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.
(alphabetical order, colors chosen at random)
(Click on a candidates name to see only their responses)
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?
AM: 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.
CH: I believe it should be expanded. Advocate for the increase of affordable units and workforce units.
ED: Maintaining and increasing access to the city’s affordable housing stock is extremely important to me and the entire City of Boston. I believe that we should regularly be looking at ways to provide affordable home ownership opportunities for residents.
JP: 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. [See more]
JR: Boston is facing a housing crisis, and clearly we need creative solutions to address the lack of housing options, particularly in our neighborhoods. I would engage in a discussion around expanding the inclusionary zoning policy, but this should be one in a series of strategies to address this issue.
LS: 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.
AM: 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.
CH:Work with developers and make them commit to the balance of our neighborhoods and the benefits that our neighborhood will receive by allowing them to develop their plans.
ED: As State Representative, I will play an active role in the zoning, permitting, and licensing process. While some State elected officials choose not to get involved in these issues, I think it is an important part of the job. It is of the utmost importance that residents do not get priced out of our neighborhood and I would be an advocate in the community, at City Hall, and on Beacon Hill.
JP: 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 Menino 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 prohibitive. In the other regard, there was an exodus of younger upper income families who were looking to move into the city. 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. [See More]
JR: The first step in addressing the unique needs of East Boston’s housing challenges is to hear from residents. I intend to take an active role in addressing this issue, but the neighborhood should have the strongest voice in identifying what the real problems are and the best means to address them. Are residents more concerned about affordable housing options, or gentrification, or density, or transit-oriented development? And what does affordable mean to the residents here? Is it affordable as designated by the federal government, or is there a greater demand for workforce housing? I would feel more comfortable diving in to this issue with deep and meaningful dialogue before setting goals and targets that may not be in line with what our neighborhood wants and needs.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH: Absolutely. Our residents will be directly affected by new housing units. Taxes will increase, property values will change and the demographics of our neighborhood will inevitably change as well. We must ensure that the residents that are already here have an opinion on what’s coming to our community.
JP: 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.
JR: I would not commit to supporting or opposing a project before the neighborhood association weighed in. I would have to address this on a case-by-case basis, but I would imagine that in most, if not all, cases, I would support the decision of the association.
LS: 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?
AM: See Above.
CH: Absolutely! Our residents need to know what is happening in our neighborhood. Our processes need to be transparent and open to the questions and concern of our residents.
JP: 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.
JR:Absolutely. The people of East Boston need a voice in the decisions made around development here.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH: There needs to be an implementation on the approval process for all projects. The impact on the community needs to be presented in a clear and concise way to all the residents in their language and the residents have the right to know what potential risks and impacts will happen as the result of a project. We must negotiate with developers and ask what their contribution will be for our community to alleviate those impacts.
ED: I believe that developing a comprehensive master plan for East Boston is imperative for the future of this neighborhood.
JP: 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.
JR:The City follows a robust public process with any individual proposal, but at a minimum, there should be a series of community meetings associated with the broader impact of multiple projects. We need a real Master Plan for development in East Boston, to ensure smart, long-term growth.
LS: 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.
AM: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.
CH: Before any revenue strategy is implemented there needs to be transparency in with the current budget and expenditure. Once we know where the funds are being allocated, we should be able to distribute those funds in a better way. We all know there is overspending and I will not look/support any increase of budget or taxes without complete disclosure of the way the finances have been handled.
ED: This is a systemic problem that needs to be addressed at the highest levels. As your legislator, I will look at additional sources of funding by closing tax loopholes for corporations and making sure the top 1% are taxed accordingly. In the short term, we need a contingency plan to ensure that MBTA riders are able to get to work if trains are delayed. In the long term, we need to actually prioritize funding for public transportation and investments in its infrastructure. We cannot ask people to rely on public transportation if transportation is unreliable.
JP: 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.
JR:The MBTA has been underfunded and under-resourced for decades. It is clear that we need to explore creative solutions that do not place an unfair burden on taxpayers, and that establish a sustainable system. This might include public-private partnerships, or finding a private sector investment possibility for the system. But the MBTA should also take careful stock of their allocation of resources. The system has focused on expansion, without also investing in maintaining the current infrastructure. While growth and expansion are valuable, if we can’t support the current system, we will run into a crisis point as we have in recent weeks.
