Arroyo: Racism is public health crisis in Boston

Race has long created a divide between what should be and what is.

In Boston, that has translated into a struggle to achieve racial parity in exam schools. It has leaked into the travel of black and brown MBTA riders, who experience commutes that are 64 hours longer a year than their white counterparts.

Now, newly minted District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo wants to declare racism as a public health crisis in Boston.

On Wednesday Arroyo advanced a hearing order aimed at creating an independent office to assess whether ordinances and executive orders would exacerbate racial inequity in the city. The office would also hold a hearing to discuss health outcomes of people of color in Boston and the impact racism plays on those health outcomes.

“Declaring racism a public health crisis in Boston is appropriate given the overwhelming evidence racism plays in health inequity, that the majority of residents in the City of Boston are People of Color and that to effectively combat racism we need a large scale solution,” Arroyo wrote in the proposal.

He cited studies by the Boston Public Health Commission, which in 2008 identified racial inequity as a key driver in health disparities in Boston—including that residents of Roxbury have life spans nearly seven years shorter than those of predominantly white Back Bay.

“Every city policy can have a health effect on people,” Arroyo told Yawu Miller of the Bay State Banner. “When you look at data for Latinos and blacks, it’s documented that those outcomes are because of how we’re treated.”

“Much research has linked experiencing explicit and implicit racism to negative health outcomes and a higher death rate,” reads a more recent 2017 Health of Boston report from the Public Health Commission.

The office would make its findings public after assessing city policies and regulations, adding an extra factor to be considered—does a proposed policy increase, decrease, or have no impact on racial parity?

“I ran on a concept that you’ve got to name things and then shame them to change them,” Arroyo said to El Mundo Boston.

Arroyo said he hopes the office could operate similarly to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which issues cost estimates for legislative proposals, but doesn’t have the power to veto those.

Arroyo said the office could have flagged early on racial inequities at public exam schools and the Boston Police Department’s use of a drug test that produced false positives among African Americans. “If this office existed before, a lot of these kinds of policies wouldn’t have seen the light of day,” he said.

Arroyo, a former public defender, is of Puerto Rican descent and the first person of color to represent Hyde Park. If his proposal moves forward, Boston would follow Milwaukee, Madison, and Pittsburgh in declaring racism a health crisis. One major factor that played into Milwaukee’s decision is that it has the highest black infant mortality rate in the nation.

SARAH BETANCOURT

 

BEACON HILL

While offering reassurance on the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker urges all schools to cancel organized trips abroad. (CommonWealth)

The House tweaks its transportation revenue bill, and then passes it by a veto-proof margin. (CommonWealth) As the debate now shifts to the Senate, Lee Matsueda and Andrea Nyamekye urge lawmakers not to forget low-income fares. (CommonWealth)

With a $2 million infusion of cash, the state’s farm food benefits program is returned from hiatus early. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker files a $240 million economic development bill. (State House News Service) Baker announced the bill’s filing in Salem, where he hopes it could supercharge housing development. (The Salem News) Baker tucked his stalled Housing Choice bill into the big economic development package with the hope of pushing it through that way. (Boston Globe)

An abuse registry bill named for a Weymouth native was signed into law by Gov. Baker. (Patriot Ledger) 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appoints a new board to oversee marijuana issues in the city. (WBUR)

A $15 million five-story development, with retail on the first floor and four floors of housing above, seems headed for downtown Natick. (MetroWest Daily News)

ELECTIONS

The biggest question now looming over the Democratic presidential race: What will Elizabeth Warren do? (Boston Globe) If she drops out, whom will she endorse? (MassLive) Joan Vennochi says sexism played a role in Warren’s failure to take off, but it wasn’t the only reason she didn’t win over voters. (Boston Globe) Joanna Weiss says electability is the key issue. (WBUR)

Bernie Sanders’s argument that his path to the White House will come from an unprecedented voter turnout of young people and other disaffected Americans has not been supported by turnout in primary contests, where any surge of of voters seems to have benefited Joe Biden. (New York Times)

Gov. Charlie Baker failed to gain ground, and may have even lost some, in bruising elections to take control of the Massachusetts Republican Party. (CommonWealth)

Gannett looks at what comes next after Super Tuesday.

Joe Battenfeld says it was a bad Super Tuesday for a slew of Massachusetts Democrats who were not even on the ballot — the list of prominent pols, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Rep. Joe Kennedy, and Attorney General Maura Healey, who endorsed Elizabeth Warren. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A North Shore group is looking to grow the “blue economy” of marine-related jobs. (The Salem News)

Gloucester officials say postponing a planned Seafood Expo was the right move amid the coronavirus scare. (Gloucester Daily Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Baystate Medical Center announces its preparedness plans for coronavirus, as experts say a vaccine is at least a year away. (MassLive) The Telegram & Gazette runs the latest “what you need to know” about coronavirus. The country’s health care infrastructure is not ready for a coronavirus pandemic. (Washington Post)

A group of virus researchers still plan to travel to Boston for a convention, despite coronavirus. (State House News Service)

It is impossible to buy hand sanitizer in the stores anymore. (Eagle-Tribune)

Advocates are calling for an increase in state nursing home funding to avoid closures. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION 

Boston is exploring a better bike project on a dangerous stretch of Massachusetts Avenue between Melnea Cass and Columbia Road. (Dorchester Reporter)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State officials say they are laying the groundwork to get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. (Telegram & Gazette)

Cornell University professor Linda Shi maps out the share of property tax revenue in Massachusetts communities that would be under water after a six-foot rise in sea levels. (Boston Globe)

Some involved in the $143 million settlement with those affected by the Merrimack Valley gas explosions are questioning the large attorney fees. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A prisoner recently released from Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley says he was assaulted by prison officials in the wake of an inmate attack on guards. (CommonWealth)

MEDIA

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is trying to form a group to buy the Sacramento Bee. (Sacramento Bee)