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2015 Ward 6 Alderman Candidate Questionnaire Responses and Forum

The Progressive Democrats of Somerville (PDS) sent questionnaires to candidates for Ward 6 Alderman. All four candidates responded and are seeking the endorsement of PDS. Current Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz is not seeking re-election. The Preliminary Election on THURSDAY, September 17 will narrow the four down to two who will face off in November. Links to responses are below.

The Somerville Democratic City Committee is sponsoring a public forum on Thursday September 10 at 7:00 pm at the First Church Somerville UCC at 89 College Avenue. All four Ward 6 candidates have agreed to appear and all of the public is invited to attend. We encourage you to come and hear the candidates in person.

After the forum we will open up our on-line endorsement process.

(Please note that if the linked pages don't load the first time you click, just refresh the browser page.)


Charles J. Chisholm: [Responses to PDS];      [ Website]

Lance Davis: * **ENDORSED** * [Responses to PDS];     [ Website]; [Facebook]; [Twitter]

David W.S. Lieberman: [Responses to PDS];     [Website]; [Facebook]; [Twitter]

Elizabeth Weinbloom: [Responses to PDS];      [ Website]; [Facebook]; [Twitter]


Other resources for information on the candidates include:

Davis Square LiveJournal (search tag/localpolitics)

The Somerville Times: Meet The Candidates

SCATV Interviews .


Our Endorsement process Ballots are now Live Online. If you did not receive a link to the ballot via email and you believe you are eligible to vote in the PDS Endorsement Process, please contact katherine.m.wallace at gmail dot com

Elizabeth Weinbloom Candidate for Ward 6 Alderman Responses 2015

1) If elected, what steps will you take to keep residents in Ward 6 informed about the municipal decisions, issues, and proposed changes that affect them: legislation and budgetary matters, proposed development, decisions by City officials, issues that surface from the community, etc.

EW: The primary role of a ward Alderman is to serve constituents – being an accessible, responsive, and proactive partner for the ward at City Hall. I am well-suited to this aspect of the role, as I don't have career or family commitments that would take me away from the ward during the day or jockey for my attention at night. As a freelance curriculum developer my work can be scheduled around the needs of the city.

In terms of keeping residents informed, I would go beyond the traditional model of relying on Resistat emails and occasional newsletters to keep residents up-to-date. I have made social media a central element of my campaign, and if elected I would continue to personally maintain an active Facebook and Twitter presence for the ward. None of the current aldermen have a strong social media presence, which increases the perception among the city’s younger residents that the city government is “not for them”; I would take as a social media role model Mayor Curtatone, whose detailed and informative Facebook posts are a great source of information. For another role model I’d look at Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen, who has done a fantastic job of communicating with his constituency using all the tools at a millennial’s disposal, and who has also engaged in constant organizing to mobilize his constituency not only for elections but also for action on specific issues and for holding the government accountable throughout its term. In my campaign I have also spent many hours staffing a table in Davis Square to register voters and make myself accessible for questions; this has been a great way to meet a diverse group of residents, and as alderman I would love to adapt this practice into regularly scheduled “office hours” in casual public spaces. And of course I’ll also be easily reachable through the telephone, email, or a knock on my door.

Finally, in the course of my campaign I have heard from frustrated constituents that the city needs to do better at publishing minutes within a reasonable timeframe after public meetings. Our professionals at City Hall work very hard, and I would push to make sure they have the tools they need to rectify that situation and give citizens a timely account of their government’s activities.


a) What steps, if any, should the City take -- and what steps will you take, if elected -- to provide access to information and services to Somerville residents who have limited English proficiency?

EW: Most of the city’s large Portuguese-, Spanish-, and Creole-speaking populations reside outside of my ward, but those residents and anyone else who speaks languages other than English should always feel welcome in Ward 6 and throughout the city. I am aware that the city hired fulltime interpreters for these three languages last year, and added phone-translation services to 311. I will support these and future efforts to increase the municipal government’s accessibility to people of all backgrounds. I speak conversational Spanish but I would rely on the professional interpreters for official communication.

2) What kinds of changes would you like to see in the nature and density of businesses and/or residences in Davis Square, and how should the City encourage those changes?

a) What do you want to see at 240 Elm Street (the former Social Security Building)? What can you do as an elected official to make sure this building is stabilized and occupied by a business that people in the neighborhood will support and patronize?

EW: Like everyone in the neighborhood, I have my wish list for 240 Elm; but at this point I think we need to take the best possible option, to avoid further disruption to the neighboring businesses as well as the dangers and instability of a partially-demolished building. Filling this vacancy should be one of the first priorities of the new alderman, and I would look very closely at the zoning and other regulations to find any possible way to pressure the owner to get the building quickly repaired and rented.

My own wish list is topped by a grocery, although something more affordable than Roche Brothers would have been preferable. Many neighbors still speak of a previous plan that involved a beer garden. I know many would prefer not-another-bar, and I agree that our square is already a bustling nightlife destination even without another spot for fancy drinks. But with the imminent departure of Johnny D’s, we have an opening for a live music venue and dance hall. With so much square footage available, I think the space could be ideal for an arts and performance venue, perhaps along the lines of the upcoming Thunder Road in Union Square, or The Sinclair in Harvard Square Such a venue would maintain Davis’s reputation as a hub for the arts and nightlife beyond just bars and pubs.

Of course, any project in the space is likely to involve condos or rental units. I would seek to ensure that a minimum of 20% of constructed units, in this space and other developments in the ward, be designated permanently affordable.


b) What is your vision for the West Branch Library and what will you do to ensure that the upcoming reconstruction happens and properly serves our community?

EW: Most importantly, the West Branch Library needs to be updated to full ADA-compliance so that all members of our community can access its resources. It’s a beautiful, historic building, and we have a responsibility to maintain both the facilities and the collections in good condition. The current state of the second floor stage is a particular shame I would love to see that stage in useable condition for events like author talks and community meetings.

Increasingly, libraries are multipurpose resource centers and diverse gathering places. The public library should be the most welcoming place in the neighborhood. We need to ensure that improvements and new facilities at West Branch enable a broad range of programming, especially activities for young children and afterschool time. The newly renovated Cambridge Public Library on Broadway is a good model for a building that balances those activities with media availability for young people and facilities that serve the many job seekers, homeless folks, and people needing basic internet access who rightly rely on our public libraries.


3) What kinds of changes, if any, would you like to see in the way Davis Square accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular traffic?

EW: We have a responsibility to make our streets safe for all types of transit and all levels of mobility, without unduly preferring cars over other options. At a holistic level, I would push the city to implement a Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic fatalities, and I would seek to work with colleagues in the Cambridge and Medford city councils to address the regional issue of the safety of our roads for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and passengers.

For pedestrians, we need to fix and replace the broken bricks that represent a tripping hazard and have a negative impact on the accessibility and attractiveness of the Square. I’d support the elimination of the left turn lane from Highland to Elm in favor of expanding the traffic island in front of Mike’s and creating a more useable public space. Another significant problem for pedestrians is the crosswalk in front of the library; at times of heavy traffic this light can block up College Ave all the way to Powderhouse, while at night a pedestrian is at serious risk from cars that speed through the blinking yellow light. I would want to work with a traffic expert to determine the best fix for this dangerous crosswalk, but one interim fix might be the addition of a visually-striking mural on the asphalt around the crosswalk, as in the Neighborways pilot; such murals have been found to slow drivers.

For cyclists, we need new and improved bike lanes that protect cyclists from the dangers of parked and moving cars, while also giving cyclists a better option than darting around traffic. A particularly dangerous street is Cutter Ave, which is frequented by cyclists approaching Davis from Elm St /Porter Sq.; a bike lane is sorely needed on this dark street, particularly at the two-way turn onto Highland. The bike lane on Willow Ave is excellent and would certainly be the preferred route from Porter to Davis, except for the four-way light at the intersection with Highland, which would be well-served by the addition of a bike box or a designated turn signal for cyclists.

In a cyclist’s dream version of Davis Square, Elm St would have only single-side parking to make room for a protected, two-way bike path… but let’s start with solutions that only require a bucket of paint.

I’m not a driver, so I will rely on the advice of others to know what would make the square safer and more convenient for motorists. I have heard from neighbors along College Ave, where there are many churches, that parking has become a major problem due to a proliferation of copied parking passes among churchgoers. I would investigate this issue and seek to find a solution that ensures reliable street parking for residents with cars.


4) What steps would you advocate that the City take to ensure that Somerville residents benefit from the employment opportunities created by development/construction projects that receive public funding support and the businesses that come to occupy those sites? What kinds of incentives will you advocate offering to other businesses that hire Somerville residents?

EW: All Somerville citizens should share in the benefits of development. It is my hope that this will happen by implementing more progressive municipal taxes. I favor a real estate transfer tax, targeted to primarily affect large commercial projects and speculators. Such a tax could directly fund affordable housing programs, public infrastructure, and education while alleviating some of the pressure on residential property taxpayers. Developers should be good neighbors, and that would be my preferred way for them to show it. But there are other community benefits that developers can offer. Developers can also show that they are good neighbors by hiring Somerville residents. Under a new real estate transfer tax scheme (which admittedly is a long-term goal that requires cooperation at the state level), perhaps developers could reduce their transaction tax burden by proving to the City that they had hired a certain percentage of Somerville residents or that their activities would result in the durable creation of a certain number of jobs.

In previous years, the BOA proposed the Local Hiring Ordinance, which would have required developers who receive grants or local tax incentives to hire 30% of their workforce from Somerville residents. I would have supported this ordinance, and I would support an attempt to revive or revise it, to ensure that all our residents, particularly those with barriers to employment, have the opportunity to benefit from the new development.


5) If market forces alone shape residential development, we'll likely see a lot more high-end studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units, that are too small and too expensive for Somerville families with middle-school-age or older children. If these families can't find affordable multi-bedroom housing, they will likely have to leave the city, adversely impacting community stability and our middle and high school systems. What steps will you advocate to ensure preservation and expansion of the supply of family-size housing that is affordable to low and middle-income households?

EW: Growing families, low-wage workers, young tenants, students, artists and creative professionals, older people on fixed incomes, and those who’ve recently immigrated to America are among the populations being adversely affected by Somerville’s rising housing costs. These are the people who have made Somerville a diverse, vibrant, and exciting place to live, and they’re the ones who are being pushed out. The Somerville Community Corporation found that 43% of Somerville residents are paying more than a third of their income for housing and are therefore considered cost-burdened; for the two-thirds of the city’s residents who rent their homes, more than half are cost-burdened (including myself!). This is unacceptable, and it is getting worse.

One potential solution I’ve heard, from members of the Sustainable Neighborhoods committee and elsewhere, is to levy a transfer tax on property sales above a certain (high) threshold, which the city would use to fund affordable housing. (Such a tax requires the cooperation of our state legislature, which I am told is unlikely in the immediate future, but the Community Preservation Act could potentially be used in a similar fashion.) The city would then be free to offer incentives to benevolent landlords who use their position of power to support the community; designation as a benevolent landlord could be assigned for charging reasonable rents, increasing the energy efficiency of rental units, or combining smaller units into duplexes or other family-appropriate arrangements. Another approach would be to require developers of large new residential projects to include a certain number of family-friendly larger units, and that some of these units also be designated permanently affordable.

One method of preserving family-size housing that I do NOT support is the limit on the number of unrelated tenants who can share a unit. This regulation is often justified as a response to dangerous overcrowding. If a unit is dangerously overcrowded with five unrelated tenants, it would also be dangerously overcrowded with five brothers. Safety and overcrowding should be regulated on the basis of a unit’s square footage and modes of egress, not by blanket limitation of the number of tenants. The way to give families access to larger units is not to prohibit friends, cooperatives, and found-families from larger units; it’s to encourage the construction of more such units and the general easing of rent prices.


6) What should the City do to capitalize on the benefits of the Green Line extension, and what should it do to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts on Ward 6 and other neighborhoods that it passes through?

