Danyal Najimi is a candidate for Ward 5 City Councillor.
These are Danyal Najimi’s answers to questions that Malden Votes sent to every candidate. They have not been edited or abridged, only formatted for readability. Here is the PDF version of this document.
What is your vision for Malden?
I want to see Malden with clean safe drinking water for everyone, a Malden where we can all afford to live and share in the benefits of new economic growth, where biking and public transit are safe and convenient means of commuting, where you can find great jobs in your neighborhood, where events and activities are well publicized and people feel connected to their community, and where trash services don’t leave anything on the curb.
What experiences have prepared you to serve on the city council?
As a Career Coach at the nonprofit Somerville Community Corporation, I have helped hundreds of people enter or re-enter the workforce, or move from minimum wage jobs to careers that double their income and allow them to pursue their dreams. In my line of work I have become an expert listener- which I believe is an essential quality to serving the public. The goals and agenda that I promote are not my own- they are the voices of the community I represent.
I am also an experienced leader, and I have run successful programs for children, youth, and adults. I have organized community events that brought together hundreds of people, and built relationships with local employers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, city government, and educational institutions. In my work as a freelance interpreter I have negotiated contracts and hired, trained, and managed teams. I am an expert at getting things done! I focus on setting and prioritizing goals, and then follow them through to completion. When there are hurdles in the way, I think outside the box to come up with solutions that haven’t been tried yet.
Over the past four years, what actions of the city council did you most support or oppose, and why?
I am most opposed to the building moratorium. Our city and our region are going through a housing crisis, and if we care about the people who live here, we need to do something about it. The simplest step we can take is to make it easy to build housing by removing restrictions on number of units, parking requirements etc. We should also make it easy for homeowners to add in-law apartments in their properties- a win-win that can generate income for small property owners while increasing the housing supply and thus reducing rent prices. I am most supportive of the Mayor’s recent proposal to end the Pay as you Throw trash collection system. The new proposal is cost neutral, will make our neighborhoods cleaner and better places to live, will save folks the trouble of buying the blue bags, and will save tons of recycling from going to the dump for being contaminated with non-recyclable trash.
Which social issues do you care about, and why? How would you advocate for those issues?
The regional housing crisis is one of the issues that I want to boldly face. We know price is the result of supply and demand. From the supply side, we can reduce regulations on building to make it as easy as possible. How’s this for a win-win- allow homeowners more freedom to develop their own property and add units that can generate them income, while bringing down rental prices. Malden can’t solve this alone, so we’ll need to work with neighboring towns to promote similar policies as much as possible. The tenant rally on Park St brought to my attention the danger of monopolies on housing by big developers like United Properties- we can’t let that happen, or they can jack up prices as much as they want. We should be proactive in inviting ethical developers to our community, and supporting small local property owners to keep what they have, or keep it in the community. Why is the demand so high? My guess is that transportation plays a big role- people need to live where they can get to work, and only the few cities around Boston have anything resembling adequate public transportation.
We need to work at the regional level to expand our public transportation beyond Malden to Melrose, Saugus, Lynn, so that housing demand becomes spread more evenly in the region. Which brings me to transportation. I’m really happy with the bike to the sea in my neighborhood, and I’d like to see more viable and safe bike routes that are separate from roads and have right of way at intersections. We should extend such routes to the common destinations of Malden commuters. Let’s innovate in public transportation- Let’s innovate in public transportation. Lyft and Uber have become popular but are expensive and increase traffic. We must collect data on our commuter’s needs and add rush hour shuttles to improve public access to key locations. Once a car-less lifestyle is more convenient, people won’t need as many driveways, which will also make building housing easier.
Food. As a non-driver, Stop&Shop is all I have, and we need more. There used to be a farmers market before the construction, which is awesome, but pricey and wasn’t at a convenient timing for a lot of working people. I’d like to see something like Haymarket- cheap, good quality produce once a week at a time when lots of people can go shopping, ideally in or near Malden’s downtown. It could employ a lot of people, including folks who for various reasons need to work for cash.
Civic engagement and community- My unique contribution here is that I speak almost all of the major languages of Malden and Ward 5 (I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi/Urdu, and taught myself Haitian Creole over the last two years. I’m working on some Mandarin, but not there yet). I support language access and interpretation services at all levels of city activity, and support giving local voting rights to non-citizens, which will be sure to increase civic engagement hugely.
What concrete steps can Malden make to address our environmental challenges, whether global or local?
The environment: Pay as you buy trash bags may have been well-intentioned, but were a disaster and brought trash, rats, and other vermin. I’m pleased to see that Mayor Gary has come with a very decent plan to get rid of this unpopular measure. I also think we need more pest-proof trash receptacles at busy bus stops and areas with high foot traffic, and I know businesses in my area on Salem St would appreciate it. How then can we reduce waste? Let’s look at where it comes from. Can we work with businesses to transition to less packaging, and more stuff that can be recycled or composted? Can we get a composting program in Malden (and do it in a way that doesn’t attract rats and vermin, and is financially responsible?)
