By Alison Kuznitz
State Sen. Diana DiZoglio unveiled a social justice plan Thursday to disrupt the status quo on Beacon Hill and shift the balance of power back to working people in marginalized communities across Massachusetts in her bid for state auditor.
DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, leaned heavily into her childhood experience of seeing “unfair policies” impacting underserved communities — and if elected state auditor, she signaled state government would no longer falter in actualizing “progressive promises.”
“I’ll use the auditor’s office to examine our state’s contract and procurement processes to ensure engagement in fair treatment for women, veteran, LGBTQ and minority-owned businesses,” DiZoglio said during a virtual press conference Thursday afternoon. “As your next state auditor, I’ll tell you if your taxpayer money is being spent equitably and hold the state government accountable to modernize its operations in the interests of justice and fairness.”
Massachusetts “consistently” fails to reach diversity, equity and inclusion goals for state contracting, DiZoglio said. She cited 2020 data in which Massachusetts spent $4.8 billion on contracts, but only $23 million was award to Black- or Hispanic-owned businesses. From 1998 to 2018, DiZoglio said the percentage of state contracts for minority-owned business decreased by 24%.
“Inability to access a contract is one of the many challenges faced by minority entrepreneurs and our government needs to actually enforce diversity goals it adopts,” DiZoglio said. “When this does not occur, our office will publicize data to ensure all residents of the commonwealth know how and where we’re failing to meet our DEI goals.”
DiZoglio listed a series of audits that would fall under her comprehensive plan, including delving into the “equitable implementation” of legalized cannabis, implicit bias training for Massachusetts police and audits of the Department of Early Education and Care.
She’d also investigate whether underserved communities are benefitting from the Mass Save energy program and if the commonwealth is meeting its climate goals.
That entails scrutiny of the Department of Public Utilities, with DiZoglio saying it is “of the utmost importance” that the next administration is held accountable for reaching climate and emissions goals. DiZoglio said she wants to shine a light on some “heel dragging” she’s heard about at the department.
DiZoglio vowed to advocate for “rigorous oversight” of corporate tax breaks, as well.
“Reporting on a problem is only part of accountability,” DiZoglio said of her intent to revisit previous state audits and commission recommendations, including heightened suicide risks for LGBTQ youth and underinvestment in affordable child care.
“The most important part is following through and working to turn the office’s reports into systemic change — and that work needs to be done, and the outcomes need to be reported to the public, so they know what their public officials are doing and hold them accountable for their actions or inactions,” DiZoglio continued.
Massport relies on a 25-point diversity, equity and inclusion criteria with requests for proposals, such as equity participation and supplier diversity. DiZoglio said she would use that model to benchmark other state agencies and identify where equity gaps exist.
DiZoglio, a former state representative and chief of staff for Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts faces transportation advocate Chris Dempsey in the state auditor race. Dempsey earlier this month released his plan for a comprehensive audit of the Massachusetts State Police, with 15 target areas meant to restore public trust following the overtime scandal and other controversies.
His audit would scrutinize administrative handling of payroll and support for state troopers, including for their physical and emotional health. Dempsey would also review allegations of racial profiling and discrimination among State Police troopers.
A recent poll from MassINC Polling Group found three-quarters of registered voters are undecided about their preferred candidate for state auditor. Meanwhile, 12% of people support Dempsey, with DiZoglio leading by a single percentage point.
During her virtual press conference Thursday, DiZoglio also rolled out endorsements from state Sens. Julian Cyr, Adam Gomez and Lydia Edwards.
“She comes from a district that’s so fairly diverse that she integrated and is fluid in many different languages, and is going to bring that kind of cultural awareness to the auditor’s seat and to the state of Massachusetts residents,” Gomez said. “It gives me great pride and great honor to say that I stand alongside her — I am with her, and she is a candidate for people of color.”
Edwards described the role of state auditor as the bringer of trust and transparency to state government.
“That’s what Diana will do, but she will do it in a way that working people, working families really believe that she is talking to them,” Edwards said. “All of us want to know with inflation, with the amount of prices that are going up on our gas or groceries, ‘Where the hell are our tax dollars going?’ She’s going to tell us where — where are we getting a return on our investment and where we are not.”
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