EW: We in West Somerville must pay close attention to the introduction of the GLX in Union Square, so that we can learn from the successes and difficulties of the GLX’s introduction in that neighborhood. In particular, I think that we must begin attending to Ball Square’s development now, before the GLX is on our doorsteps, to help smooth the transition. As a city, we must remember that we, not the developers, are the ones holding the cards; our city is in demand, and therefore we have the leverage to demand more of the developers who want to profit off of our commercial centers, neighborhoods, and public transit. We should be requiring a minimum of 20% of all new units be permanently affordable, with a wide range of definitions of “affordable” within that. We should also demand any significant new residential construction include units that are large enough for growing families, as well as units that are accessible for people with disabilities and those who wish to age-in-place. Again, I support a transfer tax that would allow the city to tax large real estate transactions, particularly those of developers, and use the proceeds of that tax to fund affordable housing and our schools. Finally, I would support efforts to require (or incentivize) GLX construction to hire a minimum percentage of workers from Somerville.

7) What steps will you advocate to make Somerville an even more environment-friendly city? Your answer can address energy use, pollution, waste, water management, greenspaces, trees, etc.

EW: There isn’t a lot of room in Somerville for more green spaces, so we need to be smart with what we have. The extension of the community path is a great example of how we can turn underutilized space into pleasant and useful transit corridors and recreation areas. I would fully support the completion of the community path not the least reason being because it would be my commute from Davis to City Hall! As well as the connecting mixed-use path alongside the GLX. While the fate of the GLX is uncertain, we must make sure that the mixed-use path isn’t treated as a bargaining chip to be sacrificed in the budget overrun; that mixed-use path must be considered a vital and necessary element of the project. I’d like to see other odd-shaped and otherwise undeveloped parcels of city land be likewise rehabilitated as public green spaces.

I’m pleased that the city will be implementing a pilot program for curbside compost collection, and I will support the rollout of compost collection to the entire city as soon as the program is viable. Another way the city can help individual residents to reduce their footprint would be to encourage solar power conversion through helping educate homeowners and landlords about federal and state incentives for solar conversion, and better publicizing the Residential Energy Efficiency Program. I support the creation of a “benevolent landlords” program that would incentivize community-centered choices by our city’s landlords, and along with reasonable rents I would also include solar conversion and other energy-efficiency retrofits among the requirements for designation as a benevolent landlord.

Energy efficiency isn’t only for residences; city buildings and departments should be made up-to-snuff as well. Even simple initiatives like nightly shutdowns of municipal employees’ computers can make a big difference for the city’s energy footprint.


8) What should the City do to reduce the number of drug overdoses by Somerville residents? What can the City do to address problem drinking?

EW: Opioid misuse and overdose in Somerville is one of the most pressing public-health health problems facing the city today. The Somerville Office of Prevention and Somerville Overcoming Addiction are already working on a number of initiatives throughout the continuum of substance misuse care prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery and these actions should be continued and supported by the city. These initiatives include collecting unwanted prescription medication at the Somerville Police station, raising awareness about the Good Samaritan law and overdose prevention and reversal with naloxone, making sure naloxone is available behind-the-counter at area pharmacies, and presenting information about nonmedical use of prescription drugs to students and their parents.

One important and sustainable way the BOA could further help reduce overdoses would be to advocate for the hiring of a fulltime substance misuse coordinator; the coordinator would help people navigate the treatment system and manage the city's response to the opioid crisis. The BOA should also support our police department in "treatment not punishment" initiatives; Gloucester recently implemented a policy of connecting people with addictions to treatment and resources when they approach the police for help, to great success and acclaim, and Somerville should take note. The BOA could also work with the courts to involuntarily commit repeat offenders for treatment, and push the city to collect up-to-date data on the number of fatal and nonfatal overdoses so that the city’s responders can better understand who is being affected by this crisis. Finally, we should work to prevent future addiction by implementing school health curricula that cover the whole continuum of substance abuse prevention (from underage drinking to opioids), as well as by promoting proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs and the enrollment of prescribers in the Prescription Monitoring Program.

Preventing risky and underage drinking is of a piece with substance misuse prevention, and education is key. Somerville Cares About Prevention has been doing wonderful work for years, mostly with Somerville youth. For our college students, Tufts has improved its alcohol policies in recent years (for instance, formalizing a “good Samaritan” rule in 2013), and the city should help the university further combat risky drinking by students on- and off-campus. Looking forward, Somerville should continue to invest in these primary prevention strategies and relationships.


9) Why are you running for Alderman? What issues or concerned compelled you to run? What would you like to accomplish if elected?

EW: I began paying closer attention to local politics to learn more about housing issues. My roommates and I love living in Somerville and we want to build our lives here… but we don’t know if we’ll be able to afford it. The rent increases every year, and as we get into our thirties we might some day want to think about home ownership, but buying a home in the neighborhood where we’ve helped build a community will be well-nigh impossible. I wanted to see what the city was doing about the pressure on the housing market. And the answer is, well, not very much; supply and demand are in control of the housing market, and demand far outstrips supply. As I began looking more closely at these matters, I also saw that the rising rents and housing costs didn’t only affect young tenants like us, but also growing families who can’t find a unit large enough for their needs, low-wage workers who can no longer afford to live near their jobs, older folks on fixed incomes who bring stability to a neighborhood by aging in place, newcomers for whom Somerville is their first home in America, and artists and performers who helped make Somerville a desirable home in the first place.

I believe that a city as predominantly residential as ours has a responsibility to ensure the diversity of our housing stock to preserve the diversity of our community. So when I heard that Alderman Gewirtz was stepping down, I saw an opportunity to get deeply involved by running for the open seat on a platform of affordable housing; my goal is to make housing the number one issue on the city’s plate. Moreover, two-thirds of the city’s residents are renters, but all but one of our elected officials are homeowners. We need leaders on this issue who know what it’s like to look for an apartment in this city right now, and who can be a bridge between the sometimes-disconnected tenant community and the city’s long-term goals. Displacement and gentrification are a challenge all over the world. Rising housing costs are a reality in all the cities and towns in our region, and in many regions across the country. Somerville has an opportunity to be a leader in new approaches to this common problem; as a largely residential city, we have the bandwidth and we have the responsibility to explore innovative solutions and try things that haven’t been tried before. In so doing, we might not only help prevent displacement in Somerville, but also in cities across America.


10) What kind of political or community activism have you engaged in over the past few years?

EW: My dedication to the community began through the arts. I am committed to several local performance groups, including an amateur orchestra and Small & Casual Productions, a Somerville-based musical theater troupe that performs in living rooms. As half of a creative events production team, I have co-created large-scale public events for the Somerville Arts Council and the Somerville Armory. As my involvement in the local arts scene has grown, so too has my awareness of issues affecting the broader community, and I now seek to have a greater impact. I have previously been engaged and involved with social issues at the national level; last year, I marched as an ally in several #BlackLivesMatter protests against police brutality in Boston and New York, and I spent time at Occupy Boston and Occupy Wall Street, learning and asking questions. I am still at the beginning of my political career and I have been grateful for the opportunity of this campaign to connect with neighbors and help organize people around progressive priorities in Somerville. I also believe the arts are vital to the health of a community, and I will continue my involvement as a creator, producer, and consumer as I move into deeper engagement with nuts-and-bolts politics.

11) What else about your candidacy makes you a logical choice for a progressive voter?

EW: As this race’s only woman, only tenant, and youngest candidate, my election to the BOA would maintain the number of women in our elected offices and double the number of tenants and people under 40. It would also increase the professional diversity of our political representation. I am an educator, working in curriculum development, and I hold a masters in educational technology; adding an educator to the Board of Aldermen would further communication and cooperation between the BOA and the Schools Committee. I’m a feminist, and I strive to be an ally to people of color and the LGBT community. Moreover, over the course of my campaign I have worked hard to reach out to people who are often overlooked by local politicians; I’ve registered over a hundred new voters and specifically targeted tenants, young people, and students. Conventional wisdom says that these populations aren’t involved in local politics. Maybe that’s because no one has invited them to the table.

David W.S. Lieberman Candidate for Ward 6 Alderman Responses 2015

1) If elected, what steps will you take to keep residents in Ward 6 informed about the municipal decisions, issues, and proposed changes that affect them: legislation and budgetary matters, proposed development, decisions by City officials, issues that surface from the community, etc.

DL: Making sure that our neighbors are informed about city and neighborhood issues is one of the major roles of our Alderman. There are a number of formal and informal ways that Somerville can better inform its residents. As alderman, I will take notes on public meetings, post them online, and email them and mail them to any interested resident. No one should have to choose between supporting their family and making a 6pm public meeting. Similarly, I will be easy to reach by phone or email or in person. During this campaign, I’ve freely given my cell-phone number out and will continue to do that as an Alderman. It is (617) 863-0311.

There are a number of technological improvements we can make as well. Although we have made strides in this regard, we should strive to ensure that all public meetings and hearings are streamed online and seek ways to encourage residents to share real-time feedback. I think we should review our city’s website with an eye towards ensuring that it facilitates easy interaction with the government. For example, I would like to see better incorporation of GIS (mapping) technology to make it easier to understand everything from what development and business permits are being sought to where people are identifying issues with 311.


a) What steps, if any, should the City take -- and what steps will you take, if elected -- to provide access to information and services to Somerville residents who have limited English proficiency?

DL: This is a very big part of making sure that Somerville works for all of its families. I met a resident off of Broadway who was trying to get city or state services for her daughter, but was embarrassed to contact the city because she didn’t think her English was good enough. First, we currently utilize Google translate to make our city’s website available in non-English languages (note that it does not translate words in images or buttons). I think at a minimum we need to supplement this by having fluent speakers in each of the City’s top five spoken languages ensure that the website is navigable in this way. I also believe that this is an area where we can harness our residents to volunteer to serve on an advisory board, both to ensure that the city’s services are accessible to all of our residents, and to offer to serve as translators and guides if need be.

2) What kinds of changes would you like to see in the nature and density of businesses and/or residences in Davis Square, and how should the City encourage those changes?

DL: While Davis Square undoubtedly will evolve and develop, I think it has reached a relatively mature state in comparison to Ball Square and other commercial centers around Somerville. Davis Square has long enjoyed a great deal of interest and participation by residents to proposed changes. I think future development proposals need to be done cautiously and in coordination with a great deal of stakeholder involvement.

a) What do you want to see at 240 Elm Street (the former Social Security Building)? What can you do as an elected official to make sure this building is stabilized and occupied by a business that people in the neighborhood will support and patronize?

DL: What I want to see is a thriving business that serves the community and not an abandoned building. I will work to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of what businesses are seeking to join our community and facilitating an open and transparent process by which new businesses can share their vision for supporting our community and stakeholders can provide feedback and together we can decide if there is a fit.

As a former prosecutor, I have no patience with developers risking public safety by cutting corners. As alderman, I would put pressure on the City and on the developer to make restoration of that property a top priority. I believe that at times the City’s focus has slipped from Davis Square to developments in Assembly and Union Square. We need an Alderman who is prepared to advocate for Davis Square and ensure that it gets the attention and resources it deserves.


b) What is your vision for the West Branch Library and what will you do to ensure that the upcoming reconstruction happens and properly serves our community?

DL: The West Branch Library has gone far too long without renovation. I was heartened by the massive outpouring of support for the renovation by Ward 6 residents. I believe the renovation will be a great opportunity to, first of all, make the library ADA compliant so that it may be enjoyed by all Somerville residents. I spoke with a resident last weekend who used to love to attend the book club at the West Branch but stopped going when it was moved to the library’s main branch due to the West Branch’s leaking roof and lack of accessibility. We need to bring this and other programs back to Davis Square. I would also like to see us expand the mission of the branch to include civic meeting and classroom space and more fully integrate the building into the civic life of Ward 6.

3) What kinds of changes, if any, would you like to see in the way Davis Square accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular traffic?