LS: 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?
AM: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.
CH: The Red-Blue connector should be a reality already. This will only decrease traffic in other stations and cut commuting time for the users. I will advocate and fully support the completion of these projects.
ED: YES, I have been on record supporting both the Red-Blue connector and connecting East Boston with the rest of the harbor with ferry service.
JP: 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.
JR:This has been a frequently-discussed issue for me on the campaign trail. East Boston needs to be connected to the City, and these are two fundamental ways to make that happen. As your state representative, I would lobby my colleagues in the Boston delegation and in the Baker Administration to make these investments a priority. We need a strong voice to advocate for our neighborhood on Beacon Hill; I will be that voice.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH: Yes, I will actively work to support the passage of the Massachusetts Trust Act Bill. Our resources and funding for law enforcement should not be used to focus on following non- citizens. The cost of keeping a person in unnecessary custody takes away funding that can be use in other issues such as gang violence in our neighborhood.
JP: 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.
JR: A state “Trust Act” would serve to encourage productive and respectful relationships between police and members of the immigrant community. Immigrants are often taken advantage of, and are reluctant to contact police for fear of consequence around their status. We should not create barriers to safety. Our local police should only have to focus on enforcing the law and keeping our families safe, and not on enforcing federal immigration policy.
LS: 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?
AM: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.
CH: I am in full support of the driver’s licenses and I support President Obama’s executive order as a temporary solution for immigration needs. There is definitely need for a comprehensive reform. East Boston has a large population that can benefit from such order and it will only allow that population to become active part of our neighborhood in many ways, but especially in the financial aspect where they can invest the money that they are either sending to their countries or saving in their homes. Their money will be able to circulate in our neighborhood significantly improving our local economy.
JP: 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.
JR: This is a public safety issue, pure and simple. People on our roads should be properly trained, licensed, and insured, regardless of status.
LS: 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”)?
AM: 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.
CH: We need to project longer than the Olympics. Once the Olympics are over, what are the spaces going to be used for? If we have guarantees that the constructions will not become a burden for the city, yes it will be a great event to attract more investors to our city.
ED: At this point in time, I have very serious concerns about Massachusetts’ capacity to host the Olympic Games – especially as it relates to the use of tax dollars being diverted from our priorities (education, transportation, public safety, and infrastructure). I would sign on to legislation proposed by Representatives Moran and Michlewitz that would require greater public scrutiny, transparency, and oversight.
JP: 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…
JR: Yes. This brings tremendous opportunity for economic growth to the City, if done responsibly.
LS: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?
AM: [See Above]
CH:No. Our public money must be allocated to the benefits of our residents. Sponsors can join and fund the Olympics if they want them in our city (after the public approves it).
JR: To support the games, no. To support long-term infrastructure investments, yes.
LS: 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?
CH: The city should negotiate the impacts and overruns in a way that the city is not affected.
JR: No. This should fall to the Host Committee, not the taxpayers.
LS: 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?
CH: No. In a fair process, residents should be heard and not impose something they have not agree with.
JR: I would vote yes to keep the option open, with the caveat that eminent domain is an extreme method of last resort, and that any land taken should be for long-term infrastructure, and not for temporary Olympics-related structures.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH: We have many developers interested in building their large projects in our neighborhood. We should receive benefits in exchange of the approval of their projects.
ED: I have been a tireless advocate for our parks and open space during my time working for Senator Petruccelli. I played an active role in the creation of Bremen Street Park and was Chair of the Constitution Beach Association, where I worked with neighbors, non-profits, and businesses to enhance amenities at the beach. With increased development along our waterfront, it is more important than ever that we protect and create additional access to our waterfront, including the full funding of Piers Park Phase II.
JP: 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…
JR:It would be my responsibility as your state representative to lobby my fellow elected officials to make this a priority. We need to take a fresh look at what this investment would mean for East Boston, and identify a strong business reason to make our case on Beacon Hill. I would be that strong voice to advocate for our open spaces.
LS: 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?
AM: 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…).
