Joanne Pomodoro

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.

Joanne Pomodoro

1395326_10151718347113877_523063580_n

Housing/Development

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.

This is a hot topic for me and is one of the reasons that motivated me to run for this office.  My concern is that our community is pushing out the people in this community that have lived here for more than 30–60 years.  They have raised their families here, worked and paid taxes, watched the community grow and expand.  So much so that with new development, comes higher income properties, luxury units, waterfront development is taking prime real estate.  Where are the middle class, the elders going to go if they want to downsize.. many, like myself, would like to stay in the community.  However, many of us do not make enough money to fit in the Inclusion Formula, the equation does not account for middle income, single wage earners or elder, retired, fixed income.

The Inclusionary Zoning Program, a/k/a Inclusionary Development Policy was initiated by Mayor Mannino in the 2006.  The goal was to provide middle income families, not single middle income or elders, with the opportunity to rent or purchase units that prior to this initiative was cost prohibitative.  In the other regard, there was an exodus of younger upper income families who were looking to move into the city. 

To encourage developers to build in the city, they were give incentives to offer units for upper income, middle income and low income.  In turn they were given mortgage incentives and payout options. 

Right now, the developer offers a number of units for a lottery system where 20 entries can rent or purchase what is available at a reduced rate.  Most single middle income professionals, or middle income families cannot afford the current rate, even with the inclusion program in place.

For example.. renters are paying more than 50% of their gross income on rent – an increase of 200% in 2000.  Boston ranks 2nd in the list of most expensive places to live, with New York and San Francisco close.  The Average rent is $1,700+ a month – in Roxbury, over 40% of homeowners cannot afford their mortgages.

Today, a middle income resident cannot afford the rent – the median rent is $2,500.00 for a studio or 1 bedroom.  Their income would need to be $80,000.00 or more a year to afford the rent.  The rates will keep going higher as developers pay off their mortgages and then change those units from the reduced rate to the higher rate rent and pushing the lower income out.

An example of areas that were seen as low income and poor in the past and are thriving now and pushing the “old families, elders out” is the Fort Hill Neighborhood – the sale of a new home is now $500,000.00 for a new built home. 

The reality is that there are developers that are coming into East Boston, buying up old property, or building on land.. they are coming in purchasing the property or land at a lower rate, flipping the property, making a hefty profit, agreeing to terms of the Inclusion by offering a percentage of the units for the program.  Because most residents cannot afford the rates, they go to the lottery.  A recent report showed that in many of the developments in the city, city and state employees have been afforded opportunities to participate in the Inclusion/Lottery program, purchase or rent a luxury apartment at the lower rate.  (please see the globe article). The records are there due to the required disclosure form city and state employees must sign.  I don’t begrudge teachers, police, hard working residents with getting an opportunity to live in these places.  However, when a higher income city/state employee is allowed to take advantage of these programs and purchase luxury condos through the lottery system, something is wrong.

The formula has to change

A voucher system implemented that gives long term residents a discount on the rent or purchase or a unit, if they don’t qualify for the Inclusion Program

The BRA has to be audited, monitored and help accountable in order  to prevent this type of abuse and “slight of hand” tactics from happening moving forward.

The formula has to be reconfigured, inclusive programs with developers have to have the residents in mind over the for profit, developer who truly doesn’t care about keeping the flavor our community, the enrichment of our community a chance to continue to prosper and grow, while respecting those in the community who deserve more than a boot out of East Boston.

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?

As a resident of East Boston for over 60 years – I have seen much of East Boston being compromised by developers who know their way around regulations, laws and sanctions.

I would have no problem issuing a statement in favor or against these projects but not before the neighborhood association had a chance to review it and reach a formal decision.  If the neighborhood association reached a formal decision, I would support that decision.

  • 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?

We are lucky to have a number of Neighborhood Associations in the area.  I’d like to see them communicate together on a more frequent basis as to not segment and divide our community at times when all voices need to be heard as one.  In saying that, I would like to see a public, democratic process where residents can learn more about projects, have a say in projects and discuss the pros and cons of projects as well as the impact on the community.  We need a common ground, perhaps an at large Association with members of each neighborhood association serving as a voice for their group.  Collectively, there is more power in a chorus than in a solo.

  • 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?

It is very important to have frequent as well as longitudinal studies done, objective studies done by parties not vested in an outcome, one way or another…. Especially with Logan Airport and the impact that it has on our community … from the traffic to pollution, noise, health concerns, increase in Dx of breast cancer, brain tumors, thyroid cancer, MS, lung cancer, asthma, anxiety, depression. 