DL: It is clear that traffic is starting to choke the vibrancy of Davis Square. Furthermore, the current traffic patterns are unsafe and inconvenient for pedestrians and bicyclists. I believe that we need a comprehensive traffic and study of the area in conjunction with the streetscapes improvement project. In general we need better and safer pedestrian crossing, better-demarcated bike lanes and bike parking, and improved traffic flow. For example, a vehicle seeking to go left on Holland Street onto Elm Street must travel all the way to Grove Street, take a left, travel down Highland and then take a right.

4) What steps would you advocate that the City take to ensure that Somerville residents benefit from the employment opportunities created by development/construction projects that receive public funding support and the businesses that come to occupy those sites? What kinds of incentives will you advocate offering to other businesses that hire Somerville residents?

DL: I support a jobs linkage fee on large commercial construction to support job training and placement programs for city residents. I also support strengthening our prevailing and living wage rules to ensure that all projects and entities that receive significant public support commit to pay their employees a fair wage.

5) If market forces alone shape residential development, we'll likely see a lot more high-end studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units, that are too small and too expensive for Somerville families with middle-school-age or older children. If these families can't find affordable multi-bedroom housing, they will likely have to leave the city, adversely impacting community stability and our middle and high school systems. What steps will you advocate to ensure preservation and expansion of the supply of family-size housing that is affordable to low and middle-income households?

DL: I have advocated a number of policies to strengthen housing affordability. I support a revised zoning ordinance that will encourage transit-oriented development and increase inclusionary zoning requirements and will make a portion of the affordable units multi-bedroom. I support the recent increase in linkage fees and support a transfer (house flipping) tax that would direct money to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which helps fund the development of affordable housing, including multi-bedroom units. I also want to investigate providing incentives to landlords of long-term tenants to encourage them to help keep families here for the long term.

6) What should the City do to capitalize on the benefits of the Green Line extension, and what should it do to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts on Ward 6 and other neighborhoods that it passes through?

DL: First of all, as I’m sure you are aware, the Baker administration has recently questioned the viability of the extension and suggested that elimination of the project is on the table. I believe that project is vital to the health and future of our community and I will fight any attempts to delay or curtail the project.

One of the likely adverse impacts from the development is the potential for continued skyrocketing of housing prices and rent. As noted above, this can be mitigated by a revised zoning ordinance that encourages smart, transit oriented development and an increase in the inclusionary zoning requirements to 20% affordable housing set asides. Second, investment in the community bike path along the green line is vital for the continued health and growth of Somerville. That project has also recently been threatened and I would fight to support it.


7) What steps will you advocate to make Somerville an even more environment-friendly city? Your answer can address energy use, pollution, waste, water management, greenspaces, trees, etc.

DL: As a former prosecutor of environmental crimes, this issue is very important to me. There are a number of initiatives that we can pursue. I support Alderman Gewirtz’s work on curbside composting. I also think we need to study incentives and zoning requirements to discourage the use of Impervious surfaces include driveways, sidewalks and parking lots, that increase runoff and tax our sewer system. I support the City’s increased use of renewable energy, LED lighting, and purchase of hybrid vehicles, and I would like to see increased pursuit of these programs. Given the density of our City and the scarcity of public green spaces, I would like to see an increased proportion of CPA funds allocated to green space acquisition and preservation projects.

8) What should the City do to reduce the number of drug overdoses by Somerville residents? What can the City do to address problem drinking?

DL: This issue, particularly as it relates to opioids, is reaching crisis proportions. I strongly support the policies pursued in Gloucester, in which people are permitted to report themselves and police will assist in finding treatment rather than charge them with crimes. Coupled with an increased focus on community policing, treating this problem as a health crisis rather than a criminal issue is our best chance to address it. With respect to problem drinking, I similarly think that a focus on working with residents to obtain treatment rather than criminalizing small infractions will produce the most positive outcomes. Where the drinking issue relates to university students, I think our city needs to work with Tufts and with landlords in the area to identify budding problems rather than letting these issues fester.

9) Why are you running for Alderman? What issues or concerned compelled you to run? What would you like to accomplish if elected?

DL: I am running to be the next Alderman for Ward 6 because Somerville needs a strong advocate for our families and community. Service to my community and nation has long been an important part of my life. In 1999, I left my junior year at Boston University to serve as an AmeriCorps member in City Year Boston. Every day I crossed Tremont Street — one of the wealthiest in Boston — to work with underserved students in a Boston Public School and Villa Victoria community center. At City Year, I saw first-hand the positive impact that committed individuals can have on the lives of others. I was so inspired by that idea that I spent the next year helping to found City Year, Washington D.C.

After graduating law school, I served as a prosecutor with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, fighting environmental crimes and corruption and fraud. There, I learned that the work of building a community needs to be coupled with the resolve to stand up against those who seek to profit by endangering the public good.

I believe Somerville is at a crossroads. As I go door-to-door and speak to our neighbors, I hear again and again concern that important decisions about our future are being quietly made by a powerful few —and unless we act, we risk losing the character that brought us to this community in the first place. This includes many of the issues discussed above and others I discuss on my website http://davidwslieberman.org.


10) What kind of political or community activism have you engaged in over the past few years?

DL: As noted above, I worked as a City Year AmeriCorps member in public schools in Boston and DC and later prosecuted environmental crimes and corruption and fraud with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. Since then I have continued to maintain a strong commitment to public service, remaining active in City Year as a member and former co-chair of the Alumni Board, a mentor for corps members seeking legal and public service careers, and a three-time vice-chair of the City Year Legal Breakfast, among other roles. I have undertaken many pro bono projects, including obtain asylum in the United States for an Iraqi refugee threatened by terrorists and a transgendered woman who was persecuted on that basis in her home country. In 2014, I was selected as a Boston Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellow for my commitment to public service, and in 2015 I was presented with an Excellence in the Law Award from Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

11) What else about your candidacy makes you a logical choice for a progressive voter?

DL: I believe that I have the strongest background of national and community service of any candidate in this race. I also have the strongest background as a committed progressive advocate. Finally, my drive and dedication should make me a natural fit for progressive voters in Ward 6.

Lance Davis Candidate for Ward 6 Alderman Responses 2015

1) If elected, what steps will you take to keep residents in Ward 6 informed about the municipal decisions, issues, and proposed changes that affect them: legislation and budgetary matters, proposed development, decisions by City officials, issues that surface from the community, etc.

LD: It is critical to include all stakeholders in developments occurring in the city and I will ensure that the city to hears the concerns of Ward 6 residents. As an active member of the community for over 14 years, I see, firsthand, the value of personal relationships and I commit to maintaining open communication channels with residents and working to bring ideas and concerns to the city early in the process. I will publish letters in local Somerville media outlets, post updates on my website and Facebook, and use emails and phone calls to ensure the residents of Ward 6 are aware of issues and policies that directly affect them. In addition, historically, the Davis Square Task Force helped to facilitate this type of exchange of information and input from community members. I am open to exploring the possibility of reviving a community group of this sort, whether that be through the Davis Action Group, a “new” Davis Square Task Force, or some other format. I believe that our people of Ward 6 will benefit from an increased exchange of information on the issues that affect our neighborhoods.

a) What steps, if any, should the City take -- and what steps will you take, if elected -- to provide access to information and services to Somerville residents who have limited English proficiency?

LD: Somerville’s many vibrant and active communities contribute immensely to the City and help shape its rich character. The City must ensure that all residents have access to the information and resources they need, regardless of the language in which they communicate. Through Progress Together for Somerville, we worked with other community groups, such as The Welcome Project, to increase access to information relating to Somerville schools for parents with limited English proficiency, so that they could more fully participate in their children’s education. I will be a strong advocate for convenient and effective translation services and regular review of the languages in which information is communicated to residents through automated phone calls, online, and in print. It is imperative that all residents of Somerville have up-to-date Information and feel welcomed and confident that the City has their specific needs in mind. We could also pass Municipal ID legislation to provide services and benefits to those communities who have historically been fearful of using community services for lack of proper ID and difficulty in communication. This legislation, publicized in different languages, would simultaneously benefit these communities and the city.

2) What kinds of changes would you like to see in the nature and density of businesses and/or residences in Davis Square, and how should the City encourage those changes?

LD: Somerville residents are dedicated to the quirky, independent character of the square and it’s critical to retain that. The Mayor has proposed encouraging local, independent businesses through zoning and I would support that concept. Somervision proposes 6,000 new residential units in the city and the Mayor’s office is calling for 9,000. Much of that will be in new developments outside of Ward 6. Even 9,000 new units alone is not going to solve the affordability crisis in Somerville and I will support other measures to attempt to mitigate the effects of gentrification in our neighborhood and throughout the city. As one of the only neighborhoods currently situated around a transit node, Davis Square has and will continue to see significant development interest and that will include additional density in the Square. It is important that the community have a voice as projects are proposed and that their voices are respectfully taken into account..

a) What do you want to see at 240 Elm Street (the former Social Security Building)? What can you do as an elected official to make sure this building is stabilized and occupied by a business that people in the neighborhood will support and patronize?

LD: 240 Elm Street is the single most pressing issue in Davis Square proper. Like many of my neighbors, I was thrilled when the Brothers Marketplace proposal was announced and very disappointed when I learned it had been pulled. I share the belief that 240 Elm Street should house a business that serves the community and those who make their homes here in Ward 6. If there is a similar alternative to the previous proposal (as has been rumored), I would be inclined to support it, though I truly hope that plans are in place long before the next Ward 6 Alderman takes office. I am encouraged that construction is (finally) moving forward and that the City expects a new facade to be completed (in accordance with the previously approved plans) in the next few months. I expect the City and the current Board of Aldermen to continue to closely monitor the progress and take prompt and decisive action if any additional delays or issues arise. If elected, and in the event that a new tenant has not been identified when I took office, I would attempt to open a direct line of communication with the building owners and would work with the City, my colleagues on the Board, and the community to support and facilitate discussions with potential businesses that reflect the needs of Ward 6..

b) What is your vision for the West Branch Library and what will you do to ensure that the upcoming reconstruction happens and properly serves our community?

LD: I am encouraged by the movement thus far on this project, as well as the strong showing from the community in support of it. The West Branch Library is not only a unique and historic facility in our neighborhood but it is a critical public resource that is in great need of significant investment. The four proposals put forth by the design team at the second public meeting last week reflect the great potential for the West Branch and I will continue to convey to our current officials the need for this project to move forward. If elected, I will fight hard for whatever funding is necessary to support the chosen plan. Given the precious limited community space we have in Ward 6 and the singular opportunity to improve the West Branch presented to us right now, we cannot afford to take half measures..

3) What kinds of changes, if any, would you like to see in the way Davis Square accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular traffic?

LD: First and foremost, Ward 6 needs infrastructure improvements and I will push for completion of the Davis Square Streetscapes Improvement project so that our streets and sidewalks are safe and accessible for all residents, regardless of their means of mobility. Concerns regarding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, including the “disappearance” of the Community Path through Davis Square, have been raised for a long time and we need to invest in improvements that allow safe and efficient movement through the Square for all modes of transportation. Traffic backups effect not only the air quality in our neighborhood and our ability to move in and about the Square but they also impact the surrounding neighborhoods, causing additional gridlock and safety concerns as frustrated drivers cut through smaller side streets. Smart traffic design, together with continued investment in infrastructure for bicycle, pedestrian, and other alternative means of transportation are the only way to ensure that Davis Square can continue to thrive as a vibrant neighborhood and business center..

4) What steps would you advocate that the City take to ensure that Somerville residents benefit from the employment opportunities created by development/construction projects that receive public funding support and the businesses that come to occupy those sites? What kinds of incentives will you advocate offering to other businesses that hire Somerville residents?

