Tuesday, May 28, 2024

This time last October, I was camped out with hundreds of other people from around New England at Occupy Boston. I chose to spend a month of my life in a tent city for the same reason that thousands of people across our country did: because I saw that our government was no longer working for the people. Like millions of Americans, I felt that my voice was no longer being heard. I felt like our government was working harder for banks and the most profitable corporations than for the rest of us. Occupy was a time to take a stand.

When I heard that my fellow occupier Mike Connolly was running for state representative, I was intrigued. It’s always been my firm belief that the ideas we put forth at Occupy could be advocated for at every level of government. The idea that an occupier was running was exciting to me, but the more I thought about the race between Connolly and Tim Toomey, the incumbent legislator from the 26th Middlesex District, the clearer the choice became.

On Nov. 6, I will be voting for Tim Toomey. Throughout his entire career, Toomey has embodied the fight for the 99 percent. He has put the working-class people of his legislative district before other interests and shows no signs of stopping.

How did I come to this conclusion? One look at Toomey’s record speaks volumes. He had an instrumental role in the creation of the Cambridge Health Alliance, a network of Community Hospitals that serve as a safety net for some of the poorest residents of the Greater Boston Area. He has been an outspoken opponent of the toxic Citizens United decision that unleashed a torrent of corporate money into our democratic process, at one point going door to door himself to get a question opposing Citizens United on the ballot. Every single year, without fail, Toomey is a stalwart defender of the voiceless, fighting for basic human services funding and taking politically courageous votes that stand up for the human rights of undocumented immigrants.

Although we could not depend on most legislators in this country to stand up for these things, for Toomey it is a simple matter of conscience. Where he truly shines, however, are the places where the work is not so obvious.

A closer look shows that Toomey has been fighting for years to make sure that the newly found prosperity of Kendall Square translates into prosperity for neighboring East Cambridge, one of the last truly working-class neighborhoods in Cambridge. His efforts have been instrumental in ensuring that development has enriched East Cambridge instead of destroying it. He has secured a $6 million open-space fund for the neighborhood from one of the most prosperous developers in the United States. This fund will be used to secure and maintain public green-space for a neighborhood that increasingly exists in the shadow of big business. As one paper put it, he is “Cambridge’s own Robin Hood,” trading in tights for a shirt and tie.

In Somerville, Toomey took a stand against Ikea to make sure public investment was not corrupted by corporate calculus. When it appeared that the legislature was going to grant a building permit extension to Ikea, which owned a parcel of land that has received millions in taxpayer-funded infrastructure improvements (and has been endlessly sitting on that parcel for more than a decade with no real plans to build), Toomey decided that enough was enough. He used his knowledge of the process to finesse a solution that kept Ikea honest. Rather than being allowed to forestall a publicly financed development at Assembly Square, Ikea was forced to either develop the property or move on because Tim Toomey had the courage to stand up to a $20 billion corporation — and the know-how to come out on top.

With so many things wrong with our government, I take great comfort and pride in the fact that Somerville and Cambridge are represented by a legislator who does things right. That’s why I will be voting for Tim Toomey this November, and it’s why I hope that you will consider voting for him, too.

Jason Potteiger, Cambridge