I believe that our democracy and the success of our communities is rooted in 1) Engaged Citizenship, 2) Thriving Communities, and 3) Healthy Families. Here's what these principles mean in practice:
1) A Better Democracy through Engaged Citizenship: people want to know that their elected officials are always fighting for them. Now more than ever we need state legislators who are unapologetic champions for the people in their communities. I will support the following:
a) Accessible and transparent representation: as your state representative I will always work to try to be as accessible to you as I possibly can. This means that I will use social media to conduct weekly online office hours. I will also hold a weekly office hours session at one of our local coffee shops or book shops or at a constituent's home. I believe that every vote taken on Beacon Hill should be recorded so that legislators can be held accountable by their constituents- until this happens I will make my votes known to all constituents via weekly updates.
b) Clean elections- we must do everything that we can to get big money out of our politics. We once had a clean elections law that ensured public funding of state and local elections. We can give individual people the right to donate to politicians of their choosing while also ensuring that our state government is accessible to anyone who is ready, able and willing to run for public office.
c) Automatic Voter Registration (AVR, or same-day voter registration) and Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV). We need to make it so incredibly easy to vote, and to extend the power of every person's vote.
d) Amending our U.S. Constitution in order to overturn Citizens United. In a time of increasing wealth inequality we cannot allow those who have the most money to drown out the rest of us.
e) Fighting for a more open legislative committee process: we need to reform our legislative committee process so we are able to enact legislation that most people want to see happen.
2) Thriving Communities: our communities are the kind of places where working families prosper. I want to ensure that our communities continue to be places where all feel welcomed, where everyone knows that they are safe, where everyone can realize their potential, and where businesses can thrive. We must ensure that:
a) We must ensure that all our children receive the resources that they need to achieve individual excellence. Our kids deserve a superb education that prepares them for the difficult and life-long work of citizenship. I believe that public education is one of the most critical public goods that we enjoy, and is essential if our democracy is to remain vibrant. An excellent public education should produce critical thinkers who can approach a complex, rapidly-changing workforce with confidence and a broad set of skills that can be further developed either through vocational and on-the- job training, or higher education.
i) I do not support high-stakes, standardized testing that has gotten in the way of our teachers being able to do their jobs, and have turned our public schools into non-evidence based experimental laboratories. Teachers should be able to give rigorous exams rather than teaching to standardized tests.
ii) Teachers should also be able to collectively bargain for excellent pay and benefits- our teachers deserve to be treated like the professionals that they are!
iii) I support Northeast Metro Tech's goal to secure $200 million in funding to construct a new, state-of-the-art high school that can also accommodate the increased demand from surrounding communities (Woburn and Reading included).
iv) We must ensure that our communities continue to be leaders by providing for those with intellectual and learning disabilities- every child in our commonwealth deserves the opportunity to thrive!
v) While I am not opposed to the existence of a small number of charter schools that experiment with different educational modalities I am adamantly opposed to the expansion of charter schools and any kind of school voucher proposal.
vi) Efforts are underway to revamp the Chapter 70 funding formula that determines how much state level investment local school districts receive. This revamping must be thorough, but in the end we have to recognize that over the past 20+ years there has been a failed policy of decreased state investment in local communities, and we need to fix this as quickly as possible.
b) Affordable housing: Woburn and Reading continue to be communities that are sought out by families looking for a place to raise their children. At the same time we have older residents who want to be able to continue to live in their homes after a lifetime of hard-work rather than being priced out of their homes and communities due to ever-escalating housing prices. We need:
i) A regional approach to housing policy that seeks to balance community cohesion while also ensuring that new, affordable housing can be constructed. To the extent that this already exists (https://www.mapc.org/) we must strengthen it.
ii) I support future efforts to enact a vacant property tax on luxury property that would be used to help fund 40R and 40S smart growth zoning and school funding. Such a tax would be imposed upon the highest-priced luxury property that is used primarily as investment property, and that is a prime driver of escalating real estate values in the greater Boston area. I believe that communities that undertake challenging, long-term planning and allow for more 40R housing with a greater amount of inclusionary (>25% affordable housing and housing allotted for moderate income individuals and families) zoning should receive a more 40S funding to compensate for burdens placed on local schools due to an influx of new residents.