LD: I believe that the City must hold development/construction companies accountable to ensure not only that proper labor standards are being followed but also that local hiring promises are kept. This not only reflects the values that we should champion as a community but it is in the best interest of the City in ensuring quality services from our contracting partners and quality jobs for our neighbors. On the other side of the equation, we should also increase our investment in jobs training and educational programs so that the people in our community can benefit from new development and the employment opportunities presented by new businesses in the City..

5) If market forces alone shape residential development, we'll likely see a lot more high-end studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units, that are too small and too expensive for Somerville families with middle-school-age or older children. If these families can't find affordable multi-bedroom housing, they will likely have to leave the city, adversely impacting community stability and our middle and high school systems. What steps will you advocate to ensure preservation and expansion of the supply of family-size housing that is affordable to low and middle-income households?

LD: The availability of family-size housing is one of the biggest concerns I have with current trends in the City. I talk about this every night at the doors. The question says it all. Where once young families left Somerville out of concerns with the school system, now too many who want to stay and benefit from the incredible diversity and strong community in Somerville are being forced out due to rising housing costs. We must recognize this as a significant component of the current affordability crisis and work with developers to encourage the inclusion of family-size units, rather than only pushing for small affordable units countered by additional studio and one-bedroom market rate units. Additionally, I support many of the ideas being considered by the Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group to make our community more affordable and accessible to current and new resident families, such as the proposed Benevolent Property Owner Tax Credit, as well as other proposals such as expansion of first-time home buyer assistance programs and extension of tax benefits to landlords of longtime tenants..

6) What should the City do to capitalize on the benefits of the Green Line extension, and what should it do to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts on Ward 6 and other neighborhoods that it passes through?

LD: The Green Line Extension is a critical component of the future, not only of Somerville, but of the metro Boston region. For better or worse, we’ve had significant time to anticipate and prepare for the GLX but that work is far from complete. We need to utilize revised zoning around new transit nodes to channel the development interest that already exists in a way that reflects our community values. The areas around these planned stations represent some of the most vulnerable communities in Somerville. It is imperative that we secure affordable housing solutions in these neighborhoods and support existing local and independent businesses in preparing for the coming changes..

7) What steps will you advocate to make Somerville an even more environment-friendly city? Your answer can address energy use, pollution, waste, water management, greenspaces, trees, etc.

LD: Somerville has committed to being a leader on environmental issues and I would look to continue, and expand, that commitment. I will actively support and encourage measures to meet the City’s goal of being carbon-neutral by 2015. I will encourage the expansion of solar and green roof development in the City. We have a community composting pilot program in the works and a plastic bag ban that is being developed in committee, both of which I fully support. Additionally, Somerville needs to consider significant upgrades to our storm-water management system and plan for the revenue needed for that undertaking. On a more day-to-day level, I will fight to enhance and expand our public parks and open spaces. In a city as densely populated as Somerville, it would be difficult to understate the public health benefit of well-maintained green spaces..

8) What should the City do to reduce the number of drug overdoses by Somerville residents? What can the City do to address problem drinking?

LD: Addiction, and the rise of opiate addiction in particular, is a significant and immediate threat to the health of our community. I support the efforts of the Mayor’s office and the SPD to address this concern and would encourage and support the City in following the model of municipalities like Gloucester, in treating opiate addiction as a health issue, not a criminal matter. Alderman McLaughlin and others should be commended for their tireless efforts in keeping this issue at the forefront of our public conversation and I fully support expansion of our efforts to address this very real threat to our neighbors. In Davis Square we have an active restaurant and nightlife scene that benefits the entire city. I will work with the City and with business owners to make sure that our neighbors don’t bear an undue burden when patrons of these business head back into our neighborhoods..

9) Why are you running for Alderman? What issues or concerned compelled you to run? What would you like to accomplish if elected?

LD: My wife, Amy, and I have lived in Somerville for fourteen years and are raising our two kids here. In some ways, we’ve seen the community change dramatically but Somerville still retains the small-town feel that we fell in love with, and that has drawn so many of our neighbors here. My primary reason for running is that, from my knowledge of and involvement in the community, I understand the concerns facing my neighbors and want to continue to make Somerville a place that people of all statuses and backgrounds can call home. My primary goals include increasing our commitment to quality public schools citywide, enhancing and expanding public open spaces, improving and upgrading the city's infrastructure, and fighting for measures to help address affordability in the housing market. I care deeply about the community, I recognize the importance of prioritizing community, and I will be a strong independent advocate for the residents of Ward 6..

10) What kind of political or community activism have you engaged in over the past few years?

LD: I was one of the leaders of Progress Together for Somerville because I saw the need to protect and strengthen the Somerville Public School system. I am a member of the PTA and volunteer regularly at the Brown School, where my children attend. My wife and I also serve on the Honorary Committee for the Somerville Homeless Coalition Gala and I’ve coached both my son’s and daughter’s soccer teams with Somerville Youth Soccer Association. I have publicly supported the Fight for $15, including talking with workers at Assembly Row this summer. I regularly participate in public meetings and visioning processes and I’ve always supported candidates who fight for progressive values, including Rebekah Gewirtz, Carl Sciortino, Pat Jehlen, and Denise Provost. As Alderman, I will continue to fight for our shared progressive values and work to protect the most vulnerable communities in our city..

11) What else about your candidacy makes you a logical choice for a progressive voter?

LD: I have been endorsed by many progressive individuals and organizations that have fought for progressive ideals, and I commit to doing the same. The individuals endorsing me include Rebekah Gewirtz, current Ward 6 Alderman, Joe Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville, Jack Connolly, current Alderman-at-Large, Gene Brune, former Mayor of Somerville, and Denise Provost, State Representative. I also am proud to have the endorsements of the Greater Boston Labor Council, SEIU Local 888, the Somerville Municipal Employees Association, UFCW Local 1445, and Teamsters Local 25.

Charles J. Chisholm Candidate for Ward 6 Alderman Responses 2015

1) If elected, what steps will you take to keep residents in Ward 6 informed about the municipal decisions, issues, and proposed changes that affect them: legislation and budgetary matters, proposed development, decisions by City officials, issues that surface from the community, etc.

CC: I would like to continue the quarterly newsletter employed by the previous alderman. I am open to suggestions .

a) What steps, if any, should the City take -- and what steps will you take, if elected -- to provide access to information and services to Somerville residents who have limited English proficiency?

CC: On the question of access for those of limited English proficiency, I would need to research the issue.

2) What kinds of changes would you like to see in the nature and density of businesses and/or residences in Davis Square, and how should the City encourage those changes?

CC: Development should be acceptable to the neighborhood and projects like the initial one on Summer Street should not go forward.

a) What do you want to see at 240 Elm Street (the former Social Security Building)? What can you do as an elected official to make sure this building is stabilized and occupied by a business that people in the neighborhood will support and patronize?

CC: I would like to see a supermarket at that location (240 Elm). The City should threaten to declare it a public safety hazard and raze the building. Political influence should be curtailed when the public’s interest is at risk.

b) What is your vision for the West Branch Library and what will you do to ensure that the upcoming reconstruction happens and properly serves our community?

CC: I believe that any plan for that library should encompass handicapped access .

3) What kinds of changes, if any, would you like to see in the way Davis Square accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular traffic?

CC: Vehicular traffic would be abated if the T were a free transit system, as could financially be feasible under the Fair Share amendment, if adopted. Visiting drivers are not aware of where the crosswalks are, because they are brick and not marked with neither white nor yellow paint, hence, they are dangerous for pedestrians.

4) What steps would you advocate that the City take to ensure that Somerville residents benefit from the employment opportunities created by development/construction projects that receive public funding support and the businesses that come to occupy those sites? What kinds of incentives will you advocate offering to other businesses that hire Somerville residents?

CC: Somerville residents should be hired, not by virtue of where they live but by the strength of their qualifications. I believe we should strive to have a satellite campus of Bunker Hill Community College built on the grounds of the current Foss Park to accommodate residents with six months to a year certificate programs so they can qualify for these positions.

5) If market forces alone shape residential development, we'll likely see a lot more high-end studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units, that are too small and too expensive for Somerville families with middle-school-age or older children. If these families can't find affordable multi-bedroom housing, they will likely have to leave the city, adversely impacting community stability and our middle and high school systems. What steps will you advocate to ensure preservation and expansion of the supply of family-size housing that is affordable to low and middle-income households?

CC: I support increasing the participation of elderly citizens in the tax deferral program, I support reductions in tax obligations for owners who offer reasonable rents, and I will support any recommendations that would help alleviate to upward pressure on rents. As a tenant myself, I have seen my rent double in a short period of time. I can relate to the fright people feel when their ability to stay in their home is threatened.

6) What should the City do to capitalize on the benefits of the Green Line extension, and what should it do to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts on Ward 6 and other neighborhoods that it passes through?

CC: The best way to maximize benefits is to make the system free. To mitigate the adverse effects of the trains passing, some sound barriers might be necessary .

7) What steps will you advocate to make Somerville an even more environment-friendly city? Your answer can address energy use, pollution, waste, water management, greenspaces, trees, etc.

CC: I think businesses which dump grease or oil into the sewer systems should be prosecuted, green spaces should be properly maintained and more trees should be planted.

8) What should the City do to reduce the number of drug overdoses by Somerville residents? What can the City do to address problem drinking?

CC: We should cooperate with Atty. General Maura Healey’s plan to address this issue and support the legislation she has proposed in this regard. Colleges like Tufts want to relax laws regarding student drinking in an effort to curb binge drinking. I think more effort to explain the health risks to students is necessary, as well as fire safety and street crossing prudence.

9) Why are you running for Alderman? What issues or concerned compelled you to run? What would you like to accomplish if elected?

CC: I am running for alderman to help ward six residents deal with our changing neighborhood and solve their individual problems. I believe that my independence from special interests campaign donations insures that neighborhood interests will prevail over developers’ or businesses’ profits.

10) What kind of political or community activism have you engaged in over the past few years?

CC: I have hosted fund raising for the LGBT Asylum Project for Ugandan refugees fleeing state sponsored violence against them and their families. I also have supported the DSCC in their efforts to unseat the Republican majority in the United States Senate..

11) What else about your candidacy makes you a logical choice for a progressive voter?

CC: My website www.charlesjchisholm.com traces my long history of fighting for civil rights in the freedom schools, of fighting for the LGBT community of which I am a proud member by creating gay-straight alliances across America, of fighting for labor rights as a union official and of fighting for decent schools. My record as a School Committee member and a Ward Alderman suggest that I not only believe in the principles of the progressive democrats, but I make those ideals into reality.

Questions for Municipal Candidates

Propose Questions for Municipal Candidates

Fill out this form to submit your questions: https://goo.gl/tvyPm5

 

PDS will be creating questionnaires for races in the upcoming Somerville municipal elections. We are asking you to submit questions to be considered for inclusion.

You can propose as many questions as you wish.

 

In Ward 6 there is a preliminary election to narrow the 4 candidates down to 2 candidates on Thursday September 17 and we hope to get those questionnaires out to candidates as soon as we can.

 

Contested Races include:

 

Alderman At Large

Ward 6 Alderman (including Preliminary) (no incumbent)

Ward 1 School Committee

Ward 3 School Committee (no incumbent)

Ward 4 School Committee (no incumbent)

Uncontested Seats are Alderman Wards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7; School Committee Wards 2, 5, 6, 7.

 

Fill out this form to submit your questions: https://goo.gl/tvyPm5

Help Elect Christine Barber State Representative

Dear PDSers,

 

As I write this there are only 4 weeks left until the Massachusetts Primary Election Day on September 9. Less than a month. SO MUCH to do!

 

Our own Christine Barber is the PDS endorsed candidate to fill the State Representative Seat in the 34th Middlesex district left vacant by Carl Sciortino. Christine is working so hard every day knocking on voter’s doors and raising the money needed to run a good campaign.

 

Christine needs YOUR help.

 

You can sign up on line here:

http://goo.gl/a1EC6L

 

You know what we need.

 

People to canvass door to door is our biggest need.

