“No matter what happens I will have had a role in shifting the conversation and making affordable housing be the big issue in this campaign,” says Elizabeth Weinbloom. She snuck onto Tuesday’s ballot with a sliver margin of 20 votes in September. With no experience in politics, and as a younger woman who rents, her election would certainly shake up of the status quo—and that’s what she wants. She’s up against the establishment candidate, Lance Davis, whose endorsements come from aldermen, current and former mayors of Somerville, all the way up to State Rep. Denise Provost. Scout sat down with the underdog candidate to hear what she had to say:
It’s a totally different thing, being in a race with four people versus a race with two people. I’m sort of making this all up as I go along, I’ve never run for office before, and it turns out I need to make it up again! It’s a different thing, instead of trying to distinguish myself in a group of four, it’s now, why me versus the other guy. As I’ve gotten back to canvassing and being at the doors I really had to redo my entire script. I got used to saying, “And I’m the only woman, and I’m the only renter. I’m the only this, I’m the only that.” … Now it has to be down to more specific things, like policies, which is great, I’m really glad of that.
…on the people she’s trying to reach:
If I knock on someone’s door, all I need to say is “affordable housing,” and their eyes light up, and everyone has something they need to say about it. Every once in a while there’s someone who just purchased a $1.2 million house and are very happy to have their property values continue to rise and protect their investment. Those people aren’t going to vote for me. And that’s cool. I don’t need to appeal to everyone.
I’m really hoping to increase representation and feelings of participation for people who are generally left out of local government, which is to say: renters, students, lower income folks. A part of it local government doesn’t reach out to young people, and that sort of creates a cycle of being disengaged and somewhat disenfranchised.
…on her competitor’s positions:
It’s really hard to disagree with stuff at the local level, and that’s a difficulty of campaigning. Everyone thinks the streets should be safer. Everyone thinks that everyone should be able to afford their home. There’s some disagreement when it comes to NIMBY issues of development, but other than that it’s not the kind of head bashing you get at the national level.
…on housing affordability:
What I want to bring to the table in terms of housing affordability is a focus on it. Many of the current aldermen already have the same beliefs as me in terms of what are the things we should be doing. It’s all coming from the sustainable neighborhoods task force that has been tasked with giving proposals to the city in terms of what they can do about housing affordability, so there’s this tailor-made set of proposals for Somerville that a lot of the aldermen, the ones I’ve spoken to, think, yup, those all sound great. But it’s one of 17 things that they doing, and it’s not very important to their constituency.
This is my top issue. Everything else spills out from housing costs. Issues with the schools, with development. Issues with small businesses versus chain businesses, with public transportation. It all folds with the housing affordability question. You kind of have nothing else if you don’t have housing that people can afford to live in.