Public Health Commission, medical schools are available to do these types of studies that can provide us with the cause, the effect but also suggestions and solutions that need to be made to keep our community healthy, safe and protected.

Transportation

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.

Ms. Scott seemed to have an inflated opinion of herself and her humor, sarcasm and wise remarks did not go over very well during the storms.  Especially the remark, “this isn’t my 1st rodeo” …

The T has been mismanaged for many years.  There is a lack of qualified leadership from the top ranks to the managerial positions.  In the summer, Ms. Scott gave pay increases in the likes of 20 – 30 % to the top wage earners. 

If I don’t do my job, I get a warning and then fired – I, in no way, would get  raise. The fact that the T was responsible for the city, basically, shutting down due to inability to manage the weather conditions, to not have a back up plan, to not have the equipment or the services to manage through the storms. 

In addition, the T has a union and collective bargaining protects the employees.  In addition, employees can retire after 30 years of service, allowing many to retire at age 50 with a pension of 75,000.00 plus a year.  The state cannot allow such pay raises of 20 – 30 % when the average cost of living increase, for most wage earners, is 3 – 4 %… In addition the burden on the state to pay for the current pension buyout, is causing the T to be in financial hardship.

I believe that a possible solution would be to Privatize the T… that would allow better management, service and accountability.  It’s time to give the community a better transit system – one that can handle the use and the demands of a busy rail system.

  • 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?

Allocations of funds, earmarked for the East Boston Red – Blue connector should not be met with further delay.  With the increase in residents to the city, and neighboring communities, there is a need for a ferry service ASAP.  As state representative, I would fervently find the reason for the delay, consult the decision makers responsible for releasing the funding and have a date for the project to start with an expectation of a completion date to be determined and shared with the community.

Immigration

  • 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?

The Original bill # 1135 – docket no. 1116 – Filed on 1/18/2013 The current bill #1613 – docket no. 3204 – Filed on 1/16/2015, I would actively work to support the passage of this bill… in order to restore community trust in Massachusetts law enforcement and provide a safe living environment for those who are in our country and is an active member of the community in good standing.

  • 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?

At this point, I need to have more information.  I am not sure that it is the best approach in regards to immigration status and licenses…. I understand the premise and the goal of the order.  It was not lifted on Feb. 17th and there is a delay in the Senate. 

On another note – our streets are becoming more and more of a danger to everyone.  Pedestrians are crossing the street with headphones on, cars are racing through the lights and not stopping for pedestrians in the cross walk, there have been so many accidents on Bennington Street in the past year in the same dangerous areas, turns and lights…

I do have a concern with uninsured and unlicensed drivers overall.  I addition, I am very concerned as to the lack of enforcement for multiple offenders, DUI’s, expired or revoked licenses as well as uninsured drivers…

We don’t have enough police for traffic enforcement.. and our courts are not punishing repeat offenders with appropriate fines and sentencing..

We have to ensure that our streets and our neighborhoods are safe for everyone..

The Olympics

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.

The City and State did not believe that the Casino would fail in East Boston.  However, as we all know, they were ready with a backup plan the very night the casino was knocked down.  These companies are always one step ahead of the common person, the voters… as we are seeing now, Suffolk Downs is being kept open with the purpose of the Olympics…

This is why people are discouraged and upset with our government – the voters speak and yet, there are loop holes around what is decided…

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?
    NO
  • If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City make any financial guarantees to cover cost overruns for the Games?
    NO
  • 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?
    NO

I am very disappointed with the way in which the Mayor has gone about this proposal.

The cost of the preliminary plans went 40,000.00 dollars over budget – monies were allocated to pay a private architect to design a proposal, a display, a presentation for the 2024 Olympic Games to be held in Boston. 

It would be nice to see such a plan designed for a senior social center, a state of the art police station, fixing our bridges, roads and structures… investing in programs that are in much needed support. 

The games will be a financial burden, a burden on East Boston with the airport, roads, community being severely impacted by an influx of athletes, venues that will require land and dedicated spaces, construction of residents, food services not to mention security for an event of such magnitude.

I feel that the residents of the city should have been consulted prior to the proposal submission.  Now, just like most airport proposals, we will be show the plan, given the impression that we have a say at all.. instead we will be convinced on one of the familiar  done deal.

Most Olympic cities that have hosted the games have been left with unpaid bills, debt… housing built and then torn down – at least they should stay up for the future of the community.  Wasted spending…

Parks

  • 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?