 

Our Campaign office is at 78A Cameron Avenue, Somerville 02144 and we are open 7 days a week. Any day or night you can canvass we can send you out to canvass. We have so many voters to reach and so little time. If walking is not your thing bring your cell phone and we can set you up with a list of voters to call.

 

With Election Day so close we have to get ready for GOTV. Again, you know what we need. We need Precinct Captains, we need Canvassers, phone bankers, poll checkers, sign holders. On Monday night 9/8 we need people to do door hangers. We could use a couple of people to coordinate and distribute food for volunteers.

 

Please Sign Up and Help Christine win this election.

 

 

You can sign up on line here:

http://goo.gl/a1EC6L

 

If you absolutely have zero time to help, then please donate so the campaign can have enough to run an effective winning campaign. https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/christinebarber

 

As always we are counting on you to make this happen. Thank you for all you do.

34th Middlesex State Representative Candidate Endorsement Process

34th Middlesex State Representative Candidate Endorsement Process

 

Earlier this year State Representative Carl Sciortino left the State House to become Executive Director of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts creating an open seat for the 34th Middlesex (MI) district which includes Somerville Ward 4 and Ward 7 and Medford (Ward 4, Ward 5, Ward 7: Precinct 1, and Ward 8: Precinct 2) 

 

The Progressive Democrats of Somerville (PDS) formed a coalition of local grassroots organizations with our colleagues at Medford for MA (MfM) and Cambridge-Somerville for Change (CSfC) (Progressive Massachusetts Affiliates) to organize a forum on June 29, 2014 where members of the public could hear directly from the candidates for office.  The forum was filmed and posted in several parts divided by topic.  You can

view the Candidate Forum video online. 

 

The three organizations also prepared a questionnaire asking the candidates’ views on the important issues facing the district and the state.

 

Candidates were invited to seek the endorsement of our organizations.  We invite our members to vote on their endorsement.  The link to the online ballot will be sent to members via email.  You can use the answers to the questionnaires and the video of the forum to help you make your decision about who to endorse.

 

Four Democrats are running for this seat in the Primary on September 9.  An independent candidate will be on the ballot on November 4 along with the winner of the Democratic Primary.  There are no Republicans running for the seat.  All candidates were invited to participate.  Two candidates submitted questionnaires and attended the forum.

 

 Christine Barber: Questionnaire, seeking endorsement

 

 Sharon Guzik: Questionnaire, seeking endorsement

 

 

 Erin DiBenedetto: Did not participate

 Craig Rourke: Did not participate

 

 

 

34th Middlesex State Representative Candidate Questionnaires

34th Middlessex Questionnaire.docx

Sharon Guzik

Candidate for State Representative 34MI

 

Background and Priorities

0. Please tell us anything you would like us to know about you including your motivation, preparation, priorities, and vision for the campaign and office.

 

A longtime Hillside resident, I have worked as a community activist for more than a decade on a range of local issues.  As a board member of Citizens for Public Schools and through my service on the 2010-2011 Medford School Committee, I have been a vocal proponent of increasing state education funding, differentiating classroom curricula, and keeping the school libraries open. A biologist by training, I worked as the Supervisor for the Freshman Biology Labs at Northeastern University and later for the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts which supports small businesses to become more “green” and encourages local shopping within a community.  As President of Friends of the Medford Public Library, I have led fundraising efforts to support library programs and advocated for increased library funding at the city and state levels.  I have also been involved in local efforts to advocate for street trees and clean up of the Mystic River and the Middlesex Fells. 

 

Through my work in the community, I've heard directly from citizens and business owners about their concerns, and understand the legislation that impacts them.  I've also built solid relationships with local officials to effect change. I'm eager to bring this knowledge to the state level to help shape policy and effect positive changes for our community.

 

There are many issues that I am eager to start work on.  My highest priorities are public education, environmental issues, and the growing economic inequality.

 

 

Transportation and Infrastructure

1. Former Rep. Carl Sciortino was a leading advocate for public transit and a champion for the Green Line Extension project, in particular.   

What kinds of legislative efforts would you undertake to put the MBTA on more stable financial footing?

What would you do to keep the Green Line Extension project moving forward?

How far should the Green Line be extended (and why)?     

 

One of the biggest issues with the MBTA’s finances is its debt load and a large part of its budget goes to servicing this debt. The debt in part is from state obligations to expand public transportation to mitigate increased air pollution from the Big Dig, while much of the rest was to take care of a backlog of maintenance issues.  The Commonwealth should assume at least part of this debt freeing up money that the MBTA can use for operating costs and maintenance.  Possible new sources of revenue include restructuring fees in a way that would not impact ridership or a universal pass system that is paid for by employers or developers.

 

The Green line should be extended all the way to Rte. 16 (Mystic Valley Parkway).  A terminus at Rte.16 would be convenient to existing bus lines and to the multi-purpose planned paths for pedestrians and bicycles. Thousands of additional riders would have access within a 10-minute walk.  It is also a matter of equity as a Rte.16 terminus would serve two Environmental Justice communities in West Medford and Northwest Somerville.

 

The State has continually delayed the green line extension and pressure needs to be applied to keep the extension on its current schedule.  Additionally, spending has only been approved to a College Ave terminus.  I will work to secure the funding needed to extend the Green Line all the way to a terminus at Rte.16.

 

 

Infrastructure maintenance backlog

2. Numerous studies have reported on the backlog of maintenance of the Commonwealth's roads, dams, transit systems, pipelines, along with increased demand for bicycle and pedestrian right-of-ways.

 

What would be your priorities?

How would you pay for infrastructure improvements?

 

My priorities would be to expand public transportation as well as making our urban areas safer for pedestrians and bicycles.  Providing safe routes would encourage more people to ride bicycles or walk to their destinations.

 

At the same time there are dams and bridges that are in urgent need of repair to prevent them from failing. So priority should be given to those structures in critical condition.  At the same time we need to be thinking long-term and make needed adaptations for sea level rise due to climate change. Structures such as the Amelia Earhart Dam will need to be able handle storm surges to prevent upstream flooding. 

 

Then we work on improving our roadways and other less urgently needed infrastructure.  Again taking a long-term view, we need to provide sufficient funding for regular maintenance of the state’s infrastructure.

 

Beyond Federal funding and low-interest loans, new dedicated revenue streams need to be explored.    We need to keep the gas tax indexed to inflation intact. Other new revenue streams we should explore could include expanding toll ways and toll bridges as long as they are equitably distributed in the state, a vehicle miles travelled tax, and collecting annual payments from large corporate businesses specifically for infrastructure needs.

 

 

Taxation and Revenue

3. Rep. Sciortino was a dedicated advocate for fair taxation policy.  What changes in Massachusetts tax policy would you advocate? Please be specific about what taxes (and tax expenditures) you would change and how.

 

I have greatly admired Carl Sciortino for his work to close corporate tax loopholes in a climate that favors big business.  The state largely depends on taxes paid by individual citizens – most of whom are far from wealthy.  Large corporations operating in Massachusetts find legal loopholes to reduce their taxes to our state and often take their profits elsewhere.  Despite the difficulty of doing so, Carl was able to close a number of these loopholes.  I will continue his work in this area and work toward a progressive income tax in Massachusetts to distribute the tax burden more equitably.

 

One of the major issues in our state budget is decreasing revenues and the consequent increased burden imposed on low and middle income families.  Our wealthiest citizens and large corporations need to take on their fair share of taxes and the burden of supporting our state needs to be removed from our lower income families.  I will work to find new revenue streams and to increase some current sources by changing our tax structure to become more progressive and reducing reliance on regressive taxes.  

 

Our overall tax structure needs to be reformed.  Changing to a graduated income tax would take a constitutional amendment, which would be difficult to pass.  Another option is to pass legislation to increase the tax rate while increasing deductions and exemptions,    I would work to close remaining corporate tax loopholes and push to examine corporate subsidies to determine their efficacy and make sure that promises are kept.   

 

 

Veterans

4. There is nationwide concern about the adequacy of efforts to link veterans with the benefits, job training, and health and mental health care they need. What would you do to ensure that veterans get the full range of help they deserve?

 

The state programs through the Office of Veteran Services need to be sufficiently funded in order to offer timely, quality services.

 

 Massachusetts VA hospitals are doing well compared to the rest of the country, boasting three of the nation’s highest-rated VA hospitals. However, this high performance is not consistent throughout the state, with waiting times in some VA hospitals unacceptably long. We need to bring all state VA hospitals and clinics up to the same high standard.

 

We should increase outreach efforts by state and municipal Veteran Service Offices to ensure that veterans are fully informed about resources that are available.

 

 

Civil and Voting Rights

5. Rep. Sciortino was known for his civil rights advocacy on behalf of members of the GLBTQ community. What are some of the ongoing civil rights issues that you would use a seat in the House to address?

 

I strongly believe that everyone deserves the same civil rights for all and will fight discrimination. I have shown this to be true by my past actions with respect to LGBT issues.  Although I have not personally experienced overt discrimination, as a woman and an ethnic Jew, I have experienced implicit discrimination particularly in academia. I worked to ensure the civil right of same-sex couples to marry and have stood up for the rights of transgender people at the municipal level.

 

Carl Sciortino was instrumental in passing An Act Relative to Gender Identity which protects transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and education. However, the right of transgender people to not be discriminated against in public accommodations was not part of this Act.  I would support legislation such as S.643/H.1589 An Act Relative to Equal Access to prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation.

 

 

6. Although immigration reform is largely a federal issue, states can pass laws and implement policies which afford immigrants’ rights and protections, regardless of their documentation status.

What should Massachusetts policy towards undocumented immigrants be with respect to: issuing driver's licenses, accessing in-state tuition rates in state colleges and universities, accessing state-funded housing subsidies, health coverage, and the protections afforded to citizens and documented workers?

 

Every person residing in Massachusetts deserves proper housing, health-care and other basic protections provided by the state.  Allowing undocumented immigrants to hold driver’s licenses without consequences due to their immigration status can ensure that they are safe drivers. 

Massachusetts can choose to grant state citizenship to non-citizens (both documented and undocumented) that would confer rights within the state.

 

An example of such legislation that should be explored is New York State’s “New York is Home Act.”  This legislation would allow immigrants to qualify for Medicaid, obtain professional licenses, tuition assistance, driver’s licenses and grant state and local voting rights.

 

 

Criminal Justice

7. What kinds of reforms would you advocate for in the Massachusetts criminal justice and corrections systems, and why?

 

Our first priority should be to keep non-violent offenders out of prison. We need to increase funding for programs such as access to quality mental health and substance abuse services. By keeping non-violent offenders out of prison the probability of re-offending decreases,  saving the state money in the long term.

 

We need to investment in expanding and improving re-entry/re-integration programs such as education and job training supervision and support services for prisoners after release.

 

Mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders should also be reexamined. This approach puts non-violent offenders in prison when other programs outside prison would be a better solution.

 

Also, we need to interrupt the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  Expulsion due to the zero tolerance policy for minor offenses by already struggling students not only demoralizes students but leaves them on the streets unsupervised.  The goal should be to keep them in school rather than interrupting their education.

 

I will support legislation such as S.268 Act for Interrupting School to Prison Pipeline championed by Bill Robinson, Director of the Education Committee of NECAACP (the New England Conference of NAACP).

 

 

Gambling

8.  Please explain your position on the ballot initiative to repeal the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act. If casino gambling moves forward, what legislative or advocacy efforts would you undertake to improve the law and/or to protect Somerville and Medford residents and businesses from the adverse impacts of a casino in Everett or Revere?

 

I am very much FOR the ballot initiative to repeal the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act.  Although many see casinos as a new source of state revenue and jobs, I believe that societal  costs associated with casinos far outweigh any benefits. Studies have shown that there is an increase in social issues within a 50 mile radius of a new casino such as alcohol and substance abuse, gambling addictions, bankruptcy, crime, and suicides. Any additional revenue to the state from a casino will be reduced by the increased costs associated with these problems.