iii) I believe that owners who live on-site should be able to rent out 1-2 units for short-term rentals (like Airbnb) provided that doing so conforms with reasonable, local zoning laws.
iv) I think that it's embarrassing that we 20% of the children in our commonwealth live in poverty and that we have a homeless population at all. If we provided decent, transitional housing that allowed people to re-establish themselves we would actually end up spending far less money, in the long term.
v) I'm a U.S. Marine and because of that I may be biased, but I think it's unacceptable that we allow our military veterans to be homeless.
c) 21st century transportation: our communities lie along I-93 and I-95 and have benefited immensely from this. In order to continue to thrive we must:
i) Transition our MBTA commuter rail lines to fully-electrified, electric multiple-unit trains that are faster, more mechanically efficient and more cost effective. Rather ordering more diesel locomotives we need to be spending our money smarter, and investing in a future where we do not rely upon carbon energy. Best of all: these trains can be built right here in Massachusetts at the CRRC Springfield facility (http://www.crrcgc.cc/ma/g12094.aspx)
ii) I support an East-West high-speed train linking Springfield to Worcester and South Station. Such a high-speed transportation corridor would also help to revitalize economically struggling central Massachusetts towns and cities by allowing for development of affordable housing.
iii) We need a 10-15 year plan to phase out all of our diesel transit buses throughout MA and replace them with fully-electrified buses instead (https://www.proterra.com/)
iv) I am opposed to any efforts that seek to privatize our MBTA, and I support the right of our MBTA workers to collectively organize. We must correct the nearly $7 billion maintenance backlog that afflicts our MBTA- this backlog has aggregated and reached this crisis point because of years of chronic under-funding.
v) I support a North-South Station rail link- our economic growth, and commitment to a more sustainable transportation system is being held back because North and South Station are not connected (http://www.northsouthraillink.org/).
vi) We must revamp our Chapter 90 program and re-balance and re-invest state funds in our local communities. Over the past 20+ years we have pursued a failed policy of decreasing state investment in local communities, and we have the deteriorating roads as a consequence of this failed policy.
d) Continued investment in more local bike paths, playgrounds, parks, land cleanup and conservation: this year the Tri-Community Bike/Greenway will be completed (http://www.tricommunitygreenway.org/) in 2018, and we have new conservation development happening as well (https://www.woburnma.gov/news/2017/07/new-conservation-area-in-woburn/). These types of projects not only revitalize our communities and increase property values, but they are places that families can utilize at no charge.
e) Renewable energy: we must accelerate our transition to renewable energy and be a leader in this area.
i) I oppose any efforts that limit the ability of homeowners who want to sell excess energy generated from their own solar panels from being able to sell that energy back to our energy grid (net solar metering caps).
ii) We need to continue to offer incentives for owners adopt electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) through our electric vehicle incentive (rebate) program.
iii) We need to streamline our transition to a carbon-free energy grid by allowing for greater solar and wind energy infrastructure, and invest in smart grid power storage (batteries).
iv) Woburn and Reading should be able to receive grants that allow for development of municipal electric car charging ports (especially in downtown municipal parking areas). In addition to this we should allocate more funding to the MBTA to allow for more electric car charging ports at MBTA commuter rail parking areas.
v) We must begin the initial planning phase of a Boston harbor island barrier wall for future sea level rise (https://architectureboston.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/murray-dimambro_summer10_web.pdf). Part of this feasibility study should investigate potential tidal and wind power infrastructure that might be part of such a massive endeavor, new transportation infrastructure that might be associated with this project and new real estate that could be created in the process.
3) Healthy Families: thriving communities are places that nurture healthy families and are places where working families are able to succeed. I believe that we must expand upon our past successes by doing the following:
a) Ensure that every family and individual can share in the economic prosperity that our commonwealth enjoys. This means that I support:
i) a $15/hr minimum wage that is indexed to inflation.
ii) I believe that Equal Pay for Equal Work should be the law of our commonwealth- no exceptions.
iii) I support the 2018 Paid Family Medical Leave ballot measure- this is a common sense measure that benefits families with young children and older parents alike.