My parents went to East Boston High School – they had gym class at Wood Island Park.  When I was a kid, we would have picnics at the park.  It was a beautiful parcel of land, the trees, the water front, the entire area was family oriented, natural land and open spaces and it was Free to all.. all were able to ride their bikes there, walk their dogs, the park was always open…

Piers Park is a beautiful park with many restrictions and limitations.  That being said, it should be open to the public, people should be allowed to ride their bikes there and walk their dogs (granted they should pick up the waste)…

Once again, East Boston has something taken away, promised something – empty promises, once again… The airport continues to eat away at our precious land… it is they that should be responsible to pay for the cost of Phase 11…

We need an advocate in the State House that will fight for the rights of East Boston – get this Phase II into action, along with the other plans – water taxi…

Proactive and Assertive advocacy is needed and needed now…

Political Transparency

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?

The Speakers position and all political positions should have term limits.  The credibility of the Speaker has been lost with this game changer at the 11 hour.  

The person that would benefit the most was the Speaker… three term limit can be a sufficient time to do some good work.  If at that time, you want to run for a different office, that would be okay but not to stay in the same job after three terms…

Political office is a privilege and an honor.  Politicians should be transparent and upfront.  It is discouraging to see a professional, a public official flip flop on his own proposal….

  • 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?

Representing the people of the commonwealth, of your community, of your area is an honor and a privilege.  You are in office because of their votes and because they believe in you as being their advocate, their voice… they trust in you to make the better choice for the community, for each and every one in the community… being in tuned and in touch with the community – the consensus rules …. A vote should be published on each and every decision without exception… I will honor that pledge here today and if I am lucky enough to win the vote of the people.

Environment:

  • 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?

As I stated in a previous question.  Massport Health Study’s were not sufficient or accurate measures of the health issues and concerns in East Boston. 

Massport should not be conducting their own studies… the study is outdated and old.  In addition, the statistics indicate that there is a rise in cancer (breast, lung, brain, kidney and thyroid), there is a rise in asthma and allergies in our children and young adults, there is a rise in anxiety and depression… in most cities where an airport is situated inside a community, the statistics and incidence of cancer, illness and chronic illness are much higher than cities and town that are not close to an airfield.

Logan is expanding – the increase in air traffic, automobiles, taxis and buses, in addition to freight trucks and 18 wheelers coming in and out of Logan each day has more than tripled… There is only one explanation for the increase in health problems in our community – with the expansion of Logan Airport, where else can you attribute the cause..

Healthcare

  • 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?

Health care needs to be affordable for all – the current system does help many who are in need.  Many of our seniors cannot afford their medication or their medical care.  It should not be a choice between medicine, medical treatment, fuel, food or rent for our elders and those in need.  MassHealth services many of those in need.  Included in this group are elders, homeless and veterans as well.

We have to do a better job identifying the most needy in our community – outreach programs, PCP’s, clinics, senior centers, mental health and wellness checks, family, communication, check-in, support and services..

I meet with people everyday who struggle to make ends meet – they are the working poor, the people who want to be productive but most are struggling to make ends meet.  As an advocate for so many of the vulnerable of our population, I will ensure that this group does not go underserved. 

Wasteful spending in other areas should be audited and cut, i.e. EBT and transitional assistance awards. 

Criminal Justice

  • 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?
  • 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 not support or repeal mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders…

I believe that the drug problem in our community has increased.  Effective treatment is the answer to reducing drug offenses in the community.  Drug addiction is a large problem in our community. 

Mandatory treatment in lei of incarceration is my proposal vs no accountability at all. 

However, the state recently reduced the budget for drug treatment programs in the community.  The concern for mental health and addiction treatment reduction continues to worry those of us who do the work. 

Much of the drug culture is not just gangs or drug dealers, the addiction problem is also with pain medication and script being written for chronic pain.  The addiction to pain meds has doubled in the past few years. 

We need treatment centers, therapists, physicians, families, friends to work together to help those we love to be clean and drug free…. It is a community, a family, a systems approach to a systemic problem.

Education

  • Would you support legislation to ensure that all Massachusetts students are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of their federal immigration status?

I would support instate tuition and in kind, I would like to see all students give back in community service.  Education is power, education is a stepping stone to a professional career.

I’d like to see more encouragement for students to continue their education and go to college.  The president has suggested that students receive 2 years old community college free.  I’d make two changes… 1 year of college with 1 year of volunteerism to elders.  

 

3 thoughts on “Joanne Pomodoro”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s