I am also concerned about the negative impact of a casino complex on small local businesses and the drain of money from the local economy.  Since those that can least afford it make up a disproportionate share of casino visitors, the money spent amounts to a regressive source of revenue.

Of particular concern to Medford and Somerville is the building of a casino in Everett or Revere. The inevitable increase in traffic particularly on Route 16 and through Wellington Circle would have a very tangible negative impact on Medford and Somerville.  Not only would traffic congestion increase but health issues due to increased vehicle emissions would likely increase or be exacerbated in an area that already has a very high incidence of asthma and other illnesses.

 

 

Health Care

9. Although Massachusetts was a pioneer in health insurance reform, many challenges remain.

What are some of the most pressing issues in health care coverage, access, and financing, and what can the state do to address those challenges?   

Should implementing a single payer system be part of the solution? If so, what should be the roles of the state and private insurers in that system?

 

Some of the most pressing issues in health care include costs, lack of dental and vision care, inadequate mental health and substance abuse care, and a focus on cost-centered care rather than patient-centered care. The state should pass legislation, such as that sponsored by Rep. Sciortino and Senator Jehlen, which would remove barriers to cost-effective care. The state should also invest in and cover dental, vision, mental health, and substance abuse care. A single payer system should absolutely be part of the solution, in the style of “Medicare for All,” where the state would take on most people’s insurance costs entirely, with private insurers able to cover add-ons for people who wanted extra coverage. In implementing single-payer, we should convene panels to examine how best to shift to patient-centered, rather than cost-centered care. Additionally, single-payer would help to reduce costs by cutting down on administration and by a large single pool of insured people.

 

 

10. Reproductive rights are being threatened across the country. What are the most significant challenges to protecting reproductive rights in Massachusetts and what would you do to address those challenges? 

 

As a woman who grew up in the 1970s, I have always been a staunch supporter of protecting reproductive and health rights.

 

The right of patients and staff to enter clinics where abortions are performed without harassment or violence has been threatened by the recent Supreme Court decision striking down the 35-foot buffer zone around such Massachusetts clinics.  I will champion legislation that will ensure patient and staff protection.

 

In Massachusetts, women under the age of 18 must obtain consent from a parent or legal guardian (ironically, the age of consent to engage in sex is 16).  There are a number of reasons why obtaining a parent’s consent is not always feasible. I will support legislation such as An Act Relative to Responsible Counseling and Act Relative to Consent and Counseling for Certain Minors.

 

Sex education in our schools needs to be age-appropriate and medically accurate.  I support An Act Relative to Healthy Youth that would ensure teaching of medically-accurate information about abstinence and contraception.  It is important that our children have the information they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

 

 

Education

11. What is the appropriate role for standardized testing in elementary and secondary education? How should student, teacher, and school performance be assessed?

 

The appropriate role for standardized testing in school is to aid student assessment by the classroom teacher.  This would allow teachers to adjust their teaching to the needs of the students both as a group and individually.  Some standardized tests that are used to assess students state-wide, nationally, or internationally are also appropriate as long as there is no time spent learning the test.

 

The use of students’ standardized test score is NOT appropriate to evaluate students, teachers, or schools when those scores carry consequences for each.  There are many problems with high-stakes standardized testing starting with what the tests actually measure.  We want our students to learn how to think critically, be creative, and be able to work in a team. Standardized tests can never measure this.  At best they measure getting the right answer in math or the right answer according to the test makers in ELA.  Statistical analysis of these scores is questionable.

 

Standardized tests are the educational analog to the old joke about looking for your lost keys under the street lamp.  They measure only what is easy to measure and purport to be scientific because they result in a number.

 

Students are more appropriately evaluated by those that know them best.  The classroom teacher is an educated professional and works with her/his students on a daily basis.  The teacher is best equipped to design appropriate evaluations.  Students should be evaluated in multiple ways that allow them to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity.

 

Teachers are best evaluated by their administrators. Appropriate assessment tools that include observations by building administrators, district-level administrators, and perhaps more senior teachers would be appropriate.  There should be a clear understanding of the district’s goals for their students and what it means for a teacher to reach those goals.

 

Schools can be evaluated by district administrators but the assessment tool but multiple measures need to be employed.

 

 

12. What are the appropriate roles and financing mechanisms for charter schools and public schools (including pilot schools)? How, if at all, should student selection and retention policies and practices impact public financing?

 

Every child learns differently. There is not one school that can be a good fit for all students.  Parents need to find the school that best fits their own child.  Charter schools can offer them an option over the traditional public school.

 

One of the big controversies with charter schools in Massachusetts is the way they are funded.  Charters receive tuition from the sending district, diverting much needed funds from district schools.  There is a formula the state uses to reimburse the district for the tuition but it does not fully cover the district’s expense. 

 

Charter schools are public schools and as such are subject to the same regulations that traditional district schools must meet.  The student population of a charter should reflect that of the region it draws its students from but often does not include the same proportion of low-income, non-English speakers, or special education students.  Many students return to the district schools for various reasons, further changing the student population of charter schools. 

 

There should be financial and other consequences for charters that have selective admittance practices and low retention rates.

 

Since charter schools are approved only by the state and not by the local districts, the state should be providing the funding instead of burdening local districts.  At the very least, we should increase tuition reimbursement to the sending districts and lengthen the reimbursement period for as long as a student remains at the charter.

 

 

13. What can the Commonwealth do to help Massachusetts High School graduates complete the college education they start?

 

First, we need to make sure that higher education is affordable for all students. Across the country, tuition has increased drastically over the last few decades, causing student loan debt to skyrocket.  Massachusetts has fallen short of providing adequate funding for our state colleges and universities.   

 

Second, the “high school diploma—college readiness gap” needs to be addressed.  Colleges are finding that many high school graduates need remedial coursework in math and English before they are ready to matriculate.   The wider this gap the less likely a student is to graduate from college. 

 

Many high school graduates, despite not needing remedial courses, are still not prepared for college.  They have not sufficiently developed critical thinking skills that cut across all subject areas. 

 

We need to critically re-examine what and how we teach at the K-12 level.  Despite over a decade of standards and testing, a large percentage of students are still not ready to succeed in college.

 

Once a student successfully matriculates into college, we need to provide whatever support may be needed to allow that student to finish.  Support may include childcare, public transportation, or access to health care for the student and their family.

 

 

14. What can the Commonwealth do to strengthen early childhood programming and make it more affordable to residents?

 

The Commonwealth should institute Universal Pre-K and full-day Kindergarten.  This would require appropriate funding so that the quality of early education would remain high. Many children from underprivileged areas do not receive the benefits of living in more advantaged families such as being read to, taken to museums, and private Pre-Kindergarten.  The sooner these children can be enrolled in a high quality, affordable (or free) preschool, the easier it will be for them to build a strong educational base.

 

 

Housing and Homelessness

15. Greater Boston is facing an acute shortage of housing, and in particular, housing that is affordable to low and moderate income individuals and families.  What steps would you advocate to address the shortage of housing? In your answer, please address the needs of individuals, families, renters, and buyers across income levels.

 

We need to increase direct public investment in affordable housing. We should also build additional and more creative public/private partnerships to create mixed-use housing such as lending programs and/or forgiveness of delinquent property tax to a new owner in exchange for developing affordable housing. 

 

16. Family homelessness in Massachusetts has remained at unacceptably high levels, with 2,000 families in shelter and another 1,500 to 2,000 families being sheltered in motels. What would you do to address family homelessness?

 

It is clear that the best way to house homeless families is by sheltering them in homes in their own community. Housing families in motels miles from their own community is very expensive to the state.

 

Homeless students are transported back to their home community to allow them continuity in their education and stability in their relationships with friends and other community members However, the cost of transporting students from distant shelters and motels is borne by the local school district.  Housing families within their own communities would eliminate this transportation cost.

 

We should expand programs like the Massachusetts Rental Voucher program and subsidized housing so that no one is without a place to live in the Commonwealth.

 

 

Energy and the Environment

17. Metro Boston is uniquely vulnerable to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise and flooding.

What should the Commonwealth do to enhance the safety and resiliency of our communities in the face of threats from climate change?

 

The Commonwealth must act to deal with the effects of climate change, particularly on our rivers and coasts. If we see rises as high as 12 feet, existing buildings, property, and infrastructure will be at risk. We should act to improve our coastline and waterways to protect against this, as well as ensuring that our infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, and rail lines, particularly subways, are protected against water threats. Boston’s subway system is old and was not built with these problems in mind, so it is particularly vulnerable. If we do not take adequate steps to protect our transportation system, we will also have to deal with the economic effects of increased disruption for commuters, commercial transport. Taking preventative measures is a necessary and urgent action. As soon as possible, we should determine the nature of these preventative measures, whether levees and flood gates or ideally a more adaptable plan, such as proposed by the Boston Harbor Association. This would create “floodable” areas that would maintain water access for the city, but could disappear under flood conditions.

 

Flooding and water level rise are the greatest problems for the Mystic River area. The Amelia Earhart dam must be kept structurally sound and have adequate pumping capacity to prevent flooding upstream.

 

18. What are the most pressing concerns with respect to the Mystic River and its watershed, and what will you do as a legislator to address those concerns?

 

Major issues with respect to the Mystic River are:

·         Combined Sewer Overflows which lead to high bacterial counts in the river after heavy rain 

·         Runoff from streets which carries fertilizers, herbicides, oil, and salt into the river

·         Invasive species which out-compete native species

 

Aggressively growing water chestnut clogs the river making it next to impassable for boats.  Other species like Phragmites and Japanese Knotweed colonize marshy land and river banks excluding native plants.

 

Funding for the planning and design stage of or the Mystic River Master Plan awaits Governor Patrick’s approval.  The plan includes restoration of river banks, protection of wildlife habitat, and multi-purpose paths along the river. I will work to secure the funding needed to implement this Master Plan. 

 

 

19. What would be your top energy-related priorities?

 

I would focus on reducing our reliance on greenhouse gas producing energy sources and on expanding clean, sustainable energy alternatives.  Also important is the reduction of overall energy usage, for example, by raising energy-efficiency standards for appliances and providing incentives for improving a home’s energy efficiency and the installation of solar panels.

 

 

The Arts and Culture

20. What is the Commonwealth's role in promoting the arts and arts education, and how should it be funded?

 

The arts not only enrich our lives and our culture, they can also provide an economic driving force for a local community. The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) provides funding which is distributed by local cultural councils and helps to incorporate the arts into the fabric of our community.   Funding the MCC as fully as possible is important to allow artists, musicians, etc. to develop and share their creativity with local communities. 

 

Arts education should be an important part of public education for many reasons.  I have always advocated for a whole child approach to education which includes allowing a child to exercise its creative side.  Every child’s brain is different; some are more inclined to traditional; academic subjects while others shine in the arts or other areas.  Funding that includes strong arts programs in our schools gives children opportunities to work to their unique strengths.

 

A novel and highly promising way to encourage the arts would be to implement tax-free arts districts as Rhode Island has done.  In these districts, the purchase of art created by an artist who lives and works within one of these districts is tax free, any income received by the artist from the sale is tax exempt, and for any gallery located within the arts district sale of original art is also tax-free.

 

 

34th Middlesex State Representative Candidate Questionnaires

34th Middlessex Questionnaire.docx

Christine Barber

Candidate for State Representative 34MI

 

Background and Priorities

0. Please tell us anything you would like us to know about you including your motivation, preparation, priorities, and vision for the campaign and office.

 

I am running for State Representative to be a strong leader to serve the needs of Somerville and Medford residents, and to bring progressive values to state policy. I have the experience and knowledge to be an effective legislator. For years, I have been a committed advocate for working people in the community at local, state and national levels.

