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Brockton residents press Healey for state aid

Housing, child care, youth services top list of needs

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Brockton residents press Healey for state aid
Attorney General Maura Healey chats with city councilors Rita Mendes and Moises Rodrigues during a visit to the Cape Verdean Association of Brockton. BANNER PHOTO

As Attorney General Maura Healey walked through the front door of the Cape Verdean Association of Brockton on Monday, she was greeted by the association’s executive director, City Councilor and former interim Mayor Moises Rodrigues.

“We’re hoping you come back next time not as the AG, but as the G,” he said, a tacit endorsement of Healey’s candidacy for governor.

Rodrigues then led Healey around the function room, introducing her to local residents, activists and other elected officials.

Yves Cajuste told Healey how he and 160 other business owners banded together to form the Greater Brockton Minority Business Association, applied for an SBA grant and launched last month.

“So what are you doing?” Healey asked.

“The purpose is to organize,” Cajuste said, explaining that few Brockton-area businesses owned by Black, Cape Verdean, Haitian and Latino proprietors were able to take advantage of the federal Payroll Protection Program or other aid during the pandemic shutdowns.

Attorney General Maura Healey greets people gathered at the Cape Verdean Association of Brockton. BANNER PHOTO

“The problem is a lack of information,” he said.

The organization holds trainings for businesses, helping them develop business plans and improve their web presence and take other measures that can improve their chances of securing loans.

Moving along, Healey chatted with restaurateurs, hairdressers and other business workers. Julian Logan asked Healey pointed questions about her ability to execute on her campaign promises.

Healey, who played point guard for Harvard’s basketball team, had a ready answer.

“The thing about being a point guard is getting people to collaborate,” she said. “The greatest statistic for point guards is not points. It’s assists. That’s my approach.”

She gave a good answer, Logan said after speaking with Healey.

Logan and other Brockton residents at the meeting expressed concern about business assistance. They also aired concerns about youth services, housing affordability, jobs and resources for immigrants.

The city of 105,000 is majority people of color, with more than 10,000 people identifying as Cape Verdean and a growing Haitian population. In the atrium of Cape Verdean Association’s building hang flags from Puerto Rico, Angola, Portugal, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other countries represented by the immigrants the nonprofit serves.

An influx of African American, Haitian, Cape Verdean and Latino people fleeing Boston’s high rents and home prices has in recent years put strain on the city’s housing stock, causing some Brockton residents to move south to lower-income communities such as New Bedford and Fall River, according to Rodrigues.

Rodrigues said what Brockton needs most is increased state aid for housing assistance and youth programming. Nearly half of the city’s $493 million budget comes from state aid, but all but $24 million in that aid goes to the city’s schools.

“We did well with school funding this year,” he said. “Our problem goes beyond our schools. Our students get out at 3 p.m. What do they do from 3-7? Afterschool programs, summer programs — that’s where we’re seeing the real problem.”

In a short address, Healey acknowledged that city residents are struggling with housing, youth programming, business assistance and child care. She asked residents for their ideas on how to meet the city’s needs.

Healey made no promises to the Brockton residents. She outlined no policies she would champion to help Brockton residents face their challenges. In fact, her campaign so far has said nothing about policy. In contrast, Democratic rival state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz has released a raft of progressive policy prescriptions in areas including education, racial justice, transportation, gender equality and voting rights.

“We are going to bring people together so that Massachusetts comes back stronger than ever,” reads one of the few sections of text on Healey’s campaign website.

In person, Healey delivered pretty much the same line.

“I know right now there are a lot of challenges, but I see in this time a lot of opportunity,” Healey told the Brockton residents. “A lot of opportunity. I know we can do it. We’ll do it a Brockton way, which is by everybody coming together.”

Brockton, Cape Verdeans, immigration, Maura Healey