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? I would like to expand it to new developments of 5 units or more as those are more common around East Boston and this furthers my goal of keeping East Boston affordable and preventing residents from being priced out of the neighborhood.
- 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 don’t believe elected officials should take a hands-off approach very often as we are elected to lead and my time in the military has taught me to lead from the front as it is the only way to be effective. Affordability starts with housing and making sure rents stay affordable by providing tax relief for builders and developers and creating laws that prevent rapid increases in property taxes. Such laws may include putting caps on how much property taxes can increase from year to year and forgoing property tax for new developments which go beyond what the law requires for affordable housing.
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? I can commit to not forming an opinion on a project until speaking with neighborhood associations and until they have had time to fully investigate the project. I cannot lie and say that I will always agree with the neighborhood associations, but will always discuss my positions with them and listen to their concerns. I expect our opinions will line up on most occasions as we share the goals of keeping East Boston a safe, affordable place to raise a family, but I will not lie and promise we will always agree.
- 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? I am a full supporter of the democratic process and believe everyone impacted by a project should have a voice on it. Projects in one part of East Boston do affect the others. For example, more family housing increases the need for schools and businesses throughout East Boston, not just in the immediate surrounding area.
- 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? This goes to my large scale view of East Boston. I want East Boston to remain a family oriented neighborhood and new developments could put strain on these goals. Until a project, especially large scale project, can fully explain how they will mitigate impact and add to the community rather than putting strain on it, I will not support it. Some of these studies are the responsibility of Government some are not. When they are not, I will not support a project until such studies are done.
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. Spending across the Commonwealth as a whole is not efficient and priorities are often incorrect. From working in state Government for the last year, I have personally witnessed these inefficiencies. Some include improper wages for the amount of work state employees do and also purchases and procurements which are obsolete shortly after purchase or just not used at all. These practices can be cleaned and will save millions which can be used to improve infrastructure. I will not support increased taxes for something our citizens have already paid for.
- 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? The next representative must be a strong, vocal advocate for these projects to go forward. As an attorney for both the Army and state I have been such a vocal advocate and gotten projects completed before. I will do so again with these projects.
- 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. I would as I do not believe it is a good use of our resources to enforce failed Federal immigration policies.
- 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 ideas included, but I regret this action was necessary. The entire U.S. Congress must pass comprehensive immigration legislation which includes protections for those already living and working in American and making citizenship an easier proposition for those seeking to come to America.
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”)? I would like more information on the proposals, but right now I would vote no as I do not see how we would benefit. Too many other Olympic projects have been temporary developments, not the long term developments we need.
- If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City commit any public money to support the Games? Yes if the money is going to long term impactful infrastructure improvements. (Which we should be doing ayway)
- If Boston were to host the 2024 Olympics, should the City make any financial guarantees to cover cost overruns for the Games? Absolutely not.
- 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? Absolutely not.
- 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? Yes. It was a promise made to East Boston before I ran and I will see it fulfilled.
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? I support term limits for all leadership positions to encourage free action and eliminate concern for reelection.
- 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? Social media is a tool underutilized to fix this issue. I will broadcast my opinions on issues very often through social and print media so that citizens can voice their opinions back to me before I make a final decision and broadcast my votes the same way.
- 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 did find the study met the legislative intent, but I would like to see the study repeated every 5 years and see a new, outside source complete the study each time. Increased noise canceling technology and flight patterns that keep away from populated areas as much as possible would fix many issues.
- 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? There are many other ways to decrease the cost of healthcare we have not adopted yet. Tort reform for caps on medical malpractice cases and increased scrutiny on unnecessary medical procedures will lower rates even more making it easier to fund such programs.
- 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? Yes. Members of my family have advocated for such before and I will continue to do so. Our judges must be allowed discretion in such 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 have advocated for all first time non-violent drug offenders to receive treatment instead of prison. Also, I believe technology advances allow for more opportunities where house arrest which allows the convicted to travel only to work and pay off damage caused by their crimes is more effective than prison.
- Would you support legislation to ensure that all Massachusetts students are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of their federal immigration status? No. I would not allow any discrimination to keep such students out of our schools and would not allow discrimination of receipt of financial aid or student loans, but I do not believe they should receive this benefit.