To date, the only state representative debate to include all three candidates took place last Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Parlin Library – and each candidate put on their game face and gave impressive answers to a packed house.
State Rep. Joe McGonagle, Candidate GerlyAdrien and Candidate Steve ‘Stat’ Smith took to the front of the room in front of about 100 people gathered for the question-and-answer forum run by the Everett Democratic Committee. A representative from the League of Women Voters, a Newton resident, moderated the questions and the format.
After a two-minute introduction by each candidate, the questions – where were not known to the candidates – were asked.
There were more than 12 questions asked of the candidates and there were more than a few interesting answers, with housing and education funding being the predominate topics.
Education funding came up first of all.
McGonagle was on the forefront for that issue, as the House was said to have shot down the funding proposal that the Senate had passed. With McGonagle being in the House, he was ready to explain.
“Nobody wanted this more than I did,” he said. “We couldn’t get that fully passed in our last budget…We need to make sure we talk to those who are against it and find out why and work with them and make sure they have the votes. I am on the House Ways & Means Committee and we are close to these changes…I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I would like to see that change in the Supplemental Budget because that’s how hurt Everett and cities like it were.”
Adrien said there is no one but her who has not had the chance to change the formula, and if elected, she will make sure it happens.
“Both of my opponents were in the House when the formula was broken for our children,” she said, noting that she would support increased funding for all categories of students, including low income and English Language Learners (ELL). “Senator Sal (DiDomenico) sat on the Committee and the Senate voted to pass this. The House didn’t…If you are part of the problem, we need to talk about who is the solution.”
Smith said he was certain with more time, the formula would be changed and he would do everything in his power to help that along.
“We have to change the formula,” he said. “The formula needs to see that and provide the funding so all of these kids are counted. Education is the way out of this mess. That’s how we’ll change inequality, jobs and incomes…It has to be the number one issue.”
When it came to transportation, Smith had some interesting ideas, including making simple changes to the bus routes to take people where they need to go.
“The success of the T is critical to Everett,” he said. “Every bus is full. We should do things like make the 104 or 109 bus continue on to Harvard Square. Now, people have to get off and take the City bus or the 86. If they just continued on, it would be such an easy fix.”
Then, when it came to a fare increase for the T, Smith said he would prefer to raise fares on items that don’t affect residents, such as the $22 week-pass that is designed for tourists.
“That has to be the greatest deal on any transportation system in the US,” he said. “I think it’s $60 in New York. The need to raise things like that first. It only affects tourists. It wouldn’t hurt any resident in Greater Boston.”
On a fare increase, Adrien said she is against any increase across the board. She said she prefers a system that charges people based on their income.
“If you make $30,000 a year, you would pay something like the $2 fare it is now,” she said. “If you make more than $100,000, you would pay more than the current fare.”
When it came to immigration, particularly making Massachusetts and Everett a Sanctuary State and City, there was a difference of opinions.
“When it comes to the Safe Communities Act, I think we need to have an honest conversation about it,” said Adrien. “(On a Sanctuary State), I would support that. Our immigrants are important and are important contributors to our society. I will never turn my back against them.”
Smith said he wouldn’t support the Sanctuary State or City issue, and Rep. McGonagle agreed.
“I would not be in favor of making Everett a Sanctuary City or making the state a Sanctuary State,” said Smith.
Said McGonagle, “It’s a complex issue and not easy but at this point I’m not in favor of making Massachusetts a Sanctuary State or Everett a Sanctuary City. We need to give law enforcement all the tools they need to help. We have an issue in this city with gangs and we do a great job with policing. I don’t believe the EPD is pulling people over ad driving them down to the Police Station and calling ICE.”
Adrien responded later with disappointment for McGonagle’s answer.
“Gangs are not just part of the immigrant community,” she said. “As somebody who supports immigrants, it’s very sad to hear that accusation.”
On another topic, McGonagle had a strong opinion on Capital Punishment, saying he is considering supporting a measure that would use the death penalty for those who kill police officers.
“I believe if you kill a police officer, you should be punished and the extreme punishment is death,” he said. “I would support that and the governor is talking about that…The police need our support now. That won’t be an easy vote for me. I think that officer in Weymouth was killed because he hesitated and was worried what would happen to him if he shot. I would support the death penalty for that.”
Smith and Adrien were against the death penalty.
All three candidates had significant support in the audience for their campaigns, and left after having a very informative forum. No one candidate refused to answer any of the many questions on numerous subjects.