One thing that I have learned from my experiences is that it is possible to create good policies that address issues. As a research analyst in the House of Representatives, I played a key role in the largest expansion of health care coverage in Massachusetts’s history by helping draft our historic reform legislation. My team worked closely with House and Senate leadership and people on across the aisle to craft the best plan we could, one that has now provided quality, affordable health coverage to hundreds of thousands of people. It was an incredible experience to be part of, and what it taught me what that by working hard to learn the issues, listen all sides, and bring expertise to the debate, we can create real solutions to social issues. 

I am ready to stand up for our communities and make sure that state policy reflects our needs and values. As State Rep., I will work to ensure the Green Line extension is fully funded and built all the way to Route 16 in Medford; that we continue to preserve the Mystic River an a valuable resource for our communities; and importantly, that we address the affordability of Medford and Somerville through affordable housing and good jobs so residents can continue to live and thrive in our diverse neighborhoods.

Like Carl, I will be a strong voice for the progressive issues we care about at the state level. I will be a leader on women’s health and reproductive rights, on progressive taxation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  And, following Carl’s impressive leadership, I will work on ending discrimination for transgender people. Somerville and Medford are showing the way in a lot of these areas, and I will bring those values to the State House.

We live in an amazing community, but there are still critical issues that we need to address. We need to do what our community does well – work together to continue to build strong neighborhoods and to support one another. And I know from my experience that it’s possible to create good policy to address some of the issues we are faced with. I would like to work with our communities to bring our voices to the state level.  .

 

 

Transportation and Infrastructure

1. Former Rep. Carl Sciortino was a leading advocate for public transit and a champion for the Green Line Extension project, in particular.

What kinds of legislative efforts would you undertake to put the MBTA on more stable financial footing?

What would you do to keep the Green Line Extension project moving forward?

How far should the Green Line be extended (and why)?

 

The MBTA is saddled with debt. In 2013, the Mass. legislature relieved the MBTA of some of its unmanageable capital debt, but residual debt service continues to constitute a huge financial burden. The $424 million in annual debt service will consume 65% of the MBTA's projected $646 million in operating revenues in FY 2015, leaving the MBTA dependent upon $1.25 billion in state and local government funding. 

 

One way to help the MBTA become more financially secure is to have the Commonwealth help assume the costs of the annual debt service, and treat the capital cost of future repairs and equipment acquisition as a capital cost to be borne by the Commonwealth, and not by the MBTA alone. To ensure fairness, the state would need to provide assistance to all regional transit authorities, not just the MBTA.

 

To the extent that the capital costs of road, bridge, and tunnel construction is treated as a shared expense, this proposal would mean that public transportation would receive equal treatment.

 

     What would you do to keep the Green Line Extension project moving forward?

 

Keeping the Green Line moving forward will require constant advocacy for the project. It will require the ability to stay on top of all of the relevant planning and budgeting cycles at the MassDOT and the legislative funding process; as well as provide information that the elected officials, businesses, and residents of Somerville and Medford need in order to effectively advocate for continued progress.  I will join with those diverse constituencies in advocating with the Mass DOT and MBTA for continued forward progress and work with my colleagues at the State House to sustain and even broaden legislative support for the project.

 

I would work closely with community members, as well as staff at DOT and members of the legislature to keep the Green Line at the top of the agenda.

 

     How far should the Green Line be extended (and why)?

 

The Green Line Extension to Route 16 is critical; it would mean economic growth, greater mobility for residents, fewer cars on the road, and more healthy options to get to work, school, and play. I would fight to ensure there are resources to extend the Green Line all the way to Rt 16 in Medford.

 

 

Infrastructure maintenance backlog

2. Numerous studies have reported on the backlog of maintenance of the Commonwealth's roads, dams, transit systems, pipelines, along with increased demand for bicycle and pedestrian right-of-ways.

 

What would be your priorities?

How would you pay for infrastructure improvements?

 

 

     What would be your priorities?

 

Addressing infrastructure problems that jeopardize the safety of Commonwealth residents should be the first priority; addressing infrastructure problems that jeopardize the economic well being of the Commonwealth is a close second. 

 

When the legislature addresses roadway or transit infrastructure issues, I will work to ensure that we capitalized on opportunities to improve bicycle and pedestrian access along those roads.  When we address dams and pipelines, we should ensure that we have capitalized on opportunities to create/improve pedestrian access to the green spaces where that infrastructure is located.

 

     How would you pay for infrastructure improvements?

 

Infrastructure improvement requires bonds and an understanding of the bonding and capital plan process. Infrastructure improvement is also a jobs generator:  it creates the construction jobs and well-functioning infrastructure supports economic growth.

 

I would also examine the adequacy of our revenue system and determine if it is sufficient to support what we want our Commonwealth to be. Looking at recent trends, revenue has declined as a percent of personal income over the past two decades. I would lead in the difficult conversation about revenue to ensure we have funds to support necessary infrastructure.

 

Taxation and Revenue

3. Rep. Sciortino was a dedicated advocate for fair taxation policy.  What changes in Massachusetts tax policy would you advocate? Please be specific about what taxes (and tax expenditures) you would change and how.

 

Massachusetts has passed numerous tax cuts over the last ten years, which have mainly benefited corporations and the wealthiest people.  I recognize our need for tax reform in Massachusetts to ensure we are raising funds more equitably and have revenue for the services that families need and that keep our communities strong. I support moving to a graduated income tax, as well as closing loopholes and raising the tax rate for investment income, such as capital gains and dividends.

 

I would also support the elimination of the sales tax exemption on sugar-sweetened beverages and snacks, which would increase revenue while reducing obesity, especially in children.

 

We also need to examine tax expenditures, which are a form of spending program through the tax code. Some are not justified and would restore revenue and help balance the budget. These tax expenditures should have the same level of scrutiny as spending programs in the budget. For example, special business tax breaks, including the film tax credit, should be examined for their usefulness in bringing jobs and economic growth to the Commonwealth.

 

 

Veterans

4. There is nationwide concern about the adequacy of efforts to link veterans with the benefits, job training, and health and mental health care they need. What would you do to ensure that veterans get the full range of help they deserve?

 

As the daughter and granddaughter of veterans, I strongly support ensuring that veterans receive the care and services they are entitled to.  A few ideas:

 

     Consistent with the provisions of H. 3210 filed by Rep. Sciortino, the state should do everything possible to ensure that veterans discharged because of consensual relations with another adult, under the military's anti-gay provisions, should be entitled to the full range of benefits accorded other veterans with an honorable discharge.

 

     Massachusetts’s veterans have received better access to health care than veterans in other states, and have not been subject to the kinds of delays and denials that have been the subject of recent adverse publicity.  However, to ensure that veterans have the necessary support for accessing the full range of benefits to which they are entitled, the state should increase funding for regional independent veterans' advocacy centers, like the Veteran's Benefits Clearinghouse Corporation, Veterans Advocacy Service, local advocates affiliated with the National Organization of Veterans.

 

     Spouses, partners, and families of returning veterans (or veterans killed in action) need and deserve assistance in accessing the full range of federal and state benefits to which they are entitled. I would support legislation to require that applications for health coverage, housing services, and state-administered benefits programs ask whether the applicant is a veteran's dependent, and if they are, to provide information about the assistance to which they are entitled.

 

 

Civil and Voting Rights

5. Rep. Sciortino was known for his civil rights advocacy on behalf of members of the GLBTQ community. What are some of the ongoing civil rights issues that you would use a seat in the House to address?

 

In my work as a health policy analyst at Community Catalyst, I worked closely on the Affordable Care Act, which has covered over 12 million people and ensures that people with chronic health conditions can still get coverage. I have worked with LGBT organizations at the national and local levels to ensure that the LGBT community has tailored outreach and enrollment support to ensure that people get the care they need.

 

In my current work, I also have received an education in the numerous barriers to health care for transgender people. It has helped me to better understand the many challenges and lack of basic equitable treatment for transgender people. I am proud of work our team has done at Community Catalyst to promote coverage for equitable health services for transgender people around the country through successful advocacy with MassHealth and the Department of Insurance to cover all necessary services. Rep. Sciortino was a strong advocate for this population and I would like to lead on this issue and continue the fight for fair treatment. 

 

Finally, LGBT youth are at greater risk of homelessness and violence. This is an area in which greater action at the state level.

 

 

6. Although immigration reform is largely a federal issue, states can pass laws and implement policies which afford immigrants’ rights and protections, regardless of their documentation status.         

What should Massachusetts policy towards undocumented immigrants be with respect to: issuing driver's licenses, accessing in-state tuition rates in state colleges and universities, accessing state-funded housing subsidies, health coverage, and the protections afforded to citizens and documented workers?

 

Immigrants who live in our communities should be able to gain drivers’ licenses, attend college at in-state rates, and access the same housing, health care, and workers’ protections as people who are citizens. 

 

These are issues of basic fairness and rewarding families who work hard and are members of our communities.

 

Criminal Justice

7. What kinds of reforms would you advocate for in the Massachusetts criminal justice and corrections systems, and why?

 

Our criminal justice system needs a major overhaul. For too long, the “tough on crime” slogan has led to policymaking by talking point and press release. As a result, our prison population keeps expanding, more inmates are in even higher security settings, and the fiscal cost to society keeps increasing. Yet, careful studies have shown no benefit to public safety flowing from this focus on incarceration.

 

Because of my strong background in health care, one area of particular concern for me is the nexus between our deficient health care system and criminal justice. Estimates are that 85% of those in prison have a substance abuse problem. Jails should not be our preferred setting for detox services. Other mental health concerns are also behind much of the criminal activity in our state. We should see investments in effective drug and alcohol abuse treatment problems as a critical public safety as well as a health imperative. Expanded prison mental health services are also crucial.

 

I support the approach being led by the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, which includes reducing prison terms where appropriate, and using more alternatives to jails, like pre-release programs. We should invest much more in reintegration and re-entry programs. Evidence shows that this approach can reduce crime rates and enhance public safety.

 

Finally, I oppose the death penalty under all circumstances and I will not vote to reinstate capital punishment in Massachusetts

 

 

Gambling

8.  Please explain your position on the ballot initiative to repeal the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act. If casino gambling moves forward, what legislative or advocacy efforts would you undertake to improve the law and/or to protect Somerville and Medford residents and businesses from the adverse impacts of a casino in Everett or Revere?

 

I am in favor of a repeal of the Massachusetts Expanded Gaming Act. While good jobs and economic development are top priorities for Medford and Somerville, there are better ways to create strong jobs than investing funds into gambling. Gambling has severe social consequences for local communities and the profits from a casino nearby would leave our cities. Casinos mean more strain on our mental health and criminal justice systems, with little benefit to our local communities. 

 

Health Care

9. Although Massachusetts was a pioneer in health insurance reform, many challenges remain.

What are some of the most pressing issues in health care coverage, access, and financing, and what can the state do to address those challenges?   

Should implementing a single payer system be part of the solution? If so, what should be the roles of the state and private insurers in that system?

 

Massachusetts leads the country in health care coverage, with some 98% of our residents covered. I am proud that I played a central role in the passage of comprehensive health care reform in 2006. As a senior staff member for the key House committee drafting the bill, I worked hard to make sure the final law strengthened our safety net and included coverage for legal immigrants. Our bill in Massachusetts provided the model for the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), and since 2010 I have worked for a national organization dedicated to supporting and strengthening the ACA.

 

I know the right path in health care policy depends on both a detailed understanding of the complex health care system we have, and having the values that puts patients and their needs first. Our healthcare system must reflect our values. If elected, I hope to devote considerable energy to health care, and hope to serve on a committee dealing with health and health care.

 

However, challenges around coverage remain. For me, the biggest issue is the growing problem of underinsurance. People may have coverage, but increasing copays and deductibles can make the coverage too expensive to use. Lowering premiums by shifting more and more costs to patients who are sick is not a tradeoff I support. This is most pressing for people with chronic disease, who must every month for medications and treatments to keep them healthy. Insurance companies should not discourage people from getting these cost-effective treatments by charging copays and deductibles. I support legislation introduced by Senator Jehlen to eliminate copays and deductibles for cost-effective care for chronic disease, like asthma, diabetes or HIV.

