East Boston Progressive Network — Questionnaire
Who we are: A group of active East Boston residents working together to organize our community around progressive issues and values.
Goal: To put candidates on the record regarding their views and values, also, to establish differences among the candidates on issues we care about with targeted, specific questions.
New developments often require political support (including that of our state representative) to secure zoning and permitting approvals. The City of Boston has an inclusionary housing requirement for new developments which requires developers of ten units or more to make 13% of the units affordable to households earning between 70% and 100% of the Boston Area Median Income (AMI). There is also a pay-out option for developers who choose to pay into a fund so that the units can be created elsewhere in the City.
- Do you believe that the current inclusionary zoning policy should be expanded, reduced, or kept the same? If you would like to change the policy, please describe what you would do to make that happen?
- Please elaborate and be specific in your goals and targets for maintaining affordability in East Boston; or if you intend to take a hands-off approach, please explain.
I support in principle the inclusionary zoning policy and will continue to push the City of Boston for transparency in how the funds are recovered and deployed in our neighborhoods. For developments of greater than 100 units, we should explore increasing the affordable requirement above the current threshold. I would also ensure that any funds derived from East Boston developments are reinvested in our neighborhood and not disbursed elsewhere.
Development in East Boston is proceeding at an ever-quickening pace without the benefit of an updated master plan. Of chief concern to existing residents are new, large-scale projects which either trigger Article 80 review (+50,000 sf) or do not conform to existing zoning regulations (“as-of-right”). Either threshold mandates that a project be presented to the governing neighborhood association for review.
- Would you, as a candidate, commit to not issuing a statement either in favor or against these types of projects before the governing neighborhood association has reached a formal decision–and once reached, would you commit to adopting that position?
- If a project falls within East Boston but outside the boundaries of the existing Neighborhood Associations, would you commit to a public process for residents to learn about the project, its benefits and impacts, and voice their concerns/opinions?
- If multiple large-scale projects are proceeding within a compact area, how would you bring proponents together to jointly fund comprehensive, cumulative, and publicly accessible studies of anticipated impacts (traffic, noise, etc.) and possible shared public benefits/amenities?
With respect to development, I will seek to craft a position that weighs the merits of the particular proposal and is representative of the views of the community. I will continue to promote community involvement in local neighborhood associations and exhort those associations to be more inclusive including providing family-friendly timing for meetings and translation services. The BRA should be a source of resources for making meetings more inclusive and respective of the diversity in our neighborhood.
I will also require developers to submit proposals that are informed by developments going on around them and to engage residents and City officials in a broader discussion of how their project will impact East Boston especially in regards to creating local jobs; preserving the environment; promoting transit oriented development; and having an open and transparent process worthy of our diverse, working class neighborhood.
We’ve seen this winter how important transportation infrastructure is to the stability and vitality of the Commonwealth. MBTA chairwoman Beverly Scott took the heat for the T’s poor performance during recent snowstorms, but she in turn blamed a lack of funding for the T, as well as leftover debt from the Big Dig project, as the root cause of the system’s failures.
- What do you see as the most effective strategies for increasing funding for transportation in general and for the T specifically? Please cite specific policy / revenue raising steps that can be taken.
I have endorsed former Transportation Secretary Jim Aloisi’s plan for reviving the MBTA in the short and medium term. In particular, I believe the state must relieve the MBTA of debt obligations where possible and reinvest recovered revenues in infrastructure/equipment improvements. In the long term, my hope is that the Governor’s Commission will provide a clear picture of what it will cost to bring the MBTA to first world standards and then we should have a discussion of how to pay for the services including contemplating new revenue streams. Public transit is too important to the health of our economy and environment to remain underinvested and flailing.
- Federal money has already been designated for ferry service to East Boston, and the state legislature has mandated the design and construction of a Red-Blue connector. As our state representative, what will you do to move these critical transit projects forward?
I worked diligently as Chief of Staff to Rep. Carlo Basile to remain in contact with our federal representation and the City of Boston to promote ferry transit and the Red-Blue connector. As Representative, I will remain a staunch advocate for both projects and make sure the federal, state, and local governments deliver on their promises to our residents.
- The Massachusetts Trust Act would ensure that state law enforcement resources, facilities, and personnel are not being used to enforce federal immigration law, and would prevent non-citizens from being held on federal immigration hold requests. The Trust Act did not pass last year, but has already been refiled for the 2015 legislative session. If elected, would you actively work to support the passage of this bill?
Yes. As a child of an immigrant, I know firsthand the struggles of becoming integrated in this country. I will be a strong advocate of the Trust Act as well as other measures to support our immigrant residents.
- We commend all of the Democratic contenders for this seat for coming out in support of making driver’s licenses available to all Massachusetts residents, without regard to federal immigration status. With this in mind: Thousands of East Boston residents are expected to benefit from President Obama’s executive order last November if and when the temporary injunction imposed on February 17th is lifted. Do you support his executive order, and what do you think it means for East Boston?
I support the President’s Executive Order and will continue to be an advocate for Immigration Reform. I think the Order will improve the life of many local residents who are currently undocumented and will increase economic activity and wages as undocumented workers receive legal status to work. I will commit to providing state resources to provide trusted legal services support to help residents applying for this new status.