b) An education system that works for all of us: our commonwealth must take a position of leadership by providing:
i) Generously subsidized and readily accessible childcare,
ii) Universal pre-K and full-day kindergarten across our commonwealth,
iii) Well-funded primary and secondary public education that prepares our children for the life-long work of citizenship
iv) 100% subsidized community college, and well-funded public higher education. We need a higher education system that provides adult workers who have experienced workforce displacement the opportunity to acquire new skills at no charge.
c) Student loan debt is quickly turning into a public policy nightmare. I will support legislation that is similar to Maryland and Minnesota's that:
i) Provides a student loan debt tax credit, and in addition to this a tax rebate. Instead of transferring public wealth to private businesses we need to invest that money in students and their families. The continued success of our state economy rests upon having a well-educated workforce (an area in which we lead the nation)- investing in them through a student loan debt tax credit and rebate program for a reasonable period of time will make our state that much more fair and economically competitive.
d) A healthcare system that works for everyone, and not just some of us. I support a universal, single-payer healthcare system that is far more efficient and less wasteful with your money. It is truly shocking how much of your money goes into supporting a bloated healthcare bureaucracy- we spend close to $59 billion per year here in Massachusetts for our healthcare when we could be spending far less, and getting a lot more in return. Such a healthcare system would also include dentistry, optometry, nutrition and allied mental health services. I support the right of every woman to have access to safe and highly-skilled family planning health services- including abortion.
i) It will take years before we can enact state-level single-payer healthcare here in Massachusetts. Until that time Massachusetts must use it's bargaining power as a state (we provide prescription drug coverage to state employees and inmates) to aggressively negotiate down the exorbitant cost of prescription medications. As a veterinarian I routinely confront the reality of how much medications costs for pets- owners can submit prescriptions to online Canadian pharmacies and receive Lantus insulin to treat their dog or cat's diabetes (yes- dogs and cats get diabetes just like we do!) for a fraction of what it costs at their local pharmacy.
e) Right now many families struggle with the cost of eldercare. We have a meshwork system that should be transparent and allow families to realistically plan for what the cost of their retirement will actually be. As more and more Baby Boomers begin to retire we need new models of retirement care that allow people to live in their homes while being able to receive whatever assistance they might require rather than having to move to an inpatient living facility.
f) Getting serious about our opiate epidemic: Meegan and I have watched the opiate epidemic ravage our state over the past 10 years. I recall the 2008 financial crash very well, and the cuts to mental healthcare services during Gov. Patrick's first term in office. These cuts were devastating, and they came just as the opiate epidemic was in its infancy. We lived in Grafton while I attended veterinary school, and Meegan attended UMass Medical School- we watched as our neighbors lost children to heroin. I find it unacceptable that in a state with 4 medical schools and some of the top medical residency programs in the nation (and world) we cannot allocate funding for several hundred more inpatient addiction treatment beds. As a veterinarian I have to sometimes give people really bad news, and the reality is that until we appropriate the funding necessary for these treatment beds for those struggling with opiate addiction then we're going to continue to lose more of our family members and neighbors to this epidemic. Consider this: we lost an estimate $10 billion per year because our opiate epidemic- if we spent $250 million per year ensuring that we had far more inpatient treatment beds and longitudinal mental/addiction care services and this resulted in a savings of even a fraction of that $10 billion (let's say $2.5 billion for the sake of argument) then we'd be doing the right thing by keeping our families, friends and neighbors alive AND we'd be saving money!
g) A fair taxation system that works for working families and allows us to continue to make critical investments in our communities and across our commonwealth: I support the Fair Share Amendment, and I believe that we will have to plan for a transition to a graduated, progressive income tax that would result in a tax decrease for the overwhelming majority of the families in our communities (those who make less than $125,000 per year would see their taxes go from 5.1% down to 5%, and those who make less than $30,000 would not pay any state income tax).
i) I do not support sales tax holidays, and here's why: it costs our commonwealth about $25-$30 million dollars. I would rather that we talk about how to invest that money in a new campus for Northeast Metro Tech (the cost of this project is ~$200 million, so $25-30 million is a substantial % of this cost).
h) I'm a military veteran and I can tell you that while our military offers some transitional preparation for military veterans it's still tough to make this transition successfully. Our communities have a high veteran population, and I believe that if you really care about military veterans then you make sure that they have excellent employment, vocational and educational opportunities.