 

Beyond coverage, Massachusetts must address the cost issue. For while we are number one in coverage, we are last in cost - the most expensive medical care in the country. Governor Patrick took the lead on this issue, and I support his efforts. His policy is grounded in changing the models of care so that patients are at the center, and not the insurance company.

 

Massachusetts is leading the way with coordinated care, so tests don't get repeated and patients have more time with their doctor or nurse. I work closely with an innovative care plan that shows that these new ways of providing care can both save money and improve health outcomes. The plan, called the "Commonwealth Care Alliance," is run for the benefit of its members. The care managers are able to throw out the insurance rulebook, and provide patients with what they need to stay healthy. So if a patient with asthma needs an air conditioner, it doesn't matter that it's not a covered benefit. She gets the air conditioner, because it keeps her healthy.

 

I am also acutely aware of the serious disparities in health care for people of color in Massachusetts. I support legislation pending to create a state Office of Health Equity which would be empowered to examine the impact on disparities of health care and other policy initiatives. We also need to make sure health care works for immigrant communities, by providing translation assistance and culturally appropriate care. We can also lower costs by investing more in public health. It's shameful that Massachusetts has consistently cut its public health funding. From vaccines to radiation monitoring to helping Somerville and Medford provide safe opportunities for exercise, we all depend on public health. I understand how investments in public health lead to lower costs for medical care, and I will make that case in the legislature.

 

We must also do something about the high cost of prescription drugs. While every other country negotiates bargains with drug companies, we are getting fleeced in America because the drug industry is allowed to set their own price. It's time we all banned together and negotiated as a state for affordable drugs. I strongly support putting limits on some of the outrageous marketing excesses drug companies use to push their most expensive drugs, at the expense of generics which work just as well. For starters, we should ban drug companies from serving alcohol and fancy meals at their "educational seminars" which are really advertising sessions.

 

I am a supporter of single payer health care. First up in this area is Vermont, which is scheduled to vote on their plan next year, with implementation to start in 2017. I have talked with Vermont leaders about their plan, and I think it has the promise of showing us how to do single payer in an American context. Vermont's success will prime the pump for Massachusetts to be next, and I think that we should be working toward that as one part of the solution. For me, this is a dual track solution - work aggressively for single payer, while at the same time work just as hard to make our current system work as best as it can.

 

 

10. Reproductive rights are being threatened across the country. What are the most significant challenges to protecting reproductive rights in Massachusetts and what would you do to address those challenges? 

 

I have been a lifelong supporter for women’s reproductive health. 

 

As a researcher for the Health Care Financing Committee, I worked closely on the emergency contraception bill to make sure the bill moved through the legislative process. I am proud that it became law in 2005. I worked on legislation to allow the state to apply for a Family Planning waiver to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to ensure Massachusetts could fund adequately family planning services. I was on the team that drafted the landmark 2006 health reform bill, which provided access to health care for hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts, primarily those with low-incomes. This law has helped to provide primary, preventive and specialty care that women and families need to ensure high-quality reproductive and sexual health.

 

At Community Catalyst, I have partnered with women’s health organizations in the larger health care reform agenda. During the debate over the Affordable Care Act, I worked with these groups to write comments and defeat some of the more egregious attempts to restrict access to family planning and abortion services.

 

There is a current movement nationally to reduce access to reproductive health services and allow families to make their own decisions about having children. I would strongly oppose any legislative efforts to further encroach on women’s rights. I support comprehensive sexual education being taught in schools, funding for teen pregnancy prevention, and keeping women seeking reproductive health services safe.

 

 

Education

11. What is the appropriate role for standardized testing in elementary and secondary education? How should student, teacher, and school performance be assessed?

 

Standardized testing should be one, but only one, component of the process of assessing student readiness, teacher performance, and school performance.  It should not dominate and drive education.  Standards are important, but high-stakes testing has taken over schools and has affected learning. 

 

The strong reliance on high-stakes testing fails to account for different learning styles, as well as children who are English-language learners or people with disabilities. 

 

The reliance on MCAS scores to determine “underperforming” districts, without accounting for the needs of greater supports for families in communities, means that the districts with highest need do not receive the greatest resources. 

 

Student performance is complex and often based on a range of factors, including socioeconomic status and social supports for families.  It is critical that students, teachers and other school staff are not judged mainly by test scores.  When they are, students and communities lose out as well.

 

 

12. What are the appropriate roles and financing mechanisms for charter schools and public schools (including pilot schools)? How, if at all, should student selection and retention policies and practices impact public financing?

 

Charter schools have become a second school district in many areas, but one that does not necessarily serve all students.  With our tax dollars in use, these schools should have an obligation to serve all students, including those with challenges.

 

All charter schools should adhere to strict requirements around student selection procedures to ensure that their student enrollment largely parallels the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of the district they serve, and to ensure that students with special needs are not discouraged from enrolling and are adequately served once enrolled. 

 

 

13. What can the Commonwealth do to help Massachusetts High School graduates complete the college education they start?

 

As a graduate of UMass Amherst, I am a strong supporter of public higher education.  I would be a leader on funding for our public universities, and encourage greater partnerships between K-12 and higher education facilities to encourage children to set a goal of attending college.

 

The primary barrier to completion is the need to hold a paying job.  Students who need to work more hours are less likely to finish school than students who need to work fewer hours. I would strongly support better funding for public higher education so more people can afford to stay in school. 

 

 

14. What can the Commonwealth do to strengthen early childhood programming and make it more affordable to residents?

 

Early childhood education and full-day kindergarten have been shown to be critical to improving student performance, particularly in low-income communities. These programs are a way to begin to close the achievement gap and provide important care and learning for children and often social supports to help families succeed. 

 

But early childhood education has a funding issue. We need to make decisions about how we want to invest in the future of our Commonwealth and ensure that our revenue system has adequate resources to give children the education they need to succeed. I would be a leader in supporting funding for these programs.

 

We also need to support teachers at early childhood and child care centers to ensure they are compensated adequately in their work with children. 

 

 

Housing and Homelessness

15. Greater Boston is facing an acute shortage of housing, and in particular, housing that is affordable to low and moderate income individuals and families.  What steps would you advocate to address the shortage of housing? In your answer, please address the needs of individuals, families, renters, and buyers across income levels.

 

Massachusetts has a number of strong programs to build upon to create greater affordable housing options - Chapter 40B and rental subsidies like Mass Rental Voucher Program and the low income housing tax credit.  But these are not enough to stem the tide of rising housing costs and housing shortages.

 

I would support strengthening the current affordable housing programs and engaging in regional planning to address the housing shortage.

 

In my work to create supports for families, I have also learned that homelessness is often due to additional costs beyond housing, including child care, transportation and health care.  We need to continue to insure that families have the supports they need to remain in their homes. 

 

16. Family homelessness in Massachusetts has remained at unacceptably high levels, with 2,000 families in shelter and another 1,500 to 2,000 families being sheltered in motels. What would you do to address family homelessness?

 

It is unconscionable that so many families are living in hotels, which are unstable for children and present questionable food and safety standards.   

 

For every family in a motel, Massachusetts spends over $100/night, not including the cost of case management and services.  Many of the families in motels get little in the way of case management support. Instead of spending $3,000 to $4,000/month on motels, the State could subsidize these families in rental housing for less than half that amount. 

 

I support expanding rental housing vouchers to lift families out of motels and into more stable and appropriate housing. 

 

 

Energy and the Environment

17. Metro Boston is uniquely vulnerable to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise and flooding.

What should the Commonwealth do to enhance the safety and resiliency of our communities in the face of threats from climate change?

 

Climate change poses a severe threat to Massachusetts. While the federal government grapples with this issue, Massachusetts needs to continue to lead the way and set an example for other states and the nation. As a State Representative, I will fight for energy, land use, transportation and other policies to reduce our carbon pollution. It must be a top priority.

 

I support Governor Patrick’s leadership in this area, from the greenhouse gas reduction targets to the aggressive implementation of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

 

But even with the best policies in place, we still must face the fact that we will face higher sea levels, more intense storms, and increased temperatures. I support taking a comprehensive approach to these issues. It starts with a detailed inventory of the impacts of climate change. What areas are most vulnerable to floods? What key infrastructure is most threatened? The inventory should then inform a response plan that prioritizes are most critical vulnerabilities. I would focus on using natural responses, like restoring wetlands, whenever possible.

 

As an expert in health care, I would also focus on the health impacts. How will increased heat waves affect public health? We know that heat can lead to increased respiratory and cardiac stress. Asthma is already a crisis in our district, and it is exacerbated by increased heat. Climate change may lead to increased infectious disease borne by insects, and more shellfish pathogens. Monitoring and taking action to preserve clean air and clean water will be made more difficult by warming. Our public health infrastructure must have the capacity to respond to emerging challenges of climate change.

 

18. What are the most pressing concerns with respect to the Mystic River and its watershed, and what will you do as a legislator to address those concerns?

 

Some of the major issues affecting the Mystic River include the combined sewer overflow and disproportionate environmental hazards, which lead to invasive species like the water chestnut. 

 

As a major environmental resource in this district, I will fight to ensure that available funds are invested into the watershed. The Mystic River Master Plan can be converted into shovel-ready projects for when state and federal funding becomes available. 

 

I would work closely with other legislators, as well as local organizations and members of the community, to make the preservation of the Mystic a priority for our community.

 

 

19. What would be your top energy-related priorities?

 

We are the best state in the country in energy efficiency. Efficiency is the most cost-effective and most environmentally friendly source of energy. State data show that for every one dollar invested in efficiency, the average benefit was $4.17 for homeowners and $5.10 for businesses. We need to continue to invest in supporting energy efficiency.

 

We should be proud that both Somerville and Medford were among the pioneer “Green Communities” in the Commonwealth. The program supports local efforts to become more energy efficient, such as Somerville’s use of fuel-efficient vehicles, or Medford’s use of wind power at the McGlynn School. I support expanding the program to all cities and towns in the state.

 

Among the top of my list would be to accelerate the end of the use of coal for power generation in Massachusetts. Two coal plants have closed in recent years, including the Salem plant which just closed in June. We have just two plants remaining, and we should end the use of dirty, imported coal in Massachusetts as soon as possible.

 

I was disturbed to read recently that thousands of natural gas leaks have been identified throughout the state, including many in Medford and Somerville. These leaks not only contribute to climate change, cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars, they also pose a serious public safety threat. I support legislation (recently passed unanimously by the Senate) to strengthen our ability to detect and repair these leaks.

 

Transportation policy must take energy efficiency into account. Representative Sciortino was a lead sponsor of legislation to require DOT to look at factors like equity, energy consumption and public health in making transportation decisions. I support this approach. 

 

Solar energy in Massachusetts relies on the Net Metering Tax Credit to ensure that utilities are forced to pay a fair rate to solar energy producers for electricity added to the grid. This tax credit is currently nearing its legislative cap and needs to be extended so that key incentives for solar energy development remain.

 

I am pleased that the Cape Wind project is proceeding, and support increased development of offshore wind resources.  I also support updating the bottle bill to promote more recycling of water, juice and other beverages.

 

 

The Arts and Culture

20. What is the Commonwealth's role in promoting the arts and arts education, and how should it be funded?

 

Our Commonwealth’s creative economy is a linchpin of the state. Policy to support arts and culture should not be siloed, but rather integrated throughout the policy process. Statewide, nonprofit art and cultural organizations support 45,000 direct jobs, and generates $4.6 billion in economic activity. For the Somerville and Medford communities, arts are an absolutely vital component of our lives, and well as major force in our economy.

 

Yet state investment in this area is down 60% over the past 25 years. As a representative, I would join the State House Cultural Caucus so I can work in coalition with other representatives on these issues.

 

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has been hobbled by inadequate budget allocations for years.  This year, the Senate reversed a committee recommendation and included a modest increase in their budget, while the House would further cut the budget. I support increasing the state’s investment in the MCC.

 

 

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