Global warming- I already talked about how to incentivize less driving, another way is to get houses insulated well! I think MassSave does this, and we could work to build awareness about it among homeowners and tenants alike, and perhaps help to subsidize remaining costs. Also should look at commercial and industrial emissions and see how to reduce them in smart ways. Let’s incentivize solar panels as a source of renewable energy that could also reduce energy costs for families! Lead in the water: it’s not a topic that gets people excited, unless they know how harmful it is! We ought to think about long term affects on health especially children. Once we think like this, it becomes imperative to remove the lead asap. The city ought to take this cost on for both public and private portions of the pipes, since it is a health emergency and the cost of doing nothing is far, far, greater.
Malden is a diverse city with many marginalized communities. What initiatives would you implement to support these communities?
One of the things I love about Malden is how diverse we are (in every meaning of the word)! Many of our residents are not US citizens yet, and I would like to invite them to participate in our democracy my giving them voting rights at the local level. I don’t want anyone in our city to feel marginalized, no matter who they are- we are one community. I support having translation and interpretation services available for our residents to access city services (the excellent language services of Cambridge Health Alliance are based out of our city and could be a potential partner for providing citywide language services at an affordable rate!) Freedom to practice any or no religion is a cornerstone of our democracy, and I support the rights of all our faith communities to congregate and build their places of worship.
We in city council must make sure that bureaucratic red tape isn’t being used to selectively hinder the Muslim community from building a mosque. I am glad to say that as a person of color, I have never experienced any form of bigotry in Malden, and on the contrary folks in my neighborhood of all races and backgrounds get along. I will work to make sure everyone feels as welcome as I have in this community.
How will you address Malden’s affordable housing crisis?
Remove moratorium and parking space requirements that make it difficult to build, invite ethical / community oriented housing developers into Malden, use all of our leverage to fight exploitative monopolies on the housing market, and work with neighboring cities to improve transportation beyond Malden.
What are your long term plans for expanding tax revenue?
Investing in our people- when our people thrive, and have better jobs and more income, they will be paying more taxes. That’s why I support spending money to get the lead out of our pipes, a short-term investment with long term returns in the health and productivity of our community. That’s why I support inviting businesses to Malden that are committed to investing in our local workforce through local hiring, competitive wages, and opportunities for learning and career growth. That’s why I support using our education budget to fund our public schools that are committed to serving all of Malden’s children and youth, many of whom will grow up to be the entrepreneurs and innovators of tomorrow and contribute to our city’s prosperity.
Would you implement any changes around our city’s parking systems?
I would remove parking space requirements for new building developments. I don’t favor resident parking laws- they have them in Somerville and it is very difficult to park anywhere, which means your friends from out of town could never visit you. I want to make biking and public transport easier, but not penalize drivers.
Some infrastructure challenges that face our city are degraded roads, lead pipes, and gas leaks. What initiatives would you implement to address these issues?
First of all, I will make sure all my constituents know how to get in touch with me so that they can report infrastructure issues in their neighborhoods. My phone number and email address will be publicly available, and anyone can reach out to me in whatever language they speak. I am committed to responding promptly and taking all residents’ concerns seriously. I support initiatives to educate all of us about the lead pipe issues, and investing maximum resources to eradicating this problem in a timely manner.
What do you think should be done with the Malden hospital site?
The Malden hospital site is a great opportunity to build more housing, along with green space, and biking/walking trails.
Now that Massachusetts has legalized recreational marijuana, would you encourage dispensaries in Malden? What would you do with the revenue?
Sale and consumption of marijuana is an issue of personal freedom, and I neither will neither encourage or hinder dispensaries from opening in our city. I do however want to make sure that Malden residents get their fair share of the business and employment opportunities, and will work to support local business owners who care about our community. The revenue can be used to provide services to those struggling with addiction, or even to contribute to clearing the lead out of our water.
What is your vision for promoting civic engagement and increasing voter turnout in our city?
1. Give the vote to non-citizens!
2. During my campaign I have set a goal of registering 200 new voters in Ward 5! Anyone who is interested in helping, please email me at Danyal.Najmi@gmail.com.
How can we increase citizen engagement in city council meetings?
Make sure they know when and where they are happening! Publicize widely on the city website in a way that is easily accessible. Announce when particular issues are being discussed, and have robust outreach in our neighborhoods and communities. Involve residents in issues that concern them by reaching out directly to schools, houses of worship, and word of mouth.
Everyone grows up holding personal biases. Please share an anecdote about a time that your own biases were confronted, and how you responded.
I used to volunteer for Big Brothers, and my “Little” was very fond of comics and superheroes, and his favorite place was the comic shop. In those days I had a low opinion of such places, and found the images and characters displayed there grotesque and violent. I also had certain prejudice or stereotypes about the kinds of people who worked / hung out there, and their appearances (piercings etc.) Anyway after spending time there with my Little I realized how wrong I was. The folks I met there were super nice and helpful and not scary at all, and I’d hear them discussing comics like literature in great intellectual depth, and I gained a lot of respect for them! And eventually I got sucked into it myself to some extent. Great question! I probably have lots of other examples, but this is what came to mind!
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