Posts Tagged ‘Sonia Chang-Diaz’

Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

After publishing a letter asking Whole Foods to help set up a housing fund to benefit Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang- Díaz has followed up with a second letter, which tries to clarify her positions about her initial letter. The first letter was criticized by many constituents, leading some to create a Facebook page that wants her voted out of office.

Here is the letter she sent us yesterday:

May 12, 2011

Julio Ricardo Varela

Re: Whole Foods in Hyde Square, Jamaica Plain

Dear Julio Ricardo:

Thank you for contacting me with your views regarding Whole Foods Market’s entry into Hyde Square in Jamaica Plain. I appreciate your taking the time to participate in this debate about our neighborhood and to share your perspective with me.

Since Whole Foods announced its decision to open a store in Jamaica Plain, my staff and I have done our best to understand the different points of view on this issue. We met with representatives from Whole Foods; attended many community meetings; spoke with former employees of Hi-Lo, members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, and staff at the JPNDC and local Main Street organizations; and read hundreds of letters and emails from JP residents.

As many residents expressed, there are several benefits to bringing Whole Foods to JP. The store would be a source of new, good-paying jobs. This is no small thing for the workers and families who will be touched by employment, especially at a time of still-fragile recovery for our economy. Whole Foods would also increase access to healthy foods at a time when other socio-economically diverse neighborhoods are suffering negative health consequences due to a lack of healthy options. It would also increase quality of life for residents who want Whole Foods’ offerings in JP.

Yet, others pointed out that the presence of Whole Foods will likely rapidly and substantially raise property values in the surrounding neighborhood. Experiences in similar neighborhoods around the country strongly suggest this is true (e.g. Washington Post 7/22/06; Fortune Magazine 7/12/07).Increasing property values in our community is usually a good thing. Indeed, it’s something every home owner in JP—low- or high-income, white, brown, or black—surely hopes for. But, if property taxes and rents shoot up faster than people’s incomes can keep up with, we risk displacing long-time JP families and their neighbors, both renters and home-owners.

This rapid displacement is a high price to pay. That’s why I believe, with a heavy heart, that the disadvantages of Whole Foods’ arrival in JP outweigh the advantages.

To be clear, however, my role as State Senator does not afford me the power to prevent the lease of property between private parties—nor should it. A new group of residents, the JP Neighborhood Council Ad-Hoc Committee, has been charged with helping the community collectively respond to this situation in a way that respects and includes residents on all sides of this issue. Whole Foods has said they strive to be a good community partner, and as such, I hope they will be responsive to the requests of the Ad-Hoc Committee and the larger community.

Recently, I released a letter offering two ideas into the mix of those the JPNC Ad-Hoc Committee will likely consider as they begin the process of finding a compromise. In the letter, I proposed that Whole Foods commit to hiring local residents for a specific percentage of jobs in their new JP location, and work with community partners to create a housing trust to help prevent the displacement of low-income families in the neighborhood.

As always, I welcome your feedback on my position on this issue or any other affecting our neighborhoods.

Thank you, again, for taking the time to reach out to me. Your advocacy helps bring about better public policy in our district neighborhoods and in the Commonwealth.  Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me or my Senior Policy Aide and JP Liaison, Nika Elugardo, at (617) 722-1673 or nika.elugardo@masenate.gov.


Sonia Chang-Díaz
State Senator
Second Suffolk District

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The following statement was sent to us from Laura Derba, President of North Atlantic region of Whole Foods. Derba was sent the following questions, but instead issued the statement. Here are the questions we asked:

  • When do you expect the new store to open?
  • What do you think of the two public letters written to the JP Neighborhood Council by Senator Chang-Díaz and Councillor Arroyo? Do you agree with all the recommendations they mention?
  • Will Whole Foods guarantee that cultural food staples from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other countries of Latin America be stocked in the Hyde Square store?
  • Is Whole Foods committed to the development of a more robust Latin Quarter in Hyde Square? If so, what plans do you have to make this is a reality?
  • How many ex-Hi Lo employees have you hired to work in other Whole Food Locations? How many positions do you expect to have open in the Hyde Square location?