Boston 2024 is an unelected, unaccountable organization which appears to be positioned to have a significant influence over the City and the Commonwealth’s priorities for the next nine years if Boston is selected for the 2024 Summer Games. East Boston may have special reason to be concerned. In November 2013, East Boston residents voted against a casino at Suffolk Downs. The results of this historic vote and the voice of the people was largely ignored by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Given these recent events and that the possibility of an Olympics stadium in East Boston, we may bear a disproportionate amount of the burden from the airport as well as the potential use of Suffolk Downs.
- Recently Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim has proposed the following non-binding ballot questions for a citywide referendum. Very briefly: As a resident of Boston, how would you vote on each of the following, and why?
- Should Boston host the 2024 Summer Olympic & Paralympic Games (the “Games”)?
- If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City commit any public money to support the Games?
- If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City make any financial guarantees to cover cost overruns for the Games?
- If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City use its power of eminent domain to take private land on behalf of the Games?
With respect to the Olympics, I strongly support a public referendum and will only support the City’s proposal if our community endorses it. I believe that the Olympics can provide an opportunity for planning and job creation but I don’t want resources squandered on single use infrastructure such as occurred in Athens, Greece and Atlanta.
With respect to Suffolk Downs, any development there must be approved by the community and should take into account creating jobs; preserving the environment; promoting transit oriented development; and having an open, transparent process.
- Frederick Law Olmsted’s Wood Island Park was one of the only “active” parks he ever designed. Piers Park was given to East Boston in mitigation for the loss of Wood Island, but the designated “active” portion (Phase II) has been stalled for nearly two decades with no reason to believe that it will be funded or built in the near future. What will you do to ensure complete funding and construction of Piers Park Phase II?
I will continue to be an advocate for Piers Park Phase II. I have proposed using moneys from the annual MassPort payment in lieu of taxes to the City of Boston ($18 million for 2015) for a property tax abatement to East Boston residents. We can also use part of that revenue stream to fund Piers Park Phase II.
- Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert Deleo previously supported term limits for his office, but recently reversed his stance as his own term was nearing its end and pushed through a change to the House rules which eliminated them. The Massachusetts legislature has one of the most closed-door lawmaking processes in the nation, and the conversation surrounding this controversial rule change was no exception.
- Do you agree that this position should not be subject to term limits?
- What will you do to directly encourage open voting in one of the least transparent legislatures in the country? How will you commit to publishing your vote on each and every decision that you make in the State House?
With respect to term limits, I do not support limits on leadership positions as I believe limiting them could decrease legislative expertise (with senior members departing once their positions are up) and encourage the dysfunction seen in Washington DC, where House Republicans famously term limited their leadership roles and have created a generation of chairmen less in tune with governing and more likely to engage in their pet projects that will benefit them post legislative experience (in my Democrat opinion…).
I do support transparency in the House and am alarmed about the lack of information the public gets about House activities. In my own capacity, I will follow the model of my friend City Councilor Michelle Wu who regularly publicizes her votes and activities via email. I will do the same for my constituents in East Boston and will support legislative measures to open up the House process to public scrutiny.
- Do you feel that the most recent Massport Logan Airport Health study’s methodology and findings were consistent with what was ordered by the legislature? If so, why? If not, what would you do to ensure a comprehensive study that addressed its deficiencies? Regardless of your answer to this question, what would you propose to begin to address the known health issues raised by the study?
I believe the Health Study was too little too late. The Department of Public Health should put the Port Authority in an “environmental receivership” that will have the DPH Bureau of Environmental Health members regularly monitoring MassPort’s health effects until the effects drop below accepted levels. MassPort should be required to fund that oversight. MassPort should also be required to increase their contributions to local health centers to address COPD and asthma; switch their tarmac operations vehicles to natural gas or electric power; and adopt a permanent regime of unannounced emissions checks for all equipment and vehicles.
- Massachusetts has made significant strides in offering affordable health coverage to low and middle income residents. As East Boston’s state representative, how would you make sure that MassHealth and other subsidized health care programs remain affordable for consumers? How will you commit to ensuring that there are no service cuts to the MassHealth program or changes that would negatively impact eligibility and access to health care for MassHealth members?
I serve on the Board of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, a provider of health services to over 75,000 patients the majority of whom are supported by MassHealth or the Health Safety Net (“HSN”). I will be a strong advocate to ensure that these programs are funded to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents. I am on record supporting new revenues to the state if we cannot find savings through reform. With respect to MassHealth and HSN, I will support new revenues in addition to savings from reform to stabilize these programs into the foreseeable future.
- Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders have recently been reduced by the legislature. Would you support legislation to repeal mandatory minimums entirely in these cases?
I support repealing mandatory minimums entirely and believe that nonviolent drug offenders should be treated by health services and not correctional services. In particular, I support expanding mental and behavioral health services to directly address the root of drug related crime and violence: the disease of drug dependence.
- Although Massachusetts has the fourth-lowest rate of incarceration in the United States, the Commonwealth still jails nearly twice as many of its citizens as developed nations such as Canada, Japan, Germany, and Italy. What sort of legislation would you propose that would refocus law enforcement and corrections on rehabilitation rather than incarceration?”
I would support reforming sentencing guidelines; further fund rehabilitation programs such as Chelsea’s ROCA to transform past offenders into productive residents; and stop funding the expansion of correctional facilities and instead upgrade existing ones with programming and infrastructure improvements.
- Would you support legislation to ensure that all Massachusetts students are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of their federal immigration status?
Yes. The same standards should apply to all students for in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status.