year as well as what she looks forward to this coming year.
Elugardo said she has filed 15 bills, including five housing bills, which she said have gotten some movement. The end of the legislative session is July 31 of this year, so she said there is still time to get the others passed. Some priorities for last calendar year were housing, healthcare, and education. She said that progress was made in education and they’re working on housing, but she’s not sure about progressive changes coming to healthcare very soon, though they are making strides at the State House towards bigger changes. Additionally,. Elugardo said she is working on developing an expertise in affordable and elderly housing.
Elugardo said that there aren’t any champions at the State House with a “well-thought out strategy for the housing crisis,” but rather there are individuals who are doing piecemeal work to make strides in that area. She also said that she and others are trying to convince the House to have a debate on housing.
She also spoke about her priorities for the district, which are based on the calendar year, not the fiscal year like the legislative priorities. Last year, Elugardo’s district priorities were housing, public safety, and jobs, especially for youth and elders. “Public safety is doing much better,” Elugardo said. “We’re embracing our neighbors and decreasing criminal behavior.” She said that housing is going pretty slowly, and it will remain a district and policy priority “for the foreseeable future,” Elugardo said.
Additionally, Elugardo has been working with teens at the Mildred Hailey Youth Center to assist some of the kids who have been involved with recent crime around the Jackson Square area, and has garnered community support for this cause as well.
“Based on conversations I’m having with you throughout the year, priorities can change,” Elugardo said. This year, she said she has decided to change the district priorities by replacing public safety with small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs. She said that public safety issues are now able to be handed off to people who can help out without much intervention from her office.
“When it comes to these [smaller] businesses, it’s important to not treat them like bigger corporations,” Elugardo said. “We need to make sure that small and mid-size businesses are thriving.” She said she has walked round with business owners in Mission Hill to familiarize herself with what the businesses have to offer the neighborhoods.
“In September of this year, provided I get elected, I want to begin drafting legislation in response to what I’ve heard from small business owners and allies,” she said.
On the transportation front, Elugardo said that legislators want to figure out how to make a gas tax less regressive so as to not worsen the problem of less wealthy people paying more than wealthy people. She said she also hopes to become more well-versed in the transportation sector. “We’d really like to get some interconnectivity going between our pedestrians, cyclists, and transit,” she said. “I want our district to be a model for how that could look at the city and state level.”
She said one of the places she would like to start with that concept is the E line, as it “has a real problem with safety, but it’s also not a good place for that line to end.”
Though the Shattuck Campus is not in her district (it’s in Rep. Liz Malia’s), she said she does stay informed on the matter and listen to everyone’s opinion about what should happen on the site.