Here is what we received:

We are aware of the avid discussion in the community and online regarding the recent letters issued by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and City Councilor Felix Arroyo to the Ad-Hoc Committee on Whole Foods of the JP Neighborhood Council, and we genuinely appreciate the passionate interest. It’s exciting to be a part of a community that cares so much about what is happening in their neighborhood and we look forward to building positive partnerships when we open this fall.

We look forward to introducing ourselves to the neighborhood later this month at our first Town Hall meeting where we hope we can underscore our commitment to the community—that we are active community partners on a daily basis. From 5 % Days, food donations, event and sporting team sponsorships and community clean up days with Team Members, we strive to support the local community, economy and businesses. Giving back, acting as trusted partner and being a good neighbor supports our core values as a company and we look forward to proving ourselves as a positive community partner to JP residents. I’ll be providing additional information including the date of our Town Hall meeting in my second letter to the community, which will go out next week.

–Laura Derba, President, Whole Foods Market

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What was originally a local neighborhood issue, has now become a hot political potato for residents of Jamaica Plain in Boston. When The Boston Herald published the news in January that a new Whole Foods would be replacing the revered Latino Hi-Lo supermarket, few would have thought that it would cause a hornet’s nest. And that controversy, which at times has reached a level of anger and frustration, took another turn yesterday on Facebook, where a new site to fire Massachusetts state senator Sonia Chang-Díaz was formed.

Called FIRE SONIA CHANG-DIAZ, the page lists its mission as follows:

The ‘Fire Sonia Chang-Diaz’ page was created to serve as platform for residents of the Second Suffolk Massachusetts State Senate District to voice their opposition against State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and her recent anti-business statements.We are a multicultural, intergenerational group of 2nd Suffolk residents and natives who care deeply about the future of the neighborhood and who want to be able to live, work, and raise families here. We are working to stop State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz from creating an anti-business climate in the 2nd Suffolk District. We are not against Sonia Chang-Diaz or anyone who supports her; we are against an anti-business climate in the 2nd Suffolk District.

This powerful campaign is solely the result of the volunteer effort of a grassroots group of folks with no organizational budget or funding from outside organizations, but with limitless passion for what makes a great business community.

The site has 59 LIKES as of this morning, and makes mention of the fact that Senator Chang-Diaz’s public letter to the JP Neighborhood Council was pulled down from her main website.

Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

Other comments on the Facebook page expressed anger towards the senator’s position:

“Well, Sonia Chang you might have removed the letter from your web page.. But it’s everywhere, DEMANDING… your political demise. I’m sure voters will remember this”

“Thanks to everyone who has “Liked” this page. We have some great momentum behind us now! It is interesting to note that Sen. Chang-Diaz’s letter to the JPNC regarding Whole Foods is absent from the senators website. She’s quick to post that the Phoenix named her Boston’s Best Local Politician however; there’s no mention of firestorm she stepped into with her position on Whole Foods. Keep spreading the word!”

“Like a true politician, throw the stone and hide the hand. Well we and many others know the truth. We should demand an explanation…. If not an apology from her…”

“JP residents need to start looking NOW for a serious candidate to run against this woman. She does not represent the majority by any means.”

“Thanks for the “Likes” everyone. Were only just getting started. Sen. Chang-Diaz may be breathing a sigh of relief knowing that Osama Bin Laden is going to dominate the news cycle for the days to come but, voters have long memories and we are not going to forget the statements our state senator has made. Keep spreading the word!!!”

“I don’t live in JP but what she’s doing is ridiculous. She is just like all the other politicians on Beacon Hill. Useless.”

“I had previously always been a fan of Sonia Chang-Diaz, but this populist, nonsensical approach is paramount to her asking for payoffs to “protect” a business. Kinda like the mob. And I am a member of the ad-hoc committee.”

“What a sad sad state of affairs. Why not address crime, safety and education?”

“Senator Chang-Diaz demands fund or business can’t open in JP. Someone isn’t in touch with its constituency.”

We did contact the Senator’s office this morning to get a statement, but they have not responded yet. Once we get a statement, we will share.

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