CH: Every public position should have a limit on term. There should be transparency in lawmaking process and opportunities for all citizens to participate in the legislature.
ED: I do not support term limits as a principle. One of my political heroes, Sen. Ted Kennedy, was able to accomplish so much for Massachusetts and the entire nation due to his grasp on the political process from decades of service.
JP: 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….
JR: No. I believe in healthy turnover in government. True term limits happen at the ballot box.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH:Transparency has to be a priority and everything is done in the legislature. I will demand full transparency in the process and disclosure on the way we vote in different issues that affect our residents.
ED: I support greater transparency in government, and will push for stricter ethics laws and more open procedures and processes in the House of Representatives.
JP: 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.
JR: This is very simple. All votes should be open to the public and published in a medium – preferably online – where all can view. I would commit to making all of my votes in the Legislature public in that manner.
LS: 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?
AM: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.
CH: I believe that we must do more studies and specific ones. One study is a general way of determining many factors, but with specific studies we will be able to certainly know how our community is being affected by Logan Airport.
ED: As former Chair of the Constitution Beach Association, I worked with organizations like Save the Harbor Save the Bay and the Metropolitan Beaches Commission to fund water quality testing for Boston Harbor. There are grave concerns related to environmental impacts of Logan Airport. I worked with the Mass DPH on the original Logan Health Study. Unfortunately, funding cuts under Gov. Romney delayed the study for far too long. I do not believe the study was as comprehensive as it could have been, and therefore, I will work to fund an in-depth and detailed study with community participation if elected.
JP: 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..
JR:I do not. Our elected officials should be holding Massport accountable for the promises they have made and failed to keep. This report was not nearly as comprehensive as it should have been, and I would advocate for a new, independent study to examine the impact of Massport on our neighborhood. Throughout the campaign, I have consistently stated that access to quality, affordable health care is among my highest priorities. This would be no exception. We need a real mitigation package for these issues.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH: We should look into increasing contributions from the private sector. Pharmaceuticals and labs receive great revenue from the medications that patients need on a daily basis. These industries should contribute to funding of accessible health care as well as the tobacco and alcohol industries.
ED: We must make sure that our most vulnerable citizens have access to quality health care and I will fight to protect that right.
JP: 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 undeserved. Wasteful spending in other areas should be audited and cut, i.e. EBT and transitional assistance awards.
JR: Massachusetts has been a leader in this field because access to quality, affordable healthcare has been a shared priority of elected officials and advocacy groups. We must maintain adequate investments in this system to ensure long-term growth.
LS: 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?
AM: 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.
CH: Yes. I believe people deserve second chances and sentencing someone for one of these crimes the first time will continue to incubate criminals that will become repeat offenders. If they are giving a second chance with the commitment to join a rehab and vocational program we can reduce the number of offenders and the large number of inmates for minor crimes.
JP: 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.
JR: Yes. My life changed when I got sober, and I know firsthand the value of access to recovery programs. We can’t arrest our way out of addiction. We need stronger funding for these programs. Frankly, investing in recovery programs upfront will save taxpayer dollars down the road by addressing the root of the issue, instead of simply locking drug offenders away without access to job training, healthcare, or recovery services.
LS: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?
AM: 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.
CH: Absolutely. We also need to create opportunities for people, especially our youth, to improve their skills and prevent their participation in criminal activities.
ED: Massachusetts needs to do more to treat those battling addiction and facing mental illness. I would prioritize increasing funding for treatment programs.
JP: [See Above]
JR:Again, we need to make these investments up front instead of simply throwing people in jail. For those we do incarcerate, we should provide them with a path to come out of jail and become a productive member of society. Treatment and prevention is a much wiser investment for our Commonwealth.
LS: 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?
AM:Yes. The same standards should apply to all students for in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status.
CH: Absolutely. We have children that are growing up in our school system that have already obtain high school educations, know English and want to obtain an education to open a business or work in different fields. This initiative will reduce the expense of bringing international talents to fill jobs that can be filled by people who have gone to school in the US.
JP: 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.
JR: Yes. Immigrants come to this country in pursuit of the American Dream, and we know that one of the key foundational pieces to that is education. We should not create barriers to success for our students.
LS: 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.